Consumer Wi-Fi gear has come a long way over the years but nothing compares to high grade enterprise solutions.
Unfortunately, enterprise access points are generally either too expensive or too complex to setup for either your home or a small business or building. The Ubiquiti UniFi aims to provide a shallow end of the pool alternative for users who don’t want to break the bank or get lost in screen after screen of configuration options, while still providing an excellent boost to the coverage and reliability of their Wi-Fi.
While the configuration of a UniFi network is slightly more complex than setting up a regular home router, Ubiquiti have done their best to keep both the physical and software installation of their WAP access points as streamlined as possible. After connecting the first WAP via ethernet cable to the LAN’s switch, the other WAPs are setup and connected via either the controller software (available on Windows, Linux or OS X) or the new Android Easy Setup app.
After this is complete, you should have a fully functional Wi-Fi network up and running. Simple as that.
The problem, of course, with having to run a controller software in order to keep the WAP Wi-Fi running, is that you’ll need to keep a computer or small server running 24/7, otherwise the network will fail.
UniFi WAPs come in various versions: the AC model, for example, allows both 5GHz and 2.4GHz, whereas the standard model only comes in 2.4GHz. These settings are all configurable through the software and allow you to build the network most suitable for you without having to pay for features you don’t need.
Known as “Zero Handoff”, Ubiquiti’s UniFi offers a feature where, when configured correctly, allows connected devices to seamlessly transfer between one WAP and another. Coupled with the ability of modern devices to accurately choose the best access point, this allows users to move across the wireless network without loss of connection.
This means that roaming around the building from one WAP coverage area to another will not slow down your browsing speed, whether you’re regularly browsing websites or streaming videos on YouTube or Twitch.
The UniFi controller software offers the ability to estimate coverage and strength of your WAP network over a floor map of your home or building. The software allows you to upload a floor map, size it to match the correct scale, then place your WAPs one by one over the map. Around each WAP, a heat map is overlaid as a visual representation of the strength of each device. This allows you to figure out where to place your WAPs in order to adequately provide coverage across all rooms of the building.
Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever tracked signal strength from room to room in a house, Wi-Fi signal tends to lose strength across walls, but the controller software does not take this into account, assuming that the radius around the WAP will receive a signal of consistent strength.
That said, the software does a good job of estimating signal strength and coverage across the floor map as long as you keep this slight flaw in mind.
Out of the 250 to 300 we’ve installed of this product, we’ve never had one complaint about a failed WAP; this is more than can be said about market competitors in this price range. Additionally, none of the UniFi products require a license. Simply buy one or more WAPs, install the controller software (or use the Android app), set everything up and you’re done.
Considering the low price of these access points, configuration options and extensibility, you will be hard pressed to find a product that the Ubiquiti UniFi WAPs can’t crush.