Initial views on HD kit in a large 5000+ sq/ft home.

  • Background: Large two story wood home using a Nighthawk R7000 (Ac1900) but it has had a number of different ones over the years here. Actual internet is 20/3 dual bonded DSL (best available here in the central California Sierra mountains given my distance for the DSL lines). Home is wired with CAT 6 and desktops are all on the local gig switch. All the mobile devices are naturally on the WiFi -this includes IPAD's and laptops like MacBook Pro's and Surface Pros. All total about 25 devices on the local network.

    Problem: With the extended work from home and daily Zoom meetings for hours on end I have discovered that the wireless devices are limited in term of where you can use them without running into robot voices or laggy video. Now granted - the (now adult) children have complained for years about WiFi issues with me simply telling them to plug into the CAT6 in their rooms and don't spend so much time on your phones. That always went over well... Near the WiFi - no problem. But once you start moving away from my office (where all the gear is), it starts dropping off quickly. A lot of this is simply due the construction - the location of the WiFi in my closet means it is partially shielded by the back side of a 36" built in freezer in the kitchen and large AC metal ducts transferring between the floors. The location - while central - is sub optimal from a WiFi point of view. Yes, I could have done something like a bridge wifi for the family away from all the structure issues but never did it...

    The deal breaker for me has been our team weekly virtual happy hours after work on Friday. I want to get out of this dang office and enjoy the amazing views we have on the deck just outside with a smooth drink - it is literally just 30' from the WiFi router (but on the other side of that kitchen). If I force the surface pro to use 2.4 band and don't go beyond the middle of the deck - zoom sort of works. Can't move to the sides where there is afternoon shade without stuff really dropping.

    Best Buy had a great short term sale of the HD kit so I finally picked one up and set it up. I have always liked Ubiquiti gear so I figured it would be decent gear that would work in the mesh space. First hook up was just the little cube router, and initially put it in the same location as the Nighthawk. It seemed to work slightly better which is really nice given this is so small and that Nighthawk has those massive antennas. But being so small I was able to move it up just under 2' to a higher shelf in the closet so it was not as blocked by the backside of the kitchen fridge. What a difference that made - WiFi was so much better all over the home. (later I measured that move to the higher shelf is only about 2 - 3 db). Zoom in the kitchen was rock solid and better outside on the deck. An Amazon fire stick near the end of the house was able to play via Plex full HD blue ray movies from my Plex local server without dropping for the first time ever on wireless. But then I plugged in both mesh points - one in the kitchen closer to the deck and the other in the far upper master bedroom. Now Zoom works great everywhere in the 2nd floor and the entire outside deck has flawless zoom. That weeks happy hour was so enjoyable sitting in deck chair sipping that drink chatting with co-workers about nothing important outside. Life is good! Kids came home for the weekend and I showed them the new setup - basically it was a bunch of "... and you could not do this for US all those years?..." I did feel bad...

    I did enable via the web interface the r/k/v options - all the macs/ipads are running latest IOS - and surface pro's all upgraded - now they work amazing everywhere in the house and on the deck. They flawless switch fast between the mesh points as you walk around the house. I did try A-MSDU but it really makes zoom for folks viewing/listening to me very laggy so turned that off.

    I'm so happy I went and picked up on Ebay a couple of stand alone HD routers and will setup them up via ethernet backhaul when they get here and I'll report how that goes. Doing that will allow me place the mesh points so I can extend coverage better for the house and now include the entire outside garage area so when I'm doing projects out there I will be able to use the WiFi instead of switching to cell which I have to do currently for streaming music.

    So - short version is - while I would consider myself a highly technical person with decades of subnet and managed switches/routers experience - setting this up was so easy and required no special knowledge. Only thing I changed was the mesh SID and the subnet it was using because I just can't help myself - I have to control my SID's and subnets :). It was up and running in no time and for me is working flawlessly. Yes, I know this is a few years old now and does not support WiFi6 but that is not needed for my setup. Again once I get the other HD routers going via ethernet backhaul, I'll report back. For but now - I'm super happy with no complaints.

