2021 WiFi Options?

Greetings all,

Long-time video watcher (Thanks, Tom!) and forum subscriber here with a broad question about WiFi options for a fairly technologically advanced home setup.

I have my network largely setup how I want with 1Gbps Fiber, a pfSense firewall protecting a main switch connecting to half a dozen satellite switches. Fortunately, there are cat5e drops throughout the house. My main remaining issue, aside from my network “closet” being a panel in between two wall studs, is that my WAPs are ancient. We’ve managed because I’m able to have a hardline backhaul to them. That said, there are 5 users roaming around with laptops, tablets and mobile phones (all defaulting to WiFi Calling), so hand-off has become an issue to say nothing of security patches. Yes, I’m going to be asking about that dreaded four-letter word that is “mesh.”

When I last looked into it about two years ago, Plume really stood out to me. Two to three bridged Super Pods with hardline backhaul and I’d be sitting pretty. Since then, I saw something about financial struggles and a pivot to the CSP market. From their website, they still appear to support individual SOHO customers with their Homepass offering, and the price is definitely right, but I’m wary.

From what I’ve been able to observe, it appears the mesh market consists a number of lower-end solutions (eero, Google WiFi, Orbi, TP-link) vying for the 3-pack at CostCo customer and then the mid to higher-level solutions like Unifi. The former seems mediocre with wireless backhauls, while the latter seems like overkill as I’m not going to be managing more than three APs and zero switches. Plume meets my technical requirements, but the status of the company and dearth of reviews for my bridge-mode use case have me wondering whether there’s a better option.

Anyone have any anecdotes about Plume the solution or company or should I just take a flyer and count on their 60-day full-refund if it’s the wrong decision?

Thoughts appreciated.


It is said that asus has built a great mesh solution with its routers working together, but I haven’t used any of them.
You don’t need mesh in order to have seamless roaming. You need WiFi k/v/r support in access points and clients.

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Unless you want to be tied to Plume and their $99/year membership…I’d grab that refund. I tried Google and others but eventually snatched a few UniFi APs. I’ve set them and haven’t looked back. I have a 8-port UniFi switch (4 w/PoE), a Pi running the controller and two APs.

When I tried Google it did not support a wired backhaul and didn’t play nice with my firewall. They may have improved since then… Other alternatives, similar to Ubiquiti, to consider: Zyxel (Nebula) and EnGenius (Skykey).

Since you have drops ran, I’d personally grab some Unifi AP’s or AP Lite’s (if you need PoE you can either toss in a switch that has it or just grab a poe injector). If you’re on a budget, TP-Link’s Omada capable APs have done well for me personally. I run TP-Link AC1350 AP’s in my home with their Omada controller and have had no issues, although your mileage will vary based on where you’re able to place them and how your home is laid out.

For 5 users I couldn’t see needing more than 2 quality APs. I went with the TP-Link’s because they were 70 bucks a piece and have not given me troubles for home use over the course of 2+ years. Some controllers support the fast roaming feature, which depending on the devices in your home you may need to toggle off as I’ve seen it cause issues in my experiences with certain devices.

Thanks for the feedback. The UniFi stuff is sounding intriguing. I don’t know much about the brand, as my shop had decided on Ruckus, so I had the idea that they were crazy expensive and more of a lifestyle rather than one-off drop-in hardware. Looking at their site suggests I was way of the mark.

I’m somewhat price insensitive on this project. I want a solution that gives me quick, seamless hand-off throughout our house; ideally WiFi 6 compatible or at least future ready; VLAN capable; capable of supporting 802.11b for a piece of crap IoT device I have to maintain. Finally, I don’t want something that requires me to adopt all their solutions to get the features I want. I’m leaning towards replacing my NetGear ProSafe+ switches, which have served me well, with Mikrotik, particularly the newer unit Tom recently reviewed so I can get 10Mbps between my office and AV area ( with it’s 50T TrueNAS box).

In the spec department, is the UniFi 6 Lite Access Point what I’m looking for?

Do these units have built-in web-uis for configuration or do I need to get into some kind of cloud SAS? Is there any additional cost to said cloud software?

Thanks again for the advice, all. You’ve spun my thinking around on this when I thought I’d pretty much locked in.


I actually just deployed a Ruckus solution at my org. Very solid product, but between 25 APs, AP licensing, virtual smartzone controller license, and support license we were in about $21k. For the same deployment using Unifi it would’ve run us a few thousand since they don’t license the controller or do per ap licensing. But that said, Ruckus is definitely a solid product and fit all our needs as well as leaves us with room for expansion down the road. We wanted Wi-Fi6 and Ruckus was pretty integral as a company as part of the Wi-Fi6 standard design process, they have some pretty good white papers on Wi-Fi6 that are worth the read.

Either way, I think if you’re a smaller customer and don’t necessarily need the enterprise backing/support of a company like Cisco, Aruba, or Ruckus then Unifi should satisfy most needs.

Interesting. Thanks for that background.

BTW, the time-frame for that Ruckus decision was around 4-5 years ago. Deploying that was a night and day difference from the ghetto gum and duct tape solution we had “running” prior.

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Did some more digging and it seems like the UniFi 6 Lite AP is my beast, but I wanted to confirm that I can manage it without buying Cloud Key. As I understand it, I can manage it via the UniFi Controller software, which starts a local server that then relies on a browser as the interface. From there I can manage my APs without additional costs or licensing, correct?

