Peplink MAX HD1 Dome

The MAX series of LTE products from Peplink has a number of different forms, including the MAX Transit, HD switch-style, outdoor, and the HD1 and HD2 domes. I finally was able to get a MAX HD1 Dome with Category 18 modems, and am very excited to be testing it over the next few weeks.

This is an initial overview of the product itself, some of the configurations I am considering, and a complete walk through video of the components. It is not a full review (yet!).

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Video Walk Through

This video shows you all of the details behind the dome, SIM injector, mounting options, and pros and cons of the system.

Please give it a watch and a like if you enjoy it, and subscribe to my channel. I plan on doing more videos like this for new hardware and devices.

I ordered the following from 5GStore:

With that comes a lot of bits and pieces which I’ll cover below.

HD1 Dome

The dome itself is about the size of a large soup bowl and is very well made. It is designed to be mounted outdoors in the elements. On the bottom of the dome is the main pipe where you can access the ethernet port, screw holes for various mounting options, a status light near the label, and a rubber seal that protects everything when mounted.

The bottom of the dome is extremely flat, so if you plan on mounting it without any other brackets, you’ll need a very flat surface, or need to ensure proper sealing. The rubber seal may not be enough, but using a sealant is likely a bad idea – if you do not purchase the SIM injector, you’ll need to open the dome to add a SIM card (it can hold two) which means if you ever need to access it in the future, you’ll have to undo your sealant, etc. This is one of the reasons I’m using the mounting kit you’ll see below.

The top of the dome is a perfect place for a seagull to stand.

Inside the threaded pipe on the bottom is the single ethernet port which will connect the dome to your network. It uses 802.3at power over ethernet (PoE) which provides it power to operate as well as network connectivity. There’s also a status light and a reset button.

Note: PoE has different standards just like many other technology items. If you already have PoE on board for cameras, MikroTik Groove, etc. that does not mean it will work with this product. 802.3at is higher power/voltage than most older PoE equipment, so check your standards!

The pipe is threaded with a cutout for the ethernet cable to be routed out at an angle if needed.

The dome comes with a beautifully machined (and heavy!) stainless steel washer and nut.

The pipe itself is about 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ (check the actual measurements) and you could bore a hole in a flat surface, stick this through, and use the nice washer and nut to mount it. I won’t be doing that on the boat due to access and the flat surface I’d need.

Ethernet Splitter

A nice inclusion in the kit is the ethernet splitter which does exactly what it says – splits the ethernet port so you can actually have another device connected.

It mounts on the bottom of the dome using provided screws with threadlocker already applied, and has various mounting options. Once connected to the dome, you end up with an inbound port (LAN1) which should be from your power over ethernet / network source, and an outbound port (LAN2) which could be used to power another PoE device. This could be another Peplink Dome, an outdoor camera, or anything else that works with 802.3at.

Peplink include a really nice set of connectors so that you can completely waterproof the ethernet connection, which is one of the main reasons I used the ethernet splitter. You have to use un-terminated cabling to get through the connector bits, and put your own end on, but that is a small price to pay for a very waterproof connection.

Mounting Bits

In addition to the big washer and nut, you get a bracket that can be used for flat or pole mounting and the hardware for both of those options, including screws, bolts, washers, etc.

I chose to use the bracket mounted to the ethernet splitter – it slides into the slots and two big bolts and washers hold it together.

The modularity is nice – being able to mount the bracket first, and then slide the dome in and out made it easy for install, and it will also be easy for servicing if I ever need to do that.

SIM Injector

2019-01-22_141336

The SIM Injector is a separate purchase, but well worth it – most vendors will ask if you want it included on a quote for the Dome. It includes 4 ethernet ports that can power devices or connect to other networking equipment and 8 SIM slots. There are indicator lights for each SIM slot and the ports, and both a barrel connector for the power as well as a screw down block.

The main benefit of this unit has to do with where it can be located in relation to the dome – inside in a safe, water-free environment. This allows you to have your SIM cards easily accessible in case you need to change them. For those of us who cross borders and need to get an in-country SIM every year, or change things depending on plans, this is very convenient.

It also provides power to the HD1 dome via power over ethernet, as long as you have at least 48V of DC power flowing into it. This is part of the simplification with this entire setup when it comes to a single ethernet cable to the outdoor portion of the system. However, it does require 48 volts of DC power for this to work, so you will need a step up voltage converter depending on your boat voltage.

