Velop MX4200 Review
Been a loyal Linksys customer. My first ever router was a wired Linksys :-) during the good old days of Singapore Cable Vision! Remember using a really long ethernet cable so I could work in the kitchen since wireless was not an option then. Have owned the following:
- BEF series - My first Linksys router (wired)
- WRTG series - WiFi standards b, g. My first wireless Linksys router was a WiFi standard using WEP authentication
- EA4500 - WiFi standard a, n. This is one of the best routers with stable and good coverage. Sadly had to migrate from cable to fibre once the former was deprecated
- EA8100 - This was bundled when I moved kicking and screaming to Fibre. Not so good experience... Many “family conferences” :-(. This is how I ended up with the Velop
- Velop AC6600 - Powerful tri-band mesh router and it did minimized “family conferences” albeit with additional maintenance
Really happy with the Velop AC6600 as it is great, when it works. It successfully supports at least 16 devices at home:
- Mobiles - 8
- Tablet - 1
- Notebook - 2
- Chromebooks - 3
- Chromecast - 1
- Google Home - 1
Only one mobile device supports WiFi 6 :-(.
During lockdown, it supported 2 kids and 2 working adults studying and working from home via notebooks, Chromebooks that were using a combination of Zoom, WebEx, MS Teams, Skype and Google Meet.
However, the AC6600 was quite tedious and time consuming to set up and maintain. Occasionally nodes would disconnect and this created “family conferences” where even my domestic helper got involved. This much abused, taken for granted, involuntary and unpaid 24 X 7 live-in tech support found it pressurizing to troubleshoot and restore WiFi. To be fair, internet connectivity is vital these days. It became a daily routine to check the nodes and toggle Client/ Node Steering which seems to help with node disconnects. For good measure, would wake up early on a SUN each month to power down the modem and all nodes. After about 5 minutes, would power up the modem and each node in turn for a complete restart and system reset. Understand this helps with security and performance. It took around 15 minutes and had to be done early in the morning to avoid a “family conference”. In the event a node needed to be restarted, often this entailed restarted all of then in turn to avoid the dreaded node disconnect.
As an old school finance professional, security/ confidentiality/ discretion is deeply inculcated. Perhaps this is an occupational hazard. With more systems being digitized and systems going online, IT security is a major consideration especially with almost daily news of hacks/ data leaks etc. Work from home has increased the risks. In this context, SSID passwords are changed every quarter along with personal Google Account passwords. To further mitigate risks, Chromebook use at home is encouraged since they are more resistant to malware and viruses. Naturally the family hates this and am often the butt of gibes for being paranoid. My youngest offspring even sighed deeply and remarked “Why can’t I have a normal Papa like everyone else!”. SSID password changes were tedious since it entailed restarting the main node. The secondary nodes needed to be reset individually and in the right order as they would not connect to the main node after SSID password change.
It was with these in mind that when I took the plunge to set up the MX4200. This was after numerous positive feedback about the smooth setup.
Bracing myself for a painful experience, my fears proved unfounded. Setup of primary and secondary node was literally in minutes, much to my surprise! For starters the MX4200 nodes started up much faster when compared to the AC6600. They also connect faster. Well done Linksys!
Trouble started when trying to connect to an AC6600 node. It took three attempts to connect (over an hour). Here’s a tip:
Disable DFS since AC6600 does not support DFS. Initially disable WPA2/WPA3 but after testing, it seems to work. Will continue to monitor and provide updates.
Once this was done, the AC6600 node connected! If anyone knows a better way, please let me know.
My AC6600 was deployed as follows:
- Hall (Opennet point is there)
- Store/ Dining area (more of bridging and power point access)
- Master bedroom (this was furthest from the hall)
The entire home including kitchen/ toilets was covered including lift land area and even the common stairwell at least two floors down.
