Fast and interference-approved, this is the Linksys Velop

As a happy user of an AirPort Extreme for many years now, confirmation of the end of life of Apple Wi-Fi hotspots surprised me. I saw AirPort as a product range very true to the company’s «just works» philosophy, which saved me from dealing with network configurations that I always considered too complicated for someone who doesn’t want to worry about it.

Now, after years of thinking about how to replace that AirPort Extreme, I’ve finally opted for the solution offered by Apple itself: the Linksys Velop Mesh Three-Node Game. I’ve been with them for over a week now, so I can say whether it’s worth the extra investment they’re involved in relation to other types of access.

Linksys Velop
Linksys Velop

The conditions for deploying a Wi-Fi: very complicated

Here it must be said that each person has very different needs and may special to extend the Wi-Fi signal well in their home, and it should be noted that my case is almost extreme. I live in a flat of only about 30 square meters, which should be more than enough for a simple router to cover every corner of my house. However, that is not the case.

Let’s explain it in concrete figures: I have a fiber optic connection that is officially 100 Mb symmetrical, but which actually fluctuates between 200 and 300 Mb. Here’s what I get with my iMac, connected by Ethernet via a Gigabit ‘Cat6’ cable.

However, with an AirPort Express purchased in 2011 and capable of launching an 802.11n Wi-Fi network (now called Wi-Fi 4) at maximum theoretical speeds of 600 Mb, my mobile devices only received maximum speeds of 20 or 30 Mb per second literally within centimeters of the AirPort Extreme in my living room. In the bathroom the speed dropped to 10-15 Mb per second and in the room it went down even further to an antediluvians 2 or 3 Mb per second. And my bed is literally less than ten meters from the AirPort Extreme.

What causes this? Well, I’ve been researching for a long time, asking network experts and even bringing them home to check those speeds. The answers I have received are several: there may be many Wi-Fi networks around me and the interferences are very high, or the slabs in my bathroom (which is between my living room and my room) have lead and isolate the signal, or the age of my fridge causes interference… or it can be a mixture of everything. But the facts were the facts: the Wi-Fi signal in my house was extremely weak in conditions where it shouldn’t be.

Specifications and features

Once the situation is explained, let’s put the technical specifications of the Linksys Velop on the table. It is a set of three nodes (any of them can work as a central access point connected to our internet provider’s router or as a satellite), and have 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology (now Wi-Fi 5) capable of deploying a tri-band network:

  • IEEE 802.11b/g/n (Wi-Fi 4) at 2.4 GHz with maximum theoretical speeds of up to 400 Mbps
  • IEEE 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) at 5 GHz with maximum theoretical speeds of up to 867 Mbps
  • IEEE 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) at additional 5 GHz with maximum theoretical speeds of up to 867 Mbps

Network security is WPA2, and the nodes also have Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with the iPhone and configure properly. There are also two ethernet ports in each piece, in case we want to connect network accessories and to connect the head node to our operator’s router. A 716 MHz quad-core processor is responsible for executing all positioning operations.

What operations are we talking about? For typical of a Wi-Fi mesh network, in which each of the nodes triangulates the position of the devices and always offers the best possible signal depending on where you are and the quality of the network that each node can give.

The construction of Linksys Velop nodes is made of reinforced plastic. That makes them very light, although at the same time they do not sin to look like a toy. An upper and side vent ensures that they don’t overheat too much. Naturally, each of them needs to be connected to the power with a plug.

It should be said that the box with three nodes is optional: you can buy two nodes or only one depending on your needs. Theoretically I would only need one or two at most, but seeing the very little sign I can get in my house and the expectations of moving to a bigger place in the future I ended up opting to catch all three.

Performance

Setting up the three nodes of the Linksys is very simple, and ended all the fears I had about routers that didn’t depend on Apple’s AirPort Utility. The process is well explained, indicating which cables you have to connect at each step. It advises you even in the position where you have to place each node. At all times, the Velop app you need to install on your iPhone tells you when to do something and when to wait patiently.

The Wi-Fi network that is generated is unique, issued by all three nodes, and we don’t have to do anything to get our device to receive the best possible signal ever. That’s what the nodes are responsible for. And yes, thanks to that the signal of my small home improves very noticeably. 

in the case of the iPhone there is a significant difference in speed. I blame it more on the coverage problems of my house than not to the efficiency of the Velop, and I have still jumped from 2 MB to 64 (many times I reach 80-90 MB). It is something that affects the signal of my house very much, but it is clear that the Velop manage to overcome that obstacle decently.

Best of all, you can be carefree of whether or not you have good network quality at some point. If your iPhone is connected to your Wi-Fi’s 2.4 GHz band, it’s because the nodes have already tried connecting to the 5 GHz band right where you are and consider that with the 2.4 GHz signal you have more speed. They’re also looking for the best channel to deploy that Wi-Fi, and you’ll always connect to the node that suits you best.

In short, these Linksys Velop are a very obvious improvement of Apple’s AirPort Extreme, still losing that native integration that was with iOS and macOS. Its signal is powerful and high interference-proof, its configuration is simple and they fit like a glove to your needs whether you have the surface you have, no matter how many floors.

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