Wi-Fi 6 router impresses from far

Things seem to be falling in place for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard (also known as 802.11ax) this year.

While it was introduced over a year ago, client devices that support this wireless protocol – which offers significantly faster speeds and is more efficient at handling multiple users simultaneously – are finally becoming mainstream.

Joining this growing family of Wi-Fi 6 devices is the Linksys Velop MX5300 Wi-Fi 6 mesh router.

As indicated by its “mesh” naming scheme, multiple units of the MX5300 can form a single mesh network to ensure good wireless coverage. Linksys says each router can cover an area of 3,000 sq ft.

The MX5300 can also form a mesh network with some Linksys routers, such as older Velop models that use the Wi-Fi 5 standard.

This interoperability means you can slowly phase out your older Linksys mesh routers for the new Wi-Fi 6 models, instead of changing all of them at the same time, which can be costly.

Setting up two MX5300 routers in a single mesh network was easy enough. All the work was done by the Linksys mobile app (available for iOS and Android) on my smartphone. All I had to do was select the option to set up a new product, leave my phone next to the router and fill in basic information such as the name of the Wi-Fi network.

The user-friendliness of the app and ease of installation should not be underestimated as Linksys has simplified a task that is daunting to tech novices.

The MX5300 also has a Web-based interface that offers several more advanced options. However, it does not have as many features as routers from enthusiast-oriented brands like Asus.

The MX5300 is physically larger than its predecessors, though it has a similar tower design that looks clean without protruding antennas. It has four Gigabit LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port and a USB 3.0 port that can connect to an external storage device.

To test its Wi-Fi 6 performance, I used an HP notebook with a built-in Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless chipset. I placed it in my living room, about 5m from the primary MX5300 router that is connected to my fibre modem.

FOR

• Future-proof with Wi-Fi 6 and Zigbee support

• Excellent Wi-Fi performance 

• User-friendly app 

• Interoperable with older Linksys mesh routers to form a single network

AGAINST

• Lack of advanced options for tech-savvy users 

• Expensive

SPECS

PRICE: $569 (exclusive to Challenger stores and the Hachi.tech website till March 19)

ETHERNET INTERFACE: Gigabit WAN port, 4 x Gigabit LAN ports

STANDARDS: 802.11b/g/n/ac/ax

SECURITY: WPA2, WPA2/WPA3 mixed mode

ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI

RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4.5/5

PERFORMANCE: 5/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

OVERALL: 4/5

In my speed test, the MX5300 produced an average download speed of 810Mbps. The TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 router (Archer AX11000) managed 830Mbps in the same test.

The speed dipped to 589Mbps (a 27 per cent drop) when I tested it with a Wi-Fi 5 laptop, affirming the speed advantage of Wi-Fi 6.

But what really impressed me was its performance at the farthest end of my home.

Using a Wi-Fi 6 laptop in a distant bedroom, the MX5300 achieved a download speed of 717Mbps. This is significantly higher than the 100Mbps to 200Mbps I typically get with an older Wi-Fi 5 mesh system.

The only downside: the MX5300 is, like many Wi-Fi 6 routers, relatively expensive at $569 for a single unit. Netgear’s equivalent Orbi Wi-Fi 6 mesh router costs $1,099 for a pair, while Asus’ AX6100 mesh routers are slightly cheaper at $769 for two.

The router is available till March 19 exclusively at selected Challenger stores and the Hachi.tech website. Challenger members can buy a pair at a promotional price of $888 – also valid till March 19.

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