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As a router reviewer, sometimes you get a networking device that blows your expectations out of the water, and sometimes not. The Netgear Orbi – Top MU-MIMO Mesh Router blew us away. Sometimes, routers like the Amped Wireless ALLY Plus show up on your doorstep, and you realize while there are still a lot of ways that the major manufacturers like Netgear, Linksys, and TP-Link could improve, at least they’re not putting out anything as bad as this and trying to pass it off as a near-$400 investment. That’s why people go to the top brands for the best router.
What could a router do so wrong to miss the mark so hard? Keep reading on in my Amped Wireless ALLY router review to find out and find out if it made our best wireless router list of 2017.
Summary: If there’s one thing you should take away from our review of the Amped Wireless ALLY Plus router, it’s this: do not buy the Amped Wireless ALLY Plus router.
Price: $379.99 on Amazon
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
We test a lot of routers here at Gadget Review, from your muted “router’s routers” like the Netgear Nighthawk X8, to the totally over the top and outlandish options like like the D-Link AC3200 and everything in between. A new trend we’ve noticed in the past two years, though, is manufacturers moving away from the bigger, gaudy models with long black antennas sticking out all over the place, and instead going for smaller minimalist concepts that use extenders, additional antennas or mesh networks to push out an equally strong signal over long distances. To reduce the technology clutter in your house by integrating a wireless N, a DSL modem, and full routing capability, read about the option in our Actiontec gt784wn wireless n adsl modem router review.
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The Amped ALLY Plus Router is just such a system, with no antennas to speak of on the side of the two unassuming white boxes that come in the $379(!) package. Right off the bat, I couldn’t help but compare the aesthetic to another system in this category, the Eero. Other notable competitors in the race to be the smallest, whitest box of them all include the Luma and AmpliFi HD, which I personally loved but only for the beautiful LCD screen on the front of the central base station.
The ALLY doesn’t look bad per se, far from it. But it’s not really that distinctive, either. If I had to pick this router out from the recent slew of imitators that have done the same thing it would probably take a few guesses first, because aside from a lone LED light on the front of the unit there are almost no characteristics that help the ALLY stand out from the rest.
Under the hood, the base station of the Amped Wireless ALLY Plus router is running a positively ancient set of specs, including dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 1900AC radios, with three gigabit ports, one LAN port, one USB 3.0 port, while the extender included in our package has one gigabit port on the back. For this price I’d at least like to see an AC3200 radio, if not AC5400 at best.
Considering the price, these specs are pretty thoroughly underwhelming. You would hope that a company willing to charge so much for what’s essentially two year old tech without a whole lot of extra future-proof features on top would know how to cost out their product effectively, but here it seems they’ve missed the mark by a mile. Technically you can buy just the ALLY without the extender for $199.99, but even at that price you’d still be getting ripped off as we soon found in our tests. In case you want to know more about a Wi-Fi range extender that you can control with a touch screen display, open our Amped wireless tap ex range extender review.
The Amped ALLY dashboard comes in two parts: what you can manage from your smartphone, and what you manage from a desktop or laptop.
The ALLY app on iOS is fairly basic in its implementation, allowing you to only handle a few simple tasks such as editing parental controls or monitoring which devices are currently attached to the network.
If you want to handle anything more advanced than that you have to go to the online dashboard, which is just as slow and glitchy as it is frustrating to get anything done with. If you want to change any settings, you first need to go back and disable the app on your phone, which won’t actually happen until you go into your multitasking and shut it down completely.
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This is a ridiculous design flaw on behalf of Amped, and shouldn’t be anywhere near a router dashboard in the second half of 2016. When manufacturers like Linksys are nailing the router software experience so completely through software like Smart WiFi, the bar is raised for the rest and Amped hasn’t come close to even grazing it at this point.
Otherwise everything you find in the dashboard is standard fare, including QoS management, a firewall, and an AVG-backed phishing protection monitor that takes care of a job your browser already handles without any additional help.
Because of the way mesh Wi-Fi networking operates, it’s difficult to put the ALLY Plus in the same category as we would any other router we’ve tested thus far. What would normally equate to “30 feet” of distance from the router actually ends up being closer to 5-10ft when you take the position of the mesh antennas into account.
That said, the ALLY was still punching way below its weight class when you consider its insane price point. At a distance of 5ft on the 2.4GHz band, we achieved a decent speed of download 69.68Mbps down/99.46Mbps upload, a reading which was taken off both the extender and base station with the best result of the two posted here. Things stayed in the mediocre-to-poor range for a router at this cost with results of 199.93Mbps down/149.83Mbps up for 5GHz at the same distance, but all hope was quickly dashed once we put 20ft of distance between ourselves and the nearest extender (it couldn’t even stay in range at 30ft).
At max range with just one door in the way, we recorded an abysmal score of only 9.96Mbps down/5.45Mbps on 2.4GHz, and 12.93Mbps up/9.07Mbps down on 5GHz. For a router that costs more than some of the most premium, feature rich and powerful devices on the market (Netgear Nighthawk X8 and the AmpliFi HD are both around the same price tier with multitudes more functionality), these kinds of results are simply inexcusable.
What can we say about the Amped ALLY Wireless Router, other than “don’t buy it”?
If you’re interested in the design of the ALLY you’re better off going with the AmpliFi, and if you’re interested in reliable power over long distances you’re better going off with pretty much any other router we’ve ever tested (notably the $350 Netgear Nighthawk X8, the $109 TP-Link Archer C9, or the $229 Linksys WRT AC3200).
With a clunky, out of date web UI, annoying app, terrible performance and a $379 price tag, the ALLY router fails on every possible metric in competes in. Not to sound like a broken record here, but if there’s anything you should take away from this review, it’s “don’t buy this router”.