Securifi Almond 3 Review
We now live in an age where having a Wi-Fi network in your house is almost as necessary as a refrigerator. We’ve moved from bulky central computers that we share with the entire household to everyone using their own mobile devices. Most of those devices are connecting to the network, and the Internet, via a Wi-Fi connection. Most American homes now have over ten wireless devices in use throughout the day, and that number will only increase as time moves on. As our dependence on Wi-Fi increases, our need for reliable, fast, and easy to use networking equipment has been made all the more self-evident. Securifi thinks that their newest Wi-Fi router, the Almond 3, is the perfect solution to these common problems.
Securifi’s Almond 3 looks to solve three common problems with home networks: difficulty in setting them up and maintaining them, reliability and reach around the home, and simplifying the addition of smart home features into your daily life. From our tests and experience, we believe they’ve largely succeeded.
The Almond 3 doesn’t look like the average home router with its color touchscreen and sleek design, but it can stand with the best in specs. It supports wireless N and AC (at 300 Mbps over 2.4GHz and 867 Mbps over 5GHz, respectively) via 2×2 antennae. It also has two 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports alongside a USB 2.0 port. Its home automation capabilities are powered by an internal ZigBee HA 1.2 radio and can be expanded with a Z-Wave USB dongle. It also sports a built-in siren which can be used as an alarm or changed to a more pleasant door chime. The touchscreen is a 2.8” resistive display that works best when used with the included stylus.
The Almond 3 is firstly a network router, so we’ll start there. One major feature that the Almond 3 has, which you won’t find in standard routers, is the ability to create a mesh network around your entire house. If you have a smaller house, then using one Almond 3 should provide you with all the coverage you need. If you have a larger house though, you may have some areas where your Wi-Fi signal is just too low, or maybe completely unavailable. With the Almond 3 you can purchase additional units and place them throughout your home. When you add more of them, you’ll blanket your house in a larger and stronger network.
For our test, we placed the primary router on the first floor at the front of the house. We also placed one on the top floor at the back of the house. Just having these two units was enough to provide strong coverage over the entire house, and the upstairs unit even provided strong signal in the detached garage at the back of the property. The dream of streaming a college football game on the tablet, and taking it from the front of the house all the way to the garage was finally realized!
When connecting multiple Almond 3 routers you have two options. They can be connected via an Ethernet cable, or they can communicate with each other wirelessly. You’ll get better results if you can connect them with a wired Ethernet cable, and that’s how we connected them for our tests.
Securifi claims that the Almond 3 can be set up in three minutes. It wasn’t quite that fast for us, but we won’t quibble over a couple of minutes. The more important aspect of getting it all up and running is that it was very easy. All of the initial work to set up the Almond 3 is done through the router’s touchscreen. Once the basic network is up it instructs you to finish the process using their smartphone app. It’s available on Android and iOS. The app will walk you through the process of adding additional Almond 3 devices to the network. It has many other features that we’ll get into a little later.
In the past, the idea of setting up a mesh network seemed quite daunting. How would all the units talk to each other? How would my devices know which one to use, and would they easily hop between wireless access points? Would I need to place ugly boxes all over my house? Securifi’s Almond 3 makes this process incredibly simple, and the routers look nice enough that you won’t be finding ways to hide them.
If you’re going to be placing networking equipment around your home then it needs to look good. Traditionally networking routers have been ugly, so many of us have hidden them in closets. That decreases their signal strength, and makes managing them more of a hassle if you ever need to do something on the router.
The Almond 3 comes in black and white, and the front prominently features a touch screen. It stands vertically, so it minimizes the amount of surface space it requires. While the touch screen is primarily designed to ease management of your network, it can also be used to display useful information. It can be configured to display a simple digital clock or the local weather.
Smart Home Devices
Another unique feature of Securifi’s Almond 3 is that incorporates smart home functionality right inside the router. In addition to the Wi-Fi radio, it also has a ZigBee radio. You can also plug a Z-Wave dongle into the Almond’s USB port to monitor and control Z-Wave devices. Securifi makes their own Z-Wave dongle, and it’s available for $29.99.
Securifi has released their own line of ZigBee devices to accompany their routers, including an electrical outlet, door sensor, motion detector, flood sensor, and a new battery-powered button called the Almond Click. Fortunately, because the Almond 3 uses ZigBee and supports Z-Wave, you aren’t limited to the devices Securifi produces. You can use most any ZigBee or Z-Wave products with the Almond 3. We connected a Kwikset Z-Wave lock, and it paired and worked flawlessly with the Almond.
The Almond 3 is, at it’s core, a wireless router, so that means that it can also integrate with many popular Wi-Fi smart home products including the Amazon Echo, Nest thermostat, and Philips Hue lights.
The Almond Click is Securifi’s newest smart home product. It is a small square device with a single push button on it. The Click can be configured to perform different actions from a single press, a double press, or a long press. It could be used as a doorbell button to ring the Almond 3′s internal chime/siren. It could turn a lamp on and off, or trigger an entire scene. Since it’s small and powered by a battery the possibilities are almost endless.
Securifi makes their own door/window sensor. It is a battery-powered ZigBee device. It’s small, well designed, and can be configured to trigger scenes from the Almond app. It’s competitively priced, at $29.99, but is only available in white.
If you are looking to control a lamp or other appliance, you could use Securifi’s Peanut Plug. Simply plug your lamp into it, and insert the Peanut Plug into a standard outlet, and you can easily control it through the Almond app. It has an attractive cylindrical shape, but it is rather deep. It’s suggested price is $39.99, but can be found on Amazon for $31.99.
