I’ve tested a lot of Wi-Fi mesh (aka whole-home coverage systems) products lately, but what if you already have a good Wi-Fi router and don’t want to do a rip-and-replace job? There’s a new device available aimed just at this purpose.
The AmpliFi HD Mesh Point, by Ubiquiti Labs, lets you create a mesh system with an existing Wi-Fi router. The device acts like one of the company’s satellite units on its existing AmpliFi HD Mesh System to expand Wi-Fi coverage within your home. If you happen to own the company’s mesh router and satellites, the Mesh Point can expand the existing network even more.
Buying just one device won’t necessarily add a complete mesh network – you sort of need three units talking to each other to achieve that concept. With a router and a satellite, it acts more like a Wi-Fi range extender.
The Mesh Point is actually a two-part device. The bottom part plugs into a wall socket and has a half-sphere magnet on the top of it. The second part (or top) includes the antenna and can be placed on the bottom part magnet and swiveled to achieve the best transmit/receive direction.
Setting up the device is done through the AmpliFi app (for smartphones) – you have the option of setting up the Mesh Point to an existing mesh (if you have one already) or connecting to a new Wi-Fi network. If it’s an old network, you choose from the list of available networks and type in the network’s password, and the app transmits that information to the Mesh Point. A quick refresh gets you up and running in no time (although it’s also good to have the app perform a firmware update for the Mesh Point as well).
In the Cool Tools Test House, we already have an AmpliFi network running – it’s the one that the family uses. I could have easily connected the Mesh Point to that network, but I wanted to see how it could do with a non-Ubiquiti network. So I connected it to the Portal Wi-Fi router, which doesn’t have any other mesh points. An AmpliFi spokesman says the Mesh Point can also connect to another company’s mesh network, such as the eero or Linksys Velop system. But for the purpose of this review, I stuck with a non-mesh device.
The Mesh Point features 802.11ac technology and 3-by-3 MIMO antennas, with a “maximum speed of 1,750 Mbps” with a “total system speed of 5.25 Gbps". But those numbers are theoretical, and of course can never be achieved in the real world due to wireless interference, network overhead and of course, walls and windows. In the “Keith Shaw Real World” tests, we get numbers that are a bit lower.
For my tests, I record a simple data transfer of a bunch of files (1.5GB total) to/from a client computer (one Mac, one Windows) to a network-attached storage (NAS) device connected via Ethernet to the router/system we’re testing. I run two speed tests per upload and download, and average out the results to get an average data speed rate.
Baseline: Existing Wi-Fi speeds, Portal router (without the Mesh Point). This was done to note the fastest possible speed for the test setup, and to compare it to the existing AmpliFi network. This was also done across the 5GHz frequency, not the 2.4GHz channel.
I connected the Mesh Point to the Portal router’s network, but did this in a different room to help expand the coverage area of the network. Because of the distance between the client and the router, I got slower data rates, but the speeds were still pretty good.
For my final test, I wanted to see what impact, if any, the Mesh Point has on the performance of the network, so I removed it from my network and did a test on the original Portal network from my third location (three rooms away). The extra hop has decreased download speed, but upload speed is generally unaffected.
Conclusions: The AmpliFi HD Mesh Point is a cool device that can be used to expand Wi-Fi coverage within a house that might have some dead spots, whether you’re using an existing wireless mesh system or have an older Wi-Fi router. The device isn’t meant to boost speeds in those areas, unless you formerly had such a weak signal that speeds were very slow to begin with (or non-existent).
Grade: 5 stars (out of five)
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