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Aruba Instant On AP25 review: A simple wireless network management choice for SMBs

Below-par performance, but Aruba makes network installation and management a very pleasant experience

The Aruba Instant On device
£265 exc VAT
  • Greater aggregate wireless performance
  • Easy installation
  • Better Wi-Fi 6 speeds elsewhere

Small businesses seeking fuss-free wireless networks will like Aruba's Instant On family of access points (APs), since they're designed to make deployment and ongoing management as easy as possible. On review is Aruba's flagship AP25 model, an AX5374-rated dual-band Wi-Fi 6 AP with speeds of up to 4,800Mbits/sec on its 5GHz radio and 574Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz radio.

This is a significant upgrade over Aruba's old AP22 model, with its 4 x 4 MU-MIMO services offering a trebling in aggregate wireless performance. It brings the Wi-Fi 6 160MHz channels into play and releases their extra bandwidth with a 2.5GbE multi-gigabit LAN port supporting PoE+.

Newcomers to Aruba will love the installation process: all you need is a mobile or tablet. After downloading the Instant On app to an iPad, we connected the AP25 to the lab's Zyxel XS1930-12HP 10GbE multi-gigabit PoE++ switch and started the app. After creating a personal Instant On cloud account, you're guided through the connection process. When the AP's status LED is flashing green and amber, it will automatically discover it. Next, you create your first secure wireless network, provide a name for its SSID and you're ready to go.

Using a Dell Windows 11 Pro workstation with a TP-Link Archer TXE75E Wi-Fi 6E PCI-E adapter, we found the AP25 is significantly faster than the AP22. With a wireless connection to the AP's 160MHz channels, close-range file copies between the host and a Windows server on our 10GbE LAN returned 151MB/sec, falling to 131MB/sec with the AP moved ten metres away and into the next room. Swapping to an AP22 saw close-range copy speeds of 80MB and 71MB/sec at ten metres.

Overall Wi-Fi 6 performance may not be up with the best, but wireless management doesn't get any easier. The app dashboard shows active wireless networks, client connections, data transferred over the past 24 hours and all Instant On devices. Tapping an icon takes you to the relevant section where you can view more details, modify network settings and create up to eight wireless networks per site. 

For each SSID, you can use WPA2 or WPA3 encryption, set client bandwidth limits, decide which radios are active and apply daily schedules that determine when each network is available. If a mobile device isn't available, you can use the Instant On web browser portal which presents the same interface and admin features.

Creating guest networks is simple and these apply L2 isolation so clients only get internet access and can't see the local network. A smart toolset is provided for quickly creating PC and mobile--friendly custom portals with your own company logo and acceptable use agreement.

Aruba's application analysis service is a great feature; along with views of all upload and download traffic, it shows which application categories this comprises and the clients using them. These are separated into 20 categories, including email, productivity, streaming and malicious sites, and their use on specific SSIDs can be blocked by unticking the box next to them.

The Instant On ecosystem isn't just about APs; Aruba offers a range of network switches as well. Choices include gigabit, 10GbE and PoE+ enabled models, and they can be managed in standalone mode or from the Instant On portal and app.

Aruba's Instant On AP25 isn't the fastest Wi-Fi 6 AP on the planet, but it delivers a level of performance that will satisfy all but the most demanding of environments. It's a great choice for small businesses worried about the complexity of wireless network management as Aruba's smart mobile app and web portal make deployment a breeze.

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