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Networking

Alta Labs AP6 Pro Wireless Access Point Review

I have seen Alta Labs information, YouTube videos, and blog posts increasing in visibility over the past year or so. After contacting Alta Labs, they sent over a couple of Alta Labs AP-6 access points for me to try out. So, this review is based on the two units I received, but my thoughts are my own for the review.

Alta Labs – Cloud-based wireless

Alta Labs‘ approach isn’t new. Cloud-based wireless has been around for a while now, with many companies that have their spin on it. However, each company that comes into this space with its own solution to the challenges chooses to implement things differently.

I think this is where companies can differentiate themselves, along with the onboarding experience, the management tools, and the overall seamless ease of use for the solution. Alta Labs describes its solution as a “revolutionary networking technology” that can change how enterprise and home users implement wireless networks. I wondered if they could deliver to stand out in such a crowded space, but after setting up a couple of the AP6 Pros, I can definitely say they can.

Let’s take a look at the features.

Alta Labs features

The Alta Labs wireless features include many compelling capabilities, including:

  • Content filtering – out of the box with content filtering, you can restrict certain types of websites and services
  • Multi-password authentication – You can use different Wifi passwords to separate network traffic and manage connectivity
  • Wireless network color coding – With the Alta Labs color-coding, you can assign groups to wireless SSIDs and then assign membership to wireless access points
  • Cloud-based management – As mentioned, having a cloud-based controller is fundamental in today’s hybrid configurations, multi-sites, and dispersed infrastructure. It allows a single pane of glass management plane for managing your wireless infrastructure.
  • Multi-site management – Alta Labs has a scalable multi-site infrastructure management built into the platform
  • Real-time status – I really like the Alta interface as we will see. It provides real-time status and updates on network traffic, clients, etc.
  • Quick changes and scanning – When you make a change with Alta Labs, it is very quick to converge and sync the changes. There is no long period where the AP is down while changes are applied.

The Alta Labs AP-6 Access Point

The design of the Alta Labs AP6 is very cool looking. They have embraced a slick design for the AP and even control over the lighting and lighting colors for the unit, which I haven’t seen with most other APs on the market.

The AP features a polycarbonate enclosure material top cover and polycarbonate bottom cover and has a very rigid and sturdy feel compared to other hardware designs from other vendors. It feels substantial.

The alta labs ap6 access point
The alta labs ap6 access point

The Alta Labs APs cater to both enterprise business and residential users. Alta Labs uses proprietary software and hardware that enables the AP-6 Pro to offer unique features and capabilities. This software is a key component in delivering a seamless roaming experience and benefits like the multi-password single SSID.

AP6 vs AP6 Pro

There are two versions of the AP6, the AP6 and the AP6 Pro version. What are the differences? Note the following comparison.

FeatureAP6AP6 Pro
QAM Technology1024-QAM4096-QAM
Maximum WiFi Rate3 Gbps6.3 Gbps
WeatherproofingNot Available (N/A)IP54
Enclosure MaterialPolycarbonate and AluminumPolycarbonate and Aluminum
Mount MaterialPolycarbonate and SteelPolycarbonate and Steel
Power Consumption20W25W
Transmit Power (5 GHz)23 dBm @2NSS26 dBm @4NSS
MIMO (5 GHz)2 x 24 x 4
Throughput Rate (5 GHz)Up to 2.4 GbpsUp to 5.8 Gbps
Antenna Gain (5 GHz)Up to 4.1 dBiUp to 4.8 dBi
Wireless SecurityWPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise (WPA2/WPA3)WPA2-PSK, WPA3-PSK, WPA-Enterprise (WPA2/WPA3)

Multi-password technology for wireless SSIDs

One of the coolest parts of the Alta Labs wireless technology is the multi-password SSIDs. This idea is so simple, yet is exactly what many of us have wanted for years and has not been possible with other vendors.

Alta Labs allows multiple passwords for a single SSID, each providing different access levels and internet speeds. This feature simplifies network management in environments with diverse user needs, such as apartment complexes, by reducing the need for numerous SSIDs. It enables tailored internet access and security measures for each user, enhancing both network efficiency and user experience

With each SSID password, you can configure a different VLAN, Rate limit, bypass hotspot, and ignore schedules in place.

Multi password ssids
Multi password ssids

Network types

With the different SSID passwords, you can configure different network types. There are 5 preconfigured network types with Alta Labs:

  • Standard – Typical network with less than 100 WiFi devices.
  • Large – Optimized for hundreds to thousands of WiFi devices.
  • IoT – Restricted to Internet and local incoming connections only.
  • Internet – Restricted to Internet only
  • Guest – Restricted to Internet and IOT devices only.
Alta labs network types
Network types

Alta Labs also allows you to have a painless hotspot setup when compared to other solutions.

