I have been eager to try the new Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP ever since it was released. I have been using two Ubquiti B/G/N Access points in my home for a couple of years and, due to a new notebook supporting 802.11ac wireless, I wanted to upgrade.
I live quite far out in the country and we don’t have DSL or cable available, so my internet is provided via a Ubiquiti Radio on my roof, aimed at a tower 3 miles away. I have had this setup for the last nine years or so and it has been pretty solid.
What I like about the Unifi line of products by Ubiquity is that they are considered Enterprise class devices and they don’t require a costly controller and support plan that has to be renewed every year. The controller can be run on any computer and once everything is set up, they are self-sufficient.
The LR in the product name denotes that the access point is designed to provide a longer range than the non LR version (an advertised range of 600ft vs 400ft). That said, due to walls, interference and so on, I have always experienced a weak signal in the middle of the house, which is approximately 65ft from each AP.
I went with the new Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR Access Point to replace the older adapter in my home theater, where I spend most of my time. That gave me the opportunity to relocate the 802.11n access point to the middle of the house to fix the weak signal issue.
What’s in the Box?
The Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP Access Point arrives in an attractive, shrink-wrapped retail box wrapped. Under the shrink-wrap, you will see a brown box covered on four sides by a sleeve made from thick card stock.
After sliding off the outer sleeve you will be left with a heavy-duty cardboard box with the Ubiquiti logo on top, bar code with the model and serial numbers on one side. There is also a pretty cool little hologram to certify it is a genuine Ubiquiti product.
You will open the cardboard box by lifting up the flap. This will reveal the access point, fitted into a very heavyweight, custom molded, recycled paper tray. The Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP is covered on its top with a thick piece of translucent foam to protect it from scratches during shipping.
Under the Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR you will find the Instruction Manual, product literature, a Ubiquiti Everywhere decal, suspended ceiling mounting plate, a nice PoE injector with detachable power cord, a bag with 4 wall anchors, and screws for drywall, and 4 machine screws, and nuts for mounting to the suspended ceiling plate.
On the bottom of the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP there is a ceiling mount designed to be mounted to drywall. The mount is a twist locking device that locks the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP to the mount. The Ethernet port is located in a recess in the bottom making it easy to route the cable to the device.
The UniFi 802.11AC Dual-Radio AP’s feature the latest in Wi-Fi 802.11AC MIMO technology. Unlike traditional enterprise Wi-Fi systems that use a hardware controller, UniFi comes bundled with a non-dedicated software controller that can be deployed on an on-site PC, Mac, or Linux machine; in a private cloud; or using a public cloud service.
Designed to be used indoors, the UniFi 802.11AC offers up to 450 Mbps on the 2.4 Ghz MIMO band and 867 Mbps on the 5 Ghz band. The UniFi 802.11AC will support a Passive 24 volt PoE connection at 1 Gbps, with wireless up-link capabilities. 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compatibility assures any device should be able to connect to it.
The first thing I noticed, upon unboxing the device, was that the size and shape of the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP was just about identical to my current Ubiquiti APs, with the exception of the ceiling mount. The website clearly mentions that they are not “Instant Upgrade-able” meaning the mounts will not interchange. This will add a few minutes to the installation as I will need to swap out the ceiling mount from my existing installation.
The box comes with everything you need to get your wireless network up and running in short order. The Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP looks very much like a sleek Smoke detector and blends in very well in a room. The top of the device has the Ubiquiti logo in Chrome with a light ring around it, that you can turn off if you are so inclined. On the bottom you will find the 10/100/1000 Gbps Ethernet port and reset button in a recess, designed to make room for the connector. That allows the device to sit flush against the wall or ceiling after attaching it to the ceiling mount. It will rotate off with a small screwdriver inserted to release the lock assembly (this makes it pretty hard for someone to walk away with it).
Getting up and Running
I have all of my networking gear in one place -Direct TV power injectors, Ubiquiti Power over Ethernet (PoE) injectors, Insteon Hub, a Western Digital 4TB NAS to back up my wife’s iMac, a home-built NAS with 18 TB of usable space in a RAID6 configuration, plus a 1500va UPS, so it was fairly easy to connect everything. I just mounted the included PoE Injector to the rear wall of my closet, added the required Ethernet cables to the switch and moved the PoE Ethernet cable from the old Injector to the new. This is very important. Both the new and old version of the access points are 24 volts, however the older injectors will not pass a 1 Gbps signal and max out at 100 Mps. I learned this the hard way when I wasn’t seeing the speeds I was hoping for.
