Linksys Taps Alexa for Its New Mesh Router

Another router maker is trying its hand at a mesh networking product that uses multiple devices to bathe a whole home, no matter how large, in strong Wi-Fi signals. But Linksys thinks its newly unveiled Velop whole-home wireless package should enjoy an edge over its many rivals, thanks to the fact that Velop uses a tri-band approach to keep network performance from falling as your wireless signal hops from station to station.

That's similar to the selling point for Orbi, the mesh networking product introduced by Netgear last year. But Linksys argues that Velop offers a few things Orbi doesn't — namely, integration with Amazon's voice-powered Alexa digital assistant and a three-year warranty with three years of technical support.

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Starting Price: A single Linksys Velop capable of supplying a 1,200-square foot home or apartment with Wi-Fi will cost $199. But Linksys will also offer multi-device bundles, with a two-pack for two- to three-bedroom homes costing $349, and a three-pack for larger homes selling for $499. To put that in context, a two-device Orbi pack costs $399 while Eero, another rival mesh router, sells its three-pack for $499 as well.

Available: The Velop is available to buy today (Jan. 3)

Key Specs: The Velop is a tri-band AC2000 system that uses its third Wi-Fi radio to maximize network performance so that you don't see a drop-off in speed as your signal moves from node to node. Velop also supports MU-MIMO technology for efficiently managing traffic from multiple devices at once. Linksys touts the whole-home networking device's app-led setup, which should simplify getting your network up and running.

Design is also a key selling point with the Velop. The all-white 7.3 x 3.1 x 3.1 devices are meant to blend in with a home's decor. A notch in the back of the base doubles as a cable wrangler so that power and Ethernet wires are kept out of sight. At any rate, the Velop won't be confused with bulky routers you try to tuck out of view.

What's New: Integrated Alexa voice commands help the Velop stand out from the mesh networking crowd, but don't think this device can be a replacement for your Echo speaker. Commands seem to be fairly limited, as you can use Alexa to turn your guest network on and off or get login credentials for either your main or guest network. Linksys says that additional voice-powered skills will roll out via firmware updates.

Why You Should Care: Between laptops, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and assorted smart home products, you've got a lot more devices competing for attention on your home network. Many of those devices doing things like streaming video and uploading files to the cloud — often at once — and traditional home networking setups are pushed to the limit. A mesh network system like the one Linksys is pushing here offers another way to maximize your home network's performance.

Outlook: Between the tri-band setup, Alexa voice commands and generous warranty, Linksys's Velop figures to immediately make its mark in the growing category of mesh networking routers. We're looking forward to getting our hands on a group of Velop nodes to see how they handle our Wi-Fi setup.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.