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

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

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

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

Ubiquiti is a widely known networking model. Most individuals are conversant in the corporate’s entry factors — these rounded antennas that you could find round faculties, firms and public areas.

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

Rebundling UniFi units

Ubiquiti has a spread of routers below the AmpliFi model for shoppers who’re on the lookout for a plug-and-play resolution. The corporate just lately introduced a brand new system with nice specs when you don’t wish to fiddle with networking settings.

However when you’re studying this, likelihood is that UniFi merchandise supply some customizations that you just suppose are missing in client merchandise.

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

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

For those who’re dedicated to the UniFi ecosystem, you get an amazing expertise. You possibly can handle every Ethernet port in your swap individually, you may management Wi-Fi settings from anyplace on this planet and plenty 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 distinct 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.


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

Along with the WAN port to attach your system 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 system 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 arduous work.

After downloading the cellular 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 cellular app or use an internet browser in your pc.

That is when it will get fascinating.

UniFi’s controller software program often lists all of the UniFi units at present operating in your community. With the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a single system. However when you develop that system, you may see a listing of three separate UniFi parts — a gateway, a swap 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 study lots of issues about networking so as to optimize your setup. However when you’re a digital tinkerer, it’s a breath of recent air.

The UniFi Dream Machine acts because the DHCP server in my dwelling. I’ve renamed my units and assigned fastened IPs to all my system 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 Wi-Fi sign.

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

There are a ton of prospects when 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 reveals with none problem, however they will’t entry my computer systems on the native community.

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

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

On the subject of Wi-Fi, all the things is customizable and performances have been stellar. I stay in a small house, however the balcony has at all times been a problem. I typically work from the balcony, and I’ve been utilizing an inexpensive Wi-Fi extender that I discovered in a field of devices and cables.

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

These are only a few examples of issues you are able to do with the UniFi Dream Machine. I really feel like I’m nonetheless underusing the system (you may join by way of SSH and management all the things from the terminal), however I wouldn’t take into account going again to an entry-level router with Wi-Fi capabilities.

Focusing on prosumers

The UniFi Dream Machine is the networking system I didn’t know I needed. I’ll by no means have tons of of Wi-Fi units related to my dwelling community. I don’t want a dozen Ethernet ports. And but, I wish to be in charge of my community. For those who miss Apple’s AirPort Excessive or when you’re a networking nerd, you must take into account the UniFi Dream Machine.

Small companies and retailers typically make some poor selections firstly of the corporate. An inexpensive Wi-Fi router on Amazon doesn’t reduce it when your corporation scales. The Dream Machine generally is a good entry level as you’ll be capable to construct upon that base system.

However when you suppose you have got greater wants, don’t attempt to run a giant community from a UniFi Dream Machine. Ubiquiti sells some nice rackable units that will provide you with much more flexibility. The UniFi Dream Machine is a constrained machine in any case. That’s what makes it each not ok for enterprise clients and nice for prosumers.

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