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Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Wi-Fi system: Mesh router easy to set up and use

All you need is a smartphone with the Linksys mobile app, for iOS and Android, to set up mesh routers like the Velop.
All you need is a smartphone with the Linksys mobile app, for iOS and Android, to set up mesh routers like the Velop.PHOTO: LINKSYS

Last year saw a flurry of new whole-home Wi-Fi systems, or mesh routers, entering the Singapore market.

These interconnected wireless nodes promise to solve common Wi-Fi issues such as blind spots, where the Wi-Fi signal is weak or non-existent.

And they do work. But the ones launched last year were relatively expensive. This year, networking firms have introduced cheaper, cut-down versions of their mesh routers.

Many of them achieve their lower price points by reducing the number of wireless bands, which impacts their performance and Wi-Fi coverage.

The Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Wi-Fi system is one recent example. It is available as a single, a pair or a trio of nodes. Each one is identical and can be used interchangeably - there is no main unit that must be connected to the Internet modem.

As its name clearly states, it has two wireless bands - a 2.4GHz band that delivers up to 400Mbps of bandwidth and a 5GHz band that promises speeds of up to 867Mbps.

Thus, it is a downgrade from the original Velop, which is still available, and has a third wireless band.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $139 (1 unit), $269 (2 units, version tested), $399 (3 units)

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In fact, you can mix and match the dual-band and tri-band versions of the Velop to form a single network.

This is because the new dual-band Velop has all the features of its tri-band sibling. Well, except for the minor omission of a cable management slot at its base to help you neatly bunch up the Ethernet and power cables.

Like its predecessor, it has two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Besides connecting to client devices, these ports can also be used to connect one node to another.

As is often the case with mesh routers, the Velop lacks a USB port for attaching an external hard drive or printer.

The newcomer is shorter than the previous model by 5cm and is slightly wider. They share a similar design - a white plastic tower that could be mistaken for speakers.

At the top are the cooling vents and a round LED light that is used when setting up the mesh router and during troubleshooting.

The best thing about mesh routers like the Velop is the simple set-up process. All you need is a smartphone with the Linksys mobile app (for iOS and Android).

Simply follow the instructions on the app and your network should be up and running in under 10 minutes. Firmware updates are applied automatically, usually at night. A Linksys account is necessary if you intend to monitor your network and change its settings when away from home.

As such apps go, the Linksys app looks elegant, but enthusiasts will probably find the options somewhat lacking. For instance, Linksys does not have any form of anti-malware software in its mesh router, unlike some of its competitors.

It has some cute, but non-essential features, like the ability to ask Amazon Alexa to turn on the guest network functionality.

To test the Velop, I had two laptops in the same living room, both connected to the Velop's Wi-Fi network. The transfer speed between the two notebooks was 435Mbps, which was higher than the 324Mbps managed by the tri-band Velop.

But the downside of the dual-band Velop was apparent when one of the laptops was moved to the bedroom. The average speed dropped to 70Mbps, compared with the tri-band Velop's 183Mbps.

At its launch price of $269 for the two-pack bundle that I tested, the new Velop will find it tough going against cheaper rivals such as the TP-Link Deco M5 and the D-Link Covr.

• Verdict: Polished mobile app offers excellent user experience, but its performance is middling when further away from the primary router.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2018, with the headline 'Mesh router easy to set up and use'. Print Edition | Subscribe