IT Pro Verdict
Fantastic captive portal options
Outstanding cloud management features
Gigabit Ethernet port limits max speeds
If you’re into software-defined networking, then Ubiquiti Networks has plenty to offer, including two very affordable Wi-Fi 6 access points. The entry-level model is the AX1800-rated UniFi U6-Lite, priced at just £81, but here we’ve tested the top-dog U6-LR. At £159 it’s almost twice the price, but it’s still well within reach of an SMB budget, and the extra money gets you a speedy AX3000 rating. Unusually, the U6-LR also supports the high-performance 160MHz channel width, which improves bandwidth and penetration for compatible clients.
That’s all part of the promise: the “LR” stands for “long range”, and though you can’t see them, the U6-LR features downward-tilting internal aerials that aim to offer improved coverage. As for speeds, the 2.4GHz radio bandwidth is pegged at 600Mbits/sec, while the 5GHz radio supports a far faster 2,400Mbits/sec.
Everything about the U6-LR oozes class, from the great build quality to the mounting kit in the box, which includes all the tools you need – even the template card has a built-in spirit level. Nor can we argue with Ubiquiti’s classy cloud management platform. To use it, you’ll need a local UniFi Network Controller (UNC) for each site, but the software is available as a free download for Windows, macOS and Linux – or you can use the UniFi Dream Machine Pro appliance (£297), which teams up wireless network management with gateway security services.
The cloud portal shows all available UNCs registered to your account, and selecting one takes you to its management console, from whence you can create site SSIDs that will be pushed out to all managed APs. There are options for guest networks, and outstanding captive portal features which let you customise the landing page, decide which radios and AP groups can be used and implement authorisation via voucher, card payment, RADIUS, Google, Facebook or WeChat.
We found the whole system worked seamlessly. After hooking up the U6-LR to our Ubiquiti USW-Pro-24-PoE switch and adopting it in the UNC console, it immediately received a firmware upgrade, then started presenting our predefined SSIDs.
The console’s informative dashboard shows the most active clients and apps, along with details of client device types and a rolling graph of wireless experience scores. The latter can show scores for specific APs, broken down into 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios, and the whole dashboard can be set to daily, weekly or monthly views.
The U6-LR itself is managed from the UniFi devices page, which shows details such as associated clients and channel utilisation and even lets you choose a colour for the AP’s LED ring, as well as selecting between 80MHz and 160MHz channels.
For performance testing, we used a Windows 10 Pro workstation with a TP-Link Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 PCI-E adapter. This supports 160MHz channels, but we started out with the AP set to an 80MHz width. In this configuration, our copies of a 25GB test file between the workstation and a server on our LAN were completed at an average rate of 105MB/sec.
Enabling 160MHz channels improved things to 111MB/sec; we might have expected to see a bigger leap, but Ubiquiti has seen fit to equip this AP only with a Gigabit Ethernet port, meaning this is about the highest speed it can handle. That’s a shame, as there’s likely more performance potential here that you simply won’t be able to access.
Still, speed isn’t the only benefit of the 160MHz setting. It also helps overcome interference and obstacles, and when we moved the AP ten metres away from the workstation and into an adjoining room, our copies still completed at a very creditable 105MB/sec; swapping back to the 80MHz channel mode saw this fall to 93MB/sec.
It would have been nice to see a 2.5GbE port, but the U6-LR remains a fast Wi-Fi 6 AP with good range. It offers a wealth of features for a very fair price, and Ubiquiti’s UniFi cloud management services are among the best in town.
Ubiquiti Networks UniFi U6-LR specifications
|AX3000 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ax
|4 x 4 MU-MIMO, internal aerials
|Gigabit LAN/802.3at PoE+
|Ceiling/wall mounting kit
|220 x 220 x 48mm
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.