Adding a PoE Switch would be a good idea to eliminate the need for the injectors if you have multiple AP’s to install – however, due to the propietary 24 volt PoE requirements, you will need to buy the switch from Ubiquity. I ran 50 feet of new CAT6e cable in the attic to the sun-room where I would be relocating the older N version access point. I then connected that injector and we were ready to install the new controller software.
Once the controller is installed on a PC connected to the LAN, you will need to adopt the new Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR to add it to the network.
Setting up the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP is pretty straightforward if you have implemented their products in the past. They are not as easy to set up as consumer brand AP’s, due to the large amount of options and features you have to choose from. If the preset options don’t offer what you are looking for, there is an option to edit the code in the OS as well. You will start by downloading the controller on Ubiquiti’s website. Once installed and open you will see the pop up on the right, click Launch a Browser to Manage the Network. You will get a connection is not private warning, go ahead and select Advanced and then you will get access to the Login Screen. Enter the Default Username and Password, then login.
Next, you are greeted by the Dashboard. Since I don’t have a Ubiquiti Switch or Router, the only connection the Controller sees is the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP and the older N versions. You will need to adopt the new AP and it will be provisioned with the name you give it. Once it shows as connected, it’s time for one of the coolest parts of the installation!
You will enter your address in the map screen and it will show you your house in Google Maps. Just drop and drag the AP’s to the actual locations in your home or office. Once that is done you can click on the coverage tab to see the signal strength. To give you an idea of scale, my house is approximately 135 ft long. As you can see, the access point’s range covers a large part of my property around the house. I have checked the accuracy using a signal meter, and the picture is very close to being spot on.
The Device screen is where you will go to configure your Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP. When you click on the device you want to configure, a screen will pop-up on the left. I have left my settings in the photos to help those of you that are new to Ubiquiti Unifi products. If you copy my settings, you should be in good shape.
The Uplink screen will show you the Wired connection type, while the Users screen will show you who is connected to that specific AP. The Guest screen will show you the users connected as Guests if you have that feature enabled. I don’t have Guest access turned on because it negatively impacts the File Transfer Rate (more about that later).
The Radio Configuration screen is where you will set the channel, Frequency Width, and TX Power of each AP. I spent a lot of time experimenting here and the settings you see provided the best results, feel free to copy these.
The Wlan Screen is where you can toggle the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radios. On the Network screen, you can choose to have your router set the IP address or you can set a static IP address, which is recommended. The Band steering feature is brand new and is a much-anticipated upgrade in the larest release of the controller software. It allows you to set the AP to steer clients to use the 5 GHz radio over the 2.4 GHz if possible, enabling higher speeds.
Finally you will see the Custom screen, where you can edit the scripting and adjust advanced settings. Something to keep in mind is that there is no live support available with these devices. If you get stuck, you will need to revert to Google and the Ubiquiti User Forum, so novices may be better served avoiding Cuatom settings.
Using the Ubiquiti Unifi AP AC LR
It took a lot of research and experimentation to achieve a transfer rate of just over 350 Mbps but once I achieved that, speeds remained consistent. Once everything was set up, I found that the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP worked seamlessly with my older N version Ubiqiti Access Points. I was able to roam all over the house and yard and the hand-off was invisible to the user. The Band Steering does a wonderful job of steering AC compatible devices to connect at 5 GHz if they are in range.
When I first added the new Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP to my existing network of two Ubiguiti N AP LR’s, I was seeing a transfer rate of around 114 Mbps. This was nowhere near what I was expecting. I tried just about every combination of channels, Bandwidth, TX power and didn’t see any improvement. I even tried an external AC Wi-Fi adapter and got the same results. It is common knowledge that the Ubiquiti AP’s are not the fastest out there but they are very powerful, resilient, and configurable, which makes them attractive in an enterprise environment.
Let me tell you how I resolved it. I had a Guest Network set up, and four SSIDs configured on the network. After a lot of research, I learned that a Guest network will degrade the connection by as much as 50%, so I disabled the feature and saw the transfer rate bumped up to just under 300 Mbps. Next, I learned that each SSID that you are running will also decrease the speed of each AP. So I reduced the number of SSIDs down to one and I was able to achieve speeds 357 Mbps.
The Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP is an enterprise class access point, predominately designed for advanced users. While it’s extremely configurable, that flexibility comes with a degree of complexity alongside some performance issues. A file transfer rate of 357 Mbps isn’t the best, and the fact that speed could only be achieved by disabling two key features of the device is bad news indeed.
That said, at $109.99 the device offers advanced features at seriously good value, without the need for a Controller or Support contract. For me, the Ubiquiti UniFi AC LR AP is an upgrade that’s too good to miss. Experienced users and those that can live with its quirks will find it offers reasonable performance without breaking the bank.