My last network go-around was several years ago when I combined a Linksys AC5400 (EA9500) router and two of their AC1900+ (RE7000) Range Extender. But time marches on, and there have been advances in the home networking field. While EA9500 is a great router, it never worked for me properly with its two extenders, which I had hard-wired to the router, and I configured them as access points. The problem is that devices did not reliable connect to the strongest signal, so my TVs were constantly losing their signals.
Enter affordable Mesh networks, especially the Linksys Velop. The advantage of a mesh network is that there is just one SSID, although each mesh node may have a different frequency, channel, etc. As you roam about your house, your device seamlessly disconnects from one node, and connects to a new, closer, stronger node. With the VELOP system in place, I wandered around my house, and as I walked, my WiFi server switched:
You can tell it has switched my looking at the MAC address (with the colons in it) of each server on the first line of each screen shot. And my previous system never used the 5 GHz signals, which are faster, but have less range.
As a result, the TV in my kitchen now gets 4 bars (out of 5) whereas with my previous setup, it only got 2 bars and dropped the signal on my Roku.
So performance-wise, the VELOP is a winner.
But setting up my system took almost 4 hours on the phone with the Linksys special VELOP 24/7 support line.
The VELOP system is "designed" to connect all of its nodes wirelessly, and there is a Linksys app for Android and IoS that sets this up for you. However, in my house this was a non-starter because the WiFi reception at the spots where I wanted the extension nodes have lousy WiFi reception from the primary node (which is near my cable modem. I also have a complicated system with servers, port-forwarding, and firewall rules. I wanted to keep using my very capable EA9500 router, turning off its WiFi, and replacing it with the VELOP network. I also wanted to set up the extension nodes as access points (like my previous network) that were hard-wired to the EA9500. Surely this will give faster performance than doing everything wirelessly? There are other reasons for continuing to use my EA9500:
- It has 8 gigabit ports
- It has a USB port for network storage and can act as a music server
- It lets you prioritize traffic (for games or streaming)
- It automatically updates my dynamic dns address
- I run many servers, and they need firewall exceptions and port-forwarding.
But there is no user manual, and no information about how to access the VELOP nodes without using the cell phone app! I called Tech support, and the agent had great difficulty understanding what I wanted to do, and how I would go about doing it. After 3 hours, his level 2 tech support person took over the session (after a 10-minute break) and she had everything working in 30 minutes. I am a networking expert, but without any documentation, it is hard to do. So let me give a fast primer.
I started with the "master" node and plugged an Ethernet cable into the bottom of the VELOP, and connected it to my 16-port switch that is connected to the EA9500. But how do you connect to it?
For each device, go to http://linksys45807.local where the five numbers are replaced by the last 5 digits of the serial number of your particular VELOP device (they are all different).
Notice that they are still trying to get you to use their useless app!. If you click the hidden link in the word VELOP, or the Click here, you will finally get a proper admin screen that will allow you to set up your three VELOPs. If you want to set up your system the way I have, here is what you must do for each node separately:
- Plug the node into power and an Ethernet cable connected to your main router.
- Log into the node using http://linksys#####.local where ##### is the last 5 numbers in the node's serial number.
- Click the VELOP of "Click here" to get into the administration pages.
- In the Connectivity screen
- Check for and install and updates
- Set your timezone
- Change the Admin password (the default is "admin")
- In the Internet Settings tab of this page
Edit the Type of Internet Connection and set it to Bridge Mode
- In the Troubleshooting section
you can see the ip address of your node (assigned dynamically by your router) and the DNS servers. I put the servers into the node before I set it to Bridge mode. Otherwise they will be assigned bu your router. At that time, I also assigned the default Gateway. But I do not think that is necessary in Bridge mode.