Ubiquiti Unifi Review Part 3 – Is This The Best Networking Hardware Around?

Here is a spoiler for you, yes it is!

This is Part 2 of the Ubiquiti Unifi Review. You can view Ubiquiti Unifi Review Part 1 here and Ubiquiti Unifi Review Part 2 here.

UniFi NanoHD

Ubiquiti is a company that’s synonymous with controlled wireless networks since its UniFi APs provide you with a highly impressive collection of business-class capabilities. The UniFi NanoHD from Ubiquiti is one of their latest product to join UniFi, and it’s considered as the smallest device, tipping the scales at just 300 grams.

What’s in the Box?

The UniFi NanoHD is set in a minimalist, simple, and clean-looking white box. Ubiquiti made sure to include an exact image of the product at the front portion of the package to give you an idea of how it looks. There isn’t much to see on the package, but we really like its simplicity and its aesthetics.

The UniFi NanoHD is set neatly and securely in the package, and it also comes with other accessories for installation. These include the mounting bracket, four screws, a ceiling backing plate, one mounting bracket, four keeps nuts, four flat head screws, four screw anchors, a power cord, and the Gigabit POE (48-Volt 0.5A) with the mount bracket.

UniFi NanoHD Overview

The UniFi NanoHD comes with LED lights that indicate the status of the product. The LED lights display various behavior and colors depending on the current status of the Unifi NanoHD. When the LED is white, it just means that the device is at factory default and is simply waiting to be adopted; however, when the white light is flashing, it means that the NanoHD is in the process of initializing.

If you see the LED alternating from blue and white, it means that the UniFi NanoHD is busy so you shouldn’t touch it or even unplug it. This pattern often appears when the NanoHD is undergoing a firmware update.

A blue LED means that this has been adopted successfully by a network, and is functioning properly and efficiently. If you’re locating an AP, you will notice that the blue light will be flashing quickly. To do this, you will need to click “Locate” in the UniFi Controller software, and that’s when you’ll see the LED on the AP flashing. In addition, it will also show the APs location on the map. If the LED has a steady blue light, but with occasional flashing, it means that the NanoHD is currently in a remote state where all the WLANs are taken down until it can locate an uplink.

If you take a look underneath the UniFi NanoHD, you will find four primary parts there which are the locking notch, Ethernet port, reset button, and the cable feed plug. The locking notch is utilized together with the mounting bracket, which will keep the UniFi AP secure. When it comes to its Ethernet port, this is used for linking the power, and it must be connected to the DHCP server and the LAN.

The reset button of the UniFi NanoHD has two functions: one is, of course, for restarting the NanoHD. You can do this by pressing and releasing the reset button immediately. The other function is for restoring the Unifi NanoHD to its factory settings, which can be done by pressing and holding the restart button for over five seconds.

For the cable feed plug, it is necessary especially when your Ethernet cable starts feeding along the mounting surface. With that, all you need to do is to remove the cable feed plug, and you’re all set.

With the technology of MU-MIMO, the UniFi NanoHD becomes faster and more convenient. This is because the NanoHD is able to process and alter more signal data to more gadgets at once.

It has added power to assign traffic of data from the same band of radio signals. In addition, it will encounter lesser bottle-neck traffic during data transmissions. Bottle-neck traffic is usually referred to as lag spikes or lag.

Another thing to remember is that the MU-MIMO is only applicable to downlink connections. This means that access points and routers can continue to send signals to a number of users. For end-user devices, these should still take turns in sending data to APs or wireless routers. The thing is, they can still use the SU-MIMO for sending a lot of streams when it is their turn.

Simply put, it is much better to expand in settings where end users can download more than upload. This is a common scenario when it comes to most businesses.

A POE or Power over Ethernet Standard device can run with an 802.3af POE-compliant switch. Generally, we recommend that you power all your UniFi devices using UniFi POE Switch. This is an item that you can purchase from their official site. To add to this, we find it convenient that this NanoHD is compatible with every UniFI POE Switches. Plus, this is also compatible with all their available 48-Volt adapters.

