Ubiquite AmpliFi HD

It’s taken me ages to get a decent wifi network due to thick walls and a long bungalow, but eventually I achieved a good result using apple time capsule into a switch, then ethernet cables to three apple extenders placed throughout the loft. Unfortunately that is now at risk as the time capsule is overheating (can’t face taking it to bits and oiling the fan) and they don’t make them any more, so I’d like to move on to something better.

I’ve seen several posts about mesh wifi, particularly Ubiquiti, but I think these relate to the “enterprise” models (and I’m not really sure what to buy and how this works yet.

Ubiquiti’s AmpliFi HD bundles seem to be a bit easier to use but also seem to rely on a wifi signal between the base unit and each “extender” which didn’t work so well with the apple kit. Also I’ve seen reviews that suggest that for this level of kit The Orbis system is better.

Any thoughts on this? Are the Amplifi?Orbis level products good for difficult wifi environments, or should I spend time trying to figure out which Ubiquiti Enterprise level units I need and source those?

I had similar issues so I installed an Orbi system in my house a couple of weeks ago, a router plus one satellite. Seems to work like it’s advertised. Simple to install … step by step instructions from an app on your phone. No down sides so far and the network is certainly peppy in all parts of the house (3 story). It’s a tad pricey to buy but I bid on a new one on a familiar auction site and got it for a really reasonable price.

The router is in the basement and the satellite is in the living room on the second floor … looks quite stylish sitting in a book shelf.

The Ubiquiti devices popular with some forum members (Phil Harris was a fan of them as I recall) are the AP-AC Lite, which would be ideal if you have the cables to connect them up, as they would be a straight swap for your Airport Express. I guess you would aim for full coverage of the house, and either remove the Time Capsule, or at least turn off its WiFi.

Whilst I appreciate the name does not inspire confidence, I have been using BTs Whole Home disks in my house for a few years and have deployed them in a few friends houses and they are very good. They want to be connected by ethernet, like all of them really.

Very good value for money compared to the competition and I have found them exceptionally reliable. Only downside is they cannot be hung on a wall or ceiling.

Thanks for the info - looks as though these systems are all pretty stable but I’ll go for one that allows cable connections as the weak spot in my wifi is between the base station in my study up to the loft due to the walls/ceiling construction I think.

I’m currently migrating my back up to my NAS, so yes I’ll be discarding the time capsule completely as soon as I can sort the wifi.

A follow up question…will all/any of tese systems wok easily with a cisco 2960 switch (i.e. at present I have the modem connected to the switch, then the router and apple “extenders” connected to the switch all with cat 5). I’m hoping I could replicate that with the new system without needing much technical knowledge on how to set up ports etc.

Yes, they should be fine through a switch. Presumably yours is set to factory defaults, and will simply send the data on to the intended client.

Thanks - yes it is, so I think I’ll try out the Ubiquiti.

Following Chris’ advice is a great choice here, especially as you have the wired backhaul in place for your existing Apple access points. I offer two heads up things before you start the drop in replacement with the AC-Lites:

  • ensure your new access points say “GigE PoE now supports 24V and 802.3af/A” on the box; that way you can use whatever PoE injectors you want, including your switch if so equipped (older stock did not support this, so you would need to use the supplied injector)
  • download, install and run the Ubiquti controller software somewhere on your network (eg your computer or NAS) since that must be running to discover, provision and configure your new AC-Lites; it need not run all the time, as the wifi network(s) keep functioning once they are launched, but you may want to start it up now and again to check for firmware updates, to reconfigure the wifi, or to add additional access points

Overall, I’m really happy with this Ubiquiti set up; I may have too many (3) units, but they overlap well and more is better as you can drop the transmit power level to reduce interference, etc. I have one managed switch (so far) and use its PoE port to power the closest AC-Lite (the other two use the supplied injectors… be sure you order the right part if you need these as some come for a slightly lower price but don’t include the plug-in power injector, particularly the 5-pack).

I also bought their small home router, which is compatible with the same controller (the more advanced EdgeRouter series is not) and enables lots of useful management and analysis features, but I can’t get it to work with my IPTV yet so it’s back in its box for now.

Have fun. These are really great home wifi units, reasonably priced, and ideal for the upgrade you are planning. Good luck.

Regards alan

I haven’t yet followed my own advice! At some stage I will move on from my aging Apple Airport network and the Ubiquiti stuff is on my radar. Although it wouldn’t work for me, Alan’s suggestion of using PoE is, I think, a good one. If you can pick up a switch that can supply PoE, you can use this to run the Ubiquiti AC stuff rather than adding a SMPS for each individual one, which is neat,

Yes I use Ubiquite, but I use their ESSID Unifi products. These are for consumer and small enterprise. These are superb and allow hires streaming and busy Wifi traffic simultaneously in a load balanced overlapping setup which they can do automatically but require a bit of setup. I know a few prestigious Naim deployments were implemented by Naim using these products. All my Unifi devices are PoE and run them that way from Cisco PoE enabled Catalyst switches, but do be careful, unless you buy their expensive pro access points, Ubiquiti doesn’t support standardised PoE (802.3af and 802.3at) so you need their proprietry adapters if using regular PoE equipment.

