Home Automation

Amplifi HD vs Google WiFi – Which WiFi Mesh Network Did I Choose?

(Last Updated On: November 28, 2017)

For homes and offices that are too big or have a lot of Wi-Fi dead spots, you have two options: get a range extender or get a better solution in the form of a Wi-Fi Mesh network.

A mesh network uses devices that blanket your office or home space with Wi-Fi signal.  The kit includes routers or nodes, and these connect to your modem to get Internet connection.

These nodes will connect with one another, helping kill Wi-Fi deadspots.  In short, it works like a range extender but does not reduce the bandwidth or Internet speeds you get.  Plus, because of the mesh technology, you do not have to manually switch from one point to another as you go from one room to the next.

Two of the best options available now are Google WiFi and Amplifi.

Bottom Line Up Front: In case you don’t want to read the whole thing… I definitely prefer the Google WiFi system available here. If you don’t mind not having a touch screen, it’s basically identical except much less expensive than the Amplifi.

First Up: Google WiFi

  • Basic Value Add: Google WiFi blankets your home with your Wi-Fi signal as each Wi-Fi point connects seamlessly with other Wi-Fi points.  You get really fast Wi-Fi no matter where you are in the house because Google WiFi facilitates a high fidelity signal that optimizes your Wi-Fi connection.

  • Coverage: Google WiFi promises to cover a small apartment or home of up to 1,500 square feet.  For spaces that are bigger and are up to 3,000 sq. ft., you would need only two Wi-Fi points, while larger homes of 3,000 to 4,500 square feet need three Wi-Fi points.
  • Mobile App: The mobile app allows you to set your network up easily and fast.  You can check what devices are connected, as well as the bandwidth that each device uses.  You can even give guests a password that they could use to connect to your Wi-Fi network.  You can also check your Internet speed at each of the Wi-Fi points that you have, as well as the Internet speed that your provider gives you.  If you have kids, you can pause their Internet time using the mobile app.  Yes, the mobile app provides you an easy way to control your kids’ Internet usage just by pausing their devices.  Speaking of control, you can also use the mobile app to give devices more speed when they need it.  For instance, you can prioritize your Chromecast so that you can watch their shows without buffering.
  • Smart Home Integrations: There are some smart home integration available for Google WiFi.  For instance, you can control your Philips Hue lights using the same mobile app that you use to control Google WiFi.
  • Remote User Management: If you have a wide network, you can add admins who can make changes to your Wi-Fi network.  And because the mobile app can work even when you are not around, you can do all these things remotely.

Things Google WiFi Does Well

  • Good Price Point: First, you would have to agree that the best thing about Google WiFi is the price.  At an attractive price here, this is probably one of the cheapest Wi-Fi mesh networking kits out there, if not the cheapest.
  • Easy Setup: It is also painless to set up.  Using the mobile app, you can set up your Wi-Fi network in just minutes and the steps are easy to follow.
  • Solid and Reliable Coverage: Google WiFi also gives you a very wide coverage for every Wi-Fi point and the connection is reliably fast and remarkably steady.  You can walk around the house and you would not lose connection as you connect from one Wi-Fi point to another.
  • Flexible: What’s more, every Wi-Fi point is the same as the others.  If you have several devices, the first one would be the one to connect to the Internet, while the others would act as range extenders.

What could be better

  • No Web Access Point: Google WiFi works well as a mesh network that brings fast connection speeds anywhere in your home or office.  However, it does not have a Web interface that you could access on your computer in order to set things up.  You would need a mobile device or tablet to download the mobile app.  Plus, the mobile app does not really have additional features that would make you take notice.  However, this might be deliberate on the part of Google because their main selling point for the app is to be able to control and manage your Wi-Fi network remotely.  But still, having a browser-based interface would be a great addition.
  • Requires Google Account: Another thing that seems odd is requiring you to have a Google account in order to use the device.  While this may not seem like a big problem since most people already have a Google account, it is still an added step in the setup process and for those who have no Google account, they would need to create one as well.  This step is because the device collects app-related information, as well as usage statistics and hardware- and network-related information.  If you do not want this, you can go to the settings menu in the app and look for the Privacy settings.
  • Single Wired LAN Port: And here’s the catch: Google WiFi only has one wired LAN port.  It is designed for Wi-Fi connected devices and if you have two or more desktop computers, you would need to buy a switch.
  • Limited Customizations: Google WiFi also does not offer a lot of customizations that advanced users might want to have.  Some of the features that you cannot get from Google WiFi but you can get from your current router include MAC filtering, Dynamic DNS support, and content filtering, among others.
  • Google WiFi Needs to be Primary Access Point: Lastly, it is ideal for Google WiFi to replace your current router.  Google WiFI needs to be the one that is connected to the Internet for advanced features to work.  One feature, port forwarding, for example, will not work if you connect Google WiFi to your existing router instead of directly to the modem.  The good news is that you could probably still sell your current router and help offset the cost of Google WiFi.

