Tue. Dec 10th, 2019

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 gadget that mixes a router, a change with 4 Ethernet ports and a Wi-Fi entry level for $299. It has what Ubiquiti calls an built-in cloud key that permits 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 gadget.

Ubiquiti is a well known networking model. Most individuals are accustomed to the corporate’s entry factors — these rounded antennas that you’ll find round faculties, corporations and public areas.

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

Rebundling UniFi units

Ubiquiti has a spread of routers underneath the AmpliFi model for shoppers who’re searching for a plug-and-play resolution. The corporate lately introduced a brand new gadget with nice specs in case you don’t need to fiddle with networking settings.

However in case you’re studying this, likelihood is you realize that UniFi merchandise provide some customizations that you simply assume are missing in shopper merchandise.

Switching from an all-in-one networking gadget to a UniFi system has all the time been a bit difficult. The corporate has damaged down the networking stack into totally different units to give you extra management.

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

In case you’re dedicated to the UniFi ecosystem, you get a terrific expertise. You may handle every Ethernet port in your change individually, you may management Wi-Fi settings from wherever on this planet and lots of, many extra issues. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson fell down the UniFi rabbit gap and wrote a terrific story about his expertise operating skilled networking gears at dwelling.

The UniFi Dream Machine takes a unique strategy. It rebundles all of the separate items that make a UniFi community come to life. You should purchase 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 gadget has an built-in safety gateway, which helps you to run a DHCP server, create firewall insurance policies, benefit from a number of VLANs and extra.

Along with the WAN port to attach your gadget 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 gadget 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

Organising the UniFi Dream Machine is a good expertise. Ideally, you need to plug an Ethernet cable in your ISP-provided router and put it in bridge mode. This manner, it’ll act as a dumb modem and let the UniFi Dream Machine do all of the arduous work.

After downloading the cell app and turning on the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a popup that mimics the pairing popup of the AirPods. You may then management your community from that cell app or use an online browser in your laptop.

That is when it will get attention-grabbing.

UniFi’s controller software program normally lists all of the UniFi units at the moment operating in your community. With the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a single gadget. However in case you develop that gadget, you may see an inventory of three separate UniFi elements — a gateway, a change 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 a variety of issues about networking to be able to optimize your setup. However in case 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 gadget to be able to discover them extra simply. You may see in actual time the community they’re utilizing and in the event that they’re getting a superb Wi-Fi sign.

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

There are a ton of prospects in case you care about safety. I created a visitor Wi-Fi community that solely lets my associates entry the web. They’ll browse Twitter and stream Netflix exhibits with none challenge, however they’ll’t entry my computer systems on the native community.

I additionally created one other Wi-Fi community for IoT units, equivalent to related audio system, a printer and a robotic vacuum. Linked units don’t get a variety of safety patches and have extra vulnerabilities than a pc or a smartphone that you simply preserve up-to-date. I assigned a unique VLAN to this Wi-Fi community. VLANs allow you to create a partitioned community with totally 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’ll’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.

In terms of Wi-Fi, every little thing is customizable and performances have been stellar. I reside in a small condominium, however the balcony has all the time 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 cut 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 gadget (you may join by way of SSH and management every little thing 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 gadget I didn’t know I needed. I’ll by no means have a whole bunch of Wi-Fi units related to my dwelling community. I don’t want a dozen Ethernet ports. And but, I need to be in charge of my community. In case you miss Apple’s AirPort Excessive or in case you’re a networking nerd, it is best to take into account the UniFi Dream Machine.

Small companies and retailers typically make some poor selections in the beginning of the corporate. An inexpensive Wi-Fi router on Amazon doesn’t lower it when your online business scales. The Dream Machine could be a good entry level as you’ll be capable to construct upon that base gadget.

However in case you assume you may have larger wants, don’t attempt to run an enormous community from a UniFi Dream Machine. Ubiquiti sells some nice rackable units that gives you much more flexibility. The UniFi Dream Machine is a constrained machine in any case. That’s what makes it each not adequate for enterprise prospects and nice for prosumers.

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