Unifi Dream Machine - an excellent all in one router with lots of features
I am going to be make a short break from the migration of old blog posts, this is really eating a lot of my energy, and I am not spending it writing a new post. Just a few lines for my new addition on the home networking front. It's hilarious because I was reading posts of mine from the past, something like 10 years ago or earlier, and I always had this weird thing to experiment as some level with exotic routers and stuff. Obviously I am not a home networking enthusiast neither an expert, but I always hated standard routers from ISPs. It's not that all of them are bad, but in many cases you always left with a weird feeling of _Hey is my home network sucks because of this router, maybe my new switch, my cabling, or it's just me?and by the way wtf with this dashboard, this is like an HTML page with JQuery from the past. Two months ago I was switching ISPs from Sky to Virgin. The new fiber enabled Virgin Router is not bad, but I felt that urge, it's time to go solo again. After all, the connected devices on the apartment are almost a dozen, and they keep increasing.
I have heard of Ubiquiti in the past but never checked their product, I had heard that they make nice routers, repeaters and related equipment but that's all. One late night, I was browsing through Network Chuck's videos, and I saw this. I will be honest, I was hooked, the Dream Machine felt like a lost child of Apple that was left for someone else to pick up. Obviously it was not only the design and this all-in-one approach but the Web UI of the dashboard and the very convenient mobile application, which is practically the same full featured admin pane you have on the browser in your mobile. To cut a long story short, I ordered it after reading a couple of more reviews and fortunately persuading my wife that listen honey these routers suck, we need a new one, an all-in-one solution, it's going to be great. I was full into. Let's make our home networking Great again :P.
I ordered it through Amazon, arrived in a couple of days. The installation is as featured in the video, you spin it, you bring your phone, they pair, and you are done. The device is expecting to be connected to your main fiber router through ethernet and offers 4 extra Ethernet ports for connecting your wired devices. All of them are Gigabit Ethernet. I lost about half a day trying to figure out how I will switch my Virgin router from full router mode to only Fiber mode, once this was done, my Dream Machine was having access to the internet from the fiber router, but it was now my main hub, DHCP, DNS etc. That is actually the recommended mode, there is no reason to buy it if you are going to have your main router still acting as a router and then use the Dream Machine as an extension to connect other devices. The reason I am saying that is that when the Dream Machine becomes your main router, then you can actually get some added value from all the rich functionality offered in it's dashboard, the filters, the alerts, the device management and many other things.
There were a lot of people in some Amazon reviews that were complaining about some noise from the top fan of the router, but I guess this must have been a problem in the early releases or modems. It's been 2 months now, and I have not heard a single noise out of the device which sits comfortably close to the TV and gaming consoles.
Now I am totally aware that hard core network enthusiasts might consider the dream machine as just a nice router but not that strong in terms of features. I totally get their points, if you go deep and technical but from my perspective this is the most feature rich router I ever had in my life. The amount of configurability I have on my overall network, and the fact that is very easy to make adjustments just by firing up the app in my phone, is an amazing experience. The router runs a lot of extra stuff, like filtering functionality, alerts, you can set up VLANs and implement network segregation even within your home. For example, you can set up a VLAN that is going to be use by the Wi-Fi clients, and you can isolate the wired clients like, your PS or your TiVo or your PC.
I am not going to into every detail about the features, but I will say that I am pretty happy that I managed to consolidate all my apartments network complexity, wired and non-wired devices into 1 place and now I can do all these changes without even using a browser. If you are considering an all-in-one solution, with lots of features, nice dashboards, and an easy way to start doing network monitoring and implement some kind of observability for the average Joe, give the device a chance! It is also future proof in terms of being able to buy extra access points and extend its range or use it as your hub on a big house or even a small company. Ah yes that, I guess it can be an excellent solution for small shops, offices that want a decent router but don't want to be spending the money on support.
You can find the tech specs here
disclaimer: I don't have any kind of sponsorship from Ubiquiti etc.