Is there any reason to not “Use Ubiquiti account for local access?” Is there another, better approach to managing these units for someone who isn’t into the entire UniFi ecosystem?

Finally, can anyone recommend a good Power Injector to go with this AP? Will any 802.3af compliant unit fit the bill? TRENDnet has a really compact unit that looks appealing.

Thanks again,

You do not need a cloud key to use the controller software. The cloud key is just a lightweight appliance that has the controller preinstalled and is convenient for folks that don’t want to deal with the hassle of spinning up a box to run the software. It is limited to 50 devices I think, but you can reference the documentation to verify.

The controller can be installed on a laundry list of hardware or virtual machines. There are also cloud provided hosting options such as HostiFi or if adept you can use a service like Digital Ocean to spin up an ubuntu server to run the controller on.

Additionally if you want to just spin up a controller on a laptop or desktop, initially config the APs, then shut the controller off that is also an option but you do lose out on features such as a guest captive portal or some of the channel optimization goodies that the controller can provide to the APs.


You don’t need a Cloud Key to run the controller software. It can run on any computer that runs Java, including a Raspberry Pi, a laptop or desktop, a docker image, etc. You need to run it for configuring the Unifi devices but then you can shut it down. You can access the running controller via its web interface or via a phone app which is very full featured. No ongoing licensing fees for any of the hardware or for the Unifi controller software.

When the controller isn’t running, you loose the ability to use the guest portal and the traffic statistics. Everything else runs just the same.

For the AC Lite, LR, and Pro, individual access points include a PoE injector. If you buy a five pack, which are cheaper per access point, the injectors aren’t included. I presume because anyone using that many is assumed to be using a PoE switch. It seems for wifi 6 PoE adapters are no longer included even with individual access points

The wifi 6 Lite is the first wifi 6 access point that Ubiquiti has released. If your need to switch isn’t urgent, you might want to wait for a wifi 6 version of the LR (long range) access point. It has different antennas to give better performance for both sending and receiving at longer distances.

As for Unifi being overkill for a deployment your size, my actual Unifi equipment consists of just one AC/LR access point and a Flex Mini five port switch. That’s it for Unifi. With the access point in my living room, I’m still on wifi 200+ ft down the street when I’m walking my dog.

Anything I tried less than Unifi simply didn’t work in the wifi jungle I live in. The drop down wifi menu on my iMac shows almost 50 wifi networks. Before Unifi, on evenings and weekends, I was lucky to get 2Mbps, whereas during a weekday I could get the full 40Mbps of my Internet connection. With Unifi, even the worst congestion never drops it below 38Mbps while all my neighbours complain about how bad their wifi is. YMMV.

Edited to correct information about PoE adapter being included with access points.

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This is great to hear, as I have a number of networks, including from a nearby school filling my WiFi list. I think I’ll spin up a Docker instance on my NAS to run the controller.

Unless I’m mistaken, the WiFi 6 Lite does not come with an injector, which is why I inquired. I’ll just order the TRENDnet unit.

While I would love the LR units, I want a fix sooner and I noticed their resale value on eBay is high, so I’ll swap the LRs in later.

Which Unifi is better for congested areas? The LR or the HD (high density)?

They haven’t released a HD unit for the WiFi 6 APs, just LR and Lite. The HD AP has 4x4 MU-MIMO, while the Lite is just 2x2 MIMO. That said, the HD costs almost 4x as much as the Lite, so there you go.

Still, it’s a good question and I’d be curious to hear the answer in the context of the previous generation of APs.


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You’re right about the PoE injector not being included with the wifi 6 access points. I hadn’t noticed that change.

The HD is for really dense environments where you need to support a lot of people in a small physical area. It’s listed as having a maximum of 500 concurrent users. The considerably cheaper AC Pro can still support 200 users. With the wifi 6 Lite listed at 300+, I would expect the limits of the wifi 6 Pro and HD to go even higher.

The HD is just an extra expense that you’ll never see any payoff from in a home. At least for the cost of a Pro over the LR, you get something useful in a second Ethernet port so you daisy chain a second access point. I think for home use, it’s more of a choice between the Lite, LR, and the Pro. Even the Pro is likely overkill for most people.

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The definition of frustration is open a box to find this, when your Unifi power injectors are on back order. My only local retail option is Fry’s Electronics, which carries a single option that looks super sketchy, assuming I could even find it.

I was not wired for patience…


I just kinda bit the bullet and went with a PoE switch. Injectors are handy but I’ve went into environments that have like an entire school outfitted with injectors instead of a PoE switch and that’s just asking for trouble imo.

A couple of my APs are in places that directly connect to a wall plate and I don’t right size/features in a 16 port switch that will fit my network panel. Unifi has a couple of interesting candidates, but they only have SFP and SFP+ ports. When are they going to offer those?


And the definition of rapturous joy (at least technically-related) is receiving your Ubiquiti POE injectors a week before you were expecting them!

Sorry, honey. The trash is going to have to wait til next week. I’ve got WAPs to install…

Speaking of WAPs, how do these Unifi APs perform while sitting on a desk? I believe that radiates the signal up, correct? Previously mentioned wife, already furious about having a stinky house will because apoplectic if I attempt to mount one of these to the ceiling.

As always, thanks,