Cost

These are list prices at the time of this article being published. You can usually find cheaper prices at 5Gstore or another reseller:

HD1 Dome: $1499
SIM Injector: $999

This is a total of $2498 at list prices. If that’s not sticker shock enough for you, consider the HD2 dome, which has two LTE radios, at $3499! I’m not sure why it’s more than double the cost of the HD1, but there you go….

If you compare a similar MAX Transit CAT18 router with appropriate cabling and antennas:

MAX Transit CAT18: $749
2x Poynting OMNI-402 antennas: $820
4x 15′ LMR-400 Ultraflex cables: $220

That’s a total of $1789, which is about $700 cheaper than the HD1 Dome+SIM injector, and provides the full feature set of the MAX series, including an indoor WiFi dual band access point, outdoor WiFi as WAN, and can run directly off of 12V DC. But, it requires a lot of cabling and wires, and space to mount 2x OMNI-402 antennas, and potential signal loss.

What you get

Excellent CAT18 modem with outdoor antennas, as close as possible to the signal.

A weatherproof dome with well designed mounting options, status lights you can see from below, and lots of different ways to deal with installation.

Easy cabling and connectivity – a single Ethernet cable is all that is required to connect the dome to the indoor SIM injector.

Indoor SIM management for up to 8 SIMs, 4 PoE ethernet ports that can be used for directly connecting devices.

Full Peplink router software and control.

What you’re missing

Any sort of WiFi – the HD1 only has LTE radios, and no capability to broadcast or receive WiFi. This means all devices that use the HD1 must be plugged in to the SIM injector via Ethernet, or you will need to add an indoor WiFi access point/router of some sort.

For a full on-boat system, you’ll need:

  • A WiFi access point such as the AP One Rugged, which the HD1 Dome can manage.
  • A way to grab remote WiFi signals such as a MikroTik Groove, or a MAX Transit / BR1. etc.

48v to 12v power converter. For the price, and given that I have yet to see a car/boat/RV/bus have 56v, I think Peplink should have included some sort of converter. You can get them on Amazon for pretty cheap, but it would have been nice to include with this expensive solution.

In addition, there are still some features that are available when a SIM card is directly in the router that require beta or unreleased software, and others which I have not been able to validate work at all, even with that firmware. These include things like roaming (in beta software), signal level failover (sometimes works) and a few other things. You may wish to peruse the Peplink forums prior to purchasing to get more up to date info.

Testing

I will not be opening the HD1 Dome and putting SIMs directly inside of it. I don’t want to break the waterproof seal, and will be using the SIM injector indoors at all times.

The dome is mounted on an arch on my boat as high as possible. There are a few other antennas nearby, but they should not affect it that much, if at all.

I am testing the Dome with US carriers T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, as I do with almost everything I get my hands on. I’m comparing it against a Peplink MAX Transit CAT18 that has 2x Poynting OMNI-402 antennas mounted on the same arch as the Dome, so it’s about as close to a perfect comparison between these two approaches as possible.

In initial testing, it has performed extremely well, either meeting or exceeding the performance of the Peplink MAX Transit. Testing continues….

Roundup

Pros

  • LTE radios should have amazing signal levels since they’re outside
  • Great mounting options
  • Single ethernet cable installation
  • Indoor, easy to use SIM management

Cons

  • Cost
  • Need additional pieces to form a full network
  • Some features still in beta / not validated

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6 thoughts on “Peplink MAX HD1 Dome”

  1. Steve – Firstly, thank you very much for your thorough reviews of the products that matter most to those of us that are setting up a mobile internet solution for our boats/rvs. Incredibly helpful.

    I happen to choosing now between the peplink transit cat-18 with the poynting 402s, and a 496, and alternatively the pepline hd1 dome with a separate router and 496 for our sailboat. Looking to take work out on the water later this year!
    I had written off the hd1 dome because of the extra cost and not being an all-in-one solution, but your latest article gives me a bit of pause. Trying to maximize our ability to pick up farther away towers for stable internet capable of video chat, and wondering if the hd1 might warrant the additional cost for additional performance. Would you say at this point that your successes with the hd1 dome warrant another look?

    Reply
    • Hi Adam,
      I think it will come down to antenna cable length and placement for most people, including me. No matter what I do, I need at least 15′ of additional cable from a Poynting OMNI-402 antenna to a router. I could probably stick the router inside my arch somewhere, and eliminate that, but it would require a major modification to house it, power up to it, and if I needed to swap SIM cards or other things, access to it, which would be a pain.

