Wi-Fi today has become a household necessity and the humble router has now placed itself inside homes as if it were a family member. The two have been synonymous since the dawn of the concept itself which is why adapting to newer alternatives seems to be something people will have to get used to. The need to change however , is very real and the best replacement for the single home router is the newer, more advanced Wi-Fi Mesh system. Routers, no matter how powerful, have their own fair share of limitations with the biggest one being that of the infamous “Notspots” – areas in the house where the WiFi simply fails to reach thanks to thick walls or other obstacles. Initially, the solution to this range problem was the use of range extenders along with routers. While this did solve the problem to a certain extent, not every common person was able to set it up, thus necessitating the use of external workforce. This is where the Mesh systems take the win.
Whats new in this system is the simplified configuration and super smart design which aims to attract the multitude of users who lack the time or the technical know how to set up routers and range extenders. Now, there are a few devices in the market such as the Netgear Orbi, Eero and even Google WiFi, but the device we will be looking at in this article is the Linksys Velop.
The Linksys Velop is a WiFi Mesh System with a simple app based setup. What’s more, the Velop is also modular since it works for anywhere between two, three or more units
A single Velo unit costs $199, two units cost $349, while three carry a fairly chunky $499 price tag. This pricing puts the Velop right on top of the list of competitors, with Google WiFi posing as the cheapest of the lot. Linksys however , remains unfazed by this and have gone ahead and made the Velop available for purchase both online and offline in the US and the UK.
The Linksys Velop comes packed with a quad-core ARM Cortex A7 processor, with 512MB of memory and 4GB of internal flash storage. The system supports dual-stream (2×2), 802.11ac networking over multiple wireless bands – two 5GHz and one 2.4GHz. On the outside too, link sys seems to have put some effort into the overall design and appearance of the Velop. Each unit is shaped like towers with a nice curve near the base to avoid the rather bland boxy look. We have holes drilled for heat dissipation, on the top and two of the sides of the unit with a clip down the bottom for managing the cables. This is provided to assist the recessed section right underneath it which place home to the two Ethernet ports, a master power switch, a reset button and 12V DC connector. The absence of a large number of ethernet ports on the Velop unit is a clear indication that the times are changing . most of us use mobile devices for computing while desktops and displays have become wireless. Therefore, users only get one spare Ethernet port once the modem is connected to the unit, while you can increase that number by increasing the number of units.
Inside each unit resides a slim line white power supplies with long, two meter cabling neatly wrapped in a bundle and a single, thin Ethernet cable. All in all , the Velop may have the pricing against it, but when it comes to sheer appearance and the basic specifications, Linksys has ticked the right boxes here.
As mentioned earlier, the Linksys Velop relies on an app based setup system. Quickly breeze through the Google Play or the Apple App store and download the Velop app. You are then prompted to register the Velop unit for local and remote management of the device. Next, you are given a few suggestions regarding the placement of the Velop unit after which, the device undergoes a software update and close to five minutes later, you are good to go.
An LED situated on top of the unit glows pink, cycles through to purple and finally shuts off during setup. Once the unit is setup and functional the LED glows blue.
We saw earlier, that the Linksys Velop is modular , and while each new unit must be independently setup, the procedure remains the same. Linksys has gone a step further and included a feature wherein the app tells you exactly which unit is inactive in case of a disconnection. The app has a slew of more user friendly functions, some of which are present on the dashboard, while the rest are found in the menu on the left hand side. At a single glance, we can see the number of connected Velop units, Internet connectivity, Guest access toggles and parental controls.
Connectivity wise, the Velop may prove to be a slight deal breaker for the more savvy users for two major reasons – The absence of USB ports and the inclusion of very few ethernet ports. However, USB Ports on routers and WiFi devices are not known to be the fastest so its not really a problem per se.
All in all, Linksys has made the Velop a very easy to use, user friendly package with all the necessary trinkets required to make it the full functioning WiFi mesh device it has been designed to be.
When we talk about the more productivity based gadgets , in this case, the Linksys Velop, it is the performance of the unit and not the design and appearance, that determines the final credibility of the overall package. The performance tests were performed in two stages. In the first iteration, a single Velop unit was placed in a room and speedtest.net was run from the same room and the observed speeds were recorded. The result was that the connection to the modem was almost instantaneous just like it would have been in case we used a standard router. Next, we put some distance between us and the Velop unit and ran the test again. To our dismay, we observed a rather significant degradation in the speed. The result was only improved by a small margin when we introduced a second Velop unit between the first unit and ourselves.
All in all, it is observed that while the Linksys Velop has been designed as a replacement for the router and ranger extender combo, but its still a pretty half baked effort. Thick walls still impede the signal speed of the device and you really have to experiment a lot with the positioning of the individual nodes until you really hit the sweet spot. This exercise proves to be a very big hassle for the majority of the user base, which is why the Velop is not exactly a device for the masses. The final nail in the coffin is the fact that even in terms of pricing, the latest offering by Linksys does nothing to stand up against its peers, thus putting a huge question mark over its utility in the real world.