A smart hub for the home

A smart hub for the home

The Securifi Almond+ is unlike most routers. For one, it comes with a handy touchscreen that lets you configure the router's settings without a computer.

My first experience with a touchscreen router was with last year's TP-Link Touch P5. Securifi was the first to introduce a router with a touchscreen back in 2012, but that model did not make its way here.

The Almond+ has a tile-based touch interface that reminds me of Windows 8. The tiles are easy to press with a finger, but you can also use the stylus hidden in a slot at the side if you find the tiles too finicky to press.

Securifi says it takes just three minutes to set up the Almond+. The initial set-up was indeed quick, especially using the Wizard utility. But the small touchscreen can only display a limited amount of information. I had to go through a number of different screens to get to the desired settings. Each change took around 10 seconds to be applied, which adds up when you can only make a couple of changes each round. Compare this to the typical Web-based interface, where you only save once after editing an entire page of settings.

The Almond+ does have a Web-based interface that you can access using a PC browser. This interface includes advanced settings such as port forwarding, FTP server and VPN server that are not accessible via the touchscreen. However, the clock and weather features appear to be available only on the touchscreen.

The Almond+ displays the time on its touchscreen like a clock.The Touch P5 trumps it by also showing the guest Wi-Fi network and password. Visitors can walk up to the router and read off the screen.

As a router, the Almond+ has a relatively modest set of features for an 802.11ac router. Its aggregate theoretical speed for 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands is 1,750Mbps, compared to speeds of over 1,900Mbps for the top models.

It does not support Wi-Fi Protected Setup, which is a convenient method of connecting devices to a router by pressing a button.

I could not find any parental controls while the quality of service settings are buried in the OpenWRT section of the browser interface. These advanced settings are hidden for a good reason: you should not fiddle with them unless you are a networking expert.

Its performance, too, is not as good as other routers in its class. Its average download speed of 430Mbps is lower than the 490Mbps managed by the Synology Router ($235).

But the Almond+ is not just a router. It wants to be a hub for your smart home with support for two home automation standards, Zigbee and Z-Wave. Supported smart home devices include door and window sensors, Philips Hue light bulbs and a Yale electronic lock .

By connecting these devices to the Almond+, you can control them remotely over the Internet via Securifi's servers using the Almond app. You can also set IFTTT (If This Then That) rules to govern the behaviour of these devices in specific scenarios.

The best part: multiple smart home gadgets can be programmed to work together using the Almond app. For instance, you can create a rule to turn on your Philips Hue lights at home when the door sensor detects that the door has been opened. This would not be possible with just the Philips Hue app.

But the home automation scene is relatively new here and you may not find as many useful devices as in the more mature US market.

•Those who are looking to build a smart home may find the Almond+ useful. As a router, it is easy to set up but is pricey and lacking in advanced features.


This article was first published on February 17, 2016.
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