Dream Machine Pro: Network Overhaul – Part 2
I decided it was time to overhaul my network with the UDMP (Unifi Dream Machine Pro). My original network when moving into this house was a Google WiFi (gen 1) from TP-LINK. It worked well and had a lot of range. I could stay connected to the 5GHz band nearly anywhere on my 1.7 acre property. The area it was lacking, though, was in features and granular control. Also no real dashboard for viewing inbound or outbound traffic, etc.
When I originally decided to redo my home network, I picked up:
- A USG (UniFi Security Gateway)
- An AP-Nano (Wireless Access Point)
- A US-24 (24 port managed switch)
This worked great, but… the USG cannot run threat management without sacrificing throughput. So, if I wanted threat management I would have to be comfortable with a top speed of about 80mbps. However, I pay for a 100mbps/50mbps fiber line from my ISP and would hate to lose that 20%.
Unboxing the Dream Machine Pro
If you’ve read some of my other work here, you know I’m a sucker for well-packaged gear. Everything I’ve had from Ubiquiti has met that mark, and the Dream Machine Pro is no exception. It comes well packaged with plenty of soft, forgiving foam. I’d almost make the bet that you could drop kick the box FedEx style and the contents would be unfazed. But please don’t try this! I am not liable.
Aside from the Dream Machine Pro, you get a small accessories box that includes:
- Rubber feet for desk mounting
- Rack ears for rack mounting
- A hardy power cable
- Rack mount hardware (screws and captive nuts)
So why use Dream Machine Pro over a traditional “gaming” router anyway?
There are benefits to using either USG or UDMP. But choosing something in the enterprise class of network gear opens up a lot more control and power.
Stability and throughput
Prior to this upgrade, if I had more than two 4k streams going on in my house at once, or a couple of 1080p Netflix streams and a gaming session taking place at the same time, those streams on Netflix would start to buffer. Now, with the same internet package but using enterprise gear, that becomes a thing of the past. While my testing was not scientific, I can run four 4k streams while gaming on multiple systems. Buffering and lag are not a thing anymore.
I once had a rogue device on my network (compromised by my own silly mistakes). While this device was on my network, it was targeting servers owned by the French Government. I had no idea this was going on until my ISP cut off my connection and called me up. Of course, pinpointing which device it was took forever. I had no console on which to monitor inbound or outbound traffic.
The solution at the time was for my ISP to re-enable my connection, then watch as I dropped devices off my network one at a time with a 2-minute delay. Many enterprise solutions including the offerings from Ubiquiti have some form of threat management. This will allow:
- Viewing of inbound and outbound traffic in real time.
- Blocking certain countries of origin all together.
- Automatically flagging potential threats for review
Even if you feel you have nothing to hide, today’s in-demand currency is information. If you take threat management and couple it with something like PiHole and maybe even a VPN you will notice a massive difference in your online experience, be it less targeted advertisements or maybe no advertisements at all. Or even a faster online experience, depending on the website and the bloat that it no longer has to load.
Unifi Dream Machine Pro
I swapped out the USG for Ubiquiti’s UDMP (Unifi Dream Machine Pro). The UDMP’s significantly more powerful CPU means that I can run threat management and my ISP is limited to 1gbps, well over what my current plan is. Moreover, the UDMP offers a few extra features:
- Unifi Controller
- 8 Port switch
- SFP+ (10G)
- UniFi Redundant Power System ready
Having a built-in controller means I don’t have to run the control software seperately. Previously, this would be handled by a Unifi device like the Cloud Key or on a Raspberry Pi. The UDMP also has a hard drive bay that will accept either a 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive. When installed, that allows for it to become a Network Video Recorder (NVR) running Ubiquiti’s Unifi Protect. Protect allows for the control and configuration of a slew of Unifi IP Cameras.
On top of all this, the UDMP has a built-in 8 port switch that meets my current needs for wired connections. I currently only use 7 ports so the 8 ports are enough. They are, however, non-POE (Power Over Ethernet). My previous 24 port switch also lacked POE, but it would have been nice to have. The last feature on the UDPM is 10G throughput via its pair SFP+ ports. This means that in the future, if I should find a 10G switch, I have options. I can simply plug it in and have 10G connectivity within my home network. My Ethernet runs are all Cat6 and Cat7 cabling. I would only need to add 10G NICs (network interface cards) to the systems I wanted to have that level of connectivity.
The setup was super simple. The included “manual” is really just a business card with a QR code that loads the actual digital manual. Basic setup is as simple as plugging in your ISPs WAN cable (either RJ-45 or SFP+). Then load up the UniFi app on your smart phone and turn on Bluetooth. Setup and configuration takes a few minutes and then you’re in business. Note – the Dream Machine Pro does not include a wireless AP so you’ll need one. They do make a Dream Machine (non-pro) that has wireless built in. It is more akin to the Google Home Wifi but with many of the UniFi family’s powerful backend features.
Final Thoughts on the Dream Machine Pro
It is not cheap for the home user. It cost me just over $400 USD with tax and shipping. So it’s well priced for the enterprise market. Really, while it is rather costly, it’s still a fair price, even for home users, for what you get. I do wish the 8 ports were POE. But it’s not advertised as such, so I can’t knock it. You do have two options for your WAN connection – RJ45 or SFP+. But you can’t use them both for a dual/redundant connection setup.
It is easy to set up and solid as a rock. If you are a content creator, or a large content consumer household, it may behoove you to look into the UDMP. This is a must for smart home enthusiast; a solid network is a cornerstone for any smart home.
In coming articles I will be taking a deeper look into advanced configurations for the ultimate home network overhaul.