Things seem to be falling in place for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard (also known as 802.11ax) this year.
While Wi-Fi 6 was introduced over a year ago, client devices that support this wireless protocol - which offers significantly faster speeds and is more efficient at handling multiple users simultaneously - are finally becoming mainstream.
In fact, most laptops and smartphones this year, except for the entry-level models, should support Wi-Fi 6. Wireless standards are backward compatible so older client devices should also have no difficulty connecting to a Wi-Fi 6 router.
Joining this growing family of Wi-Fi 6 devices is the Linksys Velop MX5300 WiFi 6 mesh router.
As indicated by its "mesh" naming scheme, multiple units of the MX5300 - when placed throughout the home - can form a single mesh network to ensure good wireless coverage.
Linksys says each MX5300 router can cover an area of 3,000 sq feet (278 sq metres) by itself.
In addition, the MX5300 can also form a mesh network with selected Linksys routers, such as older Velop models that use the previous Wi-Fi 5 standard.
This interoperability means you can slowly phase out your older Linksys mesh routers for the new Wi-Fi 6 models instead of changing all of them at the same time, which can be costly.
To test the MX5300, Linksys provided two identical MX5300 routers and an older Linksys Velop mesh router.
Setting up two MX5300 routers in a single mesh network was easy enough. All the work was done by the Linksys mobile app (available for iOS and Android) on my smartphone. All I had to do is to select the option to set up a new product, leave my phone next to the router and fill in basic information such as the name of the Wi-Fi network.
Adding the older Linksys router to my newly-created mesh network was just as hassle-free and took around 10 minutes.
The user-friendliness of the app and the ease of installation should not be underestimated. Linksys has simplified a task that is daunting to tech novices.
Other key features of the router, such as parental controls and device prioritisation, can be adjusted via the mobile app with a few taps. The MX5300 also has a Web-based interface that offers several more advanced options.
But the MX5300 does not have as many features as the routers from more enthusiast-oriented brands like Asus.
The MX5300 itself is physically larger than its predecessors, though it has a similar tower design that looks clean without any protruding antennas.
It has four Gigabit LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port and a USB 3.0 port that can connect to an external storage device for sharing files.
Future-proof with Wi-Fi 6 and Zigbee support
Excellent Wi-Fi performance
Interoperable with older Linksys mesh routers to form a single network
Lack of advanced options for tech-savvy users
Price: $569 (exclusive to Challenger stores and Hachi.tech website till Mar 19)
Ethernet Interface: Gigabit WAN port, 4 x Gigabit LAN ports
Security: WPA2, WPA2/WPA3 Mixed Mode
Advanced Firewall Features: NAT and SPI
Value for money: 3.5/5
The MX5300 also supports Zigbee, a popular smart home standard. This functionality is currently dormant, but when enabled in the future, it would allow the router to act as a smart home hub to control Zigbee smart home devices such as smart sensors.
To test its Wi-Fi 6 performance, I used a HP notebook with a built-in Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless chipset. I placed it in my living room, about five metres away from the primary MX5300 router that is connected to my fibre modem.
In my speed test, the MX5300 produced an average download speed of 810Mbps. In comparison, a TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 router (Archer AX11000) managed 830Mbps in the same test.
The speed dipped to 589Mbps (a 27 per cent decrease) when I tested with a Wi-Fi 5 laptop, affirming the speed advantage of Wi-Fi 6.
But what really impressed me was the MX5300's performance at the farthest end of my home. Testing using a Wi-Fi 6 laptop in a distant bedroom, the MX5300 achieved a download speed of 717Mbps.
This is significantly higher than the 100Mbps to 200Mbps that I typically get with an older Wi-Fi 5 mesh system. It is also faster than the Asus AiMesh AX6100 mesh system, which clocked around 400Mbps to 500Mbps in the same scenario.
The only downside: the MX5300 is, like many Wi-Fi 6 routers, relatively expensive at $569 for a single unit. Netgear's equivalent Orbi Wi-Fi 6 mesh router costs $1,099 for a pair, though Asus' AX6100 mesh routers is slightly cheaper at $769 for two.
The router is available now till Mar 19 exclusively at selected Challenger stores and the Hachi.tech website. Challenger members can buy a pair of MX5300 units at a promotional price of $888 - also valid till Mar 19.