In residence networking, greater isn’t at all times higher. Anybody who has frolicked with the diminutive Eero or Ubiquiti AmpliFi routers can attest to this. Living proof: The Linksys Hydra Professional 6E is a fairly large router, although it doesn’t really feel prefer it, but it looks as if Linksys put stability forward of blasting information each which means however free.
Within the a number of days I spent with it as my main router, simply from a community stability perspective, the one noticeable distinction between it and my regular WiFi 5-based mesh setup was that issues appeared to occur a contact quicker. My community, thoughts you, is sort of all 802.11ac (WiFi 5’s extra technical designation) units, so the enhancements I noticed weren’t the results of WiFi 6E and even WiFi 6 enhancements. However I wouldn’t, personally, take into account this for my main router, but. Earlier than I get to why, let’s go over some particulars.
We’ve reviewed the opposite WiFi 6E routers which might be a part of the primary wave to be licensed by the WiFi Alliance, together with the Linksys mesh Atlas Max 6E, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000, and Netgear’s Nighthawk RAXE500. There are positively some drawbacks to think about for all the WiFi 6E routers now available on the market—most importantly, their excessive value—and the identical is true of the Hydra Professional.
Fairly Design and Loads of Ports
The Hydra Professional 6E, which is now transport to clients who’ve ordered from the Linksys website, is a broad, flattish unit with a fairly good, minimalist look that belies its dimension. At simply shy of 11 inches extensive, it’s really wider than the beefy Asus Rapture. Entrance to again it measures about 7 inches, making it slightly simpler to suit on a desk or shelf. It has 4 broad antennas that may be rotated ahead and again, a prime that’s all vents with a convex floor, and a shiny entrance with one slit of blue mild beaming out when it’s on-line and functioning. It’s a nice-looking router: The design language that Linksys has been utilizing currently has been an unlimited enchancment over the chunky blue-and-black containers of their previous. The one factor I don’t actually like about it, bodily, is the chunky exterior energy provide that hates sharing an influence strip with the rest.
However you’re proper; it doesn’t matter if it’s fairly. So let’s speak in regards to the gear within the rear: On the bottom of the router, you’re going to seek out 4 gigabit ethernet ports, a single, horizontal USB 3.zero port, a reset button as a substitute of a pinhole, and a rocker-style energy change. Oh, and a 5 GbE WAN port! Why, you ask, do I care a few 5 GbE WAN port, when all of the LAN ports are measly gigabit? That’s some outdated timey pondering, pal. This can be a WiFi 6E router! It’s acquired multi-gigabit speeds by way of the air! Who wants these LAN ethernet ports, anyway?
The reply, in fact, is loads of folks. It’s unusual that Linksys opted for a 5 GbE WAN port and selected to restrict all of the LAN ports to gigabit. In spite of everything, the overwhelming majority of individuals have sub-gigabit web and might’t really make the most of that WAN port, whereas a 2.5Gb-or-better LAN port is legitimately helpful for different functions on a neighborhood community! Internally, the router’s 1.eight GHz quad-core processor is sort of definitely the identical Broadcom BCM4908 processor that’s driving most, if not all, of the present batch of WiFi 6E (and a few WiFi 6) routers available on the market. This implies it’s greater than highly effective sufficient to push information shortly by way of its large pipes, however it does so with half the RAM of a few of its friends, just like the Asus ROG Rapture or the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500, which each boast 1GB of RAM.
Let’s Discuss Efficiency
At shut vary, utilizing a WiFi 6E-supported Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely, I noticed switch speeds of over 1.eight Gbps, which is sort of twice the velocity you’d anticipate over a gigabit wired connection. These switch checks have been going to my M1 MacBook Air, which was hardwired with a Plugable 2.5 GbE USB-C adapter. Performing the identical checks wirelessly with one other Galaxy S21 Extremely because the server on the identical 6 GHz band, switch speeds have been basically half that. That is is to be anticipated, as wi-fi transmission is a half duplex affair, which means if the router is transferring information to a second machine on the identical band, it’s going to divide the bandwidth between them. There are methods to make this much less of a difficulty: OFDMA and MU-MIMO, two methods that work to divvy up channels into sub-channels within the case of the previous, and transmit to a number of units without delay for the latter, in idea may enable for full-duplex wi-fi transmission that extra intently resembles the work a community change performs, however we are not quite there yet.
The difficulty with WiFi 6E is that these speeds come courtesy of the newly opened, higher-frequency 6 GHz band. When you’ve explored the technical aspect of wifi in any respect, you possible know that decrease frequencies transmit higher by way of stable objects and over lengthy distances—this implies a extra steady connection, and is likely one of the the explanation why so many low-bandwidth IoT units are designed solely to work on the two.four GHz band. The quickest band till now for regular WiFi 6 units is the 5 GHz band. It’s much less crowded than 2.four GHz and able to greater throughput, however is restricted in its vary. The 6 GHz band, being a good greater frequency, goes to be much more range-limited, and it reveals on this and different WiFi 6E routers I’ve checked out.
