UniFi Dream Router (UDR) Review: 100% Near Perfect

UniFi Dream Router (UDR) Review: 100% Near Perfect

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In early October 2021, Ubiquiti quietly released the UniFi Dream Router (UDR), its first UniFi Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster, as a $79 Early Access device, to those who agreed to keep most of its information under wraps.

Not everyone managed to snatch one since the router kept running out of stock.

After six long months, on April 26, 2022, the networking company finally, and quietly once more, made the exciting router available to the general public, now with a reasonable retail price of $199.

Though the new cost makes it no longer a phenomenal deal, the UDR proved in my hands-on experience to still be the genuine dream router for many.

In fact, you can consider it the best Wi-Fi 6 router for those with a sub-Gigabit broadband connection. Get one as soon as you can before it runs out of stock again.

On the other hand, if you have Gig+ or faster Internet, move on right now. This review will make you feel extremely disappointed because the UDR has no Multi-Gig port. I speak from experience — the Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router is another example of how we can’t have everything.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on October 14, 2021, as a preview when the UDR was available in the Early Access storage and updated it to a full review on April 29, 2022, after a week-long hands-on experience using the production firmware.

The new Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router (UDR) comes with a tiny, helpful status screen on the front.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router: A more refined approach to the UniFi ecosystem for the home

The UniFi Dream Router (UDR) is the second Wi-Fi 6 router from Ubiquiti after the AmpliFi Alien that came out two and half years ago.

However, it’s the first in the UniFi family and the intended replacement of the UniFi Dream Machine (UDM), which has been one of the best Wi-Fi 5 routers.

Ubiquiti: UniFi vs. AmpliFi

UniFi and AmpliFi are two major networking product lines from Ubiquiti. They serve two different demographics and therefore have different architectures and separate apps and web user interfaces.

The UniFi family — represented by the Dream Machine (UDM), UDM Pro, UDM SE…, or the Dream Router (UDR) — aims at business/pro users. They are comprehensive routers that can also function as the central controllers of various products.

On the other hand, the AmpliFi family, represented by the HD Wi-Fi system or the Alien, is for the home environment. They are simple Wi-Fi routers, ease-to-use but with a limited feature set.

The UDM is the first UniFi product that also works well as a home router, thanks to the friendly design. In a way, it’s a bridge between the two product lines. And the UDR further solidifies that approach.

Still, Ubiquiti’s UniFi product line can be overwhelming and overkill in many cases. Generally, home users should go with AmpliFi instead of UniFi.

Since late 2021, the world has slowly transitioned to Wi-Fi 6E, or routers supporting 5.9GHz Wi-Fi 6. And Wi-Fi 7 is also around the corner.

So, it’s fair to say the Dream Router is late to the Wi-Fi 6 game. It’s likely one of the last major traditional Wi-Fi 6 routers that you’ll see me cover. But it’s also definitely not the least. In fact, it might be a testament to how we “save the best for last.”

But design-wise, you can’t look at the UDR without thinking of the UDM. The two share lots of resemblances.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router (UDR) vs Dream Machine (UDM): A bit of a misnomer

The new UniFi Dream Router has everything the UniFi Dream Machine has and much more.

For this reason, I’d say Ubiquiti overdid in naming the UDM. The UDR is more of a device to have “machine” in its title — it’s an understatement to call it a “router.”

But semantics doesn’t matter much.

Ubiquiti UDR New Firmware
UniFi OS 2.4.9 takes the Ubiquiti UDR out of the Early Access stage and adds two more applications, Talk and Access, to its supported list.

In any case, with the UDR, Ubiquiti has streamlined its UniFi family a great deal. The latest firmware, called UniFi OS, version 2.4.9, took the UDR out of the “Early Access” and has many improvements.

But at the core, both the UDM and UDR are UniFi controllers designed to be the “root” device that powers an UniFi ecosystem of different hardware segments and feature sets called “applications.”

Generally, all UniFi controllers share the same basic features and settings, but their capabilities vary depending on the hardware specs.

Currently, there are four applications, including:

  1. Network: All things related to the function of a network, including network settings, Wi-Fi, mesh, and the support for extender and access points.
  2. Protect: The support for IP cameras as a surveillance system.
  3. Talk: The support for Voice over IP phone.
  4. Access: The support for smart doorbells

Each of these applications has different in-depth settings and a number hard supported hardware units. The Network application is the default and available in all UniFi controllers. It’s also the only application that the UDM has.

UniFi OS Control UDR UniFi OS Control UDM

Ubiquiti UDR vs UDM: The former can handle an extra application, but its Network front is less powerful.

