Linksys passed us their Velop Home WiFi solution a few months ago to review, but we’ve been holding it off until their latest firmware upgrade that was released about a month ago. Why? It’s primarily because the initial version of the Velop was actually too simple a solution for us – here’s why.
Now before we go further if you don’t know what the Linksys Velop is and what Mesh WiFi does here’s a brief explanation. The Velop was created by Linksys as a complete home WiFi solution in a box, and can be bought in single units (S$349), twin packs (S$599) or a triple pack (S$749). They aren’t cheap by any means, and that’s primarily because each Velop unit comes packed with features like Tri-band AC 2×2 802.11ac Wave 2 with MU-MIMO WiFi connectivity with six antennas plus ARM Cortex-A7 processors with 4GB flash memory and Bluetooth 4.0. The processors are extremely important for each Velop unit as this makes them ‘Smart’ – the nodes communicate with each other and automatically adjust for data loads and different demands. So say you’re streaming a K-drama on your tablet in Full-HD in your bedroom, and you decide to head to your kitchen to make a cup of tea – the Velop nodes enable you to seamlessly enjoy your video stream without lag or pausing as you walk through your home.
This is the essence of Mesh WiFi. Where in a traditional WiFi network you have a master router controlling the data streams to various sub-routers or range-extenders, a Mesh node ‘shares the load’ and can automatically prioritise a high-demand routine like online gaming from one that’s low – say a Smart connected light bulb. This is actually very important in the new era of the Smart Home, where you can have dozens of connected devices – from smartphones to smart door-locks and smart washing machines.
Setting up the Velop is quite simple, and the number of Velop nodes you need is dependent on the area you need to cover. Oh, do note that most WiFi range estimates are derived from American and European tests, where many homes are constructed out of wood and brick. Singapore, one the other hand, has a building code that stipulates the use of steel-reinforced concrete, which significantly reduces signal strength. I happen to live in a two-storey apartment unit with a total floor area of about 650m2 (7,000ft2), and while a Velop node on each floor is sufficient I’m using three to ensure there’s no dead-zone. To get up and running just connect one node direct to your modem via its ethernet port and run the Linksys App (available for iOS or Android) to create a WiFi network. Once done you can then add additional nodes – the App will even advise you on whether your placement of each node is optimal. Oh and yes, the Velop nodes have been deliberately designed not to look like a traditional router, and they blend in to modern furnishing very well.
Now if there’s one gripe I’ve had with the Velop, it’s that it’s available settings were too simple, and with just two ethernet ports per node there’s limited ports to access external storage unless you happen to have a wireless hard drive or network attached storage. The firmware upgrade I mentioned, however, includes a number of new features such as child safety settings, as well as the ability to run the Velop in Bridge mode with another router set as the master router to access advanced configurations. In my case I’m using a Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 Mu-MIMO router as my ‘main’ router for not only my IP and DNS settings but to access my external storage drive via USB 3.0 for my multimedia files. Apart from that the Velop nodes work as per normal.
Technical specifications (each Velop unit)
Base footprint: 10cm²
Set-up requirements: iOS or Android device
Wifi Connectivity: Wi-Fi AC2200 with MU-MIMO & simultaneous Tri-Band. 1x 2.4 GHz channel, 2x 5 GHz channel, 802.11B/g/n & 802.11B/n/ac support, multibeam forming, seamless roaming
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0/LE, 2x Gigabit ethernet WAN/LAN ports
Processor: 716MHz Cortex A7 Quad Core
RAM/ROM: 4 GB Flash and 512 MB RAM
Antennas: 6x antennas with high powered amplifiers