In testing the Hydra Professional I noticed wildly quick wi-fi speeds on the 6 GHz band when in the identical room with it, and precipitous drops upon leaving that room, averaging 427.5 Mbps in checks 25 ft out in my eating room. It’s nonetheless quicker than comparable velocity checks achieved with WiFi 6 on the 5 MHz band, which noticed a mean 282.13 Mbps utilizing a WiFi 6-capable M1 MacBook Air. This was additionally true out to about 45 ft, once I continued testing in my yard. It’s straightforward to really feel impressed by this.
Nonetheless, once I referred again to testing information from the gaming router comparability piece I did final yr, I discovered that the still-excellent WiFi 5 Netgear XR500 approached Hydra Professional’s WiFi 6E numbers at 45 ft (265.23 Mbps vs 357.83 Mbps respectively). Sticking to simply the 5 GHz band, should you evaluate the XR500’s numbers to the Hydra Professional’s WiFi 6 throughput, issues get even much less favorable for the brand new Linksys router, with the XR500 popping out on prime in all however the closest checks.
The gaming-focused XR500 additionally boasts virtually twice the vary, so maybe this isn’t precisely a good comparability. That stated, it does illustrate the advantages of utilizing the pristine, uncrowded 6 GHz band. And within the Hydra Professional column, we additionally see excellent WiFi 6 efficiency on the two.four GHz band—thanks, presumably, to WiFi 6 enhancements—with the Linksys demolishing the Netgear. Nonetheless, 2.four GHz and up-close 6 GHz efficiency however, most individuals’s bandwidth-hungry units function on the 5 GHz band, utilizing the WiFi 5 protocol, and right here you will discover many improbable and less expensive plain WiFi 6 routers and even WiFi 5 routers that outdo this Linksys unit.
Talking of gaming routers, I performed some on-line video games with the Hydra Professional, and I discovered it to be first rate, however not astonishing. It’s best to usually play on-line video games with a hardwired connection, however there are those that merely don’t have that selection. For that software, the Hydra Professional 6E appears high quality, although throughout a few gaming periods whereas others have been in the home utilizing the web, I did see some pretty dangerous lag spikes. I noticed some enchancment once I turned on the machine prioritization settings, with lag spikes not fairly so disruptive; in any other case, subsequent periods have been way more steady, and my ping stayed pretty constantly within the 60-90 ms vary when linked to official servers. On the entire, whereas the Hydra Professional is certainly not for anybody with skilled gaming aspirations, it’s definitely high quality for extra informal on-line play.
Configuring Your Router
On the software program aspect, I discovered the Linksys UI—each the browser and the cell variations—to be very easy and simple to grasp, if restricted in what it lets you do. This isn’t a nasty factor for most individuals, as a result of the type of superior configuration a community admin may wish to do is solely out of attain for a traditional individual. That stated, it’s not like Linksys hasn’t allowed customers to take extra management previously. The Linksys MR9000, as an example, enables you to click on an obscure hyperlink on the backside proper of the display screen merely titled “CA” brings you to a wealth of admin-style choices.
The Hydra Professional is clearly concentrating on solely the final shopper phase, as the one further possibility you get once you click on that hyperlink is a tab underneath the Connectivity settings menu labeled “Velop Setup”, which helps you to add nodes, should you resolve you wish to get one other Velop machine and make a mesh community. When you desire a cell app, theirs is nice, although it may use slightly extra tweaking. Trying by way of the menus, as an example, will be considerably annoying, as tapping the again button from sure pages can take you all the best way again to the house web page, so should you’re looking for a particular setting, you might have to repeatedly reopen the settings menu.
To Purchase Or To not Purchase?
I discover the Linksys Hydra Professional 6E to be a considerably complicated product. It doesn’t actually decide to the “Professional” moniker, which might be high quality aside from that value. At $500, I might hope for longer vary, higher throughput, decrease latency or some extra granular configuration choices. In the mean time, it’s additionally missing a number of the network-level safety features which might be loved by customers of lots of Linksys’ earlier routers, although they do intend to carry these options to the Hydra Professional.
Proper now, for considerably much less cash, you should buy WiFi 6, and even some WiFi 5, routers that carry out roughly on par with this one, barring these unobtainable up-close 6 GHz speeds. For only a contact extra money, you possibly can decide up some strikingly-fast routers with significantly-boosted vary, much better gaming efficiency, and nice total efficiency on all bands – not simply the 6 GHz band. I’m certain it’s improbable as a part in a Velop setup, however once more, for $500… why? The Linksys Hydra Professional 6E is sweet; if somebody gave one to me, I might be completely glad with it. However boy, should you then informed me the value, my eyes may fall out of my cranium.