Destination UniFi

Destination UniFi
UniFi U6 Professional WAP

The Cult of Cool called UniFi has long since laid out its Kool-aid and cookies for guys like me. I’ve resisted them (the cookies and UniFi) as long as I could. But while you were tucked up in you bed all snug, warm, and waiting for Jolly-ol’ St. Nic to stuff your sock with whatever normal people like, I was staring into a blue glow, waiting for any updates on what would become either an early Valentine’s Day present or a late Christmas gift to myself. And since the concept of self-love is a bit weird and slightly off the beaten topic path for this channel, you can consider the most recent addition to my tech collection more a subset of the latter.

What Did I Get?

The U6 Pro is what you might call a fancy-shmancy WiFi 6 wireless access point (WAP). Now, hang on a sec; it's not the whole shebang—you'll still need a router to team up with the U6. Picture it as the rockstar WiFi radio itself, but with a twist—it's like the lead guitarist in a band, part of a bigger, cooler software-defined networking (SDN) solution. It even comes with a blue LED ring on the top; what’s not to love?

Key Attributes

The U6 Pro is a WiFi 6 wireless access point. That means you will need a router besides the U6—this is just the WiFi radio itself. But it’s much more than just a radio—it is a controller-based wireless access point (WAP), which makes it part of a software-defined networking (SDN) solution. In layman’s: it forms part of a greater whole that will eventually become part of the physical hardware required to configure and run the illusive single pain of glass that every network engineer dreams of. Shorter said still—it will make the home network easier to operate and maintain. I get practice configuring it, so that’s a huge plus both in the experience column and in the fun department (Network engineers are weird, I guess.).

The Long Journey

Remember how I said it felt like forever before the U6 Pro finally landed on my doorstep? Yeah, a whopping 26 days of anticipation! And in that stretch, I discovered that I needed a POE+ power injector just to fire up this beauty. UniFi apparently had a change of heart (or maybe a cost-cutting spree) a year or two ago and decided power supplies were optional. So, I swiftly placed an order on Amazon the Monday before the main unit was due, and after 2.5 days, my power supply made its cross-country journey from California. Yet, the main unit was still playing hard to get.

Getting Expensive

“Well, that explains everything,” I thought to myself. Customs agents were waiting (only about 3 hours) for a payment before releasing my networking gear. I ended up paying import duty on the access point, because radios are just one of those things that get hit by the tax man. So the WAP was taxed on sale and import, shipping was charged domestically to a drop-shipping service and then internationally. Before the product was even in my hands, I had dispensed $55 additional to what anyone in the States would have had to pay. 

With the growing expense, there was no sunk-cost fallacy. As a matter of fact, it just made me all the more willing to hate on the product rather than the process of getting it. I was ready to swear off anything UniFi in the future if the U6 Pro didn’t absolutely smash all expectation. To say it lightly, I was annoyed.

Insult to Injury with a Side of Introspection

As if the entire waiting game thus far wasn’t first-world-problem-harrowing enough, I found out that while I was eagerly awaiting my shiny new toy, the WiFi alliance decided to unveil the freshest WiFi standard, WiFi 7. Surprise, surprise! But here's the kicker—UniFi beat them to the punch. They dropped their U7 Pro WAP just a few measly hours before the alliance made the official announcement. And there was no way to return the not-yet-arrived U6 Pro. That sucker was on its way here no matter what. It would have cost an additional $45 just to return it and the shipping / duty costs (not to mention the $30 higher price of the updated unit)—I resigned myself to owning and operating last generation equipment.

It was with sunken shoulders I was reminded that suckers often are early adopters. That nugget didn’t do the heavy lifting in the help department it was intended for. Then I started to take inventory of the rest of my network. Unless the whole network were replaced, the updated standard of the U7 Pro would never be used to its potential. I don’t have equipment that can uplink to the WAP at 2.5Gbps in order to take advantage of the faster speeds; I don’t have a WiFi 7 enabled smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.; I don’t have a second WiFi 7 WAP that could take advantage of the 6Ghz spectrum to form a wireless backhaul with the first one; I don’t have a reason (at this point) to upgrade to a WiFi 7 WAP.

And with that, you’ve got it—my journey into the UniFi world. But hey, there's a lot more to unfold, like the battle of setting it up and the tales of how it's conquering challenges in my network. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, happy networking with whatever gear you've got!