Last word on Google WiFi

Google WiFi performs as it should.  For $129 as of this writing (check here for the latest price), it is certainly a very affordable way to make sure that every nook and cranny in your house gets Internet connectivity.  It is very easy to set up, but there is a tradeoff for it: you cannot customize it to your heart’s delight.

Ubiquiti Networks Amplifi HD Router

  • Similar Function: The Amplifi HD Router likewise promises to make your Wi-Fi signal a constant presence anywhere in your house.  The Amplifi HD Router kit has the Amplifi HD router and two extenders to help cover your home.  The extenders are called mesh points
  • Ergonomic Design: I certainly appreciated how modern and high-tech it looks.  It has a cube-form measuring less than 4 inches thick on all sides.  It has a color display that makes it look like a futuristic digital clock.  It looks good, and this makes sense because you will be encouraged to put it on display, or to place it where you need it most to get the widest coverage.
  • Touchscreen Display: The display shows the date, day and time.  Tap that home screen and you would see the amount of data you have received and sent.  Another tap would bring out the IP addresses of the router and the WAN, and a summary of devices that are currently connected.  Tap the touchscreen twice and you would see a speed meter that tells you just how fast your Internet connection is.
  • Plenty of Connectivity: The mesh points are 7.1-inch long and look very modern as well.  You would need to plug the mesh points into a power outlet and then adjust the antenna to the angle that you want to increase coverage to areas you want.  It has four downstream LAN ports and a USB 2.0 port.  The Amplifi HD has powerful antennas that give it great range without sacrificing speed.
  • Easy to Set Up: It is very easy to set up your Amplifi HD.  Using the mobile app, you can get everything running in just minutes.  Plus, the Amplifi HD system benefits from automatic over-the-air updates so you can get new features and functionalities along the road.
  • Mobile App: The mobile app also allows you to see who’s connected to your network and monitor your ISP’s speed and your system’s performance.  You can also set up guest access easily, even without sharing your password.
  • Easy to Troubleshoot: There is a diagnose tab that allows you to troubleshoot any problems and make sure that the extenders are properly connected and working.  The mobile app also allows you to tweak security settings such as hiding your SSID or using WPA2 encryption.
  • Competitive Price Point: If you have a small home, you might be able to save by buying the router and the mesh point separately.  The Amplifi HD Router costs about $150 as of this writing (check latest prices here) while a mesh point would cost about about $30 less here.

Pros of the Amplifi HD

  • Looks the Part: Amplifi HD surely looks stunning and you would easily agree with the company that there is no longer any need to hide your router.
  • “Pause” Internet Feature: You can pause Internet connections, making it easier to call the kids to dinner.
  • Works Smoothly: But more than this, Amplifi HD works and very well.

What could be better

  • No Port Forwarding: There is no way to set up port forwarding with Amplifi HD, nor can you set up a DMZ.
  • No Parental Control Options: You also cannot filter content and set up traditional parental controls.
  • Now Web Browser: There is also no browser-based interface to set up your system.
  • A bit More Expensive: It is also more expensive than Google WiFi and basically offers the same level of functionality and the same set of features.  And some people might find the bulky mesh points a bit of a turn off. NOTE: Be sure to check this listing for the latest prices:
  • Limited USB: Further, the USB 2.0 that is included here does not really work, but it could be there for some future updates and more connections.

The last word on the Amplifi HD

The Amplifi HD mesh system is very easy to set up and works rather well, so if you need to extend your Wi-Fi coverage, this might be the option for you.

What should you buy? Google vs Amplifi

When it comes to just these two options, it really depends on what you want, not what you need.  Both Google WiFi and Amplifi HD works rather well and both are geared towards those who do not want to bother themselves with thinking about how their Wi-Fi connection works.  Moreover, both offer basic features on their mobile apps yet are not customizable.

The clear difference between the two is that the Google WiFI is for the budget conscious and the Amplifi HD is for those who do not mind paying a premium for devices that look cool.

 

ModelGoogle WiFiAmplifi HD
Router priceCheck hereCheck here
Extenders PriceCheck here
Check here
Number of available wired LAN ports
Base unit14
Nodes2û
Features
Mobile appYesYes
Easy setupYesYes
Touchscreen displayNoYes
Connection pauseYesYes
Port forwardingNoNo
802.11ac wirelessYesYes
SecurityWPA2WPA2, WPA
IPv6 compatibleYesYes
Parental controlsNoNo

Final Connection

However, if you are an advanced user who would love to tinker with your router and Wi-Fi connections, then you might want to consider the Netgear Orbi High-Performance AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System, which costs less than $400 as of this writing, or the Linksys Velop, which costs around $500 (as of this writing).

These might be more expensive, but they give you a more efficient Wi-Fi network with their MU-MIMO standard, more available wired LAN ports, WEP and WPA2 security, IPV6 compatibility, and parental controls.

If that is too much, you can also check out the Luma Home Wi-Fi System, which is a little more expensive than both Google Wi-Fi or Amplifi HD, but has all the features of more expensive routers.

About the author

Patrick Sinclair

Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!

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