The important of a good internet connection at home is right up there with food, water and activated charcoal. And when there is no good internet at home, that calls for a lot of tearing one’s hair out, cursing the broadband company and turning the router off and on again. What most of us don’t realize is that the broadband company is absolutely not at fault, most of the time. The broadband line is working fine, it is the Wi-Fi router at home which is just not able to cope. And that can happen in multiple situations. First, the router may not be able to offer the Wi-Fi bandwidth as fast as your internet line in the first place—and you may be getting around 50Mbps on a 100Mbps line. Secondly, and this is a problem a lot of us face, is that the router is just not powerful enough to cover the entire home with the goodness of internet. Homes are not a perfect square, and getting to the farthest corners can be a challenge. And if you are lucky enough to have a large home spread across multiple floors, then the router pretty much gives up. So, what is the solution? Get yourself a Wi-Fi mesh system. You can get a solution that fits your home and pretty much bid adieu to dropped internet connections in your bedroom or living room.
One of your choices is the Linksys Velop, specifically the Velop Tri-Band AC6600 system. This is a wireless mesh system, where each node (imagine each of these as a separate router) communicates and links up with each other wirelessly to provide the internet connectivity from the primary node (the one directly plugged into the internet line running into your home. The three node setup is priced at around Rs 49,999 and this is many ways is the default state of tune. However, Linksys will let you pick this Velop system depending on what you need for your home, where a single node costs around Rs 19,000 while the pack of two nodes will cost you around Rs 32,000. It is considerably more expensive than the Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Mesh WiFi System (1-Pack) is priced at Rs6,500 while the pack with two nodes is priced at Rs13,200 while the top spec option with three nodes will cost Rs21,999. Ideally, you should buy the two node pack for most modern apartments while the three node option would be ideal if you live in a large home or perhaps an older construction house with thick walls and a rather spaced out layout.
Setting up the Velop system is quite a breeze. The Linksys app (free for Android and iOS) guides you step by step, including how to set up the primary node with the broadband line (or a modem, in case you have an ADSL or VDSL line—the Velop are just routers, not modems, so do keep that in mind. One this is done, you can connect the additional nodes with this primary node and place them around the house.
The headline spec changes compared with the Linksys Velop Dual-Band include the AC2200
(867Mbps + 867Mbps + 400Mbps) per node as compared with AC1300 (867Mbps + 400Mbps) per node of the predecessor and a theoretically larger coverage area. While the Velop Tri-Band is classified as an AC6600 setup, that is only if all three nodes are working together. This is the same as the predecessor which is an AC3900 rated system but only with all three AC1300 nodes working. If you are thinking of buying one for your home, the Velop Dual-Band will prove to be more than enough. The Velop Tri-band will really show its colours in a home-office sort of an environment, or even in a home that is quite large.
Then there is the small matter of the internet connection and what speeds you have signed up for. While the predecessor is best suited for internet connections at speeds around the 100Mbps mark, the Velop Tri-Band is ideal for 300Mbps speeds. Do keep your internet speed in mind before splashing the cash.
Since the new Velop tri-band setup has more antennas as well, chances are you will get better range as well. Linksys suggests this can cover up to 6000 square feet of area, with all three nodes in use. That is more than the dual-band Velop, which would top out at around 4,500 sq. ft. range. This is where you will have to balance the internet speed versus the area you need to cover. Even though this is some serious range on offer, the design of the Velop remains very attractive. This is much smaller than the Netgear Orbi nodes and the all-white finish with the compact vertical design makes it easy to place this. There is a status light on the top, which tells you the status—it is blue when the internet line is fine, red when there is no internet and, yellow means it has very weak connectivity with the other node and blinking red means it is not in range of another node.
During the testing, I noticed that a single Velop tri-band node offers the exact range as the Netgear Nighthawk X6 router, which has six external antennas and is much larger in size—and that is indeed a solid start for the Velop experience.
What makes the Velop better than a lot of other Wi-Fi mesh systems, is that each unit has two 5GHz bands (up to 867Mbps) and one 2.4GHz band (up to 400Mbps). If you are able to get the wired backhaul working (this is the data that is relayed between the nodes back to the main router), this leaves both 5GHz bands completely free for devices. If not, then the wireless backhaul will take up some amount of bandwidth on one of these 5GHz bands. That is the advantage of a tri-band Velop, which should make this more versatile in an environment where you may have multiple smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, game consoles and even smart speakers connected to the internet.
The dedicated backhaul is necessary to reduce the chances of signal loss and you get similar internet speed on all nodes—no longer does the last node in the chain have to struggle for internet speeds. We placed these nodes at multiple locations in a typical apartment, with the third node at the exact opposite end in relation to the primary node connected with the modem, and we noticed a very negligible speed reduction of 2Mbps to 3Mbps in internet speed between the first and the second node, and 5Mbps difference between the first and the third node. That is a simple real world test of the stable bandwidth that the Wi-Fi mesh systems offer in relation to a cruder setup that may involve wireless extenders.
It is a bit surprising though that there is still no way to separate the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks—what if I want to have different IDs for the two bands? That is not yet an option in the Linksys app (free for Android and iOS).
Just like the Velop dual-band, the Velop tri-band nodes also don’t have USB ports. You might want to factor that in, just in case you wanted to connect a storage drive or a printer to the router.
I am sure that by now, you would really not be in any doubt about the utility of a Wi-Fi mesh system. The requirements posed by so many streaming devices we have spread across the home without realising it, including smart televisions, gaming consoles, multiple tablets and phones and even smart speakers and displays demand a better medium of internet connectivity. A simple old router just won’t cut it anymore.
That neatly leads us to which mesh system should you buy. The Velop tri-band makes sense in large homes and/or if you have an internet line around 300Mbps. It does cost a lot more than the Velop dual-band, but you will be thankful you spent that extra money when you get uninterrupted YouTube streaming even in the farthest corners of home. That being said, if you have around 100Mbps internet line and the home is a traditional apartment size space, save some money and go for a dual-band Velop instead. The experience is great in both cases, with the only difference in the real-world performance being the range and speed capabilities.