Not only that, but it’s really good that Ubiquiti designed their UniFi NanoHD well. They created it to be capable of handling complex operations. Such processes include filtering, guest control, and other resource-intensive activities.

Generally, these operations often slow down lesser-equipped access points. Yet with the NanoHD’s superior processing power, you won’t have to worry about such issues. Hence, it will allow you to work efficiently without seeing any problems in the process.

Product Features

Powered by Software Defined Networking

Deploying your UniFi Enterprise System is made easier with the UniFi Controller. You can manage multiple UniFi devices across different sites and also arrange your network as needed without having to pay for ongoing license fees.

Monitor your RF Environment

You can utilize the NanoHD’s RF environment functionality for scanning radio frequencies, detecting & troubleshooting nearby interference, choosing the best AP placements, and adjusting the device’s settings.

Take Advantage of Powerful Performance Features of the RF

The NanoHD is designed with advanced configuration features such as spectral analysis, band steering, and airtime fairness. With these, the NanoHD can deliver optimal performance.

Detailed Reports and Analytics

When using configurable reporting and analytics, you can manage multiple users and speed up troubleshooting.

Wireless Uplink

Wireless uplink is a functionality that allows wireless connectivity for an extended range between APs. One wired UniFi AP uplink supports up to four wireless downlinks in one operating band. By default, this allows wireless adoption of devices, as well as making real-time changes in the network topology.

802.11 ac Technology

While the initial 802.11 ac Wave 1 SU-MIMO enables older AP devices to communicate with one client at a time, the 802.11 ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO technology enables a Wave 2 AP like the UniFi NanoHD to communicate with more than one client simultaneously. This not only increases the multiple user throughput, but it also improves the overall user experience.

High-Density Scenarios

For high-density environments like theatres, where numerous clients are present in a small space, the NanoHD is highly recommended since this requires minimal footprint. The Wave 1 and 2 APs both provide a total of 28 individual channels that are non-overlapping: three of these are for the 2.4GHz band, while twenty-five of these are for the 5GHz bands which include the DFS channels.

When utilizing the 2.4GHz band in high-density locations, you’ll encounter both channel saturation and self-interference. But when you use the 5GHz band, it’s possible for you to deploy smaller cells to support additional clients in any coverage area that deploys more than a single AP.

With the advantages and functions of the 4 x 4 spatial streams and the MU-MIMO technology, the UniFi NanoHD can easily support more than three times the number of users compared to the standard Wave 1 AP.

Using the Product

The Unifi NanoHD performed really well compared to our original AC Pros. These worked great, but we still experienced a lot of instances of slow speeds around our work area. The reason for this was most likely due to the device handling just one connection at a time.

This is where the Unifi NanoHD comes in. It solves this issue with the Wave 2 technology and its MUMO capability. Do note that while the UniFi NanoHD does a great job in putting out an strong signal to cover a sufficient area, the devices that you have may not be powerful and capable enough to respond in kind.

The reliability and speed of the UniFi NanoHD are definitely top-notch, making it really worth it.

The UniFi NanoHD is amazing in its performance for close-range file copies from your desktop. Coverage was excellent and on our 100mb fiber connection, we received 94mb download speed and 6.15mb upload speed with a 4ms ping.

The UniFi NanoHD’s dashboard was also as good since it displayed every AP, the connected guests, and clients, as well as an overall client Wi-Fi experience-percentage score. So just like every other UniFi product that we’ve tried, the NanoHD was able to perform perfectly, so we give this a thumbs up for it.

UniFi Controller Software

All Ubiquiti UniFi products are configured and managed via the UniFi Controller software. It’s a centralized web-based interface where your device management is done. Here, you can configure each connected device, monitor traffic, upload a floor plan, set access points for network coverage, set up a VPN between various USG devices, update the firmware, and more.

The UniFi Controller can be locally hosted. Other options include hosting the software on a server or system at your location or hosting on a cloud or remote server. Ubiquiti also sells the UniFi Cloud Key, which can be compared to a hybrid solution that acts as a dedicated local UniFi Controller.

