Linksys wants you to re-think your whole Wi-Fi setup with its new Velop routers and extenders.
Linksys just shook up the home Wi-Fi status quo at CES, unveiling Velop, its new Wi-Fi system that will take the fight to Netgear Orbi. There’s never been a better time to have your Wi-Fi coverage problems solved.
Velop (pronounced as in ‘to envelop’) is another interpretation of what’s known as whole-home Wi-Fi or, in more technical terms, Mesh networking.
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What is a whole-home Wi-Fi mesh network?
Before we dive into what Velop does, we first need to understand what a whole-home Wi-Fi system is. Whole-home Wi-Fi solves the same problem that a Wi-Fi extender does, increasing the range and speed of your network. A regular Wi-Fi extender simply creates a new Wi-Fi network, which you have to connect to manually when you move around the house with a device, such as a smartphone.
A whole-home solution gets rid of the second step, with each extender cloning the main Wi-Fi network and automatically switching your device to whichever signal is strongest, without you even noticing and without any break in service. It’s a big deal when it comes to large homes and those with thick walls.
What does Velop do?
Linksys Velop is the most advanced system we’ve seen so far. A Velop starter pack consists of two identical routers. You’ll connect one to your modem and place another in an area of your house where you need better Wi-Fi coverage.
Each Velop is a tri-band router. This means your devices get one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz network to share, while a second 5GHz channel handles sending data back and forth between routers (known as “backhaul”) So far, this is identical to the Netgear Orbi. However, the Velop has some tricks up its sleeve.
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Unlike the Orbi, where each satellite extender needs to be connected to the primary router, Velop works using a peer-to-peer system, meaning as long as at least one Velop node is connected to the primary router the rest will work. For smaller homes, this will make hardly any difference, but for larger houses it could be a big deal. The node in the attic only needs to connect to the node in the bedroom below it, rather than scrabbling for a signal from the node on the ground floor.
Linksys also says a Velop network will continually adapt to new conditions, which could be handy if a node gets obstructed by a door, a new piece of furniture, or a concentration of people.
If you fancy a challenge, Velop can also communicate over Ethernet, meaning you can wire them all up for the ultimate Wi-Fi setup.
Linksys' new system will also have Amazon Echo integration, which includes turning your secure guest Wi-Fi network on and off, and also the ability to read out your network security information.
The company has also taken a functional but friendly approach to design, with Velop looking more like a boxy lamp than a router. All the ports are hidden away on the bottom and the Wi-Fi antenna get a slightly elevated position thanks to the box’s height.
Will it be any good?
We awarded the Netgear Orbi 9/10 when we reviewed it earlier this year. The Linksys Velop is priced similarly but takes a slightly different approach. Working as a pair, the Velop is functionally extremely similar to the Orbi. It’s when you have three or more nodes that Linksys' approach may see better results.
Its node-based system will work really well in some houses, although it remains to be seen how one single node will handle the strain of two or more others that rely on it. What's certain is that Velop will allow for a more flexible Wi-Fi network thanks to its ability to communicate over Ethernet.
Linksys Velop – Price and release date
Velop is available to buy from today. A two-pack will set you back £350 (about the same as an Orbi), a three-pack is £499, and a single Velop node is £199.
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Let us know what you think of Velop in the comments.