Wireless APs – Ubiquiti versus EnGenius. Please share your experiences.

  • Richard Y
    Post count: 3
    #377 |

    Last year I installed 5 Ubiquiti Unifi wireless access points (UAP) in our Nigeria office – I heard about them at IT Connect, and was impressed with what other techs said about them. I bought them in the Czech Republic.
    They worked well at first, but over the last 15 months, 3 of them have failed. They start showing up as Isolated in the Unifi controller, then they go to Disconnected, and nothing I have tried has helped. I don’t even think it’s a power issue, as we have them running straight from our 12-volt system, just like the old Linksys WAPs which they replaced.
    See here if you’re interested in the gory details.

    A local ISP recommended that we try EnGenius wireless access points, so we borrowed an EAP350 from a school (costs $100 from Amazon), and installed it in the office. It seemed to work well, so we bought and installed an EAP300 ($60).
    It covers the same area as 3 of the Unifi APs, and that’s without increasing its default power setting. And so far it seems very reliable.
    I see that EnGenius comes with management software that looks very similar to Unifi’s, although we haven’t used it.

    We are considering removing the Unifi APs from service altogether, and replacing them with EnGenius.

    Is anyone else having serious problems with Unifi UAP, or is ours an isolated case?
    Does anyone else have experience with EnGenius, good or bad?
    Are there any other great enterprise quality wireless solutions worth recommending for large offices?

  • ITC Admin
    Post count: 2
    #382 |

    I have had 3 Unifi AP Pro units running as a test system in my home for a couple of years with good experience. Their coverage is not huge, thus I have 3 in my 2 story home of 2800sq ft for complete coverage. Their throughput seems good, for example a speed test will peak at over 100 Mpbs even when other computers are streaming video, etc. My home environment is not a great heavy duty test, but it is not uncommon to have over a dozen wireless devices active at the same time. So its not just one or two laptops online; its way more than that in our modern family of geeks!

    The AP Pros support both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, with a Gigabit LAN connection. I have not been running the controller software constantly though (I don’t want to keep a computer booted up 7×24 for this.) So I have not experienced the issue with APs dropping off of the controller. They function just fine by the way with no controller running; it is not required for their operation beyond setup, monitoring, and troubleshooting. Of course in an office environment I would understand why one would want the controller software running to catch those rogue abusers!

    I can ask the guys in Dallas to provide some input about their experience with Ubiquiti APs. They have about 50 APs running across the Dallas campus, various models. Also I wonder if the different Unifi AP models vary in quality or reliability. We know they have different features across the different models. I wonder if the cheaper ones are maybe more home-grade. Marcelo can probably give us some info on that.

    I have also used EnGenius APs a few years prior. EnGenius is made by the same company which used to build Seano APs FYI. The EnGenius AP I had in my home worked fine until it got hit by lightning and the network port burned out. It is good to hear that they have some type of centralized management software now, but I haven’t had any experience with it. This is one reason why I moved to the Ubiquiti APs because of the centralized management capability.

    When comparing coverage between different AP vendors, be sure to test with multiple computers on the WLAN transmitting at the same time. This is where I would expect multiple APs on different channels may perform better than a single AP. In one of our other field offices, they had some older APs running DD-WRT and we found that every time a single laptop was doing a large download, all traffic to other clients stalled through that AP. It wasn’t noticeable when just surfing the Internet, but when >1 client tried to download a large file from the local server, it was a real problem. Anyway, different solutions – both hardware and software, might vary in how they handle this. Also it is quite common to see many new laptops and even Smartphones come with both 2.4 and 5 GHz radios (so ABGN wireless capability) and having APs that can serve both 2.4 and 5 GHz can also help free up the air space for better performance in an office environment. That is overkill on a small WLAN but when you get 20+ users all working over WiFi and 15 of them also have phones on WiFi, you will start to run into frequency contention issues. Remember, a WLAN on one channel is actually a hub for all its clients, not a switch, so more APs or more concurrent radio channels on an AP will perform better.

    Regarding other enterprise solutions:
    Just last week I actually turned DOWN an offer for a bunch of FREE Cisco donated network hardware including APs. I have quite a bit of former experience with Cisco hardware, and while it works pretty well, I have found it very complex to configure. We used some free donated Cisco APs a few years back and ended up having a lot of trouble with them because they were made for air conditioned offices, but many of our field offices are too hot (even Nairobi had trouble.) While this is a great solution for major corporations who can afford the dedicated hardware controllers and ongoing maintenance contracts to upgrade Cisco firmware, we found through experience that it is not a very good option for our field offices where conditions are much rougher.

    On the Waxhaw campus Jared has a combination of older 3Com and Aruba managed APs running (over 90 total!) but I’d say that solution is overkill for a field office, and it might not be a good brand for the same reasons that Cisco haven’t worked well.

    If anything, I would suggest that we try to stick to a couple of different vendor solutions at most and gain from the whole group’s wisdom and experience, versus the old way of “What can I buy that is really cheap (or free) and will just do the job.” In the end that often results in us having to spend a lot of extra time to make and keep the system working. So I’m encouraging us to spend a bit more $ up front and get something that works really well so we can ultimately install it and walk away until 5 years down the road when it needs a planned replacement. Our time is worth a lot more money than we or our management may realize. I might be preaching to the crowd here but I just wanted to mention this while we are discussing various solutions. Ok, end of rant.

    Thanks Richard for bringing up this discussion! I hope that we can collectively learn from each other what works well to meet everyone’s needs. Certainly as technology advances it is normal for new vendors or products to appear which beat the old ones hands down, so I am not stuck on only using a single vendor forever. =)

    Hopefully we can get some good input from some of the other offices using Ubiquiti. Others: If you chime in, be sure to mention what AP models you are running because I’m betting they are not all the same. ~~ Hank ~~

  • Richard Y
    Post count: 3
    #383 |

    Thanks for that, Hank.
    I totally agree with your stance on “free” kit which ends up costing a lot of time and effort to maintain…
    When others contribute to this discussion, I’d be interested to hear not just the specific model, but the country where you bought your APs too. I spoke to a Czech ISP the other week about Unifi, and they told me they find the Unifi outdoor wireless antennas very reliable, but have seen a lot of failures of the disk-shaped UAP and similar.

  • Ken Mullins
    Post count: 1
    #387 |

    Here at the Dallas Linguistic Center we use Ubiquiti WiFi Access Points and Controller Software. We have 55 Access point across our campus (about 70 acers). We have been using these for a little over 3-years. These replaced very old Cisco Access points.

    1. Very easy to use (install and manage)
    2. Inexpensive
    3. Reliable
    4. Management server provides lots of statistics

    1. Range is not as good as advertised (about average for an AP)
    2. On the 2.4 GHz units 20 users will max out an access point – use the AC-Pro (dual Band) in high traffic areas.
    While most of our units are the older AP LR (Long Range), we are currently buying (and recommending) the AC-Pro (dual band).

    Additionally, we are using the Ubiquiti Nano to shoot across the street to provide Internet to a 12-unit apartment complex.

    The one thing that you should be aware of is with the Long Range unit they have a powerful broadcast but the reception is not that great. This means near the edge of the range you may see 3 bars, but the AP will not pick up the relatively weak signal from your phone or tablet.

    Yes, I would buy Ubiquiti again!
    Ken Mullins
    Network Admin

  • Richard Y
    Post count: 3
    #389 |

    Many thanks, Ken – that’s good info. I notice you are using the more expensive APs.
    In Nigeria we chose to use the plain UAP model, partly because we can plug it straight into our 12-volt battery system without an inverter.


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