Debating between AmpliFi and UniFi solutions for my home & home office


  • I'm struggling with three potential Ubiquiti solutions for my home and home office. All, of course, have their pros and cons.

    Today, I have fiber service from CenturyLink. I don't presently have gigabit speeds, as I haven't needed it. There is a fiber box outside my house that terminates the fiber and outputs Ethernet. That Ethernet goes into a Technicolor wireless router provided by CenturyLink. That router performs OK. Wireless performance is acceptable. But I don't trust it. At all. It's never had a firmware update, for example, and it seems unlikely there haven't been any security issues in the mean time it should be protected against.

    I have a smaller house (by today's standards). My desktop, NAS, console, and printer are hard-wired. I use wireless for two cell phones, a laptop, a Chromecast, and a Google Home that Google decided I needed for free. Probably to spy on me more effectively than they already do.

    I work in IT, and am familiar with basic networking concepts and can get around in a console session. I'm not, however, really that kind of IT guy that goes looking for problems, if you know what I mean. Off the clock, I'm not really that interested in futzing over VLANs if I don't need to be doing that. So I don't have a rack in the basement with Linux boxen, etc., any longer. I got married and this clutter had to go.

    I'd like to completely replace the CenturyLink-provided router with something more trustworthy. I've thought of three potential solutions.


    Solution #1: A single AmpliFi HD

    Pros:
    Single thing to deal with
    Easy configuration
    Cheap

    Cons:
    Less flexible than other solutions
    Only supports a single Guest network - other networks cannot be configured. I'd like to be able to set up a network for the Chromecast, Google Home, and any other IoT-type trash I end up with.

    Questions:
    I've read that I may need to run this in bridge mode, and that bridge mode comes with a lot of tradeoffs, like the inability to set up a Guest network. But I've also read that some people have successfully used an AmpliFi as a drop-in replacement of the CenturyLink router, too, without using bridge mode. Can someone confirm whether it will work in this way?

    Is there a difference in the support lifecycle for the AmpliFi products versus the more 'enterprise' stuff? The main reason I am tackling this is security. So if the AmpliFi won't get the same security patches for the same length of time as the enterprise stuff, that may be a reason for me to take on the additional complexity and expense of one of the other options I'm considering.

    Does the AmpliFi store my configuration 'in the cloud'? Not sure I really er... trust 'the cloud' for something like this, to be frank.


    Solution #2: An EdgeRouter solution - probably something like an EdgeRouter X combined with an AP Lite.

    Pros:
    Very flexible
    Also pretty affordable

    Cons:
    Two different configuration interfaces (for the router and the AP)
    More complex configuration


    Solution #3: A UniFi solution - probably something like the basic UniFi Security Gateway, the most basic UniFi switch, an AP Lite (and a Cloud Key)?

    Pros:
    Also flexible
    Single configuration interface

    Cons:
    Expensive

    Questions:
    I'm not entirely sure what the Cloud Key is for, to be honest. It appears to be basically a tiny server for running an instance of the Controller software. Not sure I understand the 'cloud' part. Or whether I even need this.


    I'd love to hear your thoughts on my dilemma. Thanks in advance for any information the community can provide!


  • Good timing.

    My Unifi Security Gateway is arriving this afternoon. I thought long and hard about this. I am involved in networking (as an analyst) and I have been tracking consumer mesh networks. Google Wifi and Orbi have both been in and out of my house and I settled on Amplifi because it had more flexibility to do the things I wanted it to. But it still has some nagging problems:

    1. Certain IoT devices will not work reliably with it (ie. garage door opener)
    2. Performance fluctuates (I still see occasional dropouts and gaps)

    My strategy is to get the USG installed, configured and stabilized, with the Amplifi in bridge mode, then shift over to more Unifi equipment once I believe I have things running smoothly. (I am leaving for Asia in a few weeks and will have a house sitter, so I may put the Amplifi back in router mode and pull the USG while I am gone because long-distance tech support is easier for me with a system a know vs a brand new one.

    Then, when I am back from Asia I will swap out the Amplifi for a single UAP. Everyone seems to claim that one can cover a house, so I will give that a shot. Worst case scenario is getting a second one because the first can't cover all of the 2800 sqft house (2 stories).

    Your point about the Edgerouter giving you 2 management consoles is really important. I'll pay the extra money to have a single pane of glass to see everything. It is specifically because I do not want to mess with things that I want the USG and not the Edgerouter. If you don't like to mess with things then look into the USG. A little more spent on the front end can save you down the road. I have always cheaped out and regretted it later. This is not the time for that.


  • The USG arrived this afternoon and it could not have been easier to install. Plugged the Ethernet WAN cable into the WAN port and turned it on. It immediately configured itself (the simple stuff) and gave me a LAN. Then I plugged the amplifi into the LAN port and set it to bridge mode in the app.

    Done.

    Working network, everything else is running fine now.

    The configuration choices are infinitely better than the amplifi so I will have a lot of tweaking for the next few days, but this should be interesting as a project.


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