The UDR, on the other hand, can handle all other three, one at a time. So the UDR sure is better than the UDM, but not decidedly so. For example, the Network department can support up to 15 access points while the UDM can handle up to 40. But that’s a bit of a moot point since I’ve never seen any home that needs more than three.

By the way, to have the support for all four applications mentioned above simultaneously and at their maximum level, you’d need to go fully professional and get the UDM Pro or the UDM SE. This resource calculator which device can do what at which level.

In more ways than one, the UDR is built for the home or a small office — it has just enough power without going overboard.

Ubiquiti UDR Adding Applications
While supporting four different applications, the Ubiquiti UDR can only handle Network (default) and one more simultaneously.

UDR vs UDM: Hardware specifications

The new UniFi Dream Router is a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router. It has the mid-tier 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 specs and supports the 160MHz channel width on the 5GHz band.

On the 2.4GHz band, it shares the same 4×4 Wi-Fi 4 specs as the UDM.

Mind the confusion

You might read somewhere that the UDR is a 4×4 160MHz Wi-Fi 6 router. It’s not so — it’s supposedly a combo of a 4×4 Wi-Fi 5 (80MHz) and 2×2 (160MHz) broadcasters in a single hardware unit.

Specifically, the UDR is:

  • As a Wi-Fi 5 device: It’s a 4×4 (80MHz) broadcaster with up to 1.7Gbps.
  • As a Wi-Fi 6 device: It’s a 2×2 (160MHz) broadcaster with up to 2.4Gbps.

The nature of marketing is to take your cash at any cost.

The UDR seems to have a less powerful CPU than the UDM — in return, it doesn’t have an internal fan which is always a good thing — but has eight times built-in flash storage space. On top of that, you can add more via the SD card slot, which requires a 128GB card or larger.

The extra storage space facilitates the UDR’s support for additional applications — the router uses it to store recorded video footage or calls.

Full Name Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine
Model UDR UDM
Product Type Dual-band AX3000 Dual-band AC2000
5GHz band
(channel width)
2×2 Wi-Fi 6 (AX): Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/160MHz)
4×4 Wi-Fi 5 (AC): Up to 1.7Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2.4GHz band
(channel width)
4×4 Wi-Fi 4 (N): Up to 576Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2×2 Wi-Fi 4 (N): Up to 300Mbps
(20/40MHz)
Processing Power Dual-Core Cortex A53
1.35 GHz CPU,
2GB RAM
Quad-core 1.7 GHz CPU,
2GB RAM
Storage Internal 128GB Flash, 
SD card slot for a 128GB larger card
Internal 16GB Flash
Dimensions 4.33-inch (110 mm) wide
7.25-in (184.2 mm) tall
4.33-inch (110 mm) wide
7.25-in (184.2 mm) tall
Weight 2.54 lb (1.15 kg) 2.32 lb (1.05 kg)
Gigabit Ports 1x WAN
4x LAN
1x WAN
4x LAN
PoE Ports 2x 802.3af None
Multi-Gig Ports None 🙁 None
Power Method Standard AC power cord Standard AC power cord
Power Supply AC/DC, Internal, 50W AC/DC, Internal,14.4W
Supported Voltage 100 -240V AC 100 -240V AC
Power Consumption
(per 24 hours)
≈ 228 Wh Not tested
Internal Fan No Yes
Max TX Power 2.4 GHz: 26 dBm
5 GHz: 26 dBm
2.4 GHz: 23 dBm
5 GHz: 26 dBm
Antenna Gain 2.4 GHz: 3 dBi  
5 GHz: 4.3 dBi
2.4 GHz: 3 dBi  
5 GHz: 4.5 dBi
Wi-Fi Standards 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ac-wave 2/ax 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ac-wave 2
Wireless Security WPA-PSK,
WPA-Enterprise
(WPA/WPA2/WPA3)
WEP, 
WPA-PSK,
WPA-Enterprise 
(WPA/WPA2, TKIP/AES)
Mesh Ready Yes Yes
Notable Design Egg shape,
Front status screen,
Color changing ring status light
Egg shape,
Color changing ring status light
Default UniFi Application Network: Up to mesh 15 Access points/extenders Network: Up to 40 mesh access points/extenders
Optional UniFi Applications
(pick one)
Protect: Up to 4 HD cams or one 4K cam
Talk: Up to 25 IP phones
Access: Up to 50 doorbells
None
Release Date April 26, 2022 November 2019
US Cost
(at launch)
$199 $299
UniFi Dream Router vs UniFi Dream Machine: Hardware specifications

UDR vs UDM: Detail photos

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router UDR Box
The Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router (UDR) and its retail box

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router
Like the case of the UDRM, the Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router UDR is egg-shaped with a ring of light on top.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router UDR Ports
Here’s the back of the Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router. Note its PoE ports and the SD card slot.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router UDR Underside
The Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router’s underside

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router UDR vs Dream Machine UDR
Here’s the Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router (right) next to my existing UniFi Dream Machine. The two are almost identical, except for the UDR’s little status screen on the front.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router vs UniFi Dream Machine
On the back, the UDR (right) shares the same number of network ports as the UDM — all Gigabit. The only difference is that the UDR’s LAN3 and LAN4 ports are now PoE-enabled.

