Thirty Days with the AP6 Pro from Alta Labs Inc.
My Thirty Days with the AP6 Pro Wireless access point from Alta Labs Inc. AP6 Pro likes and features I find helpful. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have seen some first looks I posted of the new Alta Labs WiFi access points. I don’t do unboxing videos. There are several videos on YouTube if you want to see such things. They do it better than I can, so why reinvent the wheel. What I want to write about is the nitty gritty. I have done some posts such as first looks, etc. If you missed them, here are some links.
The first thing you notice about the AP6 Pro is they are hefty. Most of this is due to the heat sync. The plastic does not feel cheap. I will touch on performance a little later. There are a ton of posts of performance in the forums and on YouTube. Again, no need for me to reinvent the wheel. My goal is to use the gear in real-world scenarios.
I had some issues with the mounting bracket, but I, and a few others, seem to be in the minority. Despite my frustrations, this seems better than the Ubiquiti disc mounting brackets. One thing I have been doing on all my access point installs is using thing ethernet cat6 cable., This allows the cable to not bind any mounting bracket. I usually pair this with a surge protector or other box out of sight to facilitate the home run cable converting to the thin ethernet. This slight change makes fitting the places for the cable much easier to work with. I would take a photo of what I mean, but my test installs are horrible. I will improve them, but this article may never come out if I wait to do that.
One note I have when mounting the install bracket. Mount it to something as smooth as possible. This was part of my issue with one of the APs in my house. My first level has rough-cut paneling on the ceiling. This gives a little when you screw something into it. I may mount a little square of 1/” plywood to the ceiling. I would then mount the AP to that. This base gives a solid and smooth mounting surface that doesn’t give as much. I did not have as much of an ordeal in my upstairs office on the ceiling drywall.
The setup was a breeze. I downloaded the ALTA app and had a network going in under a minute. No complicated adoting. This brings me to a point I always worry about with any home-based cloud solution. You are essentially at the company’s mercy when it comes to the usability of your devices. If the cloud is no longer there, how usable are the access points? If the company decides to end-of-life hardware, are you forced into upgrading? Is this a bad thing? As technology progresses, your home devices should be on a life cycle. This can be hard for the non-IT person. Most homeowners are used to using a device until it dies. Think about your refrigerator or Washer and Dryer. Most of us only upgrade when something breaks down.
Performance-wise, I seem, maybe a bump in speed and range. My house has approximately 70 devices after you, including phones, computers, smart outlets, etc. Alta has set up these APs to scale to many more devices. This shows off the benefits of Wifi6 as you pack on devices, especially the ioT variety.
There are several features that the design team has learned from other manufacturers. The first is the mounting bracket I mentioned before. Even though it was difficult for me, it is a step above many other brackets. Another nice feature is the reset button. This is not some pinhole you must press with just the right amount of dexterity. The reset button is actually helpful if you are standing on a ladder and need to get a device back online.
Being able to change the LED color is a nice touch. Us geeks like to tinker with things. Speaking of LEDs. The indicator and status lights are easy to read.
I have been holding off on this post for one big reason. Early on, I noticed an issue with streaming videos on my iPhone. The videos would just pause. It wasn’t a show-stopper, but annoying. I remember a similar issue with the first Ubiquiti access points and other vendors. This was a perfect way to test the Alta support team. After some emails and chats with support and Matt, they planned to attack this problem. The support team was very transparent in acknowledging a minor issue. It was pretty refreshing not to have the blame put on me.
The support forum is very active. Part of this is because the Alta employees are active on the forum. This significantly affects how well a forum supports the questions and comments. I know it can be hard doing tech support. Speaking of web-related items. Alta has made the quick start guides a part of the product page. I wish more manufacturers would do this. Search engines seem to pick up product pages much better than support sites. Having a quick link to the support guides saves a ton of time when you need it. You can see what I mean at https://www.alta.inc/access-points.
Some things I will watch over the life of these units.
- How well the plastic holds up to yellowing. My house does not have wild heat fluctuations, but my new shop won’t be as climate-cooled as the house.
- The Cloud should continually improve its features and stability.
- How Alta treats aging hardware.
- Whether they come out with a local application for those who don’t want to run things in the cloud.
I am unsure how much of a fan I am about an AP doing content filtering. If this was removed, could the heat sink run cooler? I wasn’t taxing the AP at all in my environment, and it gets very hot. My model was too hot to pick up for more than a few seconds if I just left it on my desk. I have always been a fan of a modular network approach. Let the AP be just an AP. Spend all its CPU cycles doing WIFI stuff. An AP is not a router.
Alta has some roots in the home audio industry. I hope they use these roots to market this to the audio-visual installer market. These APs will blend in nicely in high-end installs. From what I have seen of other Wi-Fi systems A/V installers use, the Alta gear is better performing, looking, and quality.
This is a worthwhile upgrade, especially if you have some aging access points that might be N or even AC. For new construction, I would recommend these as well. I believe the new POE switches from Alta will be a part of a full-blown WIFI ecosystem. More on the POE switches soon (hopefully Matt).
This article has focused on the AP6 pro. You can pick an Alta Labs AP6 Pro from Amazon for $179 or from a distributor such as ISP Supplies. They also make a non-pro version for $139. With the Ap6 Pro, you get better Data Rates, which means more devices, throughput, and better waterproofing with the pro. For most residential homes this won’t matter.
Hope you found this article helpful. I won’t turn down Patreon subscribers or plain old PayPal donations. I think I will quit here and talk about some of the other specific features of these APs in future articles as this has gone on too long. Thank you for reading.j2networks family of sites