Mobile App Monitoring for Easy Management

One of the standout features of the Alta Labs AP-6 Pro is its mobile app monitor. With the mobile app, IT admins can manage networks from a mobile device. I will say the one disappointment on this front is the Alta Labs app is only available for iOS devices and not yet available for Android. While not available earlier, the Android app is now available here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alta.altanetworks&pli=1.

Alta labs ios app
iOS app

Mounting options, including Polycarbonate Drop Ceiling Compatibility

The AP-6 Pro is designed for mounting in many different configurations. Its compatibility with polycarbonate drop ceilings will mean it will easily work in environments with this type of ceiling without compromising signal strength.

Below are the package contents for mounting the Alta Labs AP6 in various environments.

Mounting hardware for alta labs access points
Mounting hardware included with the AP6 and AP6 Pro access points

Unboxing

Below are some of the pictures I took during the unboxing and opening up of the packaging.

Opening the box
Opening the box
Another view
Another view
Back side of the ap6 pro
Back side of the ap6 pro
Poe port
Poe port
Powered up and led
Powered up and led

Signing up for an Alta Labs account

One of the first things you will need to do before you adopt your Alta Labs access point, is sign up and

Create a new alta labs account
Create a new alta labs account

You will receive an email with the registration confirmation link and once you click that, you will be registered and the process is complete for creating the account.

Registration confirmed in the alta labs portal
Registration confirmed

Adoption process

Alta Labs has taken the heavy lifting out of the adoption process with their APs. In fact, you don’t have to get the MAC address off the device, etc. You simply need to login to your management account from the same network as you connect the Alta Labs APs. Once you do this, your APs are automatically tied to your management account! Pretty slick.

After just a minute, my AP showed up in the account and wanted to do a firmware update.

Ap appears in the portal and prompts for a firmware update
Ap appears in the portal and prompts for a firmware update

Click when you want to update the device. You can click to do it Right now or Tonight which allows you to schedule it later.

When do you want to update the firmware
When do you want to update the firmware

It will ask you to click the link to reboot the AP after the firmware update.

Click to reboot the access point
Click to reboot the access point

Creating your first Wifi network

Navigate to Settings > WiFi > Add new.

Add a new wireless network
Add a new wireless network

Name the network and create the password, assign VLAN, rate limit, if desired, and any other settings here to fit your network.

Multi password ssid
Multi password ssid

Settings found under the Advanced Settings.

Advanced settings in the alta labs management portal
Advanced settings in the alta labs management portal

New network has been created.

New wireless network configured in the alta labs portal
New wireless network configured in the cloud portal

The dashboard with Alta Labs is beautiful.

Alta labs cloud dashboard
Alta labs cloud dashboard

One thing you will notice with the dashboard is that it immediately starts profiling the applications from the WiFi traffic.

Top active applications in alta labs application discovery
Top active applications in alta labs application discovery

Filtering and blocking domains

The Alta Labs APs have URL filtering built into the dashboard. From here, you can block applications and domains. The block applications drop down has a long list of popular applications that can be blocked.

Block applications and filter domains 1
Block applications and filter domains 1

Changing the AP LED color

One of the really cool things you can do with Alta Labs is changing the color of the LEDs on your APs, switches, etc. I think this will really appeal to home labbers who may already have RGB running in their networks, especially with the switch colors.

Changing led color in the alta labs cloud dashboard
Changing led color in the alta labs cloud dashboard

Speed and performance

The wireless experience on this AP felt very snappy. The test below is using Wifi Man, and the “other vendor” AP that I have got around 350 on the speed test. Here, you can see a noticeable bump just connecting to the Alta Labs AP6 Pro.

Speedtest on the new alta labs ap6
Speedtest on the new alta labs ap6

A few other things to note

Tech Support and Customer Service

The support team is very responsive and ready to assist. They have the “small company” feel where you actually speak to someone when you email or need help. Their forum threads are already getting active with users and others exchanging ideas and helping with issues.

Simplifying Network Management with Bluetooth Interface

Alta Labs includes a Bluetooth management interface in the AP-6 Pro that allows for easier setup and management. This feature helps with hotspot setup and WiFi scheduling.

Wrapping up the Alta Labs AP6 Pro access point review

All in all, I have nothing but good impressions of Alta Labs. I think they are doing things the right way, out of the gate to start and not cutting corners. These APs are some of the easiest APs you will find to adopt, configure, and provision wireless networks.

The multi-password SSIDs that allow you to configure different networks just based on the password the user enters is brilliant. It is such a simple idea, but profound with what you can do with it. I really think we will see great things out of these guys and upcoming products and solutions.

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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