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Linksys Velop Wi-Fi system aims to be the Eero killer

Stand aside Google Wifi, Belkin released a much more powerful contender today at CES 2017.

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The Velop comes in three identical units.

Dong Ngo/CNET

If the Google Wifi competes with the Eero by being much less expensive, Belkin's first Wi-Fi system, the Linksys Velop, intends to beat them both by having more powerful hardware. This new system, released today at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, carries the same hefty price as that of the Eero at launch: $500 for a set of three identical units or $200 for a single unit (you can also get two for $350.) That price converts to about £405 or AU$685 for the set of three, £160 or AU$275 for a single unit or two for £285 or AU$480.

So it doesn't come cheap. But it packs enough power to potentially double the real-world Wi-Fi speed.

Powerful hardware with dedicated back-haul

Like most Wi-Fi systems, you use one Velop unit as the main router, then place additional units around it - one or two rooms away - to wirelessly and automatically extend the Wi-Fi network.

Each Velop unit is a powerful tri-band dual-stream (2x2) AC2200 router, compared to the AC1200 Wi-Fi standard used by both Google Wifi and the Eero. It has two 5GHz bands with up to 867 megabits per second each and one 2.4GHz band (up to 400Mbps). The router is powered by an integrated system on a chip that incorporates a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor along with 4GB of flash memory, 512MB DDR3 system memory and a Bluetooth 4.0/LE radio for device setup. That's a lot of raw power.

What special about the Velop is that when multiple units are used together, they dedicate one 5GHz band for the back-haul, or the job of wirelessly linking them together. In other words, the main router unit uses one band just to send the signal to a satellite unit, and the satellite uses one of its 5GHz band just for the job of receiving that signal. Then it uses the other two bands to rebroadcast the signal to clients. This minimizes the effect of signal loss, which always occurs when a band has to both receive and rebroadcast the Wi-Fi signal at the same time. The Velop is the second Wi-Fi system, the Netgear Orbi being the first, that employs a dedicated back-half band.

But the Velop goes one step further than the Orbi by supporting dynamic frequency selection (DFS) allowing it to automatically pick the best channel or band at a given time to connect the hardware units and clients together. You can also link the Velop units together using network cables, which will completely eliminate signal loss and distance restriction -- something the Netgear Orbi so far hasn't allowed.

All these mean one thing: fast Wi-Fi connection speed. Basically the Velop is fast enough to deliver ultra-fast internet connection of 400Mbps or even faster. Keep in mind that most existing Wi-Fi systems, like the Eero or Google Wifi, can deliver the full broadband speed of no more than 200Mbps.

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Each Velop unit is a powerful AC2200 router that has two auto-sensing (LAN/WAN) Gigabit network ports.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Feature packed

The Velop comes with a Linksys app for iOS and Android for both the setup process and ongoing management. It also comes with a host of cool features, including:

  • Spot Finder: Using the Linksys app, the Velop will recommend the best placement for additional satellite units to deliver the best performance.
  • Linksys XConnect: Sensitive information, such as passwords, will be encrypted and secure when passed between hardware units.
  • Amazon Alexa Cloud Integration: You can use Alexa to control your home network, turn the Guest nerwork on and off or verbally request the Wi-Fi networks' passwords. Future Alexa skills are in development.
  • Seamless Wi-Fi Experience: Velop promises seamless signal hand-off, allowing a connected client to roam from one hardware unit to another without interruption.
  • Airtime fairness, Load balancing and device steering: When multiple clients with different Wi-Fi speed grades are connected to the Velop, they are treated differently based on their top speed. This allows all devices to connect at their best speeds.

Wi-Fi coverage and availability

Linksys says you can use a single Velop unit to cover a home of some 2,000 square feet, two units for up to 4,000 square feet and all three units for up to 6,000 square feet. The actual coverage depends on the layout of your home, obviously, but chances are you won't need more than three units. The Velop is available now and includes a three-year warranty, which is generous considering most routers and Wi-Fi systems come with just one year.

All things considering this Wi-Fi system sure sounds promising. Check back after CES for the full review to see how its real-world performance pans out.

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