The Ubiquiti UniFi system is an enterprise grade affordable wireless networking solution that makes it easy for IT administrators to deploy and maintain a high quality and scalable wireless network.
Traditional enterprise wireless systems are expensive and difficult to mange, and they often require highly trained, and expensive to hire, IT professionals. The Ubiquiti Networks UniFi system attempts to relieve some of those pains with a affordable, efficient, and intuitive enterprise class wireless system.
The first part of the UniFi system is the high-end wireless access points. There are a number of different access points at different price points, and include easy sleek mounting to either the wall or ceiling. All units also use Power over Ethernet to eliminate the need to locate the units near a power outlet. You can simply use the included Power Injector plugged into the wall to feed power down the network cable to the access point. This works the best with dropped ceiling mounting as it’s often impossible to get power run over to an access point.
At Geek Beat, we have been testing the UAP-Pro models, which include a few extra nice features such as support for industry standard 802.3af Power over Ethernet, simultaneous dual band 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz wireless for speeds up to 450 Mb (the regular models cannot do 5 Ghz), and a secondary ethernet port to chain on to another access point.
All models include MIMO support for great throughput, with the brand new AC model reaching up to 1300 Mbps in a perfect environment. A “Long Range” model provides ranges up to 600 feet versus the standard 400 feet of other models.
The UniFi system also includes a few weather sealed outdoor models to provide wireless networks out in the open air. The three models each individually provide 2.4 Ghz, 5 Ghz, or 5 Ghz AC connectivity and support Power over Ethernet to allow you to simply run a powered network cable outside without worrying about powering the device in the elements. Cleverly, the outdoor units all support pole mounting to help them get optimal positioning for up to 600 feet of range.
The second part of the UniFi system is the innovative and intuitive UniFi Controller software.
The UniFi Controller is an web browser-based application you can run from either a local server or, optionally, a remotely located machine in the public cloud. In a local deployment, the Controller is easily managed by a single user to maintain an office network with a few access points around the building.
In a cloud installation, the Controller is designed to provision multiple deployment sites, such as multiple school campus buildings and outdoor areas consisting of thousands of access points and tens of thousands of users. The UniFi system can easily expand and scale from small single office networks to monstrous systems spanning multiple networks in multiple buildings all while administering from a single installation.
To manage the large influx of users, the Controller provides great statistics and analytics tools to see where users are connecting, and how much data they consume. The UniFi system even includes a built in customizable Guest Portal/Hotspot system with rate, time, and data usage limiting, built-in support for paid access via PayPal payments, and network segregation to keep users from seeing other local machines.
I found that the Controller was very easy to use and provided extremely detailed analytics of connected clients, down to the amount of data they’ve consumed and the history of what access points they connected to over time.
One neat feature i noticed was the ability to “whitelist” network segments as well. You can allocate all your public devices, such as Apple TVs for presentations and printers, to a specific network segment and via the whitelist, allow your guest users to use these devices while protecting your regular network.
While the Controller is very intuitive to use, it does require some networking knowledge. While a novice IT worker will likely have no trouble setting up a basic system, he will need to have a strong grasp of network topology to fully utilize all the features of the Controller. It’s this ability to scale based on both size and skill that makes the UniFi system pretty compelling.
Together, the UniFi system provides a great alternative to the expensive traditional enterprise wireless network systems on the market. With their intuitive Controller software and affordable hardware, it’s very easy to take your network deployment from a single access point to a thousand access points.
You can purchase the Ubiquity UniFi system from various distributors, Amazon, or directly from Ubiquity Network’s online store.
Martin Timmermans says
I have been looking for a reasonable priced wifi solution. Certain rooms of my house just don’t have good coverage. I love the idea of zero-handoff roaming! EVen though they seem to be significantly more expensive here (The Netherlands; $400 a piece for the pro version), I do seriously consider getting a few. (3 or 4)
I have two questions though, I hope you can provide me with an answer for:
1) As you mentioned as well there are several versions available; nonPro, Pro, normal and longrange. Can I combine these in my setup? ie: if in some rooms I require 5Ghz and in others I dont, could I go for let’s say 2x nonPro and 2x Pro?
2) My home switch is a Cisco Catalyst 3750G w/ POE (802.3af). I have read different statements on Dutch forums regarding Unifi supporting 802.3af. Some say it does, some say it don’t.. Could you please verify whether they do?
Thank you in advance!
Omar Vazquez says
Regarding your questions:
1) Yes. You can mix all UAP models (Pro, non-Pro, outdoor, AC) under the same setup. Regular UAPs and UAP-LR are 2.4 Ghz single radio units while UAP-Pros are dual-radio 2.4Ghz/5Ghz simultaneous dual-band units.