  • I have received the HD standalone router which I picked up on EBay. It was a real standalone router - came in the box. Given our kitchen and family room area is the most used and my primary router is in my office and partially blocked by metal infrastructure (AC ducts, appliance), I went and installed it in the main TV cabinet next to the Amazon Fire Cube (which is now plugged into one of the ethernet ports of that router). The router is using ethernet backhaul since I have wired cat 6 to that location. Another advantage of this spot is it also covers part of the outside back deck. I forgot to say that our outside house siding is Hardie Plank - this is a concrete composite siding that looks like wood but has a class A fire rating. And having actual concrete in it - it likes to attenuate signals to some extent. That HD router now has line of sight through windows to the deck so it has really great coverage - even better than the meshpoint at the other side of the room. This by itself helped cover a few weak spots I found outside by the BBQ. So far so good. I still have a couple more HD routers coming so I can extend into the gameroom the same level of signal and outside around the front of the house. If I'm lucky maybe I can get that signal down to the pool area but its a long ways so I'm not optimistic it will make it.

    The next HD router came (another EBay) but this one was a big mistake. I plugged it in and tried to sync to the existing mesh (I'm using Android app). It would not sync. Just spend a long time thinking and then the new router would beep and the display would reset - the Android app spins forever - one time I let it run for over an hour and it was just spinning endlessly. I noticed that the glow from the base was very weak - I did do a factory reset with the paperclip on the bottom so it should not be the intensity setting - it was not bright at all - dim. After messing with this for a couple of hours I finally looked at the power plug and realized - hey - this is not an Ubiquiti plug - it looks like some white cell phone adapter. Looked at the stats on it - 5V @ 2A and 9V @ 2A. No 12 V and no 3A at 5V. Humm. Ok, I connected that to the real power supply the the unit I already added and same thing - dim base and it would not connect to the mesh network.

    Finally I decided just for kicks to try the IOS app on an IPad. And now when I tried to add the new router to the mesh it would come back with an error in under a minute "only standalone devices can be added to an existing system" Huh? So i went searching the forums here and sure enough - as many of you know that are on the forums, Amplifi kits cannot be used to extend existing mesh networks. I'm sorry Ubiquiti - I think this is a very poor decision on your part. I have much stronger words but I will keep it clean. So the seller was selling just the router but the router was part of a kit product. Maybe they knew this was wrong - maybe not. No way to know.

    So clearly the IOS app is more refined (at least as far as detecting this condition - having the android app spinning endlessly forever is a very sub-optimal user experience.

    So I contacted the seller, provided photos showing why his power supply is wrong, the screen shot showing the unable to add and am returning it.

    The next one is suppose to be here tomorrow and it is suppose to be a standalone unit - we will see.

  • @Tyab said in Initial views on HD kit in a large 5000+ sq/ft home.:

    The next one is suppose to be here tomorrow and it is suppose to be a standalone unit - we will see.

    Just a thought, if the original one you purchased is a stand alone router, and you do receive a kit router, you can reset your current router and set the kit router up as a primary. That would allow you to add your original router as a mesh point (as long as it was a stand alone router to begin with). Ultimately though, you should get what you pay for so if the product doesn't match the description, return in!

    Another note, if you are using a new Galaxy phone, it has an additional popup that appears about a day after initial installations saying something like "It seems AmpliFi has been using your location in the background" If you disable the location service after this prompt, you will have to clear the cache and data from the AmpliFi app for it to be used on your system again. This prompt from Galaxy devices blocks the bluetooth and WiFi communication between your device and mobile phone.

  • Thanks for the comments. I started with a brand new kit - knowing what I know now I would not have purchased the kit but instead just bought stand alone routers. Without the community here - there is nothing I could find from Ubiquiti that would inform a potential customer that a kit does has limitations in they cannot work with other kits or parts of kits. I get it - this was not an engineering decision but was imposed from higher ups due to pricing structure. Still Ubiquiti has a really good rep for great pro-consumer and up level gear at affordable prices and this artificial non-operational among its own product line is simply contrary to that reputation.

    The IOS app will correctly tell the user about this issue - the android app will not and just spin forever. I did make sure the android app has the location permissions. It also seems the IOS app does not support screen rotation. I get that for smaller phone type devices due to aspect ratio but for an Ipad? Did not test on an android tablet type of device so it may have the same issue.

    In terms of the other limits folks have reported related to single device bandwidth cap around 250 or so, its not an issue for me given the slow connection I have to the internet but I could see those that are able to get 300+ speeds to their home it would be a big issue. Hardware limits - I understand - and already the alien units already deal with that so it is only natural to expect that the next gen of these (in whatever name/form it takes) will have the hardware necessary to address that. But again, this is a communication issue - very little information about those limits can be found outside of these forums - this is contrary to how well other Ubiquiti gear documents its limits.