Since it connects to Ubiquiti’s cloud, you can remotely manage the system with ease. With a complete UniFi system, Ubiquiti makes it easy for you to have a quick check on the status of the network.

System Requirements

For the UniFi Controller to work, you will need Mac OS X, Linux, or Microsoft Windows 7 or 8 for your operating system. You will also need the 1.6 version of Java Runtime Environment. For the web browser, you will require Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 or newer versions.

Product Features

Multiple Site Management

One UniFi Controller running in the cloud can manage multiple sites. Each site is separated with its own configuration, statistics, maps, guest portal, as well as read / write and read-only accounts of administrators.

Management of WLAN Groups

The UniFi Controller can handle flexible configurations of large deployments. It allows you to create multiple WLAN groups and allocate them to the radio of an AP. You can also VLAN tag each WLAN. The UniFi Controller also supports Radius VLAN or Dynamic VLAN tagging per Wi-Fi station.

Save Time and Money

The UniFi Controller has a very simple interface, which means that it will be easy for you to learn how to use this in no time. Since it’s easy to use, you can save a lot of time, unlike when using other complex interfaces. Since all UniFi devices are managed through this centralized interface, you’ll also get to save a lot of money in the process.

Fully Expandable Software for your Convenience

With the UniFi Controller, you can enjoy unlimited scalability. Whether big or small, you can build multiple wireless networks. Start with one, then expand to thousands. You can maintain all of these with just a single, centralized interface.

Using the Product

The UniFi Controller software comes with a browser-based interface. It is for easier management, control, as well as the configuration. When you log onto the UniFi controller, the first thing that you will see is a screen on display. This will show you a variety of useful, controllable, and manageable Ubiquiti device types. It can also be done via the portal.

The company is making a strong impact in the space of software-defined networking. With that, they have a bunch of products that fit in a lot of different roles. They have multisite WAN products to physical LAN products. These include switches, WLAN components, routers, as well as VoIP devices.

If you only have UniFi WAPs, there will only be a single image populated on the controller dashboard. It will be the WLAN portion only.

One UniFi WAP that operates on its own gives you a complex set of setup options. Plus, almost every configuration option and function we will mention is applicable. This is whether you’re using a grid of devices or one UniFi device.

The primary draw of these products is that they can link together and function adequately. They won’t just work as Wi-Fi extenders, but as smart access points instead. These can deliver full bandwidth of wireless connection on 5GHz & 2.4GHz bands. This is while letting clients choose between not changing SSDs or anything.

The WAPs also come with different standard features for their main enterprise-use case. These include support for 802.1Q VLAN trunking and extensive logging. Plus, throttling linked user connections is also available. It is also possible to ban MAC addresses to prevent connecting to the WLAN.

For the guest portal function, it’s similar to what you’d find in airports, hotels, and more. This can be set up for timed access via pay gateway, passwords, or generated vouchers. What’s good about it is that this can also be fully customized.

The UniFi Controller software comes with six main tabs. Here, we will thoroughly note what tabs these are, and the uses of each. Let’s begin with the Map Tab.

Map

The Map Tab is a tab on the Controller software that lets you upload custom map views of your location. Or, you can use Google Maps to provide a visual representation of your wireless network. When initially launching the UniFi Controller application, a default map is shown.

There is a legend at the bottom part of the map. It displays the entire scale of the map.

One cool option of the UniFi Controller app is that it can import a map or floor plan, and even set scales. What’s more, it can also set your registered WAP on the floor plan. This will allow the controller software to rate signal and coverage strength of each WAP.

It actually makes for an excellent visual, yet it appears as an estimate that’s based on distance. This doesn’t consider walls or other structures that can block Wi-Fi. Not to mention the actual RFI origins that obstruct the signal.

Now, you can set your UniFi devices with ease. This is because the controller will compute like the signal strength and coverage. There are a few people who may not want to have the software running at all times. If you are one of them, you can opt to switch off the controller software.

However, if you have one of these cases, it’s best to leave the software running instead.