Ubiquiti UDR: A comprehensive enterprise-grade (network) controller

With the support for three additional distinctive applications, the UDR can do a lot more than just a Wi-Fi router, which is part of its default Network application.

But this default app alone is already extremely comprehensive. I used mostly this app in the testing since I didn’t have the need or the hardware for the Protect, Talk, or Access.

(Again, while the UDR, like the case of the UDM, is relatively easy-to-use for advanced users, it’s not a device for the general home audience due to the number of advanced settings.)

Note on privacy

All Ubiquiti network hardware of both UniFi and AmpliFi families requires a login account and remains connected to the vendor to work, whether you choose to use the mobile app or the web user interface.

And that implies privacy risks. Here’s Ubiquiti’s privacy policy.

Privacy is a matter of degree. While it’s never a good idea to have your network managed via a third party, the data collection varies from one company to another.

Power over Ethernet

The biggest novelty about the UDR on the network front is the support for Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). It’s the first (home) Wi-Fi router I’ve known with built-in PoE — two of its four LAN ports support 802.3af.

Consequently, the UDR works right away for at least two PoE devices, both as the power source and, if you use an UniFi access point, the network control center.

You can read more about PoE in this post, but it’s worth noting that the 802.3af standard is relatively old and has limited power compared to the subsequent and superseding 802.3at (PoE+) or 802.3bt (PoE++) currently required for many Wi-Fi 6 access points.

Still, this approach makes a lot of sense, considering Ubiquiti also has a good selection of 802.3af PoE devices for different applications that the new router support. For example, you can now easily use two PoE IP phones for Talk or two PoE IP cameras for Protect.

And the UDR’s PoE port will work with any active PoE devices of the 803af standard. I tried it with a few low-power third-party access points with great success.

Tons of Wi-Fi and network configuration, mesh-ready

Like the case of the UDM, the UDR can host multiple UniFi access points up to 15) or extender to form a mesh Wi-Fi system.

Ubiquiti UDR Adding Access Point
Here’s part of the Ubiquiti UDR’s Wi-Fi setting page. Note how the router automatically detects the BeaconHD and prompts to add it to the system to form a mesh.

I tried that with the BeaconHD extender, and the process was painless. After I plugged the extender into power, the UDR automatically detected it and prompted — both in the mobile app and the web user interface — to add it.

After a few clicks, the mesh extender was adopted, and I got myself a mesh, which worked quite well.

(I didn’t test the system as a mesh this time around, but I might do that when Ubiquiti releases the Wi-Fi 6 version of the BeaconHD, the U6
Extender, which is currently in Early Access.)

After that, just like the UDM, the UDR has everything you can think of in terms of network, Wi-Fi, and mesh configurations.

In fact, the amount of customizability can be overwhelming. However, you can just use the default settings in most cases and make gradual changes as your needs grow.

Ubiquiti UDR Mobile App Router Ubiquiti UDR Mobile App Mesh

You can use the UniFi mobile app to manage both the UDR itself and other supported network hardware.

Excellent traffic management and VPN support

Like the case of the UDM, the UDR has a well-designed Traffic Management section.

Users can create in-depth web-filtering rules applicable for a single domain or a group of domains/applications for individuals or groups of devices. After that, they can apply the blocking permanently or on a specific schedule.

I tried this feature out, and it proved to be the best “Parental Controls” feature by far.

In terms of VPN, the UDR supports a comprehensive L2TP standard server and now also features Teleport, a mobile-friendly VPN application once available only in the AmpliFi family.

Extra: VPN Protocols

This portion of extra content is part of the VPN explainer post.

PPTP

Short for point-to-point tunneling protocol, PPTP is the oldest among the three.

First implemented in Windows 95 and has been part of the Windows operating systems and many other platforms since PPTP is well supported and the easiest to use.

However, it’s also the least secure. It’s better than no VPN at all, and it does its purpose in making a remote device be part of a local network.

That said, if you take security seriously, or have other options, skip it. On the other than, it sure is better than nothing and good enough for most home users.