    So my summary - well engineered product that works better than expected - heck it simply works at providing a wide area wifi for residential / small business. Some limits related to expansion are not easily disclosed but can be avoided by purchasing the more expensive stand alone units over kits. Also some speed limits may limit those that have 300+ speed fiber.

  • The HD router from Ebay has been returned that was part of a kit, and another HD router arrived. I put this in the master bedroom with ethernet backhaul and move the meshpoint from there to the complete opposite end of the home - about as far away as one can get. I then upgraded the entire mesh to 3.4.1 firmware. I did not have any of the stability issues others had reported but what I really wanted was the new topology graph. In software development if I am not familiar with a subproject - one of the first things I obtain is a class hierarchy topology graph - and the new firmware is clearly using one of the many open source topology graph generation libraries - which work really well. And I was able to finally visualize if my ideas of the layout would be match real world. For the most part it did except that location of that far back router in the master bedroom really made no sense - I could see that mesh point I did have in the room previously was actually superior due to its location for covering more of the middle areas. Easy enough change - put back the mesh point in the master bedroom, move the HD router with ethernet backhaul to a different location in the game room - and you could see the topology change once things resynced. Now it was far more evenly distributed. It is really interesting to see how the mesh interconnects, and how clients pick a mesh point. Ubiquiti - job well done!

    This leave me with one mesh point from the original kit and I put it in the garage in an out of the way socket. Doing this gives really good coverage everywhere in the garage and fully covers the entire outside driveway near the house. Our garage is under the game room but during construction they had to put in quite a bit of steel plate to meet sheer force calculations. And some walls are lined with metal storage cabinets. Not a WiFi friendly place given some of those plates are in the firewall between the garage and house as are all of the storage cabinets. Previously I could stream music but was completely unable to use VNC to remote into the vm's i have running on the server that contain factory workshop manuals for the cars we own. So I'm tinkering in the garage, need to look up the torque specs, clean up go into the house, look at it on the local monitor for the server, go back into the garage, re-glove - start doing it - realized I need more info, go back in, etc. Just sort of a pain that I was used to. But last night I was able to take the laptop out there - VNC into those vm's - do it all right there next to the car - no more needed to go back and forth. VNC is smooth and lag free. Nice. This mesh point is being linked by the router in the game room above - which then avoids all that metal interference. I may still play around with this units final location in the garage - its more of what sockets are safe from having stuff on shelves potentially damage something like a meshpoint hanging off of it

    The final stretch goal was to get WiFi down to the pool. Its a good 150' from the house and for the most part has line of site to the game room over the garage. My daughter went down in the afternoon to lay out and she says she gets 1-2 bars now - enough to stream music without having to use cell data. We have never had any WiFi signal down there before so that itself is big improvement. I don't see any layout changes that can really help this now without having an outside unit to avoid the attenuation from the concrete siding of the house. Yes I am aware of the Ubiquiti solutions for outside wide area and longer range equipment - I just have to decide if any more expansion is justifiable at this point. I do have a longer range point to point AirMax system that gives internet to a remote solar system that does have some LOS issues that I could potentially tap into... At least its fun to think about. Enough for now - as far as I am concerned - this mesh system is done and working perfectly covering a large multistory home both inside and usable areas outside with many WiFi challenges. Cheers.

  • 3 weeks running so far - no issues. Everywhere inside works perfectly. Garage is great for what I am doing in there. Short distance outside is great - deck areas around home.

    With the heat, we have been spending time around the pool more and that is the problem. Pool is downhill from the home and has line of sight to the HD router in the game room. It is about 150' distance. Signal was sort of working - enough to stream music depending on location at the pool - those locations close the retaining wall naturally are blocked so don't work. I tried moving the router right in front of a game room window - propped up and was surprised the signal was weaker - yes - weaker than just going through the Hardiplank concrete siding of the house. Did a little searching and I never realized how much low E glass attenuates signals. It was surprising and does help explain the sometimes poor cell reception in the home.

    Given the investment now in Amplifi -I'm not going to switch to Unifi - in retrospec that would have most likely been a better solution but oh well.

    I have a plan to piggyback on a existing 400'+ PtP link I have from the game room to a remote solar system that is using a couple of Airmax litebeams and install a HD router down by the pool in a weather proof non-metalic box but its still in the planning stage. So other than extended range outside coverage - The system simply works as expected and no issues.

  • @Tyab Thank you for sharing this story and providing us all with an update on your home networking experience with AmpliFi!

Log in to reply