Today I am reviewing a router that does a lot more than serve up WiFi and allow your Xbox One access to the Internet so that you can pwn n00bs. The router in question is the Almond + and you can tell it’s different just by looking at it.
This doesn’t look like your typical router. Instead of blinking LEDs and large antennas, the Almond +’s home screen displays icons in a 4 x 2 grid on a touchscreen that you can use to configure and manage the router. There’s even a stylus to help you choose items on the touchscreen. One thing that I should note is that you can turn the screen off manually or automatically after a set idle period.
On the back, there’s 2 USB 3.0 ports (for attaching storage devices), four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a port for your router. It can be mounted on the wall (the hardware that you need to do so comes with the Almond +), or you can use a pedestal that it comes with to put it on a shelf or a table, and it will blend into your surroundings easily. Thus it won’t look out of place in your living room.
The company promises a 3 minute setup via the touchscreen. It took me five minutes. But I’ll give them a free pass on that as it was dead easy. If you are the type that wants to set up every aspect of the router, you can set up the Almond+ manually by typing the router’s home address (10.10.10.254) into a web browser and going through the options. As a bonus, it can operate as a FTP, Samba or DLNA server. Plus it has VPN capabilities.
The router supports pretty much every WiFi standard all the way up to 802.11ac on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. In testing, it isn’t the fastest router around when it comes to WiFi. It lags behind the Linksys WRT1900AC and the ASUS RT-AC3200 which are at the top of the food chain when it comes to WiFi speed. But it was good enough to stream Netflix without buffering. One other note: The range of this router is way less than either of the routers that I’ve mentioned. It’s particularly noticeable on the 2.4 GHz band where I noted that devices on that band had problems seeing the router if they were outside the routers range. Other routers like the ones I mentioned above had no issues in the same conditions. The Almond + has internal antennas which I am pretty sure limits its range. But on the plus side, it can used as a range extender with an existing router.
In addition to Wi-Fi, the Almond+ has been tested with a large number sensors for everything from door and window locks, garage door openers, light switches and thermostats. Thus you can use it as a hub to automate your home. Now I had to run out and buy a a Belkin WeMo LED light bulb to test this. I was able to dim and brighten the light both from the Almond + itself and from their iOS and Android apps which is very cool. Plus you can use their programming interface to create scripts to automate stuff like this. Anyone can use figure this out instantly.
Downsides? Besides the fact that there are range issues with the WiFi, there’s no IFTTT (If This Then That) compatibility as well as geolocation. Both of those would really kick up how useful the Almond + is as you could leverage IFTTT recipes that are already out there, plus you could trigger actions based on the location of your smartphone.
The Almond + goes for $199. It’s not the fastest router around, but the fact that you use it as hub for home automation and it’s dead easy to set up, plus it looks cool makes it worth looking at for those who want more from their router.