      As a result, even though I believe the OMNI-402s + MAX Transit are likely to pick up remote signals better than the HD1 Dome because of the size of the antenna elements, I will likely always be on the edge of the HD1 Dome being just as good or better in some situations.

      Testing has shown exactly that – at some times, the MAX Transit + Poynting setup works very well to grab remote signals, while in the same location, same provider, the HD1 Dome can do just as good later in the day. It also depends on the bands and frequencies – the Poynting antennas are excellent at the higher frequencies and perform much better.

      I think if you are faced with a longer cable run for outdoor antennas, or a real-estate shortage to mount 2x OMNI-402s and other bits, then the HD1 Dome makes perfect sense. It does come at a cost, but it’s not as huge as one would think after you get done with running all the cabling and antennas, adapters, and the time and effort it takes to setup a MAX + Poynting setup.

      Just like everything else in this market, it seems, there is no clear single solution, and both have pros/cons.

      Reply
  2. I am a MIA member interested in a stable solution for internet.

    Currently I use three carriers Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile plus when needed HughesNet Gen 5 all run through a PepLink Balance Core feeding my wireless router.

    I have been looking for a modem on the roof solution. Eliminating antenna cabling makes sense. I was waiting for WiFiRanger Everest but it seems behind the times at Cat 6.

    Because I wish the redundancy and load balancing of at least two carriers I am now considering two HD1, a sim injector (which appears to work with two HD1), feeding my Balance Core. I have pre-wired Ethernet to my roof.

    This may seems extravagant but hopefully a solution I may not have to changes for several years.

    Perhaps someday our skies will be littered with satellites. Although promising, the questions of unlimited data and cost are unanswered.

    The question here is, does twin HD1s make sense to you, and with your hands on do you believe it is workable? Might you have another solution as capable?

    Thanks for the good equipment review,
    Richard

    Reply
    • Hi Richard,
      Welcome! Sounds like you have a good core system.

      I too am very interested in seeing what WiFiRanger do with their dual radio roof top system. Even with CAT6 modems, it at least would be a great dual radio, simplified user experience system. The real benefit will be if they do some sort of failover or redundancy similar to Peplink products. I think it will be very difficult to beat SpeedFusion’s benefits here….

      I don’t think your proposal is extravagant – it is similar to what I have on my boat.

      If you are requiring CAT18 modems, then two HD1s are likely a good choice. If you can get by with CAT12/CAT6, then a single MAX HD2 dome might be an option too.

      Two HD1 domes could work well, but I’d be aware or do some research on the following:
      Can the SIM injector power both? I believe so, but it is worth asking.
      Can you use the passthrough on one HD1 dome to power the second one in the event you only have one ethernet cable at the roof?
      How will you deal with the dual IPs/routes/WANs of each HD1? Usually on Peplink, you have one WAN port for one WAN source. With two HD1 domes, you’ll have to have two ports, one for each, which means the SIM injector has to be on the LAN, not the WAN, and reachable by both HD1s. I’ve not tested that. I can’t remember if the Balance One Core would allow a single WAN port to have multiple IPs or WAN sources on it, but it could, in which case this is not an issue.

      If you were open to running antennas to the roof, there are other options that have things built in, but are more expensive as well.

      I’m continuing to look at ways to use the HD1 and would be interested in what you find out/decide. I think it is a fantastic product as it gets us out of having to have antennas and cables everywhere, adding loss and complexity, but it does have some limitations.

      Reply
  3. Nice you’ve got the arch there for all this stuff. Mine only has a mast and it’s not easy getting up to the mounting points, or lowering it (involves at least two strong people and a fork to cradle it).

    Any thoughts on the orientation of the dome and the effect that’d have on signal pickup? I’m debating how new devices should get installed this winter. I plan on replacing my radar and that’ll likely bring along some other rearranging.

    I’ve since ditched the janky wifi setup that came with the boat. The way the dome looks with that box under it seems like it’d be kinda ugly.
    https://imgur.com/GLGd2B7

    Reply
    • As far as I’ve been told, the best way for the dome on a boat or other mobile platform is for it facing upwards with the mounting bracket underneath. The other orientation, basically mounted on a pole or wall, is meant for a building where you can direct the modems towards an area where known towers are, which wouldn’t work very well on the boat.

      I would think it would have very directional pickup the latter way, and really wouldn’t recommend it on the boat that way.

      The mounting bracket under the dome is not as pretty as it could be, I would agree!

      Reply

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