Getting Up and Running
Like most of its competitors, Linksys has a mobile setup and management app for Velop (simply called Linksys), supporting iOS and Android devices. It’s the same app that supports a wide variety of Linksys routers, but there’s one key difference with Velop. The new system connects to your mobile device using Bluetooth during setup, rather than Wi-Fi.
In the last two years, networking manufacturers have put a huge amount of work into creating a smooth and seamless setup experience – first via a web browser and latterly through mobile apps. Like NETGEAR and Google before it, Linksys has done a great job with their app. It guides users through configuration steps with pleasing visuals and a friendly tone of voice, ensuring Velop is up and running in just a few minutes. Great job, Linksys.
It’s during setup that you’ll notice a small, multicolored LED indicator on the top of each node, which informs you when the device is ready for configuration, when it is connected to the Internet and alerts you to disconnection. Another convenience: firmware updates will be downloaded during setup and, like competing device, will be downloaded and installed automatically overnight when required.
Using Linksys Velop
While Google led the way on mobile management apps for routers with Google On (now Google Wifi) a couple of years ago, the company was criticised for a lack of features. The attempt to simplify router management led to both mainstream and advanced configuration settings simply being excluded. Clearly, balancing simplicity with sophistication is an art, rather than a science and Velop steers toward the former. While you’ll find a selection of basic features on offer, there are clear functionality gaps and areas that are likely to cause some frustration for advanced users.
First, you can only manage the router using the Linksys mobile app – there is no browser console available. Like other systems, you’re limited to a single SSID with automated band steering placing your connected clients on either the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band. There’s an automated channel scanner but no manual option. On the plus side, these are features that can optimise aggregate speeds across the network, but there’s no manual backup available if you a. don’t trust the router or b. prefer to configure it manually.
I did experience occasions where devices (in the same room as the router) were placed on the slower 2.4 GHz band rather than 5 GHz. Velop is not alone in doing this – I’ve had similar experiences with all of the systems tested to date. If you can configure your clients to exclusively use a particular band, you have a workaround – otherwise, you’re at whim of your router.
You will, however, find a core range of networking features available, including device prioritisation (for three devices), parental controls (including website blacklisting), simple DHCP reservation, guest networking support and a great WAN speed test feature. Users with smart home devices supporting Amazon Alexa can also manage basic settings through voice, which is a neat bonus, if non-essential.
For advanced users, there are a small selection of features available for you too. MTU settings, MAC Address cloning & filtering, VPN passthrough and port forwarding are available, but that’s about your lot at this stage. Like most whole home Wi-Fi systems, Velop is built for convenience, not configurability.
The Linksys app looks slick and is certainly responsive. I did encounter a number of issues however – a couple of them major. I found that enabling features such as DHCP reservation and guest access simply failed, leaving me staring at a progress screen for several minutes (although the router promised to have everything done within a minute). Despite reboots, the problem recurred. Also, at times, the mobile app refused to connect to the router – my mobile device was connected to the network, but the app hung while trying to retrieve router settings. Of course, I may have a faulty review unit or there may be an outstanding bug in the latest firmware release. Either way, it’s a showstopper.
I also found that the app’s device list was slow to update. Connect a device and pull down on the device list with a finger to launch a refresh. The new device was not shown (or, if previously connected, sat incorrectly in an Offline Devices list). Close, then reopen the app – boom, there it is. A similar issue occurred with disconnect devices still showing as connected in the app and with devices labelled has having a 5 GHz connection, but clearly delivering 2.4 GHz-rate speeds . These are small, niggly examples but it shows that Linksys still has some rough edges to smooth out in their software.
Other gaps that need to be plugged include the ability to test connection speeds between nodes and a clear view of the devices connected to each node (you can view nodes for each device, but not devices by node). At this point in time, there’s not even a reboot option for Velop in the Linksys app.
To be fair, it’s taken Google quite some time to build out their features in Google On/Wifi, but we’re now two years on and competitors have had plenty of time to bake in these features. For a market demanding ease and convenience, small launch issues and feature gaps can add up to a sizeable development challenge. From reading Linksys’ support forums, the company are working to update the app every two weeks, so hopefully we’ll see continued enhancements and better reliability. It’s sorely needed.