Mesh Wi-Fi has become the go-to option for extending the Wi-Fi range in many small office and home office environments, and also has a strong following among consumers. Linksys has been in the game for a while and has a new Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) version of its Velop Whole Home Intelligent Mesh Wi-Fi 6 (AX4200) System. The two-node kit I was sent costs £375, while a single node costs £226 and a three-node kit costs £579. Linksys says each node will cover 2,700 square feet (2,508 sq m). In the US, a single AX4200 node costs $249.99.
Setup is simplicity itself. Download the mobile app, configure a login, connect whatever you designate as the 'primary node' to your internet router via the Gigabit WAN port and to mains power, and then return to the app to walk through the few stages that complete setup. The whole process was easy, and my two-node system was up and running in under 15 minutes.
The nodes themselves are large, measuring 24.4cm high and 11.4cm square. They shouldn't be hemmed in -- behind cupboards, for example -- as this will interfere with their ability to work optimally. Instead, these white plastic monoliths will likely create a bit of visual clutter.
The tri-band system delivers a top speed of 4.2Gbps, which was plenty to meet my household needs, including powering working from home, family video calling and delivering streaming entertainment services. If wired connections are preferred, then every node has three Gigabit Ethernet ports at its disposal.
There is also a USB-A port on each node, and this can be used to attach external storage so that content can be shared and streamed by anyone on the network. I tested this with an external hard drive and sharing worked perfectly. There are even some instructions on how to access shared devices via different operating systems in the Linksys app.
The app is neat and accessible. It is easy to set up guest access on the hoof, with a private password that provides internet access but no visibility of computers or connected devices, so that guest accounts can be switched on and off as needed. However, some controls are less expansive than they could be. Parental controls include blocking internet access from specific devices on a schedule or on demand, but website blocking is managed by manually adding URLs, which is a hassle.
Video calling can be given priority over all other types of activity, and it's also possible to prioritise up to three devices for bandwidth use, with the remainder sharing whatever is left. So, those work calls happening while others are using the smart TV may no longer stutter.
Performance during testing was very impressive. Everything seemed to work a little bit faster, and the reach was excellent. My existing system doesn't stretch into the kitchen or to the far end of the garden, but the Velop WiFi 6 (AX4200) managed both, and speeds in these locations seemed as good as those in my home office right by the router.
With home office working much more prevalent for many people nowadays, a solid mesh Wi-Fi system might be a wise investment. The Linksys Velop WiFi 6 (AX4200) is easy to set up, even for newcomers to the concept, and while the detailed controls could do with a bit more depth, these may well come as Linksys develops the system further.
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