Sleek design. Doubles as a home automation hub. Equipped with multiple LAN ports. USB connectivity.
Expensive. Middling throughput performance in testing. Somewhat small touch screen. Lacks band-steering capabilities. Limited settings. Requires dongle to control Z-Wave devices.
- Bottom Line
The Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System brings wireless connectivity to all areas of your home and doubles as a home automation hub. The system looks good and is easy to install, but throughput performance is mixed.
The three-piece Securifi Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System ($399.99) is designed to bring wireless connectivity to the far reaches of your home. As with other mesh-based Wi-Fi systems, including the Luma Home WiFi System, Eero, Google Wifi, and the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD, the Almond 3 is a dual-band router that uses mesh technology to communicate with its satellites (nodes), which are placed in strategic areas around your home to provide a seamless wireless network. It also pulls double duty as a home automation hub, which none of its competitors do. It's easy enough to install and manage, and offers multiple LAN ports and USB connectivity, but there are better performing Wi-Fi systems, including our top pick, the Netgear Orbi.
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A Word About Wi-Fi Systems
Wi-Fi systems provide an easy way for non-technical users to install a far-reaching wireless network without the need for range extenders, access points, or additional wiring. Most systems, including the Almond 3, Google Wifi, the Luma, and the Eero, utilize satellites and employ mesh technology that allows the satellites to communicate with each other and with wireless clients throughout your home (the Netgear Orbi is a bit different; it uses a dedicated 5GHz Wi-Fi radio band to communicate with its satellites). The main benefit of a Wi-Fi system has to do with roaming connectivity; each satellite is part of the same network and provides seamless Wi-Fi from one point to another, which means you don't have to worry about logging in to a range extender or an access point as you move from room to room. Moreover, they do not require much management or configuring, unlike a router/range extender or router/access point combination.
Design and Features
The Almond 3 comes in white or black and can be ordered as a standalone router ($149.99) or a three-piece Wi-Fi system, which we review here and which consists of a main router and two satellites. All three components share the same basic design as the Almond router that we reviewed a few years back, only bigger. The boxes sit vertically and feature a 2.8-inch, full-color touch screen on their face. The display uses Windows-like tiles to guide you through the various network and home automation settings menus, but I found it a bit too small, especially if you happen to have big, stubby fingers. Thankfully, there's a stylus nestled in a slot at the top of each router that makes selecting items a bit easier.
The display offers tiles for adding smart home sensors to the system, checking system status, configuring basic Internet settings, and running diagnostics. It also has limited wireless settings that allow you to select a channel and change the SSID name and password for each band, but the settings for hiding the SSIDs and turning each band on or off were not working at the time of this review. According to a spokesperson from Securifi, this will be addressed in a firmware update.
The Almond 3 is an AC1200 (2×2) router that supports maximum speeds of 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 867Mbps on the 5GHz band. It's equipped with a dual-core CPU and four internal antennas, and contains circuitry for the ZigBee wireless protocol (for use with home automation devices). There's also a built-in siren (with an adjustable loudness range of 115-120 decibels) for home automation use. The right side of the router holds a WAN port, two Gigabit LAN ports, and a USB 2.0 port, and the satellites have three Gigabit LAN ports and a USB 2.0 port. You can use the LAN ports to bring wired networking to devices like gaming consoles and HDTVs and for connecting the nodes with Ethernet cable rather than wirelessly. This router lacks band-steering technology, which automatically selects the best radio band for optimal bandwidth and signal strength, but it does offer separate radio bands, whereas the other Wi-Fi systems we've tested (with the exception of the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD Home Wi-Fi System) don't.
You can manage the Almond 3 from your phone using an iOS or Android app or from your desktop using a Web-based console. The app is fairly easy to navigate, but it's missing a few key options, and several settings are not yet working. For example, parental controls are limited to turning off Wi-Fi access to devices in the Kids group and creating an access schedule, but you can't filter websites and content like you can with the Netgear Orbi and the Luma. Also missing are the Quality of Service (QoS) settings that let you prioritize network traffic.
The app opens to Dashboard screen that displays the network name, the number of active and inactive network devices, and any network notifications. Here, you'll also see smart home notifications and smart home status (Home or Away); more on this in a bit. A bell icon at the top of the page takes you to a page with recent activities, such as router resets and the name of clients that have joined the network.
At the bottom of the screen are buttons for Dashboard, Devices, Scenes, Wi-Fi, and More. The Devices button takes you to a screen that displays all connected smart home and network devices. Click on any network device to see its MAC and IP Address and connection method (wired or wireless). Here, you can choose to add the device to the aforementioned Kids group and create an access schedule. The Scenes button opens a screen where you can create rules to control multiple smart home devices at the same time, and the Wi-Fi button opens a screen where you can view network information, set up guest networking and change SSID names. You can also use Amazon Alexa voice commands to enable guest networking or to turn off Wi-Fi for devices in the Kids group.
