There are only a few top players when it comes to professional-grade wireless hardware: Cisco, Ubiquiti and Aerohive.
Cisco is a well-known brand that doesn’t need introduction. They are synonymous with enterprise networking. Cisco is the best choice if you are looking for highly configurable access points that can be used in enterprise networks. Cisco is not always the best.
Ubiquiti has been a household name over the years for wireless enthusiasts who appreciate easy setup. Ubiquiti was once considered prosumer-grade equipment. But that has changed.
Both Cisco and Ubiquiti each have their strengths and flaws. This post will compare Cisco and Ubiquiti access point based on their hardware, configuration, management, support, and maintenance. We’ll even choose a winner.
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Start trainingCisco Aironet Series 2800 Series – $500+
Cisco has two wireless access points lines: Meraki and Aironet. The Meraki units are among the most powerful wireless units available and can be cloud-managed. We will be comparing the Aironet 2800 series to this unit. In either case, APs start at $500 per unit.
Ubiquiti UniFi AP PRO-HD – $349
Ubiquiti only offers UniFi as a wireless access point. The products include the UniFi AP Inwall unit and the 10-Gigabit XG access point. We’ll be using the UniFi AP PRO HD to compare it to the Aironet. It is roughly the same as the Aironet 2800 specs and is commonly used in business networking environments.
Cisco vs Ubiquiti Hardware – Which is Better?
This is a difficult area to compare. It’s not that the WAPs we are comparing are identical. We chose them because of their similarity. It’s not just about the specs. The WAP is the WAP. Hardware selection is not limited to these factors.
Additional hardware options
Cisco offers a couple of add-ons that make Ubiquiti’s 2800 an even stronger choice in certain environments. They are the Smart Antenna, and the Cisco Wireless Controller.
Signal boosting. Every WAP placement is not perfect. Aironet Smart Antenna connectors can be a lifesaver for anyone who has ever had to battle a brick wall while placing an AP. The ability to increase the gain gives those who are isolated a fighting chance.
Controller. The wireless controller is not mandatory. Unless you are looking to manually configure each Aironet, you will need a Cisco controller, which is expensive. It would be insane to manage 10-20 Aironets with no controller.
Winner: A Close Draw
Ubiquiti is just about equal to Cisco when comparing the AP specs. This is the general consensus, even if you add “for the price”. It’s not always the hardware that will make or break the deal. Other factors, such as the size of the network, configuration, management and support — and especially price — are important.
What is better: Configuring or managing your network?
When selecting APs, configuration and management are critical and depend on many factors. It is not necessary to manually configure and manage each AP, especially for large networks. We’ll compare the UniFi APPRO and Cisco Aironet 2800, assuming a clean installation.
Cisco: A Known Elements
The Cisco wireless controller is all you need to manage and configure the Aironet. The Aironets can be configured in a number of ways, and the WLC allows you to have even more control over your network. Additionally, Cisco has deep command line configuration.Whether you need all those little (figurative) knobs and dials depends entirely on your environment.
Cisco is a good choice if you have a large network that requires multiple SSIDs, different connectivity requirements, guest networks, or any other advanced features. But, let’s not forget about the wireless controller. We are not referring to each Aironet unit.