CES 2019: Linksys Debuts New MR8300 Wi-Fi Router With Velop Mesh Technology

With Apple having discontinued its AirPort lineup last year and mesh Wi-Fi becoming more and more popular due to its robust coverage and performance, the company's users are increasingly looking to third-party networking options. Belkin-owned Linksys has been one of the leaders in the mesh Wi-Fi market with its Velop lineup, and it's the only brand of Wi-Fi system Apple now carries in its stores and online.

While the Velop systems have been popular for their performance and unobtrusive design, some users have been looking for something a bit more traditional that offers wired ports, and that's why Linksys today is announcing the MR8300 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi router. It's a standalone Wi-Fi router that offers many of the features power users are accustomed to, including three 802.11ac radios (one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz), four adjustable antennas with beamforming to deliver maximum signal coverage, and 4 gigabit LAN ports for wired connectivity. There's also a USB 3.0 port for connecting peripherals such as shared network storage.


If that sounds pretty much like a traditional router, it is, but the MR8300 also includes built-in mesh technology that integrates with the Velop systems, so you can use it as a hub to build your mesh network around. The integration helps you evolve your network over time if your needs change such as moving from a small apartment where a single router is sufficient to a larger home where you can benefit from a mesh setup.

I've had the MR8300 in my house for a couple of weeks, using it both in place of and integrated with my existing tri-band Velop nodes, and it's offered solid coverage and performance for my home.


Unlike the Velop nodes or Apple's AirPort products, the MR8300 doesn't have a sleek design, instead prioritizing performance with its large adjustable antennas. It's not unusual for Wi-Fi router design, but if you're coming from something like the AirPort lineup it can be a little bit of a visual shock that might give you pause when considering just how visible you want your Wi-Fi router to be.

The MR8300 isn't the most powerful Wi-Fi router you can buy, with Linksys itself offering some higher-end options like the EA9500 with eight antennas, eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, and faster transfer speeds, for example, but the MR8300 offers a nice balance of performance, price, and mesh expandability.

For nearly a year, I've been using a three-node tri-band Velop system in my 1850 square foot, two-story home, with the primary node located in first-floor family room at one end of the house. My office is located at the exact opposite end of the house and up a floor, and while I get decent Wi-Fi speeds in my office, it feels like I do need to be careful with the placement of my Velop nodes to ensure a good signal, as the node in the center of my home has occasionally complained about a weak connection to the primary node.

The MR8300 isn't able to fully cover my entire house on its own from its peripheral location, managing an average of only 27 Mbps down and 11 Mbps up from my 100/100 Google Fiber service when connecting from my office at the opposite end of the house, but that's not surprising considering my previous experience with Wi-Fi routers in my house. If you have a smaller home or are able to locate the router in a more central location, coverage should be just fine. Moving close to the router yielded speeds of around 95 Mbps up and down.


While my router's location in my house isn't ideal for full Wi-Fi coverage on its own, it is in my family room with an Xbox and an Apple TV, so the ability to use stable wired connections for those devices is a plus.

So if your setup is like mine and you find your router can't give you adequate coverage on its own, that's where the MR8300's Velop technology comes in. You can easily add one or more Linksys Velop nodes to the MR8300, letting your network grow with you while giving you the benefits of both fast gigabit wired connections and mesh Wi-Fi technology.


The Linksys iOS app makes it easy to set up and manage the company's routers, and it takes only a few minutes to get the MR8300 up and running, with plenty of customization options available in the app. And if you want to add Velop nodes to the network, the app makes it easy to do so. It takes a few minutes for each node to start up and configure itself, but the process is extremely simple. And once everything is up and running, the app lets you check on the status of each node and see at a glance which nodes and Wi-Fi bands your devices are connected to.


Once I had my Velop nodes added to the MR8300, I was able to achieve speeds in excess of 92 Mbps up and down throughout my home.

The Linksys MR8300 is scheduled to be priced at $199.99, although Linksys is currently listing it at $179.99 in the company's online store. The MR8300 is launching today and will also be available through Best Buy and Amazon.

That's the same price as a single tri-band Velop node, but it offers a bit more in the way of features such as the wired ports. The MR8300 is also nearly identical to the EA8300 router from Linksys priced at $139.99, so you're essentially paying $60 for the new Velop compatibility.

Velop Tri-Band users may also be interested in new Linksys Shield subscription services launching this year to help protect your network on an ongoing basis. First up next month is a Parental Control Subscription priced at $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year that offers filtering for adult, violent, or other types of content at the router level to help keep kids safe online. A separate Network Security Subscription priced at $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year will be launching later in 2019 to help protect against threats from malicious sites by checking your traffic against a database of known threats.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Linksys, Best Buy, and Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.


