Review: Amped Wireless ALLY Plus Whole Home Smart Wi-Fi System

Amped Wireless has built its reputation on a legacy of good quality, long-range home networking kit so it makes sense that they’re jumping on the whole home Wi-Fi bandwagon with the new ALLY Plus. But it’s up against some serious competition, with NETGEAR Orbi (review), Linksys Velop (review), Google Wifi (review) and others firmly established in the minds of networking enthusiasts.

This new system, consisting of a compact router and range extender, boasts wireless network coverage up to 15,000 Sq Ft. Alongside wide coverage, the system represents the first fruits of a partnership between Amped Wireless and security specialist AVG. Indeed, the router is built on a smart router platform, Chime, developed by AVG’s Innovations Labs.

As you’d expect, this platform combines a popular array of networking features with enhanced security settings. Integrated parental controls and security monitoring features promise to enhance network security across the home. For example, parents can monitor and segment a child’s screen time, review an activity log, pause Internet service and even set a curfew schedule for their Internet use. The router also alerts users when a new device requests network access, further protecting the network from unwanted parties.

Under the hood, the $299.99 ALLY Plus is a dual band, AC1900 system that supports theoretical speeds up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and 600 Mbps at 2.4 GHz. Unlike other systems boasting “whole home Wi-Fi coverage” we’ve recently reviewed, ALLY Plus is not a mesh networking system, but is built on a more traditional router + extender model. So you won’t necessarily see the same features as offered with Google Wifi, NETGEAR Orbi and Linksys Velop, all of which are powered by Qualcomm Atheros’s Wi-Fi SON (self-organizing network) firmware.

ALLY is powered by a dual-core 880 MHz MIPS 1004Kc processor with 128 MB RAM in support. I had to quickly look up the CPU as it’s not one I’ve come across in previous reviews. However, it’s an architecture that’s been used on devices such as the Linksys RE6500 Range Extender, ASUS RT-N56U router and Ubiquiti Networks EdgeRouter X, so it has a heritage in networking. In comparison to other whole home Wi-Fi systems on the market today, the CPU – on paper – should compete on speed, but 128 MB RAM is much lower than other recently devices, that pack mostly 512 MB. We’ll see how this affects performance in the real world – if at all.

In terms of connectivity, the ALLY’s compact form factor houses a single Gigabit WAN port and three LAN ports (one more than most of ALLY’s peers) which will be helpful for homes stuffed with wired smart device hubs. There’s also support for USB 3.0 device sharing, via a single rear port. Like most modern routers, Amped Wireless has included MU-MIMO support on ALLY, but remember that you’ll need compatible wireless clients to take advantage of enhanced networking speeds.

While we’re reviewing the ALLY Plus system here, which bundles the router and extender. I should note that you can also purchase the ALLY router solus, which is priced at $179.99.

While Amped Wireless has built ALLY on a different network topology to other whole home Wi-Fi systems, aesthetically it has much in common.

 

The flat, rounded, pebble shaped devices look great and are sturdily built, with no ugly external antennas ruining their clean lines (the device is equipped with a host of internal antennas and amplifiers, in case you’re concerned).

The router and extender use the same, low-profile chassis, with different rear connectors. A single indicator LED, on the front of each device, provides status updates. A button on the rear of the router disabled the LED, if you find it distracting.

Alongside wireless connectivity, the ALLY extender supports a single wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, which can be used to bridge wired devices to the wireless network. At this point, that port cannot function as wired backhaul (boosting connection speeds between the extender and the router), but Amped Wireless tell me it may be possible in the future, following a firmware update.

Other neat design touches include labels affixed to each cable supplied in the kit (two power adapters and a single Ethernet cable) telling you exactly where it should be connected. A simple idea, but one that adds a little personality.

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