L2TP/IPsec

Short for Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol is the second most popular VPN protocol — it’s also a built-in application in most modern operating systems — and an interesting one.

By itself, it has no encryption, so it’s not secure where the IPsec — or IP security — portion comes into play to provide encryption. Therefore, this protocol is rigid in port use and can be blocked by a third party.

The point is L2PT/IPsec is great when it works. And it does in most cases, which ultimately depends on whether the local network of the remote device allows it to pass through.

OpenVPN

As the name suggests, OpenVPN is a flexible VPN protocol that uses open-source technologies, including OpenSSL and SSL.

As a result, it has a high level of customizability and is the most secure. It also can’t be blocked.

In return, OpenVPN requires extra client software on the client-side, making it a bit less practical. But if you want to be serious about VPN, this protocol is the way to go.

Performance-taxing Threat Management

Like the case of the UDM, the UDR has an excellent set of security features.

You can block incoming traffic by the IP addresses, but you can also do that even by countries or regions of the world.

There’s also a threat auto-detection and blocking mechanism with a world map of exactly where the threat comes from and the severity level.

Ubiquiti UDR Threat Management
The Ubiquiti UDR has excellent security-related features

Unfortunately, also like the case of the UDM, turning on the UDR’s threat detecting feature will force the router to throttle down its Wi-Fi throughout. In my trial, that only affected its Wi-Fi 6 performance — more below.

Still, the Ubiquiti’s UniFi Dream Router is one of the most feature-rich routers any home user can find, partly because it’s an enterprise-grade device. You might not have everything you’d like from it, but you sure will get more compared to any other home Wi-FI router of the same price point.

Ubiquiti UDR: Excellent performance

I initially used the UDR for a couple of months with the Early Access firmware and then with its product firmware for more than a week. I’ve been happy with it. Almost completely happy with it.

Ubiquiti UDR Wi Fi 6 5GHz Performance
The Ubiquiti UDR’s 5GHz performance when hosting a Wi-Fi 6 client.
☆ Threat Detection turned off
★ Threat Detection turned on

As a mid-tier router that has no Multi-Gig port, the UDR delivered! I generally got the real-world Wi-Fi 6 speeds comparable to a Gigabit connection after overhead.

Ubiquiti UDR Wi Fi 5 Performance
The Ubiquiti UDR’s 5GHz performance when hosting a Wi-Fi 5 client.
☆ Threat Detection turned off
★ Threat Detection turned on

I tested the UDR both with and without the Threat Detection feature turned on and experienced a marked difference in its Wi-Fi 6 performance, as you will note on the charts. The router performed the same with legacy devices (Wi-Fi 5 and older).

Ubiquiti UDR 2.4GHz Performance
The Ubiquiti UDR’s 2.4GHz performance.
☆ Threat Detection turned off
★ Threat Detection turned on

In terms of range, or Wi-Fi coverage, the UDR was about the same as the UDM, which was excellent. If you have a house of some 2000 ft2 (186 m2), place it in the middle, and chances are you’re all set. But Wi-Fi range depends greatly on the environment, so your mileage will vary.

Most importantly, I used the UDR as our main router for weeks and had no issue with reliability. I just worked. There was never any disconnection, even with the beta firmware, and the router, with the production firmware, passed our 3-day stress test with flying colors.

Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Router

Pros

Compact design with built-in support for all of Ubiquiti’s business hardware segments (Network, Protect, Talk, and Access)

Reliable Wi-Fi performance, excellent range, mesh-ready

Tons of useful networking features, comprehensive web user interface, and mobile app

Beautiful design, two PoE ports

Cons

No Multi-Gig, Dual-WAN, or Link Aggregation; middling Wi-Fi specs

Security feature reduces Wi-Fi 6 speed, Power over Ethernet doesn’t support PoE+ or PoE++

Requires an account with UniFi, not wall-mountable

Conclusion

For a Gigabit mid-tier Wi-Fi 6 router, the Ubiquiti UDR UniFi Dream Router is as good as it gets.

Unfortunately, since it has no Multi-Gig port, I can’t recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a faster-than-Gigabit network. And I can’t justify using it for myself, considering my 10Gbps Fiber-optic broadband.

So when I say I wish it had a couple of 10Gbps ports, I mean it sincerely. I hope Ubiquiti hears me loud and clear.

With that chagrin aside, the UDR is a one-of-a-kind home router that will give you so much more than the money you pay for it. That’s with the assumption you appreciate the intricacies of networking.

If so, and if Gigabit wired and sub-Gigabit wireless color you happy, get a UDR today! And if you find it out of stock, you just have to keep trying — you’re in good company.



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