2) Regular (non-Pro) UAPs amd UAP-LR are non-802.3af compliant FastEthernet devices and require passive POE with the included adapter. The UAP-Pro is a gigabit 802.3af-compliant unit which can be powered with your current switch. There’s also the UAP-AC which is an 802.11ac access point that requires the included POE adapter or an 802.3at (POE+) compatible switch.
The “Zero-handoff” roaming feature in UniFi will not work in a dual-band setup. Basically, it requires all radios to use the same band/channel for it to work. Ubiquiti’s UniFi is a very reliable and robust solution and I’ve had very good results with it. If you ask me, don’t bother with zero-handoff roaming; it is the only thing in UniFi that is more about marketing than actual usefulness.
Thank you! 🙂 Highly appreciated.
Omar Vazquez says
You’re welcome Martin.
Omar Vazquez says
@kientran This is a an overall good review, but there are a couple of things that are not accurate.
1. First, and most important of all, UniFi is NOT a wireless mesh networking line of products. They were not designed for that and are not capable of doing mesh. Mesh networking is an entirely different, and more complex thing. UniFi, as with most other enterprise WLAN systems, mostly resembles a “star” topology.
2. The Ubiquiti ToughSwitch Pro switch used for this review is NOT part of the UniFi line of products. This product in particular was designed to be used with another line of products called AirMax. Although you can use the ToughSwitch Pro with the UAP-Pro, UAP-AC, and the UAP-AC Outdoor it is recommended to use a standard 802.3at switch, which will make configuration easier and avoid the possibility of damaging the equipment. As to the other devices in the UniFi line of products which doesn’t support standard 802.3af/at P.O.E. it is best to use the included P.O.E. adapter, although you could use the ToughSwitch Pro if you want. Just be very, very careful.
I thought it will be a good idea to clarify these things as they could be very confusing to some.
Paul Koczwara says
At the start of the video there was some discussion to a comparison to Open Mesh. Are you able to elaborate on this? I’d be interested to hear some thoughts on the differences/advantages/disadvantages.
@kientran do you know if a single Unifi Mesh (i.e a single SSID) supports multiple gateways with different routes to the internet? I can’t find any reference on the Ubiquiti site but I think this is a possible feature of mesh networks.
My use-case would a neighbourhood mesh using multiple ADSL routers connected to their different ISPs to create a resilient mesh that would continue to function until there were no ADSL routers or ISP links.
Omar Vazquez says
@VirtualIan What you are describing is not possible for various reasons. For one, UniFi is not capable of wireless mesh networking and even if they were you can’t achieve what you want with just a wireless mesh network. That could be described as “meshing different networks together” which will require a lot of routing and hardware.
Remember that UniFi and other wireless APs for that matter, are just means of access to a network. Traffic shaping, routing, VLANs, Internet access, ISP redundancy, etc. are centrally handled and managed for the whole network (wired and wireless).
What you could do is have multiple redundant ISP links at the core of your network and implement a true wireless mesh topology for access, which will make sure there is almost-always a “path” to the Internet in case an ISP goes down or one, or more, wireless nodes fail.
Ron Heiby says
I am looking for a comparison of this system to doing something similar using Apple AirPort devices.
When I moved into my current home a couple years ago, the family room was fairly central to the house. Since that’s where the main TV was located, and had a cable feed, I put the cable modem and AirPort Extreme router there. With my future office at one end of the house, I had a Cat6 cable installed from the family room to the office, where I just put an Ethernet switch and my printer for the time being.
Now, we have remodeled and re-arranged a bit, and what had been living room is now the family room and what was the family room is now the living room and dining room. So, with the TV moving, all the main cable equipment and networking hardware moved, too. (My wife didn’t want a bunch of boxes with blinky lights in the corner of her formal dining room. Go figure.) As part of the remodel, I had them add another Cat6 cable to the office, this time from the new family room.
Now, with the office (and other bedrooms) much further from the main AirPort Extreme, I have taken my “travel router” AirPort Express and put it onto the office Ethernet switch, configuring it to extend my home network.
This seems to be working fine, with the office / bedroom end of the house having very good signal strength and Internet connectivity. Is there any “down side” to this scheme? Is there something about the UniFi (or similar) system that would provide me with some additional benefit?
P.S. Eventually, I’ll likely buy one of the new AirPort Extreme routers (when I have hardware that knows how to talk 802.11ac), which will bump my existing AirPort Extreme to the office and my AirPort Express back into my suitcase. 🙂