Using the Router Ranker, I filtered for test method Revision 8 and AC1750 class routers. The image below shows that the TP-LINK still retains bragging rights as the top ranked AC1750 router with a total router score of 2.0. The Securifi Almond+ tied with the ASUS RT-AC66U for second place with a total score of 3.3. From a performance standpoint, the AC1750 class is interesting. Out of eight routers, we have three ties for Total Router rankings. Yet within each of the three ties, there's a significant difference in price.
Product Rank for AC1750 class routers using Revision 8 testing
The composite image below shows the individual category rankings for the three routers previously compared in the Benchmark Summary and Throughput vs. Attenuation plots above. The scores for the Almond+ were helped by the high simultaneous throughput performance in the Routing Throughput category as well as top rankings for 2.4 GHz Uplink and Downlink range. As expected from reviewing the Throughput vs. Attenuation plots, category scores for Average and Maximum Wireless Throughput were below the other two routers.
Category Performance Ranking for Securifi Almond+, TP-LINK Archer C8 and ASUS RT-AC66U
Manufacturers of products that are essentially commodities are constantly trying to figure a way to differentiate themselves. If you can create what marketing folks call a "USP" (Unique Selling Proposition), you might be able to charge a higher price and generate better gross margins. Obviously, performance is one way to separate one product from the herd of similar products.
In the case of the Almond+, Securifi has created not one but two "USPs". First they have the only AC1750 class router that's easily configurable from a color touchscreen. Second, by including both ZigBee and Z-Wave radios in the Almond+, they are hoping to tap into the emerging Home Automation (HA) market by making the Almond+ an "all-in-one" hub for your home.
But both of these differentiating features require additional hardware, which adds material cost that is reflected by the price of the Almond+. Priced at $199, it is the highest priced AC1750 class router that we've recently reviewed. In fact, at the time of writing this review, the top ranked AC1750 class router, the TP-LINK Archer C8 was only $117.
So, is the Almond+ worth the premium? If you're not deploying home automation devices around your home, the answer is probably not. You can get a better performing AC1750 router for far less. However, despite the lack of some of the features found in high-end routers, I can certainly understand the allure of the simple, easy-to-use touchscreen interface with wizards that walk you through everything. As with the original Almond, changing from router mode to either AP or Range Extender mode from the touchscreen is quick and easy.
If you are planning to deploy home automation, the answer isn't so easy. While there are both ZigBee and Z-Wave interfaces built into the Almond+ that can connect and control devices, all devices are controlled by mobile apps (Android and iOS) created by Almond linked to Securifi's bank-end servers. This means that to use the Almond+ for HA, you tie yourself to Securifi's Home Automation ecosystem. So how well that HA ecosystem works becomes very important.
For example, I was able to connect a GE-Link Smart LED to the Almond+, so had to use the Almond app to control it instead of the GE Link hub and app. To me, the GE app was a better than the Almond app.
Adding to confusion in the HA market is the appearance of universal HA hubs. Staples is currently marketing a line of Staples Connect products, all interconnected by the Staples Connect hub ($79.99), made by D-Link, with multiple wireless interfaces. Those devices are controlled by a Staples Connect app. Similarly, there are systems from Belkin (WeMo), Insteon, Quirky/Wink and others, all of which have their own hubs, apps and devices. While many of these devices may well connect to the Almond+, its success in the HA market will more likely revolve around its app features and back-end services.
Still, there is a value to the HA interfaces built into the Almond+. I've only started to test those features, but so far, it has been able to connect to the GE-Link bulb and control it as well as the Securifi "Peanut Plug", a power plug that you can control with your Android/iOS device (or web browser) using your Almond user account. The Peanut Plug, a $40-$50 value, is included with the Almond+. Add that to the value of ZigBee and Z-Wave interfaces, and you've probably more than justified the premium price of the Almond+, if you plan to use the Almond app for all of your home automation.
Securifi Peanut Smart Plug
As of today, I wouldn't base a purchasing decision on a router solely based on the inclusion of ZigBee and Z-Wave radios. The HA market is changing rapidly as CE manufacturers search for the next big thing to boost flagging sales. Google and Apple are both targeting this market, which means things will surely get more interesting as these elephants take to the Home Automation dance floor.