  • If there are changes to the device or network settings
  • When one utilizes the guest portal
  • Collecting DPI or Deep Packet Inspection statistics
  • Enhancing the device firmware
  • When utilizing the Ubiquiti UniFi Mesh

Statistics

This tab gives you a visual depiction of network traffic linked to your controlled APs. Here, you will find charts that represent the network traffic and the number of clients. Also, displayed on the screen is an hour-by-hour chart that shows the usage over the last 24-hours.

Access Points

The Access Points tab shows you a list of all the managed Access Points that are available. There are also three sub-tabs that exhibit a variety of status information. These include the Overview, Config, and Performance display.

The Overview display shows you the number of clients and the amount of uploaded data. It also displays the amount of downloaded data, as well as the channel setting. The Config displays the radio and WLAN settings for the 5GHz and 2.4GHz radio bands. Lastly, the Performance displays the total number of 5GHz and 2.4Ghz clients. It also shows the overall transmit & receives rate, as well as the channel setting. In addition, this also exhibits the transmit rates in the 5Ghz & 2.4GHz radio bands.

Users

This tab shows you a list of all the users connected to the main wireless network of the Access Point. If you want, you can click any column header to alter the list order.

Guests

This tab shows you a list of all the users connected to the main wireless network of the Access Point. If you want, you can click any column header to alter the list order.

Insight

This tab will show you a variety of status details. It also comes with four available sub-tabs, which include the following:

  • The Known Wireless Clients sub-tab shows details about all the current wireless clients.
  • Past Connections shows you all information about earlier client connection sessions. An example of this would be instances when a client can have a number of sessions from different days.
  • The Rogue Access Points displays details about non-managed APs by the UniFi Controller.
  • The last sub-tab is the Past Guest Authorization. It has information about the authorization of earlier guest connections.

Portal Customization

With the Portal Customization, the UniFi Controller allows full branding of the portal application. This will let you white label all wireless internet services as if you refined them yourself.

For full flexibility to your branding effort, the software gives you access to the portal directory on the system it’s installed in. The open structure lets you include unlimited content. This is while keeping the progress simple via the utilization of simple HTML.

For testing, it is very simple, immediate, and precise. You only have to reload the changes from any browser that you use, and you’re all good.

UniFi Discovery Utility

The UniFi Discovery Utility is part of the UniFi Controller software. It has various tools that let you discover and manage the UniFi Enterprise Wi-Fi System APs. This is readily installed as part of the Controller software’s setup process.

UniFi Network App

The UniFi ecosystem allows you to easily manage your network thanks for the UniFi Network App. The app that is available for both iOS and Android offers similar functionality to the Controller software but offers a more stripped-down set of features. The app makes it very simple to check on the status of your network, make quick changes and run network tests without having to be at your computer.

Conclusion

Ubiquiti is a brand that is synonymous with quality and performance when it comes to networking. Their enormous range of networking products feels at home with Apple’s product design due to the sleek, minimalistic design of Ubiquiti’s products. Gone are the days of bulky, ugly looking black switches, Ubiquiti has managed to develop products that fit both in a corporate setting as well as the home setting.

Coming in at affordable price points has allowed the UniFi range to be accessible to everyone, whether you are rolling out a network across an entire organization of setting up a home lab in your garage at home.

When it comes to cheaper products the general consensus is that the performance must not be as good as something 2 or 3 times the price, and often that is true, but not this time. The UniFi range, even though affordable, packs a serious punch when it comes to performance and easily blows most competitors out of the water.

The UniFi Security Gateway is compact and very powerful. The NanoHD gives you incredible WiFi performance. The G3 Flex can’t be beaten when it comes to affordable cameras. The UniFi Switch gives you POE and switch functions without breaking the bank. The Cloud Key Gen2 gives you a very simple way of managing all your hardware and is a killer NVR.

Really it is all very simple, the Ubiquiti UniFi range of products is in a league of their own and for the price point and performance, you should not be looking anywhere else for an alternative.

Where to Buy

If you want to have these devices from Ubiquiti’s UniFi line, directly purchase these products from Ubiquiti’s online store.

You can also check out the company’s store locator to find authorized distributors that offer these in your country.

 

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