Covering WiFi weak spots with the Ubiquiti UniFi UAP-AC-IW

Background

In my first UniFi post I deployed a UniFi network at home. I mentioned there that one of the goals was to get a solid and extendable network foundation that I could build upon.
In round one I was just trying to cover as large of an area as possible (while also keeping myself afloat in the dark sea of networking knowledge), the plan was to later add more AP's to cover all the weak spots. One of these where in the master bedroom (bottom right corner in the sketch below). The solid foundation was in place, it was now time to build upon that and get even closer to WiFi tranquility.

WiFi weak spots circled in red

When I first started looking at Ubiquiti's UniFi gear, I noticed the In-Wall AP right away and it fitted my needs very well. It was marketed as sort-of per room WiFi, as I have network outlets in just about every room the idea was very interesting. The fact that it was a 2-port managed switch, powered by PoE, in a package not much bigger than a network outlet made things even more appealing. In theory, it would make a lot of sense just to replace all my network outlets with these.
Sadly, at the time, the In-Wall did not support the 802.11ac standard so it had to wait.
Fast-forward to now and the "ac" version is here with the fitting name of AP-AC-IW. Naturally, I wanted to see how it performed so I started off with getting one, possibly more if I liked them.

Installation

Installing these are very straight forward, however since most of us don't have Ethernet connectors coming out the wall behind your network outlet you most likely need to bring out the olde crimping tool.

What you get in the box

The before picture

The wall plate, lot's of fitting options here. The Cat 6 cable coming from the main hallway switch, now also has a Ethernet connector

Cover yourself.... Sheesh!

The after shot. Yeah, that power cord sure looks good.

Design

In general, I think UniFi equipment is very well designed. Sorry to say though, this one is a bit of a turd. To be honest I think it's quite ugly. It looks and feels a bit like hospital equipment or cheap American hotel equipment, which maybe isn't all that surprising given the target market for these (Hint; It's hotels and hospitals).
Never the less, they could have done a better job of making these a bit more attractive, the front panel just feels and looks cheap. It does not quite align with the rest of the UniFi series design either. I'd rather seen they used the same matte rubbery plastic as the rest of UniFi line AP's.
With all UniFi equipment there is a big LED light indicating the adoption status of said device. With this one though, the LED will light up your whole room since it reflects through a transparent layer on the front panel. This would have been cool if I was 15, now it's just annoying. Lights off for this one. The LED ring from the other UniFi AP's would have looked a lot better.
On the bright side though (see what I did there?) the switch ports are on the bottom of the front panel, which looks good and makes it easier with placement in regards to furniture.

Ports

Configuration Options

In it's default configuration the switch in the AP-AC-IW is not "managed". Other than just adopting it from your controller, you need to add it to your LAN to get access to VLAN port configuration etc. You can do this from AP configuration in the UniFi controller of course.

First I make the adoption.... then I make the config

However the switch configuration options are a bit limited in this one sadly.

  • No Spanning Tree Priority
  • No Port Isolation
  • No control over PoE-out (on/off/passive)
  • No Port mirroring

IGMP Snooping does not seem to work either. Hooked up to my In-Wall is a IPTV STB. The IPTV streams where constantly "leaking" on the the WiFi. Which killed my throughput. I had to solve this by restricting the LAN to WLAN broadcasting from the WLAN options in the UniFi controller. Then override that for the couple of devices that actually needed it (Xbox, Apple-Tv's etc.).

WiFi Performance

As mentioned this first one went into the bedroom. The room is 4x3m give or take, with the AP placed about 50cm in on one the wide sides. This gives me pretty good coverage across the whole room.

This is looking better and better (WiFi coverage map in the UniFi controller)

As per my own advice, setting the AP to 80Mhz wide channels and medium Tx power I get around 350Mbps download speeds off this one. Maxing at around 400Mbps. It's pretty good, given my 500Mbps fiber connection but my AP-AC-LR's are more consistently getting higher speeds.
The signal strength is pretty good across the whole room, even though there is a large bed in the middle of it. I did a small coverage map after discovering a handy little tool called WiFi Survey in Scott Hanselmans AmpliFi post.
The tool let's you take scan points and then superimpose them on a image of your floorplan. It's a bit rough but does the job. Hopefully it will give you an idea of the relative coverage of the AP-AC-IW.

Signal strength map from WiFi Survey

The AP is mounted on a concrete wall, so keep that in mind when looking at the scan points taken behind the AP.

Verdict

The AP-AC-IW does what it set out to do, but I'm not totally sold on these.
Mainly cause of the lackluster design and the missing switch configuration options. As with all UniFi gear though, updates are regularly coming out so hopefully we'll see at least a couple of the config options arrive soon.
In terms of WiFi, I'm pretty happy with both coverage and performance, especially considering it's a device replacing your network outlet.

Did it cover my weak spot? It sure did, before the hallway AP-AC-LR was giving me ~250Mbps in the bedroom, with the AP-AC-IW this was now ~350Mbps.

Will I get more? Mmmmaybe, There is a Pro variant of the IW coming with 3x3 MIMO, this might be something to try in the kitchen area. It's probably a few months away from being broadly available in Sweden though, stay tuned.

Will I replace all my AP's with In-Wall's? No, the LR's are giving me better coverage and better performance so I'm going to hang on to them.

Next, I'm doing a post on how to diagnose LAN and WLAN issues and what tools and methods I use.

Update

I went out and got another one for the kitchen area. Interesting enough, this one is performing considerably better than my first one, ~450Mbps download. I'm not using any of the wired ports, but it's promising to see you can get really good performance out of these. Clearly I need to do some further diagnostics on the bedroom one.

This should be enough for a while

Really nice to see all of this coming together, the AP's roam to the next one just when you want them to and they all perform really good.
It will be interesting to see how WiFi behaves in the study (between the In-Walls).

Douglas Isaksson

Writes code for a living out of Stockholm, Sweden. Technology and Legendary Beer enthusiast.

Sweden