Linksys MR8300 Router Review: Pricey Affair But The Mesh Flexibility is Priceless
If you think this is a simple Wi-Fi router with a simple name, you would be completely off the mark. Not that it is your fault, because this piece of networking equipment looks quite conventional and humble. But the Linksys MR8300 router, AC2200 to be precise, may look like your typical, admittedly premium router, but can do a lot more. For starters, let us look at the price tag. You can get one of these from Linksys for around Rs 15,999 and that is a great start if online gaming and heavy bandwidth usage is what you need this for. But if range is a concern for you, in case you have a large home or perhaps the layout is irritating enough to restrict Wi-Fi signals in one part of the home, the Linksys MR8300 can transform into a mesh for you. Told ya, don’t go by the conventional looks on this one!
The party piece of the Linksys MR8300 is the ability to be a mesh. Yes, this router can be part of a Wi-Fi mesh system if that is what you need to get coverage through the entirety of your home. This integrates Linksys Velop technology, the same piece of smartness that the Velop dual-band and the Velop tri-band Wi-Fi mesh systems use. For this, the MR8300 can work with any Velop node, and doesn’t discriminate between the dual-band or tri-band. The only condition is, the MR8300 has to be the primary node, connected with your modem (if that’s a ADSL or VDSL connection) or the internet line, and the rest can then work around it. The Linksys MR8300 is a tri-band router, which means it has one 2.4GHz band up to a maximum of 400Mbps and two 5GHz bands which can do up to 867Mbps each. The Velop mesh systems also have the same stats for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Under the hood is a quad core processor chugging away at 716Mhz, with 512MB of RAM.
The setup is done via the Linksys app (free for Android and iOS) or the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi web console, and this is the one-stop solution for most Linksys routers including this one, as well as the Velop mesh systems. The Linksys app is one of the neatest when it comes to intuitiveness, easy of setup and management as well as configuring a fairly detailed set of options. The proverbial cherry on the cake has to be the ability to separate the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It takes next to no time to plug in the router, fire up the app and have this up and running in no time. The app will guide you through the simple process of adding the mesh nodes.
In terms of the design, the MR8300 looks very similar to the Linksys EA8300 from the not too recent past. The combination of the matte black panels and the glossy heart looks good. You really wouldn’t mind keeping this in a central position in your home, something that is rare for a standard looking router. When placed on a flat surface, such as an end table, you’ll notice that the front of the router sits lower while the back is much higher, also because all the ports reside there. That means the status light in the middle is easy to see. There are 4 gigabit LAN ports as well as a USB 3.0 port. In a nutshell, this looks like pretty much most routers you would have seen over the years. And largely works the same way too. That is till you unlock the real surprise performance element, which is the mesh.
Wireless performance is its strongest point. By default, the router chooses the best band, which in most likelihood will be the 5GHz band. You can set device priorities in case you want to give the bandwidth preference to any particular PC or laptop—this comes in handy when there are multiple devices vying for bandwidth on the same network. And that is quite common too though we don’t realize it, in the era of 4K streaming and online gaming. The range and the internet speeds that the MR8300 exhibited on its own during the testing was at par with the similarly priced Netgear Nighthawk X6. At that stage, add a node and then another node, and the range simply expands in the blink of an eye, with a negligible drop in internet speeds and bandwidth. Gamers would probably appreciate the efforts put in by Linksys to reduce the ping times, which they say are as much as 93 percent lesser than rival routers. That being said, unless you are gaming, you’ll not notice much difference with 4K video streaming, which is already buttery smooth.
Why would you need the Linksys MR8300? The idea is to have a powerful router at the core and then build a mesh around it. With a price tag of around Rs 15,000 for the MR8300, you really are embarking on a rather pricey journey in a way. But what can you do, if your large home or your fast internet line demand it? What this entails is buying individual nodes, and that number depends on how large a space you need to cover. Adding one node to the Linksys MR8300 would make the range as wide as 4500 square feet, which is more than enough for most modern-day apartments. But for this, you will spend around Rs 19,000 for each Velop tri-band node. The Velop dual-band node costs lesser at around Rs 6,500 per node, but you will be creating a bandwidth bottleneck instead and that’ll cause its own set of problems later. The versatility is great, and there are no deal-breakers in terms of the performance, the ability to set this up and the ease of using it. However, the net spend that you are looking at probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if your large home deserves it, there is no point resisting. Your choice really rests between the Velop Tri-band mesh or buy this and add nodes one by one.