No smart home offering would be complete without a motion sensor. Securifi’s looks similar to most others on the market. It also has a built in temperature sensor. The Motion Sensor will set you back $39.99.
Securifi makes their own flood sensor too. The communication and battery are housed in one end, while the water-sensing probe is attached through a cable. That allows you to mount the sensor in a way that should mean it could detect water without fear of the whole unit being submersed. We didn’t receive a flood sensor for testing. Amazon sells it for $29.99.
Smart Home Configuration and Usage
Pairing ZigBee and Z-Wave devices must be done through the Almond 3′s touch screen. Once paired, you can monitor, control, and configure all of the smart home devices through Almond’s smart phone app.
In the app, you’re presented with quick access to all of your devices. The list shows the status of every device. The icon for each device can be tapped for the most common action. This includes toggling a lamp on or off, and locking or unlocking a door. Tapping on one will expand it to show you more details. The motion sensor will display the current temperature, the peanut plug shows how many watts, volts, and amps of electricity are being consumed by the connected device. Each device can also be quickly configured to notify you (through the app’s push notifications) when the status changes. Notifications can be configured to send always, never, or only when the system is set to Away Mode.
Of course, what makes a smart home truly smart is automation. Securifi has built an impressive rules engine into the Almond app. It’s unfortunate that they buried it under the “More” menu, because it’s definitely one of the best automation rules engines we’ve seen to date.
Rules are displayed as simple If-Then constructs, but they can be made as complicated as your situation needs. Would you like your porch lights to come on thirty minutes after sunset, only on the weekends, and only when you’re away? That’s a simple rule to create with their app. Conditions can include system mode, time (be that a precise time, or a window), weather conditions (temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure), or the status of any connected device.
Another feature that is possible due to the Almond 3 also being a router in addition to a smart home hub is that Wi-Fi devices can be used in rule creation too. You could create a rule that turns the entryway lights on and sets the thermostat to a comfortable temperature when your phone connects to the network. You can also just get simple notifications when a device enters or leaves your network. This is great for knowing when other people, like kids, arrive home.
The Almond 3 also supports the concept of scenes. A scene is just a list of actions that should all be completed at once. For example, you could create a scene that turns off all the lights in the house with one press of a button. That scene could then be executed by tapping it within the app, assigning it to a press of the Almond Click, or scheduled as part of a rule.
One of the hottest trends in the smart home space is Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The Almond 3 works with the Amazon Echo, Dot, and Tap devices to provide voice control of your router and attached devices. For example you could say “Alexa, tell Almond to activate Movie Scene”.
Getting the Almond 3 initially configured is a simple process, and it’s done almost completely from the router’s touchscreen. There’s a lot more functionality that can be tapped into using the app and the configuration web app. One nice feature that parents will love is the ability to schedule when a device is allowed to connect to the network. If you don’t want your kids using their tablet after bedtime or before school, simply go into the app and select the hours and days to block. You can also manage Wi-Fi settings from the smart phone app, like changing the SSID and password, and enabling or disabling the guest network. You can even trigger some network management features, like disabling access for a pre-defined group of devices (e.g., the kids’ tablets or gaming boxes) by voice with the Echo, as discussed in a recent episode of Home: On.
The web app for the Almond 3, which you can get to by simply browsing to the router’s IP address, has even more features. This is another time to point out where having the touchscreen comes in handy. Many people don’t know how to figure out their router’s IP address. It’s simple to find the address of the web administration tool from the Almond 3′s touchscreen menu.
The web app has all the features of the smart phone app, and it adds features that are more advanced. You can change DHCP settings, and you can view what DHCP clients have connected. The Almond 3 also has filtering built in. This would allow you to block certain sites or IP addresses. Of course, it also supports basic port forwarding and virtual servers.
The Almond 3 has a USB port that you can use to attach an external hard drive. Then from the advanced settings page you can enable an FTP server. Unfortunately it doesn’t currently support SMB (the type of file sharing you’re probably used to using) yet (although it’s on their roadmap), and since it’s only a USB 2.0 port you also won’t be able to expect blazing fast speeds. If you’re looking to use this feature you should know that they only support NTFS and FAT file formats on attached drives.
There are some premium networking features the Almond 3 doesn’t currently support. It cannot create a VPN that you could use to securely connect to your home network while you’re away. Securifi also doesn’t provide support for dynamic DNS.
Securifi has been making routers for over four years. They began with the goal of delivering a “router for humans.” The integrated touchscreen makes initial setup a snap. The mesh capabilities that are gained by adding more Almond 3 routers around your house can eliminate Wi-Fi dead zones. The built-in ZigBee radio and home automation integrations can eliminate the need for a separate smart home hub while providing some of the most advanced and user-friendly rule creation we’ve seen. It does however lack some of the more advanced features (like VPN server, dynamic DNS, and SMB file sharing) that we would like to see in a premium router. The price is extremely competitive in the mesh networking space—even before considering all of the built-in smart home capabilities: You can purchase a single Almond 3 for $149.99, and a three-pack is available for $399.99.
If you’ve been itching to expand your home’s Wi-Fi coverage or you just need a better router and are also looking to jump into the smart home game, the Almond 3 is a great device. We’ve been testing it thoroughly for almost two weeks, and we haven’t had a single hiccup. We believe the Almond 3 is a solid choice to be the foundation of a powerful Wi-Fi network and the center of your modern smart home.
We thank Securifi for providing us with the Almond 3 routers and smart home devices used in the review.