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Ubiquiti

Ubiquiti launched the AmpliFi brand in 2016 to deliver modern-looking mesh Wi-Fi networking straight to consumers. Now, Ubiquiti is introducing a standalone router called the AmpliFi Alien, the brand’s first device that supports the newest, fastest version of Wi-Fi, called Wi-Fi 6. And, like most of the other new Wi-Fi 6 routers hitting the market this year, it won’t come cheap, with an asking price of $379.

Unlike Ubiquity’s previous AmpliFi routers, which were all designed for multipoint mesh networking, the AmpliFi Alien is a single, standalone router, and the tubular design makes it taller than the previous routers, though it still features a ring of LED lighting around the base and a clock face touchscreen on the front. If you want, you can expand your setup with additional Alien routers as a mesh. That’s an expensive approach, to say the least, but it’s on par with what we’re seeing from models like the Linksys Velop and the Netgear Orbi, both of which give you a two-piece Wi-Fi 6 mesh system for $700.

The big draw with Wi-Fi 6 is that it enables faster top speeds — but keep in mind that you’ll only be able to connect as fast as your ISP plan allows. And while Wi-Fi 6 is backward-compatible with earlier-generation Wi-Fi devices, you’ll need to use gadgets that support the speedy new standard in order to experience faster speeds than before (the iPhone 11 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and S10 lineups are your most high-profile examples). 

In CNET’s own in-house speed tests, those top transfer rates typically ring in at well over a gigabit per second. The fastest Wi-Fi 6 router we’ve tested so far, the TP-Link Archer AX6000, moved its data at a little over 1,500Mbps, or 1.5 gigabits per second. Ubiquiti tells me that the AmpliFi Alien clocks in with top wireless speeds to single-antenna devices around 900Mbps. That would still be quite fast (and faster than earlier AmpliFi hardware), but it’s more in line with the fastest Wi-Fi 5 routers than with what we’re seeing from top-of-the-line Wi-Fi 6 models.


Ubiquiti

Along with faster speeds, Wi-Fi 6 routers promise to perform better in congested environments with lots of gadgets and users on the network, or in crowded areas with lots of Wi-Fi networks in close proximity to one another. They also support both incoming and outgoing MU-MIMO connections, which means that the router can use its multiple antennas to create multiple, simultaneous connections with a single device. 

With full 8X8 MU-MIMO support in the Alien, that’s a key upgrade here. Ubiquiti claims that in speed tests to devices that use multiple Wi-Fi antennas, like the MacBook Pro, the AmpliFi Alien’s top speed rises from 900Mbps to as much as 1,600Mbps, or 1.6Gbps. 

The previous-gen AmpliFi HD didn’t support MU-MIMO at all, though it did feature an optional Teleport accessory that let users connect to their home network as a VPN while travelling. That was a neat feature, and you’ll be able to take advantage of it with the AmpliFi Alien, too.

Along with that, the AmpliFi Alien also features an automatic Quality of Service (QoS) engine that can prioritize traffic to your gaming devices in order to reduce latency. The router features four Gigabit Ethernet jacks, but no USB ports. It runs on a 2.2GHz, 64-bit quad-core CPU.

Other Wi-Fi 6 benefits include wonky but important upgrades like orthagonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) and support for 1024 QAM. You can check out my full Wi-Fi 6 explainer for more details on features like those, but the short version is that they allow Wi-Fi 6 routers to send more data more efficiently to more devices at once.

The AmpliFi Alien is available for purchase online now. We’ll be testing it out for ourselves in the very near future, so stay tuned for more.



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