Testing done by Tim Higgins
All testing was performed with Almond’s AL1-R194-L224-W28 firmware using our standard test process, which uses Channel 1 for 2.4 GHz tests. The test client was our standard Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 with Win7 126.96.36.199 driver.
The Almond is not Wi-Fi Certified. It defaults to channel 7 and auto 20/40Mhz mode on startup. It has a unique SSID of Almond_xxxx_nomap (where xxxx is a four digit number.) The number doesn’t seem related to the unit’s MAC address.
There is no WPS setup button on the Almond, but you can access WPS through the touch screen interface. The web UI does not support WPS or PIN authentication. In our tests, the standard Win 7 wireless client did not detect the Almond as being ready to initiate a WPS connection.
The 40 MHz Coexistence and Fat channel intolerant tests showed mixed results. In the Fat Channel Intolerant test, the Almond immediately fell back to 20 MHz mode and switched back to 40 Mhz mode immediately when the bit was reset. In the 40 MHz coexistence test, the Almond switched very quickly in some cases, but sometimes in other cases, did not switch at all.
Each wireless entry in the Benchmark Summary below shows the average of throughput measurements made in all test locations. These results caused the Almond to rank quite well when the Router Charts were set to show on 2.4 GHz routers. But there is more to the story.
Securifi Almond Benchmark Summary
To judge the Almond's wireless performance competitively, we chose the Buffalo WZR-300HP and Linksys E1200 for comparison. While the Almond is unique in the marketplace with a touch screen interface, the models chosen for comparison, like the Almond, are both also N300 routers.
This chart shows that the Securifi Almond isn’t really a stellar performer, with no overall wins for any of the four benchmarks. Interestingly, the least expensive router of the group, the Linksys E1200, won the majority of locations for 20MHz throughput tests.
Wireless Performance comparison
The Almond's real weakness, however, is revealed by the sub-1 Mbps Location F results in 20 MHz and no results in 40 MHz bandwidth mode. Location F is the weakest signal test location and always separates the strong and weak performers for range.
In our testing, the client was able to maintain a steady connection and run the one minute tests in Location F in 20 MHz mode. But when the tests were repeated with the Almond connected in 40 MHz bandwidth mode, the connection was not stable enough to run the tests and even disconnected during the test.
For the 20 MHz downlink test in the IxChariot chart below, you’ll see that for locations “A” and “D”, the throughput remained fairly steady. At location “C”, performance becomes much more erratic, with huge throughput swings. This variation caused Location C's average throughput to be lower than Location D, which has a lower signal level.
The purple line at the bottom is for Location “F”, and as expected, there’s very poor throughput with an average just slightly below 1 Mbps. Assuming that your connection doesn’t drop, that would probably be OK for polling email in the background. But video, and possibly streaming audio might be challenged at that location.
Secirifi Almond IxChariot plot - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz, downlink
For the 20 MHz Uplink test, there’s a similar, but slightly different story. Again, locations A and D showed the most consistent throughput with location “C” again exhibiting the largest throughput variation. Locations A and C (the closest clients) had higher uplink throughput than the corresponding locations had on the downlink test. Location D had lower average uplink performance, but was statistically more consistent than on the downlink test.
Secirifi Almond IxChariot plot - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz, uplink
The only place you can buy the Securifi Almond is Amazon, so I thought I’d drop over there and see what owners of the device have reported. Of the 508 reviews, 393 rated it 5 stars. In reading through the customer reviews, the majority of them focused on the ease of setup. Many customers also said they bought the device strictly to use as a range extender.
My own experience confirmed what customers are raving about. The Almond is quite simple to set up without using a computer or anything else. And you can change modes between router, range extender and AP without ever touching a PC, too. All of that is made possible by the touch screen.
But the touch screen comes at a cost. It is probably one of the most expensive components on the device’s bill of materials. So, in order to achieve a price point and focus on ease of use, there are some sacrifices when it comes to functionality and performance.
The Almond is priced at $79.99 – pretty much the top end for an N300 router these days. But the Almond lacks some features found on less-expensive traditional routers that don't have a touch screen. For example, most routers have four LAN ports and many routers have built-in QoS to prioritize traffic. Some even have USB ports that allow you to plug in a storage device to create your “own personal cloud”. The Almond only has two 10/100 Mbps LAN ports, no QoS and no USB ports.
The other N300 routers that I used in my performance comparisons are both less expensive than the Almond. The Linksys E1200 is priced at around $45, or if you’re willing to take a factory refurb, $25.00. For the same $80, you could purchase a Linksys E2500 simultaneous Dual-band router. Alternatively, if Gigabit LAN ports are important to you, you could purchase the Buffalo WZR-300HP, which has four Gigabit ports, for a bit less than $60.
Over the years that I have reviewed wireless products, router setup has come a long way. In fact, for cable customers, all you have to do is plug your cable modem into the WAN port and most likely you’ll be connected to the internet. Of course, wireless security and other setup procedures vary by manufacturer, so depending on the brand you purchase, you may or may not end up with a secured wireless network.
But many manufacturers have gone with setup wizards that intercept your first web address request and redirect you to a first run wizard that walks you through a setup that’s very similar to the Almond’s setup. And, of course, once you’ve completed your setup – either via the touch screen interface on the Almond or via a web browser on all other routers, chances are that you won’t be making changes very often.
For me, I’d opt for a router with gigabit ports, and, if possible at that price point, dual band. But I understand the attraction of an extremely simple to set up router. For my non-technical friends and family who look to me for tech support, I would consider recommending the Almond. If you’re technically adept, you can get more bang for your buck with a traditional router.