by Craig Lloyd on
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There are a ton of great mesh Wi-Fi systems on the market, but many of them offer only the basic of features, The new Linksys MR8300 mesh Wi-Fi router combines that simplicity with a more traditional router experience.
I’m a huge fan of Eero, which make its own mesh Wi-Fi system that’s really easy to set up and use. The big problem, however, is that it’s severely dumbed down, and most of the advanced features you’d find on many routers aren’t there. Obviously, you could still use an existing router and have Eero in bridge mode, but then you just have two interfaces to deal with and you lose the simplicity of the Eero experience (which is the fundamental selling point).
Of course, a basic interface really isn’t a problem for most every day, novice users, but there are still plenty of people out there who would love an easy-to-use product, but still want access to more advanced features if need be, as well as a network that can handle anything you throw at it.
Enter the Linksys MR8300 mesh Wi-Fi router. It comes with 802.11ac tri-band Wi-Fi radios (one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz), MU-MIMO support, and a blazing-fast 716MHz quad-core processor—not really something you’d find in just any mesh Wi-Fi router.
Setting up the router works very similarly to how you would normally set up any other mesh Wi-Fi system. There’s an accompanying app that you download to your phone and use that to configure the router.
The app makes the process really easy from start to finish, including providing steps on how to plug the router in and connect all the various cables. It’s likely you already know how to do all this (especially if you purchased this kind of product), but nonetheless, it’s definitely helpful for those who might need a bit more assistance.
Once the router itself is set up, you can then use the app to set up any Linksys Velop units, which is what gives the MR8300 its mesh Wi-Fi powers. More on this later.
Once everything is up and running, you can begin using it right away and manage everything from the Linksys app on your phone, or you can use the traditional router control panel in the web browser by navigating to 192.168.1.1.
There are all sorts of features that you can mess with, including many of the same features you’d find on most mesh Wi-Fi systems, like guest access, parental controls, built-in speed testing, port forwarding, and more.
However, the MR8300 comes with a handful of advanced features, including device prioritization, MAC address cloning, MAC filtering, advanced DHCP configuration, and more.
Of course, there are some downsides. It doesn’t quite have all the hardcore features that networking enthusiasts would probably look for in a super-advanced router—there’s no advanced firewall rules and configuration toggles, for example—but there’s certainly a lot more to mess around with on the MR8300 than most consumer mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Secondly, it requires the app to set up like most other mesh Wi-Fi systems, and even when you go to configure and manage the router via the web browser, Linksys still encourages you to use the app. This isn’t a huge deal and not the app-only-experience that you get with Eero or Google Wi-Fi (an experience most people either really love or really hate), but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re really against the router-app model.
Now, having just the one single router provide coverage for your entire house doesn’t necessarily qualify as “mesh Wi-Fi,” which is why the MR8300 is fully compatible with Linksys’ existing Velop mesh Wi-Fi system.
What this means is that ideally, you’d buy the MR8300 to serve as the main router, and then buy one, two or three (or more) Velop units to place around the house in order to blanket your entire home with a fast, reliable Wi-Fi signal. And the Linksys app makes it really easy to add individual Velop units to your setup and connect them directly to the MR8300.
The range on the MR8300 itself was pretty decent, though. I was able to get a good signal and fast speeds all the way downstairs, thanks to the four antennas that you can point in pretty much any direction—I didn’t really need to mess with them much, however.
The garage is usually where I have trouble getting a good Wi-Fi signal, and unfortunately, the MR8300 was still unable to provide me with that, unsurprisingly. However, simply adding on a Velop unit and placing it downstairs fixed that issue in no time.
And that’s really the whole point of the MR8300—using it with a Velop system brings out its true colors. Of course, with the router priced at $179 and some Velop units normally ringing in at $350 for a pair, you’re looking at $530 for a whole house setup. This is compared to Eero at $400 and Google Wi-Fi at $300.
It’s definitely a premium price to pay, but if you want the best of both worlds (an easy-to-use mesh Wi-Fi system with a mostly-traditional router experience), as well as the networking robustness to handle anything you throw at it, it’s definitely worth considering.
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