AmpliFi Alien review: This Wi-Fi 6 mesh router is futuristic, but not future-proof

  • The AmpliFi Alien is one of several spiffy new routers that support Wi-Fi 6 -- the newest, fastest version of Wi-Fi. Available as a standalone router for $379, or bundled with a high-powered range extender in a two-piece mesh setup for $700, it's one of several expensive tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers that exist in a premium tier above most everything else on the market. Even so, the high-powered specs might have you highly tempted to make the splurge (at least, it might once it's available -- Ubiquiti currently lists the Alien as out of stock, but tells CNET it expects to have more available for purchase soon).

    Fast top speeds by mesh standards
    Unique, futuristic design
    Simple, app-based setup and controls
    Teleport feature lets you route your web traffic through your home network while traveling

    No multigig WAN port
    Second 5GHz band only supports Wi-Fi 5
    Touchscreen on the router is overkill

    Sure, the Netgear Orbi 6 and the Linksys Velop MX10 -- two other $700 tri-band mesh routers that support Wi-Fi 6 -- were each a bit faster when I tested them out at my home, but the Alien wasn't far behind. In fact, it actually finished first in our lab-based top speed tests. On top of that, it has a couple of extra tricks up its sleeve that that might help you feel like you're getting your money's worth.

    Along with a spacey design that includes a cylindrical build, a touchscreen interface and a ring of LED indicator lights around the base, the Alien router features a unique trick called AmpliFi Teleport that lets you route your web traffic through your home network from anywhere in the world. And, unlike a lot of VPN services, it's both a cinch to use and completely free. That's a handy layer of security if you're connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, and useful if you want to stream your local channels from a digital TV service while you're traveling. Other routers competing with the Alien don't offer anything quite like it.

    But the Alien's missing a few things, too. For starters, it doesn't include a multigig Ethernet jack capable of accepting incoming wired speeds any faster than 1Gbps. On top of that, one of its two 5GHz bands only supports Wi-Fi 5, which undercuts some of the tri-band appeal. Those are both high-end quibbles, but legitimate ones at this price.

    Still, the Alien gets enough right that breaking the bank on it doesn't seem like such an out-of-this-world idea. I like it best as a standalone router, and would rather go with Netgear Orbi 6 if I were looking to spend big on a truly top-of-the-line mesh setup. And keep in mind that a number of new, less expensive mesh systems that support Wi-Fi 6 are set to hit stores in the coming months. But if you want a fancy, feature-rich router with plenty of horsepower and support for Wi-Fi 6, the Alien fits the bill.

  • @Eliot-Austrin I had the top Orbi wifi 6 unit and returned it. I did get some quick speeds from it, and the odd design of the mesh units sorta looked cool. But their firmware is a mess, and it auto updates itself which breaks a lot of stuff. Total deal breaker, so I returned it. I think all these things are over priced, but the features on the Orbi are pretty good. I wired my Mesh, so the extra antenna was wasted. They have a better admin interface too.

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