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Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi system review: Master of none

After a long wait, the Almond 3 is finally here. Depending on whether you get a single unit or a pack of three, your experience with it will be great or you'll have lots of frustration. Here's CNET's full review.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Dong Ngo
Ry Crist
8 min read

Let me be straight up: As a single router or smart-home hub, the Securifi Almond 3 is isn't bad. It has decent speeds, is easy to use and set up, it's reasonably priced at $150, and it has seamless voice activation, thanks to its Amazon Alexa integration. The problem is, Securifi wants it to be more than just a good router/smart-home hub combo.


Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi system

The Good

As a single Wi-Fi router and smart-home hub, the Almond 3 succeeds with easy setup and decent speeds. It works with a ton of smart devices and includes voice-activation via Amazon Alexa.

The Bad

As a Wi-Fi mesh system, the Almond 3 is unreliable, buggy and expensive.

The Bottom Line

The Almond 3 is a good router and smart-home hub, but we couldn't get our unit to work as a mesh network solution. We recommend the Eero or Netgear Orbi instead.

If you purchase the Almond as a Wi-Fi system or mesh network, it comes with three identical router units for $400. The first unit serves as your main router while the other two extend the first router's signal, blanketing your large home with Wi-Fi. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.


The Almond 3 system includes three identical units.

James Martin/CNET

Wi-Fi systems like the Eero and Netgear Orbi promise expansive Wi-Fi coverage with simple setup and maintenance. And while both the Eero and Orbi deliver on this promise, the mesh network features on the Almond 3 feel tacked on and are buggy as hell.

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The Almond 3 is trying to be many things. It's perfectly fine as a single router or smarthome hub, but utterly fails as a mesh network with too high a price tag, an unreliable connection and an antiquated and buggy interface.

So what's the Almond 3?

As a router and smarthome hub, this is a midlevel 802.11ac Wi-Fi router. It doesn't offer the fastest Wi-Fi speed but it's more than fast enough to deliver any residential internet connection. What makes it different from other routers, however, is the fact it comes with a touch screen -- similar to the Starry -- and a built-in one-volume-level speaker that works as an alarm (like a digital alarm clock). Apart from Wi-Fi, it can also work with other smart-home devices such as security sensors via a popular wireless standard for home automation called called ZigBee 1.2 and is compatible with hundreds of web-connected devices .

The device is small, but in my trial it's still powerful enough to cover a small home, say, about 1,500 square feet, with a strong Wi-Fi signal as long as it's placed in the middle of the living space.

As a Wi-Fi system, one of the three units works as a router and the other two as extenders, effectively extending the range of the Wi-Fi network. When all three are used together and placed at optimal distances from one another, they create a mesh network that can cover up to 4,000 square feet with a Wi-Fi signal.


The Amond 3's touch screen remain the same, whether or not it's working as a router or an extender.

James Martin/CNET

Archaic touchscreen, a messy mix of interfaces

You can control the Almond 3 from three different platforms: the touchscreen on the device, a separate mobile app that you'll need a phone or tablet to access, and a web interface via your home computer. The problem is, no single platform gives you complete control. Instead, you need to use all three to customize the system.

That would be bad enough, but it's compounded by a device that appears to be using the same touchscreen technology as the original Almond released four years ago. So don't expect a modern phone-like experience here. It's more like a Palm Treo and is as archaic as the product shots you can see at the previous link. In fact, Securifi included a stylus with the Almond 3, because your fingers just aren't the best tool for this product.

So yeah -- this is not the kind of touchscreen you'd expect from a modern device. But since some features can only be accessed from the screen, you unfortunately won't be able to avoid it.

Buggy setup and management for a mesh network

While most routers take about 30 seconds to boot up, the Almond 3 takes a full three minutes. With the multiple restarts required to complete the setup process, you'll easily spend about half an hour before you can start using a single unit of the Almond 3, which is not too bad.

Adding additional units to create a Wi-Fi system proved to be frustratingly time consuming, however, simply because it just didn't work most of the time. There's a wizard on the touchscreen to enable this process, and everything happened as intended -- until the last step where it was supposed to take "up to three minutes" for the two units to connect. Five minutes went by and nothing happened, and then it timed out, prompting me to reset the satellite unit to its factory default settings and start from beginning. The second time I tried it, the same thing happened. Finally, on my third try, it worked. But I had no idea what I did wrong on the first two attempts.

Other annoying oddities

    The router's screen is supposed turn itself off after being idle for a couple of minutes. But that only happens if you leave it at the the Home screen. If you go to the Status screen, for example, it will stay on forever, even if I have set a password to lock it.

    When one of the Almond 3 units is being used as a satellite, clearly it's not functioning as a router. However, all of the router function icons still appear onscreen. When you tap on one of them, you get a message telling you the feature isn't available.

    When I changed certain settings using the Almond app, especially the Wi-Fi networks' names, one or more of these would likely happen:

    • A message would appear reading "unable to change setting" even though the setting had changed anyway.
    • One or both satellite units was disconnected from the primary router.
    • The old network names were still available, along with the new ones, resulting in four networks instead of two. (By default, the Almond 3 has two Wi-Fi networks, one for the 2.4GHz band and another for the 5GHz band.)
    • One of the new secured networks would suddenly become unsecured.