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New ‘EasyMesh’ Program Will Let You Extend Your Wi-Fi Mesh System No Matter the Brand

Wi-Fi Alliance today announced a new certification program called "EasyMesh," which will allow users who own mesh network products to choose from devices across different brands, while still ensuring reliable Wi-Fi coverage (via PCWorld). This way, customers will no longer need to stay within a single-vendor ecosystem dictated by the brand of the hub router, and can branch out to add on access points to their network that might have better performance, or other advantages.

So with EasyMesh certified products, if you own a Linksys Velop router then you can extend coverage across your home using a Netgear Orbi access point. Right now, users can only add products onto mesh networks that work with the main network gateway. For EasyMesh, the limitation as of now is company adoption, so users will have to wait for each mesh system maker to introduce EasyMesh compatibility into their devices.


According to Wi-Fi Alliance marketing vice president Kevin Robinson, EasyMesh is implemented in software, "so there should be no need for new hardware," which could speed up adoption rates. Still, Robinson pointed out that it will be up to each company to decide about adding EasyMesh into existing products. He also stated that companies will also be able to "differentiate their products with unique features or performance" and went on to break down the main components of EasyMesh.
“Interoperability has been core to Wi-Fi’s success,” said Wi-Fi Alliance marketing VP Kevin Robinson in an embargoed interview last week. “A standardized approach enables great economies of scale.” Robinson explained that EasyMesh has two main components: The controller and the agent.

“The controller resides in one device on the network—in either a gateway or an access point—where it controls and manages all the devices on the network and how they connect to each other. Agents are in the mesh access points, and they organize with each other and provide information to the controller about how the network is operating.”
In the announcement, the Alliance described EasyMesh as a system that will be familiar to any mesh network user. The program monitors network conditions and "self-adapts as needed," and it can guide internet-connected devices to the optimal access point in order for the user to have the best possible connection. Of course, the main advantage is that EasyMesh accomodates Wi-Fi extending access points across various brands, making the creation of an in-home Wi-Fi network far easier.

Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks accommodate a greater selection of devices across brands and are also extensible, making it easy for users to introduce new Wi-Fi EasyMesh access points into their network. Wi-Fi EasyMesh access points today will maintain interoperability with future Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks, providing an enhanced user experience for years to come.

“Wi-Fi EasyMesh offers both service providers and Wi-Fi users a consistent approach to multiple AP solutions," said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is delivering a standardized solution to a market-leading product category enabling a strong ecosystem for interoperable, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices.”
Mesh networks have become increasingly popular over the last few years, thanks to their ability to easily extend Wi-Fi signals throughout a home. Some well-known brands include eero, Linksys Velop, Google Wi-Fi, Luma, and Netgear Orbi, which just announced a new 2-in-1 modem router system earlier this month.

Apple itself never offered a Wi-Fi mesh system, and the company officially got out of the router market completely in April with the discontinuation of the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule. As an alternative Apple sells the tri-band Linksys Velop system on Apple.com, and the new dual-band system will be launching tomorrow, May 15, although it's still unclear if it will also be up on Apple's website.

Check out our full review of the dual-band Linksys Velop for more information on the company's latest Wi-Fi product.

Tags: Linksys, eero, Orbi

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Linksys Aims to Fill Apple’s AirPort Void With Cheaper Dual-Band Velop Mesh Wi-Fi System

Last Thursday, Apple announced the discontinuation of its AirPort lineup of wireless routers, marking the end of an era that at times saw the company push the boundaries of wireless networking. Apple says it will continue selling the existing AirPort products until supplies are gone, which leaves the Velop mesh system from Linksys as the sole Wi-Fi router product sold by Apple.

Linksys debuted its tri-band Velop system last year, and Apple began selling it around the beginning of this year, priced at $350 for a two-pack or $480 for a three-pack. With a mesh Wi-Fi system, multiple nodes work seamlessly together to provide greater coverage than a traditional access point.

The tri-band Velop system is a bit pricey compared to some other options on the market, but it works well, providing strong coverage throughout your home and offering features such as guest networking, parental controls, and device prioritization.

