Wed. Dec 11th, 2019

The UniFi Dream Machine router is a good entry level for networking nerds

A number of weeks in the past, Ubiquiti unveiled the UniFi Dream Machine, an all-in-one networking machine that mixes a router, a change with 4 Ethernet ports and a Wi-Fi entry level for $299. It has what Ubiquiti calls an built-in cloud key that permits you to management your community.

I’ve been utilizing the UniFi Dream Machine on my dwelling community for the previous couple of weeks, so contemplate this a evaluation of the machine.

Ubiquiti is a widely known networking model. Most individuals are aware of the corporate’s entry factors — these rounded antennas that you will discover round colleges, corporations and public areas.

However the upfront funding has at all times been a bit steep for private use circumstances and even small corporations. The UniFi Dream Machine sits completely in between skilled gears and shopper gadgets. It represents an enormous improve is you’re utilizing the router with Wi-Fi capabilities supplied by your web service supplier.

Rebundling UniFi gadgets

Ubiquiti has a variety of routers underneath the AmpliFi model for customers who’re on the lookout for a plug-and-play resolution. The corporate just lately introduced a brand new machine with nice specs in case you don’t wish to fiddle with networking settings.

However in case you’re studying this, likelihood is you already know that UniFi merchandise provide some customizations that you just suppose are missing in shopper merchandise.

Switching from an all-in-one networking machine to a UniFi system has at all times been a bit difficult. The corporate has damaged down the networking stack into totally different gadgets to give you extra management.

It implies that it’s a must to purchase a Safety Gateway (a router, the “mind” of the community), a change (identical to an influence strip, however for Ethernet ports) and an entry level (a Wi-Fi antenna). On high of that, a UniFi cloud secret is a vital purchase if you wish to handle your community with the corporate’s controller software program.

When you’re dedicated to the UniFi ecosystem, you get an amazing expertise. You possibly can handle every Ethernet port in your change individually, you may management Wi-Fi settings from anyplace on this planet and lots of, many extra issues. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson fell down the UniFi rabbit gap and wrote an amazing story about his expertise operating skilled networking gears at dwelling.

The UniFi Dream Machine takes a unique strategy. It rebundles all of the separate items that make a UniFi community come to life. You should buy the $300 UniFi Dream Machine and management each little element of your community.


A number of phrases on the specs of the UniFi Dream Machine. The pill-shaped machine has an built-in safety gateway, which helps you to run a DHCP server, create firewall insurance policies, benefit from a number of VLANs and extra.

Along with the WAN port to attach your machine to the web, there are 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports. As for Wi-Fi, the Dream Machine helps 802.11ac Wave 2 (“Wi-Fi 5”) with a four×four MU-MIMO antenna — no Wi-Fi 6 sadly.

Behind the scene, the machine makes use of a 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A57 processor. It has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage and consumes as much as 26W.

Utilizing the Dream Machine

Establishing the UniFi Dream Machine is a good expertise. Ideally, you wish to plug an Ethernet cable in your ISP-provided router and put it in bridge mode. This fashion, it’ll act as a dumb modem and let the UniFi Dream Machine do all of the exhausting work.

After downloading the cell app and turning on the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a popup that mimics the pairing popup of the AirPods. You possibly can then management your community from that cell app or use an internet browser in your pc.

That is when it will get fascinating.

UniFi’s controller software program normally lists all of the UniFi gadgets at present operating in your community. With the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a single machine. However in case you develop that machine, you may see a listing of three separate UniFi parts — a gateway, a change and an AP.

As anticipated, you may management each little element of your community. As soon as once more, this isn’t for everybody and you’ll have to be taught plenty of issues about networking so as to optimize your setup. However in case you’re a digital tinkerer, it’s a breath of contemporary air.

The UniFi Dream Machine acts because the DHCP server in my dwelling. I’ve renamed my gadgets and assigned fastened IPs to all my machine so as to discover them extra simply. You possibly can see in actual time the community they’re utilizing and in the event that they’re getting a great Wi-Fi sign.

I’ve additionally configured Cloudflare’s public DNS on the community degree.

There are a ton of potentialities in case you care about safety. I created a visitor Wi-Fi community that solely lets my pals entry the web. They’ll browse Twitter and stream Netflix exhibits with none problem, however they’ll’t entry my computer systems on the native community.

I additionally created one other Wi-Fi community for IoT gadgets, comparable to related audio system, a printer and a robotic vacuum. Related gadgets don’t get plenty of safety patches and have extra vulnerabilities than a pc or a smartphone that you just hold up-to-date. I assigned a unique VLAN to this Wi-Fi community. VLANs allow you to create a partitioned community with totally different units of guidelines.

I utilized firewall guidelines to this VLAN in order that I can management the gadgets from my private gadgets, however they’ll’t provoke requests to my gadgets on their very own. That is overkill for most individuals, nevertheless it’s enjoyable that you are able to do that from UniFi’s controller. Extra particulars right here.

With regards to Wi-Fi, all the things is customizable and performances have been stellar. I reside in a small condo, however the balcony has at all times been a problem. I typically work from the balcony, and I’ve been utilizing an affordable Wi-Fi extender that I discovered in a field of devices and cables.

I unplugged the Wi-Fi extender and tried to hook up with the UniFi Dream Machine. I get higher efficiency, even when I scale back Wi-Fi transmit energy to medium.

These are just some examples of issues you are able to do with the UniFi Dream Machine. I really feel like I’m nonetheless underusing the machine (you may join through SSH and management all the things from the terminal), however I wouldn’t contemplate going again to an entry-level router with Wi-Fi capabilities.

Focusing on prosumers

The UniFi Dream Machine is the networking machine I didn’t know I needed. I’ll by no means have a whole lot of Wi-Fi gadgets related to my dwelling community. I don’t want a dozen Ethernet ports. And but, I wish to be accountable for my community. When you miss Apple’s AirPort Excessive or in case you’re a networking nerd, it’s best to contemplate the UniFi Dream Machine.

Small companies and outlets typically make some poor choices originally of the corporate. An affordable Wi-Fi router on Amazon doesn’t minimize it when your online business scales. The Dream Machine could be a good entry level as you’ll be capable to construct upon that base machine.

However in case you suppose you’ve gotten greater wants, don’t attempt to run an enormous community from a UniFi Dream Machine. Ubiquiti sells some nice rackable gadgets that provides you with much more flexibility. The UniFi Dream Machine is a constrained machine in spite of everything. That’s what makes it each not ok for enterprise clients and nice for prosumers.

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