The good news is that for all these niggles, Linksys Velop looks like a strong performer. We ran a full suite of wireless tests on the system and compared results with a range of competititors. As a reminder, they include the eero Home WiFi System, NETGEAR Orbi, AmpliFi HD, Google Wifi and Google OnHub (both ASUS and TP-Link models).
As usual, we test each router with a range of wireless clients – connected for single device as well as multi-device speed tests – before testing node speeds around the house.
Gigabit Ethernet Performance
We kick off proceedings with our Gigabit Ethernet test. Here we connect two PCs to the router (using a network switch on this occasion due to a lack of ports) and test average upstream and downstream speeds between the two.
Linksys Velop raced out of the blocks, delivering the fastest Ethernet performance we’ve seen from any whole home Wi-Fi system. An average speed of 943 Mbps is a country mile away from its nearest competitor, NETGEAR Orbi, which managed only 858 Mbps – respectable, but very much second place.[wpdatatable id=46] [wpdatachart id=22]
We typically run two types of 5 GHz benchmark, using a range of wireless clients. The first is a series of single-device tests, allowing us measure average data transfer speeds with mobile devices and desktop PCs. We then run a multi-device test, in which five devices are connected to the router concurrently during the speed test. Here we aggregate the average speeds generated to see how the router performs in a real-world situation. As we can’t break out the 2.4 GHz band on most whole home Wi-Fi routers, we’re unable to publish separate results for the slower, longer range radio.
The charts below show us that while Velop wasn’t able to trounce the competition here, like it did in our Ethernet test, it’s still one of the better performers. As you can see, there are times (for example, with the D-Link DWA-192) where Velop placed the client incorrectly on the 2.4 GHz band, but that’s symptomatic of this router class – other devices do the same with different clients. Velop’s average speeds topped 568 Mbps (with an Apple iMac) which is the fastest single-device result we’ve seen from a whole home Wi-Fi system to date.[wpdatatable id=47] [wpdatachart id=23] [wpdatachart id=24]
Wireless Multi-device Performance
One of the major selling features of a whole home Wi-Fi system is band steering. The router transmits a single SSID and, when devices connect, the router decides whether to place each client on the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band.
There are two benefits here – one is obvious convenience, the second is speed optimisation. On traditional routers supporting the feature, I’ve seen aggregate speeds bumped by up to 70% courtesy of band steering being enabled. On whole home Wi-Fi systems, we’re unable to test speeds with band steering disabled (most devices have the feature enabled by default and don’t allow it to be disabled), but we can compare results across the field.
On this test, Linksys Velop was a revelation. As you can see from the charts below, the systems we’ve tested to date have delivered average aggregate speeds between 298 – 416 Mbps. Reasonable, but nothing special. With the same clients, running the same test, Linksys Velop hit 858 Mbps – an extremely fast result that puts the router up there with some of the fastest routers we’ve tested.[wpdatatable id=49]
I have no explanation for the difference in performance – similar chipsets should perform with reasonably similar results. Linksys Velop simply did a better job of optimising speeds across the five clients in the test, raising the device above its peers.[wpdatachart id=25]
What have we learned? At short range, for all its quirks, Linksys Velop is looking like a class-winner, but Whole Home Wi-Fi Systems aren’t just about short range performance. They need to deliver great speeds throughout the home. So, let’s move on to Location Performance.
Multi-site Performance (Wireless Backhaul)
As with previous home Wi-fi system reviews, I tested Velop’s speeds in three locations around the home. The first node is positioned in the bedroom, where our cable Internet connection is located. We run a first test here with a Surface Pro 4 on client duties. Then we move a floor up, to the Attic where the second node is located, before a final test is conducted down in the basement. Here you’ll find the third Velop node.
In this first run, the Velop access points are connected wirelessly to each other. Configuring the wireless connection, however, was problematic. So far, all of the systems I’ve tested so far have been able to connect to each other wirelessly with a reasonably strong signal. However, Velop complained about signal strength between the bedroom node and the Attic node, just one floor above. A node reset and power cycle seemed to resolve the problem, but I was a little nervous going into the wireless test.
But, once up and running, Linksys Velop again performed well in our speed tests. NETGEAR Orbi’s dedicated 4×4 wireless backhaul has bossed this class for some time and Velop couldn’t match it either. At the furthest point, the Basement node, Velop managed a respectable 163 Mbps, easily beating Google Wifi, AmpliFi HD and eero. But NETGEAR Orbi’s 228 Mbps remains unbeaten.
Multi-site Performance (Wired Backhaul)
However, Orbi’s lack of a wired backhaul feature is starting to look like an Achilles heel here in 2017. While its wireless speeds are fantastic, if you have Ethernet cabling around the home – or capable MoCA 2.0 adapters – you’ll be better off with a whole home Wi-Fi system that supports wired backhaul.
It’s worth remembering that your speeds will always be limited by your wireless client in this scenario, but if you have capable hardware (with a 3×3 or 4×4 wireless client) you’ll get the most benefit from a wired configuration.
The tests show that Linksys Velop was able to deliver the fastest connection in the Basement, at an average 287 Mbps. Compare that with Google Wifi’s 233 Mbps (also wired) and NETGEAR Orbi’s 228 Mbps wireless backhaul result.[wpdatatable id=52] [wpdatachart id=28] [wpdatachart id=29]
SummarySo, after a pretty exhaustive round of testing, what have we learned? Linksys Velop has the potential to be a class-leading whole home Wi-Fi system. It’s not blessed with the prettiest of designs, but with wired and wireless backhaul support plus excellent data transfer speeds, it’s got what it takes to compete strongly against NETGEAR Orbi, my current favourite. In a couple of my tests, Velop really wiped the floor with the competition, offering very fast wired and wireless speeds, plus first class multi-device performance.
While Orbi edged Velop at long range with the nodes connected wirelessly, Linksys’ support for wired backhaul makes it a speedier choice for homes with Ethernet (or Coax/MoCA) cabling. If I was only looking at data transfer performance, Velop would get the nod over the rest.
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However, issues – some significant – with Velop’s management application means that any recommendation I give comes with a clear warning. While the Linksys app looks great, it’s limited in features and requires additional development to iron out some bugs. You could choose to pick up Velop now in the hope those enhancements come along soon but that’s always a gamble. In the short term, prepare to suffer some frustration.
Once those fixes are in place, the company and its fans will be able to celebrate a job well done. But for now, I can only give Linksys Velop a partial recommendation.