IT Pro Verdict
Clever compact design
Free cloud management console
None to speak of
Just when you thought wireless access points (APs) couldn’t get any smaller, along comes the UniFi UAP FlexHD. Measuring only 156mm tall with a 49mm radius, the FlexHD is compact enough to place wherever you need it – which is a big help when it comes to delivering the best wireless performance.
To that end, the base cover comes with a rubber ring to hold it steady on a desktop, while the box includes wall and pole-mounting kits – and an optional recessed ceiling mount can be purchased separately. The FlexHD isn’t waterproof, however, so if you want to put it outdoors it will have to be in a sheltered location.
Despite its small size, this little tube houses a full-strength Wave 2 4x4 MU-MIMO AC2100 AP, and supports business-class management via Ubiquiti’s free UniFi Network Controller (UNC) tool for Windows, macOS and Linux. Installation takes only five minutes, with a quick-start wizard helping you to secure administrator access, provision APs and create wireless networks.
Even better, centralised cloud management is also free, so once you’ve created an account you can add your UNC hosts to the online portal. From here you can browse all of your APs, and access their respective web consoles with a click.
Deploying our FlexHD was more or less as easy as plugging in a PoE source to the connector at the rear. If you buy the AP singly, you get an injector in the box, but we used the lab’s UniFi Switch 16. In just a moment the FlexHD popped up in the UNC web console, and once we’d clicked to adopt it, the software automatically upgraded its firmware and added it to the main console, where it immediately started broadcasting our predefined SSIDs.
If you haven’t already set up your wireless networks, you can do this on the Settings page of the UNC web console: here you can name your SSIDs, choose encryption schemes, enable meshing with other UniFi APs, apply RADIUS authentication and add a schedule to determine when the SSIDs will be available.
It’s easy to create guest networks too, with captive portal features that include customised landing pages and hotspots that support voucher and card payment, alongside Google, Facebook or WeChat authorisation.
From the UNC dashboard, you can view all APs, clients and guests, along with an overall Wi-Fi experience score. You can also take your pick of 35 widgets showing stats ranging from wireless performance to the most active clients, along with details of power draw at the switch.
For the very tightest wireless security, you can add Ubiquiti’s UniFi Security Gateway (USG) to the mix. Costing around £245, this 1U appliance snaps neatly into the UNC console and reports on gateway, internet and app usage. You can enforce custom firewall rules, apply deep packet inspection and make use of Ubiquiti’s latest threat prevention service.
It’s also possible to monitor your wireless networks on the move, thanks to Ubiquiti’s free iOS and Android mobile apps. With the former loaded on our iPad, we were able to log into our cloud account in moments, and gain access to all of the same monitoring features that are available in the UNC console.
As for performance, we have to say that the FlexHD did astonishingly well in our tests. Close-range file copies from a Windows 10 desktop equipped with a Linksys WUSB6400 802.11ac adapter completed at a terrific average of 71MB/sec, and dropped only to 64MB/sec from a distance of ten metres.
SMBs that want an unobtrusive wireless AP with lightning-fast performance will love the affordable little UniFi UAP FlexHD. It offers plenty of deployment options, it’s delightfully discreet, and its free wireless management services simply won’t be beaten.
Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.
Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.
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