Installation is easy. I connected the main router to my modem and to my desktop PC and waited around 45 seconds for the touch screen to initialize and ask me which language I wanted. It then wanted to know which region (country) I was in and needed another 30 seconds to save this information. Next, the setup wizard asked for a location (bedroom, den, office, etc.) and gave me three installations choices: Set up a Wi-Fi system or a standalone router, join an existing Wi-Fi system, or set up as a range extender. I chose the first option, hit Next, and was given the option of editing the SSIDs for both bands. I was then instructed to download the mobile app and create an account using my iOS or Android smartphone. Once I verified my account, I hit Add Almond in the app, entered the code shown on the router's touch screen, and hit Link Almond to pair the router with my account. The router was paired immediately, and I clicked Add Almond to pair the two additional nodes to the router.
To add the first node, I chose wireless as the installation method and placed the node in the kitchen, (the same location where I tested the Google Wifi point). It took around a minute and a half before the app informed me that the node was found. I confirmed that the blue LED was blinking, and it took another 30 seconds for the node to join my network. I named the node Kitchen and repeated the process with the next node, only this time I installed it in my basement.
Since the Almond 3 doesn't combine radio bands like most of the other Wi-Fi systems I've reviewed, I tested throughput performance on both bands. The main router's score of 187Mbps in the 5GHz close-proximity (same-room) test was nearly identical to that of Eero (188.7Mbps), but significantly slower than Google Wifi (491Mbps), the Luma (457Mbps), the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD (459Mbps), and the Netgear Orbi (460Mbps). The Almond 3's satellites scored 90.3Mbps (kitchen) and 115Mbps (basement) in this test, while Google Wifi scored 182Mbps and 111Mbps, respectively, the Luma had a throughput of 106Mbps and 101Mbps, and the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD scored 193Mbps and 189Mbps. The Netgear Orbi led with an impressive 480Mbps.
In our 5GHz 30-foot test, the Almond 3 router scored 161Mbps, and the satellites scored 80.6Mbps and 96.2Mbps. These scores were better than the Luma (76.1Mbps, 77.2Mbps, and 75Mbps, respectively), but couldn't match Google Wifi (175Mbps, 141Mbps, and 117Mbps) or the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD (223Mbps, 168Mbps, and 162Mbps). The Netgear Orbi scored 223Mbps, and its satellite had a throughput of 220Mbps. To compare these scores with a traditional router, our midrange Editors' Choice, the Trendnet AC2600 StreamBoost MU-MIMO WiFi Router (TEW-827DRU), bested all Wi-Fi systems with a score of 590Mbps in the close-proximity test and 260Mbps in the 30-foot test.
Throughput performance in our 2.4GHz tests was mixed. The router's score of 80.6Mbps in the close-proximity test was right up there with the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD (85.9Mbps), but the satellite scores of 35Mbps and 42.3Mbps trailed the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD's scores of 76.1Mbps and 75.3Mbps by a healthy margin. Since the other Wi-Fi systems were tested with band steering (and therefore defaulted to the 5GHz band), I could not test their 2.4GHz performance, but to put these scores in perspective, the TrendNet TEW-827DRU scored 108Mbps in this test.
At 30 feet, the Almond 3 router managed 47.1Mbps, and its satellites scored 31.7Mbps and 40.1Mbps. Once again the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD led with scores of 76Mbps (router), 75.5Mbps (satellite), and 67.9Mbps (satellite). The Trendnet TEW-827DRU had a throughput of 75.3Mbps in this test.
As with the Samsung SmartThings Hub, the Almond 3 can control Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi devices, but it doesn't offer native support for Z-Wave; you'll have to buy a USB Z-Wave dongle ($29.99) to control those devices. Also missing is the circuitry used for other popular home automation protocols, including Kidde and Lutron Clear Connect, that you get with the Wink Hub 2.
The folks at Securifi sent along a handful of devices to try out including a Door Sensor ($29.99), a Motion Detector ($39.99), an Almond Click button ($29.99), and a Peanut Plug smart switch ($39.99). It's important to note that the Almond 3 does not come with any bundled home automation components, so expect to pay extra for these devices.
The Click is a neat little gadget you can use to control Scenes and modes and trigger connected devices. At 1.5 by 1.5 by 0.2 inches, it's small enough to fit in your pocket or attach to a keychain. It contains a single button that can be programmed three ways (single click, double click, and one long click). The company does offer a Security Bundle ($219.95) that includes two door sensors, a motion detector, and one Peanut Plug, but they are bundled with the Almond 2015 model rather than the Almond 3. On January 23 Securifi will roll out its IoT Security solution for the Almond 3, a $3.99 per month service designed to protect devices connected to the hub from botnet attacks and let you know if someone is trying to hack your home automation system.