Since I have two MX4200 nodes, was curious what the coverage would be like. The nodes were deployed as follows:
- Master bedroom
The Master bedroom node was able to connect to the main node! With the AC6600 it was also possible but the signal was very weak. Performance was adequate for WebEx and VPN.
Since I have AC6600 nodes, now superseded, decided to add one in the Store/ Dining area for good measure. See setup above for the experience.
My domestic helper reports that the signal is better in the kitchen compared to the AC6600 so once again well done Linksys! My kids also report faster videos downloads. Now you can see why Parental Controls are important :-(.
Restarts/ SSID Password change
MX4200 restarts and SSID password changes are no longer a chore! No need to individually power down and restart each node. Even the AC6600 node handled these with no need for reset. This is quantum improvement. Another great job Linksys!
After a week of relatively heavy use i.e. multiple devices being used for video calls via WebEx, MS Teams, Skype, Zoom and Google Meet the nodes are stable and so far no disconnects. Have not toggled the settings. Contrast this with daily toggling of Client/Node Steering for the AC6600. In this regards, this is also a quantum improvement. Another thumbs up for Linksys!
Update: After three weeks, the nodes remain stable and looking good! What is noteworthy is the stability of the MX4200 nodes. The AC6600 node did disconnect once today. Otherwise, all good.
Since I only have one WiFi 6 device (ASUS Zenfone 7 Pro), internet speed improvement is faster than AC6600. To be fair, this device is rarely used for video viewing. Managed to get over 400 Mbps. Chromebooks (WiFi 5 and WiFi 4 capable) speed is noticeably faster. The WiFi 4 capable Chromebook was getting speeds of over 300 Mbps! Sadly the WiFi 5 capable Chromebook was getting speeds of over 200 Mbps which is an improvement from the AC6600 (generally below 200 Mbps with the occasional 300 Mbps). Work notebook (Win10 WiFi 5 capable) is slightly faster mainly because of VPN and office bandwidth limitations for offsite access. Core systems such as SAP are located in the US HQ with local access being mirrored. This creates a noticeable lag which is not related to the MX4200 since it was also present in the AC6600. Internet speed using the MX4200 is over 100 Mbps vs 80 Mbps with the AC6600.
This is the WiFi 5 capable HP14 G5 Chromebook 2018
This is identical when compared with the AC6600. Was hoping for the ability to block specific Android apps e.g. Telegram, Instagram, YouTube etc. The whole idea is to limit screen time and apps use. Sure there is the option to block specific websites but it will not block specific Android apps. Hopefully Linksys will improve Parental Controls.
One of the many neat features of Linksys is the web access for maintenance. It now includes two factor authentication. Just update details within My Account and turn these on. Personally think this is important as it is a dangerous world out there. To access go to https://www.linksyssmartwifi.com/
What I liked
- Setup - Fast and simple
- Node restarts - Fast
- Password change - No need to reset each node individually. This makes maintenance a whole lot easier
- Form factor - Ok it is larger than the AC6600 but love the four ethernet ports! These allow flexibility. Although the AC6600 had two ethernet ports, could not get them to work on secondary nodes. In my case, have some old school devices that are not WiFi capable and only have ethernet ports. The MX4200 nodes retains the “storm trooper” look that looks cool :-).
- Two factor authentication - Linksys includes a really handy access via web browser for maintenance. It now includes two factor authentication. Given that it is a dangerous world out there, this does improve security. Sure, it is not fool proof but think of it as having an extra lock on the door.
What I disliked
- Parental controls - Given the importance of WiFi, internet access, would have thought that parental controls be given better features on the MX4200. Afterall, this is a flagship product. Children do need to be managed since most lack self-control :-(. Of course the same can be said of many adults but that is another issue …
- Power adapters - Ok, this is relatively minor. The AC6600 power adapters look polished and befitting for a flagship product. The MX4200 ones look cheap in comparison … Then again … who looks at power adapters :-)
Overall great job Linksys.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke