Originally, mesh WiFi systems were only used by large entities (businesses, higher education, government, etc). Over the past few years, consumer “mesh” systems entered the market (Google Wi-Fi, Linksys Velop, Netgear Orbi, Eero, etc). Each has “plusses” & “minuses”: Google Wi-Fi is simple to set up, but lacks multi-port Ethernet switches, security, & USB ports, plus it’s not a true “mesh”; Netgear Orbi has a 3-port switch on the router & 4-port switch on the mesh node, but isn’t a true mesh, & while it has USB, it’s only USB 2.0; Eero is small, easy to set up, has good overall performance, & a low-profile design, but lacks in security, has no built-in switch, & only USB 2.0 ports; Linksys Velop is easy to set up & maintain, a true mesh, very fast, & has good security, but no built-in switch, or USB ports, plus the $500 price is “out of reach” for most consumer. However, we have a new entrant in whole-home WiFi: the amped|wireless ALLY Plus.
To start, the ALLY Plus sells for $299 (on sale, $250-270), so it’s already starting off on a decent note. Second, setting up the extender node is as simple as it gets…plug & play, baby…plus & play (I’ll cover this more, later). In truth, while the ALLY Plus is a whole-home WiFi system, it’s NOT a true “mesh”, but closer to a router/extender configuration (similar to several mentioned above). This is NOT necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll soon discover. At the same time, while amped|wireless advertises this as an AC1900 system, it’s actually an AC2100 system (800Mbps max on 2.4GHz & 1300Mbps max on 5GHz). Currently, the ALLY Plus includes only a single extender node…but, word from amped|wireless is that additional nodes could be made available in the future (explained later).
UNBOXING, AND INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:
The external package is your typical generic design, but upon opening it, everything inside is laid out in a neat, organized manner. You’re greeted by a large “Welcome sign”, followed by a “Let’s Get Started” pamphlet, which lays out the simple 6-step process of setting everything up. Below that, you find the two ALLY units, power cords, & Ethernet cable, with everything pre-labeled…call this “intelligent packaging”.
I set this up in my parent’s house, as the size & layout was better suited for testing. Setting up the router is simple, as all cables/connections are pre-labeled & color-coded, making it “idiot-proof”. Before doing ANYTHING, the first step is to download the app from Google Play or Apple Store, as the app is required for setup (but NOT for maintenance, see below), providing simple step-by-step instructions. Even your 3 year-old child, or 93 year-old grandmother, has a 99% chance of success. Initial setup is easily completed within a few minutes. I won’t provide a ‘step-by-step’ for each of the features, as there are several, but they are all equally-simple to configure. In addition to your primary 2.4GHz & 5GHz networks, you can enable guest access, with its own separate SSID & password.
Once the router is up & running, connecting the extender is even easier. Earlier, when I said “plug & play”, I really meant it – plug the extender into your desired location’s outlet, and it immediately starts working (the two units are pre-programmed, using a proprietary signal, to connect with each other). Anyone failing this step needs to return to pre-school. Lastly, you will notice a WPS button on the router & extender. As mentioned above, additional nodes will (eventually) be made available, and, since these would not be pre-paired to the router, the WPS button will be used to pair them.
SPEED & SIGNAL STRENGTH TESTS:
Testing was done on both 2.4GHz & 5GHz, from three points: close to router, halfway between router & extender (no line-of-sight to either node), & far end of house (approximately 15ft from extender). Separate names were set for 2.4GHz & 5GHz bands, to allow separate tests. I mention this because most other whole-home systems auto-switch between 2.4GHz & 5GHz connections, giving you no control as to which band you’re connecting to. On the 2.4GHz band, throughput close to the router averaged in the 100-120Mbps range, while a 40ft distance achieved 80-100Mbps. Standing 15ft from the extender achieved 70-90Mbps. Moving to the 5GHz band, the results were 500-600Mbps, 350-400Mbps & 300-350Mbps, respectively. While quite good (compared to most other whole-home WiFi systems), if you’re looking for the best performance, the Linksys Velop is faster…but, at the same time, it lacks several features of the ALLY Plus…NO built-in switch & NO USB ports, plus you’ll spend $200 more.
DATA TRANSFER TESTS:
In terms of real-world data transfer speeds, thigs are always slower than throughput speeds. Using the same distances, the 2.4GHz band produced average results of 71Mbps, 62Mbps & 62Mbps, while the 5GHz band produced average results of 105Mbps, 74Mbps, 72Mbps. Again, while not the fastest (compared to true mesh systems), this is more than fast enough for the typical home-user. In fact, while your typical conventional router will achieve approximately equivalent results close to the router, said router will produce far lower results as distance from the router increases, which is the advantage of whole-home WiFi systems.
This is where the ALLY Plus really starts to shine. First, while most other whole-home systems have but a single Ethernet port on each node, the ALLY Plus includes a 3-port switch on the primary router. Follow that up with a USB 3.0 port (other whole-home systems have USB 2.0, or none at all) on the router, PLUS a USB 3.0 port on the extender, and things are looking a lot better when compared to other whole-home systems. While other whole-home systems are set-up & maintained via app ONLY, the ALLY Plus can be maintained via the app AND/OR a web interface (setup still MUST be done via the app). Lastly, there are parental controls, activity logging, notifications, and the ability to schedule user’s access. You even have the ability to block access to specific sites, by category, or by content type…all on a per-user basis. If you realize you forgot to set a block, or user-access, there’s also a “Pause” button (accessible via the app), which instantly shuts off access for that user.
THE GOOD: Simple set-up & configuration
Easy to maintain
Good data speeds (for a router/extender configuration)
Built-in malware protection from AVG
Compact & low-profile
Low price (comparted to other mesh Wi-Fi systems)
3-port switch on router
USB 3.0 ports on BOTH nodes
Can manage network via app OR web interface (other systems ONLY work via app OR web interface)
THE BAD: Not a true mesh system
Data speeds are considerably lower than a true tri-band mesh system
THE UGLY: Northing that I’m able to determine
Is the amped|wireless ALLY Plus the whole-home WiFi system for you? Unless you have super-high speed needs, the probable answer is “YES”. If you have kids, that “yes” becomes even more prominent, as the ALLY Plus has the best parental controls of any whole-home system. Add in AVG’s security, and it only gets better. The system has features advanced enough for most seasoned users, but is also simple enough for anyone to set up. At $299, it’s reasonably priced…plus, with the security & parental features, that only adds to its overall value.
In short, this is an excellent choice for those looking to set up a whole-home WiFi system. It contains features & functions lacking in most other whole-home WiFi systems, and only lacks in one major area – being a true mesh system. Even though it’s not a true mesh system, its speed capabilities are equal to, if not better than, what most home users would need. The router’s built-in 3-port switch is a huge plus (you can always plug a switch into the single Ethernet port on the extender, adding additional Ethernet ports), and the USB 3.0 ports on both nodes gives it a huge advantage over almost all other whole-home systems. I’ve personally tested the Google Wi-Fi & Linksys Velop whole-home systems, and while each had some very good things, both had enough bad things that, while I’d still recommend them to specific people, I wouldn’t be able to recommend either of them to just about everyone. The ALLY Plus, on the other hand, is a whole-home WiFi system that I can EASILY recommend to all but those needing the fastest speeds. To that limited group, the Linksys Velop is what they need…for EVERYONE else, the amped|wireless ALLY Plus is what you WILL WANT.
Disclaimer: This product was provided free, or at reduced cost, for the purpose of reviewing the product. Nevertheless, the above review, be it positive, negative, or somewhere in-between, is a 100% honest review, and the price paid played absolutely no part in my review.