The hub works with numerous third-party products, including Philips Hue lighting devices, the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke alarm, temperature and humidity sensors, vibration sensors, external sirens, and more. You can also use Amazon Alexa voice activation to turn devices on and off, enable Scenes, and switch Modes (home/away), and you can create IFTTT applets to trigger devices. The Almond 3 is not subscription based and does not charge any fees to make devices interact with one another, which is the case with the Lowe's Iris.
When you're using the app, the background is blue when you're in Home mode and orange when you're in Away mode. The Home and Away modes make it easy have things happen automatically by creating rules that turn certain devices off when you leave the house and back on again when you return home. You can also have your smartphone act as a presence sensor. For example, when your mobile device connects to the hub's Wi-Fi, you can have the hub switch to Home mode or have it enable a rule to do something like turn the heat up or turn the lights on.
A bell icon at the top of the screen takes you to a page with recent activities such as switches being turned on and off and new devices added to the hub. The Devices button at the bottom takes you to a screen that displays all connected smart home and network products. Click on any smart home device to edit its name and location and turn on push notifications when the device is triggered. Here you can also view a running history for that device by clicking the Device History button. Oddly, there's no way to pair and remove a device from within the app. To do that, you have to use the hub's touch screen.
Tap the Scenes button to control multiple smart home devices at the same time with a single tap. To create a Scene, tap the plus icon in the upper right corner, select one or more devices and what you want them to do, and give it name. If you want to enable a Scene using Alexa, choose one of the Alexa-recognized names from the drop-down list.
The More button takes you to a page where you can create Rules. Similar to the Wink's Robots feature, Rules makes devices interact with each other using a process that is nearly identical to creating an IFTTT recipe. Simply tap the plus icon in the upper right corner and select a device or event from the list for the IF trigger. Devices include any connected smart home or network device, or you can base the rule on the mode, time, or weather. Next, select a THEN device and what you want it to do. You can include as many devices and actions as you want for each rule.
Pairing devices is easy, but as mentioned earlier, it can't be done from within the app. To pair the Click button I installed the battery, tapped the Add Sensor tile on the hub, and waited a few seconds for the Click to pair with it. I entered a name and location using the hub's on-screen keypad and clicked Done. Installing the motion sensor, Peanut Plug, and door sensor was just as easy. I had all four devices paired in under five minutes.
The hub and its devices worked flawlessly. I used the Peanut Plug as a lamp switch and it reacted instantly to my on/off commands using the app. I also set up the Click button to turn the switch on and off and it responded without hesitation every time.
I created a rule to have the siren sound at the highest level and trigger the Peanut Plug to turn on when the door sensor was tripped and both devices reacted on cue. Which brings me to my only gripe with the hub's performance; the siren could be louder. At the highest setting it was barely audible from the other side of my house.
To test the Almond 3 with IFTTT I created an applet to have a D-Link Smart Switch turn on when the Click button was pressed twice and it worked like a charm. Likewise, I enabled the Amazon Echo Almond for Smart Home skill and had no trouble turning the Peanut Plug on and off using a simple voice command.
If you're looking for a router solution that will blanket your home with Wi-Fi and control your home automation devices, the Securifi Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System is worth considering. It's a breeze to install and offers seamless wireless connectivity throughout the house, but it doesn't provide the kind of performance that you see with the Google Wi-Fi, the Ubiquity Amplifi HD, and the Netgear Orbi systems. Moreover, it lacks the robust parental controls that you get with the Eero and Luma systems, and it doesn't offer band-steering, although Securifi says it will be added in the future. That said, each node has three LAN ports and a USB port, which means you can connect to set-top boxes, gaming consoles, and external hard drives. And no other Wi-Fi systems on the market offer smart home support.
If speedy, whole-house Wi-Fi is what you crave, check out our Editors' Choice, the Netgear Orbi. It not only delivered the highest throughput scores in our testing but it supports Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology, which streams data to clients simultaneously rather than sequentially. If you want full control over your network, consider a traditional router such as the Trendnet TEW-827DRU. It costs around $200 less than the Almond 3 and offers excellent throughput on both bands, as well as USB 3.0 connectivity and MU-MIMO streaming. You can pair it with a TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE450) if you live in a large house, although you won't get seamless roaming over a single network with this solution.
By John R. Delaney Contributing Editor
As a Contributing Editor for PCMag, John Delaney has been testing and reviewing monitors, TVs, PCs, networking and smart home gear, and other assorted hardware and peripherals for almost 20 years. A 13-year veteran of PC Magazine's Labs (most recently as Director of Operations), John was responsible for the recruitment, training and management of the Labs technical staff, as well as evaluating and maintaining the integrity of the Labs testing machines and procedures. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, John spent six years in retail operations for… More »
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