      All that considered, when I just used the default settings, everything seemed to work fine. So if you just want to use the system as it comes out of the box without customizing it, chances are you will have fewer problems.


      An erroneous message and the mess of Wi-Fi networks that the Almond 3 Wi-Fi system created. Note the open (unsecured) Wi-Fi network.

      Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

      Excellent smart home features

      The Almond 3 is one of the first routers with built-in support for smart homes. The Almond 3 is equipped to send and receive signals via ZigBee, a wireless frequency commonly used by smart-home gadgets, including the Philips Hue bulbs we use at the CNET Smart Apartment. This means once you plug an Almond 3 in, you'll be able to control them right from Almond's app.

      This was exactly the case in CNET's test. Keep in mind, however, that only a single Almond 3 router was used for this test, as CNET's Smart Home team couldn't get all three units to work together as a mesh Wi-Fi network.

      Aside from turning things on and off, Almond's app lets you control when specific devices are allowed to access the network. You can also label your kids' devices, then block them all at once when it's time to log off and go to bed. If you don't want to be the bad cop, sync Almond up with the Amazon Echo smart speaker , then tell Alexa to do it (and no, the kids can't ask her to turn things back on -- you can only unblock devices from within Almond's app).

      Almond's app also features a pretty powerful rules engine. It follows an "if this, then that" framework that's similar to the free automation service IFTTT. However, unlike IFTTT, it'll let you pick out multiple triggers and multiple actions. You could, for instance, create a rule that turns your lamps on and sends a loved one a notification whenever you return home after 9 p.m..

      The Almond 3 is good at detecting your presence because it tracks your phone's Wi-Fi signal. As soon as that signal jumps onto Almond's network, it knows that you're returning home. In CNET's tests, this Wi-Fi-based geofencing worked flawlessly, reliably turning things on and off as we'd come and go. Securifi also offers accessories like a motion detector, an open/closed sensor, and a smart button -- triggering automated rules using those devices worked well, too.

      All of it is more than enough for the Almond 3 to live up to the "smart router" billing. It's just a shame that the shoddy networking leaves those smarts more or less moot.

      CNET Labs' 5Ghz Wi-Fi system performance

      Netgear Orbi (single router) 416.2 229.6Netgear Orbi (via one extender) 415.83 229.3Eero (single router) 352.5 197.7Almond 3 (single router) 315.8 220.6Eero (via one extender) 170.7 60Almond 3 (via one extender) 159.1 110.1
      • Close range
      • Long range
      Note: Measured in megabits per second. Longer bars mean better performance.

      Mixed Wi-Fi performance

      As a single Wi-Fi router, the Almond 3 performed well compared with other dual-stream (2x2) 802.11ac routers. It has a top close distance speed (within 15 feet) of 315Mbps and when I increased the range to 75 feet, it still averaged 220Mbps. Range was good, too, as it functioned up to 130 feet away with two walls in between. Also, it passed my 48-hour stress test (where I let it constantly transfer a large amount of data between multiple Wi-Fi clients) with no problem -- it didn't disconnect even once during this time.

      As a Wi-Fi system (three units working in tandem), however, it was a completely different story. First, it failed the stress test after just a few hours. In real-world usage, I was disconnected quite often during multiple gaming sections (really frustrating!). My gaming PC didn't completely disconnect, but it still took a few seconds to reconnect to the network, which was more than enough time to lose a game of Hearthstone. That said, if you're just surfing the web, you likely won't notice the disconnection.

      In terms of speed, the Almond 3 system was par for the course as Wi-Fi extenders go. Clients connected to the extender are expected to have some 50 percent less speed than those connected directly to the main router. This is because the extender needs to do both receiving the signal (from the main router) and rebroadcasting it. The only Wi-Fi system on the market that doesn't suffer from this signal-loss phenomenon is the Netgear Orbi.


      Each Almond 3 can work as a router that has two LAN ports and one WAN port. When working as an extender, the WAN port is no longer used.

      James Martin/CNET

      Should I buy it?

      If you live in a small place and want a router that lets you connect all your smart-home devices, at $150 the Almond 3 isn't a bad deal. It's not the best router in the world, but performance is solid.

      However, as a Wi-Fi system, $400 is just too much to pay when there are better, less buggy, more reliable and easier to use "Wi-Fi for dummies" systems like the Eero or Netgear Orbi out there. Securifi seems to have shoehorned mesh network features onto its existing Almond hardware instead of developing a new system from the ground up. The result is a product with an archaic, buggy and unintuitive interface. And while you might be able to avoid the bugs by sticking to the default settings, the sporadic disconnection remains a major shortcoming. The Almond 3 system does a lot, but unfortunately doesn't excel at enough to be worth a purchase.

      Wait for the price to significantly decrease or a firmware update that addresses the current issues.


      Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi system

      Score Breakdown

      Setup 5Features 9Performance 6