Original tri-band (left) and new dual-band (right) Velop systems from Linksys

While the original Linksys Velop remains a highly rated router option and Apple's third-party system of choice, the fairly high price can be a barrier to entry, and so users who have so far held back from taking the plunge into mesh Wi-Fi networking may be interested to know that Linksys today is launching its lower-cost dual-band Velop system. I've had a brief opportunity to try out the new dual-band system, and while it doesn't have quite the high-end specs of the original tri-band system, it still appears to be a solid option for many users as long as your house isn't too large, and it comes with a much lower price tag.

I have Google Fiber with a 100/100 Mbps connection in my 1800 square foot home, but my office is at the farthest point from the fiber jack and my Wi-Fi speeds suffer significantly at that distance. Upon activating my Google Fiber service earlier this year, I quickly found that my AirPort Time Capsule provided a stronger signal than Google's router, so I initially used the Time Capsule to provide my Wi-Fi but even that offered inconsistent performance in my office, occasionally reaching 90/90 Mbps speeds but frequently managing only in the range of 5–10 Mbps despite typically showing full signal bars.

When I moved from the single AirPort access point to the tri-band Velop, I immediately saw full coverage throughout my home using a three-node system including a node in my office, giving me essentially full speed from anywhere in my home.

Linksys touts the tri-band Velop system as covering up to 6,000 square feet at 2,000 square feet per node, so there was plenty of range to spare in my home. The tri-band system offers one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi radios, as well as MU-MIMO and beamforming support for maximum throughput of up to a theoretical 2200 Mbps.

Dual-band Velop node

Competitively priced at $129 for a one-pack, $199 for a two-pack, or $299 for a three-pack, the new dual-band Velop system drops one of the 5 GHz radios, reducing theoretical throughput to 1300 Mbps. Range is also slightly less, with each node covering up to 1500 square feet for a maximum of 4500 square feet with the three-pack system. The dual-band Velop nodes also come in slightly smaller than the tri-band models, measuring about two inches shorter and the same 3.1 inches square in the base.

Screenshots from Velop setup process in iOS app

In my brief testing of the new dual-band Velop, I was definitely able to see the reduced coverage, as I did run into a couple of issues during the setup process where I was unable to add additional nodes due to various Wi-Fi connection issues. I eventually did get everything configured with blue status lights indicating solid Wi-Fi signals on all nodes.

Speeds were also not as fast through the dual-band system, as I consistently saw download and upload speeds around 30 Mbps from my office. It definitely appears to be an issue with pushing the range of the dual-band system despite the modest size of my home, as moving my devices closer to the primary node delivers fast speeds in excess of 90 Mbps.

Wi-Fi download and upload speeds on dual-band Velop at farthest reaches of my home

As with the tri-band model, all nodes in the dual-band Velop system are designed to work together to optimize coverage of your floor plan, making the most efficient use of bands and channels based on your usage habits. The network is also self-healing, with nodes able to reconnect to each other and the network if one of the nodes goes offline for some reason.

Linksys iOS app with main dashboard, parental controls, and device prioritization

Each node has a pair of Ethernet ports that automatically configure themselves as one WAN and one LAN on the first node, and two LAN ports on other nodes. If you have a wired network in your home, Velop nodes can be connected via Ethernet for wired backhaul that leaves more of the wireless network available for general data transmission.

Cable management is a bit different on the dual-band model, with the power and Ethernet ports located on the rear of each node. On the tri-band models, the ports are located on the bottom of the nodes with some extra space underneath and a cable management guide to help keep everything neat and tidy.

Ports on bottom of tri-band Velop (left) vs. rear of dual-band system (right)

Velop also works with Amazon Alexa, with skills allowing you to activate Velop's guest network and read network credentials aloud.

Linksys certainly isn't the only vendor in the mesh network game, with notable competitors like eero, AmpliFi, Netgear's Orbi, and Google Wifi all proving popular. But with Linksys proving to be Apple's partner of choice so far, the Velop systems undoubtedly have some advantages when it comes to visibility for Apple users. Pricing on the new dual-band Velop is also competitive, which will likely attract new potential customers who don't need everything the tri-band system offers.

The dual-band Linksys Velop launches May 15 with pre-orders going up through Amazon today, and it will be available from a variety of retailers as of the launch date. Apple has not yet committed to selling the new dual-band system, but Linksys tells me discussions about carrying the dual-band Velop are ongoing.

The tri-band Velop system is available from a number of retailers such as Amazon in one-pack ($200), two-pack ($338), and three-pack ($450) options. The tri-band and dual-band Velop nodes are also interchangeable, so if you've already got some in the house you can mix and match types.

Note: Linksys provided the Velop systems to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this news coverage. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and Linksys and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.

Tags: Linksys, Velop

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