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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

UAP-AC-Lite has been retested.

The UAP-AC-PRO is WiFi Certified; the AC-Lite is not. Both were tested using our Revision 9 Wireless Test process using 3.7.40.6115 firmware with the v5.4.11 UniFi controller running on a Cloud Key. Channel 6 and 20 MHz bandwidth mode were used on 2.4 GHz, channel 40 and 80 MHz bandwidth mode on 5 GHz.

The photo below shows the UAP-AC-Lite in the test chamber. I raised it up a bit so that the chamber antennas were ensured an optimum signal. The AC-PRO was put on the same stand, which also makes a lovely snack bowl.

UAP-AC-Lite in test chamber

UAP-AC-Lite in test chamber

Since these are the first real access points tested with the Revision 9 process, I've compared them to a few popular distributed Wi-Fi systems (DWS) that also have AC1200 class radios, i.e. Luma, eero and NETGEAR Orbi. Keep in mind our standard test client is a 2x2 Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8260 card. eero's results are from its retest with version 2.0 OS, which was supposed to improve performance.

Updated 3/21/17: Explained Wi-Fi test oddities
Investigation prompted by Ubiquiti found RF leakage between attenuators caused errors in 2.4 GHz plots shown below for Orbi, Linksys Velop and Google Wifi. The leakage affected results above 45 dB of attenuation, making results shown beyond those points invalid. The incorrect data has been removed from the Charts database for all products tested with the Version 9 process and the plots below have been corrected.

The 2.4 GHz downlink plot shows both UAPs with the limited range found with the DWS products, except for Orbi. The AC-Lite and PRO run pretty much neck-and-neck, with no advantage from the PRO's 3x3 radio vs. the Lite's 2x2.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The 2.4 GHz uplink plot shows very clear separation among the five products. Orbi once again comes on top, followed by the AC-PRO, then AC-Lite. The PRO's higher performance could be due to higher receive gain from its extra RF chain. Range, however, is similar to all the DWS products except for Orbi.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz downlink once again shows a familiar pattern; Orbi on top, followed by the UAP-ACs, then eero and Luma.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz uplink results are perhaps the most surprising. For some as yet unexplained reason, eero significantly bested Orbi in this benchmark. But the AC-PRO had the next best run and held on to its connection for 12 dB more attenuation then eero.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

So how about Linksys Velop and Google WiFi? Generating another set of plots by hand was too painful. So instead, here are plots with Velop and Google WiFi along with Orbi, Luma and eero. 2.4 GHz downlink shows Velop and GWiFi more like Orbi in performance.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz uplink plot shows Orbi and GWiFi again more alike than different, but Velop falling down to track with eero and Luma.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz downlink shows Orbi, Velop and GWiFi in a higher group, then eero and Luma in a lower.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz uplink is a real mixed bag. eero has the highest throughput track, but disconnects earliest. GWiFi and Orbi stay connected the longest, but have lower throughput than eero.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The point of this last exercise was to show Velop and Google WiFi are more like Orbi, which is generally better than both UAP-ACs.

Closing Thoughts

So, are you better off ditching your distributed Wi-Fi / mesh system and replacing it with a three-pack of Ubiquiti UAP-AC-Lites or PROs? For performance, if you have a NETGEAR Orbi or Google WiFi, keep it. Their client radios clearly have far and away better performance. If you have a differnent DWS, the performance gains are less clear. Generally, you'll take a step back in 2.4 GHz performance unless you have eero or Luma. For 5 GHz, you might get a moderate performance boost...or not.

Feature wise, you are again faced with a choice. If you like to be master of your Wi-Fi Universe and get off tweaking Wi-Fi minutiae, then the UniFi controller is for you. You may have to hunt around for things, but chances are the setting you're looking for will be there.

But if you're looking for UniFi to automatically guide you in placing and wirelessly connecting your second and third APs, you'd best look elsewhere. Although the UniFi controller supports "wireless uplink" to connect APs without Ethernet, the feature doesn't intelligently manage backhaul connections. You have to choose which wired AP to link to and the link is static (unless you enable automatic failover).

So, yes, Ubiquiti's UAP-AC-Lite and PRO are damn cheap AC access points with poor-to-middlin' 2.4 GHz performance and 5 GHz performance that runs with most of the AC DWS pack. Easy-to-setup and use DWS they ain't. But a relatively inexpensive way to get a decently performing multi-AP Wi-Fi network with pro-grade features, they certainly are.

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