Ubiquiti‘s latest Wi-Fi router, announced today, has a name that’s so out of this world: AmpliFi Alien. But before you start thinking of predator, or a mean joke to spook your DACA friends, let me break it to you: This router is not a total stranger.
Update: The in-depth review of the AmpliFi Alien is now available here.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien: A bit peculiar
It’s a bit confusing the specs I got from Ubiquiti, but it seems the AmpliFi Alien (model AFi-ALN-R) shares similar Wi-Fi specs as the Netgear RAX120, which is a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 router. And like Netgear, Ubiquiti also claims its own to be an 8×8 router. That’s a bit of a cheat; it’s just a matter of how you define the 1×1 base speed of this standard.
It’s like this: Whether you possess four deuces or eight bucks, you have the same buying power of $8. But saying that you have eight dollar bills in your pocket sounds more significant than four. And that might be true in certain real-life circumstances. But in Wi-Fi, the speed won’t change. The bottom line is the new router has the top Wi-Fi 6 speed of 4.8Gpbs when used with a compatible Wi-Fi 6 client. So, it’s a 4×4 router — Wi-Fi 6 has the top base speed of 1.2Gbps per 5GHz stream. In reality, currently, there are only 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients. As a result, you’ll get 2.4Gbps out of this router, or any Wi-Fi 6 routers for that matter, at most.
But there’s more to the AmpliFi Alien. It has a second 5GHz band — it’s a tri-band router. This 2nd band, however, is designed to work mostly with Wi-Fi 5 clients and has the top speed of 1733Mbps. So Ubiquiti has designed the new router with both performance and compatibility in mind.
Ubiquiti Alien: Cool design, mesh ready, but no multi-gig port
The AmpliFi Alien is a cool-looking 2.65-pound (1.2 kg) cylindrical box that stands 9.84-inch (250 mm) tall and is 4.33-inch (110 mm) in diameter — somewhat similar to the ARRIS SURFboard mAX. It has a fancy ring of adjustable light around its base and a touchscreen on the front that shows its status and allows you to perform some essential functions.
This touch-screen reminds me of the AmpliFi HD router, with which I had a fun time testing a while back. And like the AmpliFI HD, the AmpliFi Alien uses a mobile app for the initial setup and ongoing management. Millennials who don’t want to use a real computer with a full web browser will likely love this. Savvy users might prefer a web interface, however.
And there’s more, the AmpliFi Alien can work as a single router, but if you live in a large house, you can get additional units and mesh them together into a Wi-Fi system. This flexibility is similar to the case of the Asus RT-AX88U, as well as the ARRIS SURFboard mAX.
On the downside, the Alien doesn’t have a multi-gig port. Instead, it has the usual one WAN port (on its underside) and four LAN ports (on its back.) All of these are Gigabit. That said, in a wired-to-wireless connection, the best performance you’ll get out of this router is 1Gbps, no matter how fast its Wi-Fi can be. Also, there’s no web interface. As a result, my guess is the router will be limited in features and customizations, again, like the case of the AmpliFi HD.
By the way, the Alien has no USB port, either, so it won’t be able to host an external drive and work in the role of a storage server.
Availability and pricing
I’m quite intrigued by the Alien. There are so many things I want to find out about it via hands-on testing, so you can expect more information next month. But if you can’t wait, the new AmpliFi Alien router is available now at a relatively friendly cost of $379.