As more and more devices have become dependent on wi-fi, wireless routers have been growing in size, and sprouting countless antennas, in an attempt to keep up with the wireless demand. The results haven’t been pretty, but Linksys is finally jumping into whole home wi-fi with a new wireless router that doesn’t look like alien technology.
The alternative to upgrading to an expensive and powerful wireless router to kill wi-fi dead spots has typically been to use wireless extenders throughout your home. But they result in multiple wireless networks you have to juggle, and reduced network speeds the more you add. Whole home wi-fi—or mesh networking—promises a much simpler and elegant solution to the problem of smartphones, tablets, wearables, toys, and even appliances all demanding Wi-Fi access all the time.
In June of last year a Linksys rep told Gizmodo that the company didn’t think mesh networks were quite ready for consumers just yet. But apparently the technology has come a long way in just six months because today Linksys announced its first whole home wi-fi solution called Velop, with sleek, minimal-looking access points you won’t feel inclined to hide behind a fern.
Each of the Velop nodes serves as a tri-band, AC2200 wireless router with MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) technology so that if someone is watching Netflix in another room, another person isn’t experiencing slowdown while playing a multiplayer game online. The technology that allows wireless networks to better handle multiple devices connecting at the same time has been around for a few years now, but with the addition of mesh networking capabilities, Linksys’ new Velop system will further improve connectivity to every last corner of your home— even if you live in a castle.
The streamlined Velop setup process even helps ensure no mobile device or appliance is left behind, providing tips and recommendations on node placement in your home for optimal range and signal strength.
To make the setup process even easier, once the first node has been assigned a network name and password, any subsequent nodes—connected wirelessly or using an ethernet cable—are automatically configured appropriately. So in addition to improving coverage, this might be the first wireless network your parents can set up all by themselves... maybe.
As with Netgear’s Orbi routers, the Velop uses a dedicated radio for communications between each node, so it’s hard to say what exactly Linksys is bringing to the table in terms of new functionality. But since the company has been making wireless hardware for years now, it must certainly have an expertise in what consumers find most frustrating when it comes to setting up and maintaining a network. So hopefully the promises of extreme ease-of-use do pay off here.
By now we’ve all accepted the fact that better wi-fi doesn’t come cheap, and while a single Linksys Velop node will only cost you $200 (available starting today) you’ll actually want to opt for two or more to really see the performance benefits of having a mesh network in your home. As a result, a pair of Velop nodes will cost you $350, while a three-pack comes in at $500. It’s by no means a cheaper solution for improving your home’s wireless internet, but this is finally the wi-fi technology you’re going to want to splurge on.