They also have their fashionable Amplifi mesh products, perhaps more suited to consumer… as long as some care is put in the positioning of the nodes and ensure adequate wired Ethernet access to multiple nodes they can work well, just keep the number of wireless hops to a minimum to avoid too big a drop in throughput, that is the only downside with mesh, but they can be very effective st providing genereal use coverage.

Gary above has had great success with the BT mesh type products and I believe they are highly optimised for consumer… so might be worth looking at… should be cheaper than the Ubiquiti devices and you might not need all the features of the Unifi products.

I take it that means running, say, an AC Lite from a PoE Catalyst switch isn’t going to work, then?

It will work but you need to additionally purchase the Ubiquiti ‘802.3af Converter’ that converts the voltages from the 802.3af PoE switch to match the AP-AC Lite proprietry voltages… so you have a short Ethernet link from the regular PoE switch to the converter, then a long haul to your Wifi access point from the converter. I have a couple of my access points that I run this way…

That was true before, but no longer: the AC-Lite access points are now fully standards compliant for 802.3af PoE (hence my heads up to ensure you get new stock)… you can run these off of non-proprietary injectors and no longer require the adapter S-i-S mentions. Your Catalyst should be okay if it offers PoE ports. Also note that they require PoE: there is no other way to power them (via a wall wart or whatever) as the only connection is the Ethernet socket.

Further, these same units offer the ESSID capability that S-i-S refers to: a single wifi network name and automatic handoff across multiple access points to maximize signal and connectivity. There isn’t any need to go higher in the range, or look for special ESSID products, the AC-Lite has this capability.

Regards alan

Alan, good to know they have fixed this previously annoying issue, and you can now use regular PoE power sources.

Yes I would use ESSID devices if you can over wireless mesh products , and the Unifi AP-AC lite access point supports I would definitely recommend for ESSID setups in homes.
Set them up as multiple access points that overlap, kind of like a 3 dimensional Olympic flag where the rings intersect more of each other. I say three dimensional, because you can overlap between floors as well unless your in a bungalow! The other advantage of this setup is that the power and sensitivity can be would down (this is done automatically). This means your wlan is less susceptible to interference like from neighbouring Wifi setups, and in turn causes less damaging interference.

Once you set them up, then (ideally) Ethernet enable them back to a switch. This will work exceptionally well, and you will find yourself having to use wired Ethernet less and less for appliances and other client uses.

Thanks for al the info - I thik the AP-AC lite versions would be best for me as I’m not sufficiently tech aware to do a lot of setting up. I like the olympic flag idea though - my old Apple setup is located in a way that should mean a direct swap - the power points I use could then be used for the Ubiquiti units. I doubt my switch provides poe as it was a “recycled” unit from the usual source, but that’s a good way of checking that I get the latest models so thanks for the tip.

Thanks for all the input.

Coming to this a big late - apologies. Just to note that I recently set up an Amplifi HD mesh network for my son, who had moved into a new larger property, and needed something that provided better coverage than his existing Time Capsule (same as AirPort Extreme). I have also had good experiences with BT Whole Home Wi-fi, so considered these - but was attracted by the simplicity and elegance of the Amplifi design - it goes a step or two beyond the bare bones consumer offerings but appears to offer a good balance of customisation and stability. Amplifi user experiences on merchant websites and forum postings indicate that Amplifi users are a pretty happy lot, whereas by contrast (for example) Orbi users are not.

I installed 2 x Amplifi HD, with wired Ethernet backhaul to a Unifi 8 port PoE managed switch, connected to a Sky Router. The results are impressive - since installed a month ago, the network has been totally stable, and coverage strong. I tested the wireless backhaul by disconnecting the Ethernet cables, and this resulted inevitably in a drop in performance, which is to be expected - but the network continued to operate with complete stability, and sufficient throughout to enable multiple HD streams concurrently.

I think the Amplifi kit has been around for a few years, though has seen significant firmware updates in that time. I’m unsure whether there are new Amplifi products in the pipeline, but I came to the conclusion that they are amongst the best of the mesh products as they are!

Thanks Karmachochi, glad it’s all working out at your end.

I have considered AMPLIFI for replacing my aging AirpExp set up. However the AMPLIFI Mesh system access points do not have an Ethernet plug which I need to connect to the switch near the Naim streamer. Recently AMPLIFI has launched an alternative (I think they call it “instant”) with a somehow less powerful router but with access points that do support a wired connection. Still not available in Europe though last time I checked.

I use 2 Amplifi routers instead of using an access point with the router. The second Router can be configured as an access point and connected via ethernet to provide a wired backhaul. I moved from an Apple network and found the Amplifi network to be far more stable and efficient. Instructions how to set this up are found on the support pages of the Amplifi website.