Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi system review – CNET

Let me be straight up: As a single router or smart-home hub, the Securifi Almond 3 is isn’t bad. It has decent speeds, is easy to use and set up, it’s reasonably priced at $150, and it has seamless voice activation, thanks to its Amazon Alexa integration.

Let me be straight up: As a single router or smart-home hub, the Securifi Almond 3 is isn’t bad. It has decent speeds, is easy to use and set up, it’s reasonably priced at $150, and it has seamless voice activation, thanks to its Amazon Alexa integration. The problem is, Securifi wants it to be more than just a good router/smart-home hub combo.

If you purchase the Almond as a Wi-Fi system or mesh network, it comes with three identical router units for $400. The first unit serves as your main router while the other two extend the first router’s signal, blanketing your large home with Wi-Fi. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Wi-Fi systems like the Eero and Netgear Orbi promise expansive Wi-Fi coverage with simple setup and maintenance. And while both the Eero and Orbi deliver on this promise, the mesh network features on the Almond 3 feel tacked on and are buggy as hell.

The Almond 3 is trying to be many things. It’s perfectly fine as a single router or smarthome hub, but utterly fails as a mesh network with too high a price tag, an unreliable connection and an antiquated and buggy interface.

So what’s the Almond 3?

As a router and smarthome hub, this is a midlevel 802.11ac Wi-Fi router. It doesn’t offer the fastest Wi-Fi speed but it’s more than fast enough to deliver any residential internet connection. What makes it different from other routers, however, is the fact it comes with a touch screen — similar to the Starry — and a built-in one-volume-level speaker that works as an alarm (like a digital alarm clock). Apart from Wi-Fi, it can also work with other smart-home devices such as security sensors via a popular wireless standard for home automation called called ZigBee 1.2 and is compatible with hundreds of web-connected devices .

The device is small, but in my trial it’s still powerful enough to cover a small home, say, about 1,500 square feet, with a strong Wi-Fi signal as long as it’s placed in the middle of the living space.

As a Wi-Fi system, one of the three units works as a router and the other two as extenders, effectively extending the range of the Wi-Fi network. When all three are used together and placed at optimal distances from one another, they create a mesh network that can cover up to 4,000 square feet with a Wi-Fi signal.

Archaic touchscreen, a messy mix of interfaces

You can control the Almond 3 from three different platforms: the touchscreen on the device, a separate mobile app that you’ll need a phone or tablet to access, and a web interface via your home computer. The problem is, no single platform gives you complete control. Instead, you need to use all three to customize the system.

That would be bad enough, but it’s compounded by a device that appears to be using the same touchscreen technology as the original Almond released four years ago. So don’t expect a modern phone-like experience here. It’s more like a Palm Treo and is as archaic as the product shots you can see at the previous link. In fact, Securifi included a stylus with the Almond 3, because your fingers just aren’t the best tool for this product.

So yeah — this is not the kind of touchscreen you’d expect from a modern device. But since some features can only be accessed from the screen, you unfortunately won’t be able to avoid it.

Buggy setup and management for a mesh network

While most routers take about 30 seconds to boot up, the Almond 3 takes a full three minutes. With the multiple restarts required to complete the setup process, you’ll easily spend about half an hour before you can start using a single unit of the Almond 3, which is not too bad.

Adding additional units to create a Wi-Fi system proved to be frustratingly time consuming, however, simply because it just didn’t work most of the time. There’s a wizard on the touchscreen to enable this process, and everything happened as intended — until the last step where it was supposed to take “up to three minutes” for the two units to connect. Five minutes went by and nothing happened, and then it timed out, prompting me to reset the satellite unit to its factory default settings and start from beginning. The second time I tried it, the same thing happened. Finally, on my third try, it worked. But I had no idea what I did wrong on the first two attempts.

Other annoying oddities

The router’s screen is supposed turn itself off after being idle for a couple of minutes. But that only happens if you leave it at the the Home screen. If you go to the Status screen, for example, it will stay on forever, even if I have set a password to lock it.

When one of the Almond 3 units is being used as a satellite, clearly it’s not functioning as a router. However, all of the router function icons still appear onscreen. When you tap on one of them, you get a message telling you the feature isn’t available.

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