Linksys Velop vs. Google WiFi: Does Tri-band Matter?

After a month of testing, I determined Google WiFi (three-set) is the best mesh router for most people because it has excellent app features with similar performance to Velop’s two-pack. Velop is solid but you’d need three nodes to compete while making sacrifices on price and software.

I’ll compare and contrast two mesh routers (Linksys Velop vs. Google WiFi) by evaluating four categories: setup, software, performance, and design.

Google WiFi: 8/10

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Setup: B-

  • Google WiFi usually installs smoothly, but I’ve had issues two of the fives times I’ve set it up. There are tricky steps where it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do like other systems (e.g., Eero), but you should be fine if you remember a few things:
    • Google WiFi won’t ask you plug in your router, but you should plug it in before opening the app.
    • It doesn’t tell you to unplug your modem until the setup fails. It’ll most likely fail, so I wish it would just have everyone do restart the modem from the beginning.
    • After scanning the QR code on the bottom of the router, it doesn’t always automatically connect to the dummy network automatically. If it doesn’t connect, go into your WiFi settings and connect manually with the password location on the bottom.

Software: A

  • The app is simple with lots of great features. If you’re familiar with any of Google’s apps interfaces, there won’t be any surprises.
    • Multiple people in your household can have control over the WiFi without using the same account. You just add their Google account to the network.
    • With “Family WiFi” you can group devices and assign them to people and give those profiles different privileges, Internet usage quotas or timed internet access, or just pause all devices.
    • There’s a “safe search” feature for your kids. Google is a search engine, so they have a better read on what is and isn’t safe for kids.
    • You can prioritize which devices get more WiFi juice for a set time. Or even shut off access to the internet on specific devices.
    • You can control smart home devices inside the Google WiFi app.
    • You can see real-time stats of Internet usage and there’s a great interface for seeing total bandwidth usage (day, week, month), on a per device basis or total network.
  • If you’re having issues you can reboot the system from the app and it’ll be back in three minutes.
  • You can enable IPv6, manage DHCP IP reservations, DNS and port settings.
  • There are IFTTT recipes for automation.
  • You can create a guest network.
  • There are potential downsides, but these won’t affect many:
    • You can’t use a VPN.
    • A Google account is required for setup
    • There’s no MU-MIMO support.
    • WiFi calling doesn’t always work.
    • There’s no guarantee this product will be around long-term or get consistent updates because Google has millions of projects going on at any given time and has a history of discontinuing products.
    • Google will store and keep your data. If you use any of Google’s products (e.g., Search, Gmail, YouTube, Photos, etc.), the company knows a ton about you and uses your data for ad targeting. Do you want to provide even more data for them to monetize? That’s up to you, but it doesn’t bother me because I’m under the assumption that they already know everything about me.

Performance: B-

  • Solo router performance (for baseline):
    • One Google WiFi gave me an average of 90/mbps, in my house and backyard. It has the worst performance of any solo mesh router that I’ve reviewed.
  • Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
    • Three Google WiFi routers gave me an average of 107/mbps, in my house and backyard. The performance narrowly beat Velop in my house, but it’s close enough to be a rounding error.
    • A set of three should cover 4,500 square feet according to Google, but it looks like it’s closer to 3,500 square feet, according to my tests.
    • Google WiFi only dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), while Velop has three bands. As you add more Google routers to your system, your network will have its range extended but the speeds will slow down because there are fewer channels available compared to Velop.
  • The technology is dated because Google WiFi hasn’t been refreshed since 2016.

Design: B-

  • They’re small cylinders that are 2″ tall, which is perfect for staying out of the way.
  • They’re not bad to look at and it’s an upgrade from Velop.
  • You get two Ethernet ports on each. That means with a three-part system, you’ll have five ports remaining for bridges, hubs, and other accessories.
  • They perform terribly when close to a wall or on a shelf. Most routers need open space, but this is especially crucial with Google models.
  • There a nightlight that can be turned on or off on each with the app.

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Linksys Velop: 7/10

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Setup: B+

  • It walks you through each step and requires you to unplug the modem first, which solves all potential issues.
  • Like Google WiFi, it doesn’t always connect to the node on the first try, but at least it lets you know how to find in it in your phone’s WiFi settings.
  • When you name your network, you can get into an endless loop where there’s a loading screen saying it’s saving your settings, but the screen never goes away. Tip: Your settings are actually saved, it’s just not showing you.

Software: B-

  • The phone app’s interface has an appealing look and some excellent features, but it’s slow connecting to the nodes with long loading times while Google WiFi is always instantly available.
  • It has fantastic features for parents because they can pause, schedule a pause, or block sites from individual devices.
  • If the devices are misnamed, you can rename them.
  • You get port forwarding, UPnP and DNS, IPv6 support, WAN, and DHCP IP reservations.
  • Unlike Google WiFi, Velop can work with a VPN pass-through.
  • If a node goes offline, you can get a push notification.
  • You can create a guest network and name it whatever you want, with its own password.
  • You can prioritize devices up to three devices at once.
  • There’s support for MU-MIMO.
  • There’s an Alexa skill that lets you ask it your WiFi credentials.
  • Channel Finder” optimizes your network and gets each device running on the correct node and channel. It’s a nice feature if you need a reset, but this should be done automatically in the background.
  • Linksys has been around for 30 years under a few different owners. Cisco bought it in 2003, then Belkin acquired it in 2013. Belkin was acquired by Foxconn this year. The frequent ownership changes are concerning, but since they profit from their products, they probably have less interest in your data.
  • There are four important software features missing:
    • There aren’t real-time bandwidth stats for your devices. If you’re having issues, it’s nice to see which devices on the network are consuming resources.
    • There’s no way to track total bandwidth usage of the entire network for a set period.
    • You can’t create profiles or group devices together. It’s nice to be able to tap one button to pause four of your kid’s devices or create a schedule for four at once.
    • Linksys created a content filtering service for $50/year, while Google’s works more efficiently and is free.

Performance: B+

  • Solo router performance (for baseline):
    • One Linksys Velop gave me an average of 95/mbps, in my house and backyard. Velop has better range on a per router basis than Google WiFi
  • Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
    • Two Linksys Velop nodes gave me an average of 107/mbps, in my house and backyard.
  • The more nodes that you require, the better Velop will perform compared to Google WiFi because Velop is a tri-band router, giving it an extra channel for backhaul communication.
  • Linksys Velop is a great mesh system and will outperform Google WiFi in most cases due to the extra range per router and the extra band. But its price-to-performance ratio puts it in an odd position:
    • Three Google WiFi routers are the same price and will give the most better range and consistency.
    • Three Velop routers will outperform three Google WiFi router, but it would cost $400.
    • Velop doesn’t perform as well as Eero or Orbi.
    • The app isn’t as good as Eero or Google’s.

Design: D+

  • Velop routers are more than three times taller than Google WiFI routers and don’t look appealing.
  • They have a series of mesh holes cut out on all four sides for ventilation, but this would lead to dust getting inside.
  • The good news is most houses will only need two.
  • With the standard two-piece set, you have three total Ethernet ports for accessories.

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Which is best for you?

Google WiFi

Get Google WiFi if you want excellent user-friendly software with solid performance. Google WiFi is great if you’re not tech-savvy or you want to manage your kid’s devices and internet usage.

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Linksys Velop

Get Linksys Velop if you want subpar performance (two nodes) and a mediocre app. In theory, Velop should outperform Google WiFi because of more range and bands per node, but it won’t be noticeable to most.

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