Mesh Router: Linksys Velop

Mesh wifi systems are all the rage now. And it makes sense. A mesh system promises ease of use, high-speed connections, and broad coverage. The Linksys Velop Whole Home Wi-Fi System delivers on these promises better than any other mesh system on the market as of January 2017.

When you first open up the Velop system, you’ll notice that even the packaging is impressive. That’s not especially relevant to a review of the function of the system, but it’s worth pointing out. The packaging was high-end and shows the level of attention Linksys has given the details of presentation.

The positive impression continues when you unbox the system. The nodes are attractive and easily blend into most decors.

VelopA quick scan after the initial impression begins to reveal some of the few flaws in the system. First, there are no USB ports. That’s not a big deal for 99% of users, but for the other 1%, it’s a needless deal-breaker. Power systems include a number of USB ports. Second, there are only two ethernet ports per node. This means your “primary” node (the one connected to your router) will have only one ethernet port open. Again, for most users, that is not an issue. For others (here’s looking at you, fellow gamers), that could be a significant problem. And the power plug is bizarrely huge. If you’re plugging this into a surge protector (and you should be), then the plug may create a problem. I really can’t fathom what Linksys was thinking with this plug.

Initiating setup reveals the few other flaws. For one, there is no web interface. Setup is available via app from iTunes or the Android Play Store. Sorry, Windows Phone fans (I know there are still a few of you out there). But even with my Android, I’d like to have the option of a web interface. Linksys has a great web interface but chose to not use it with the Velop. And, as might be expected with an app-based setup, options are limited. Linksys takes the position that you don’t need to disable your SSID broadcast on the theory that hackers can still find your network, even when hidden. True, but it takes just that much more effort to find when you’re “cloaked,” and mobile hackers tend to go for low-lying fruit. I’d like to have the option to disable my SSID, please.

That’s mostly it for complaints, and most people won’t care at all about those complaints. As for positives, there is a lot to like.

When you open the app, it guides you through an easy setup process. I may gripe about the lack of a web interface, but the Linksys app is also excellent in and of itself. I’ve used another high-end mesh system, and the Linksys Velop was far faster at setup and did everything right the first time. The app walks you through each step. The app also does offer more detail and options than other router management apps I’ve tested.

Each “node” is exactly the same. Technically, the box with three nodes contains three separate routers. Each node covers roughly 2000 square feet with a strong signal. So, if you had any reason to, you could use each one in a separate home with a separate modem. But then you’d miss out on the value of the mesh system.

I have a 2600 square foot home. With one Velop, I had coverage throughout that was as good or better than most decent routers. But connection speed dropped to about 60% at the furthermost points of the house. I ended up putting one node upstairs connected to the modem and another downstairs in our primary family room. Connection speed improved to 100%, even in the most remote parts of the house when I added the second node. The third node seemed entirely unnecessary for me at this time, but I’m sure it would be very handy in a larger home or a home with concrete walls.

I appreciate the fact the Velop includes MU-MIMO functionality. This basically allows the system to create a special channel for each connected device, so that each device gets the full benefit of your top connection speed.

The default security is WPA2. So, even if you don’t know anything about how to secure your network, the Velop will take care of that for you. Again, you can’t turn off SSID broadcast, but your network would at least be secure.

FWIW, the Velop also automatically updates over the air. This should mean it will stay current and adapt to any necessary changes. Linksys obviously is confident in the Velop, given that they include a 3-year warranty (very strong by industry standards), so it seems they wanted to also make it as future-proof as possible via automatic updates.

The beauty of the mesh system is that each node communicates with the others on the network to ensure your device gets the optimal connection at all times. This will work beautifully with your newer wireless devices, but I’ve seen some talk of older devices struggling a little with it. The only device I had that struggled at all was one of my Nest thermostats, which seemed to have a hard time holding onto the best signal. But the other 10,000 wireless devices we have in the home (that’s a slight exaggeration) worked perfectly with the Velop.

At the end of the day, if you want a simple-to-use system that offers excellent speed and throughput and don’t mind spending a bit of money, I can strongly recommend the Velop – especially for large homes that need extended range. If ports and power-user features are more important to you, then I recommend you skip the Velop and stick with something more like the Linksys EA9500 (my primary router of choice).

Mesh systems are the new wave, and I really think the Velop is the best in class – as long as you don’t need ethernet ports and don’t mind broadcasting your SSID. If the features of a mesh system are helpful in your household, get a Velop.

Final: Like

Note, the Velop system was provided to me free of charge for review by Best Buy and Linksys.

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