Belkin's latest Linksys MX10 Velop AX mesh system (model MX10600), which consists of two Linksys MX5300 routers, reminds me of the Asus RT-AX92U. Both are unconventional Wi-Fi 6 solutions.
However, while the Asus was a bit problematic and buggy in my testing, the MX10 proved to be a solid performer, even at its default settings. It offers excellent real-world experience and requires minimum effort from the user's part.
Still, the Linksys MX10 Velop AX is far from perfect. Having only Gigabit net ports and lacking the support for 160 MHz, the system is not ready for the multi-gig era. Also, at $400 per single router or $600 (or more) for a 2-pack, it's way too expensive considering its modest specs.
But for those with a sub-gigabit internet connection and some cash to burn, this new mesh system sure will deliver. It's easily the best among the Linksys Velop family, to date.
Linksys MX5300: What’s with the names?
Is it Velop MX5300, MX5, or MX10? If you're confused about the new Linksys Wi-Fi 6 Velop hardware, that makes two of us, so here's to clarify which is which.
Belkin has the Linksys MX10 Velop AX Whole Home Wi-Fi 6 System, which includes two identical hardware units, each an MX5 router (model MX5300). This 2-pack set is what I used for this review.
The company also sells the MX5 by itself and calls it Linksys MX5 Velop AX Whole Home Wi-Fi 6 System. That is where it gets confusing because the Velop MX5300 is a single router, so it's not a system.
In short, the Linksys MX10 Velop AX (model MX10600) is a Wi-Fi system that includes two Linksys MX5 Velop AX or MX5300 routers. So, MX5, MX5300, MX10600, and MX10 all refer to the same hardware. It is just a matter of one or two units.
And no matter which you get, for the most part, you'll only deal with a Linksys MX5 router. That's because, in a mesh, the satellite units automatically replicate the setting of the primary router.
Linksys MX5300: An interesting Wi-Fi 6 router
The Linksys MX5300 is a rectangular box -- standing 9.6-inch (24.38 cm) tall and 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) wide -- that tapers slightly toward the top. At 3.5 lbs (1.59 kg), it has a good heft to it and will not topple easily. And that's a good thing since you can't mount it.
The router is probably the biggest in all Velop hardware I've worked with -- including the Velop Dual-Band, Velop Plug-in, and the original Velop -- but significantly more compact than its Wi-Fi 6 rivals, namely the Netgear RBK852 or the Arris SURFboard mAX.
Linksys MX5300: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||Linksys MX5 Velop AX5300 MU-MIMO Tri-Band Gigabit Router|
|Mesh Availability||Linksys MX10 Velop AX (2-Pack)|
|Dimensions||4.5 x 4.5 x 9.6 inches (11.43 x 11.43 x 24.38 cm)|
|Weight||3.5 lbs (1.59 kg)|
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs||4x4 Wi-Fi 6: up to 2404 Mbps|
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||4 x 4 Wi-Fi 5: up to 1733 Mbps|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||4x4 Wi-Fi 6: up to 1147 Mbps|
|Mesh Backhaul Band||Dynamic|
|Wired Backhaul Support||Yes|
|Channel Width Supported||20Mhz, 40MHz, 80MHz|
|Wi-Fi Security||WPA2, WPA2/WPA3 Mixed Mode|
|Web User Interface||Yes (Comprehensive)|
|AP (Bridge) Mode||Yes|
|USB Port||1x USB 3.2 Gen 1|
|Network Ports||4 x Gigabit LAN ports, 1 x Gigabit WAN port|
|Processing power||2.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor, 512 MB of Flash, 1GB of RAM|
Tri-band with dynamic backhaul
On the inside, the Linksys MX5300 is an odd tri-band router. It has Dual-band 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 specs plus a third 4x4 Wi-Fi 5 band. If you're wondering which of the 5GHz brands works as the backhaul in a mesh setup, you'll be surprised to learn this: both do.
That's right, and it seems quite genius. Belkin told me that the Linksys MX5 uses any of its 5GHz bands as the backhaul at a given time. It's a proprietary technology Belkin calls dynamic backhaul as opposed to dedicated backhaul.
As a result, users will have access to all three bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, 5GHz-2), though the 5GHz signals might come from different bands of different hardware units. So, one client might get 5GHz-1 signals from one node, and another client gets 5GHz-2 signals from another.
Considering the router doesn't support the 160 MHz channel bandwidth -- consequently, its Wi-Fi 6 band has a ceiling speed of 1.2Gbps, compare to the 1.73Gbps of its Wi-Fi 5 band -- it doesn't matter much which of the 5GHz band works as the backhaul, anyway.
No multi-gig support with an awkwardly placed yet versatile USB port
The Linksys MX5300 has the usual Gigabit WAN port and four Gigabit LAN ports, stacking up vertically on one side of the router.
It has no multi-gig port, which is a bit disappointing. That's not a huge deal, however, again, considering its Wi-Fi 6 caps at 1.2Gbps anyway, or around 1Gbps after overheads.
The router has no Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation, either. But it does have a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port located on top of the network ports.
You can only use a storage device with this USB port, and for that, I find its placement a bit problematic. When I plugged a portable in, the USB cable now obstructed access to the network port. It'd be much better if the USB port were near the base of the router.
Also, in my testing, the Linksys MX10 routers didn't recognize my SanDisk Extreme Portable Drive the first time around. I had to reformat it using the same NTFS file system before it worked. So it was a bit of a hiccup.
On the upside, the drive worked with the USB port of both the router and the satellite, and I got similarly fast performance in both cases.
By the way, the Linksys MX5300 supports had drives formated in NTFS, FAT32, or HFS+. Make sure you use one of those before plugging it in -- the router doesn't have a format function.
Mobile app required for setup despite the full web interface
The Linksys MX5300 has a full web user interface. However, you can't use it for the initial setup. For that, you'll need to use the Linksys mobile app.
To use the app, you have to register an account with Linksys and log in. And that means you must have a live connection to the Internet during the setup process. In return, you'll be able to use the app to manage your home network when you're out and about.
However, this type of vendor-connected management can cause privacy concerns since the router connects to Linksys at all times. So, it's a bit disappointing that Belkin forces users to use the app to set up the Linksys MX5300 despite the web interface's availability.
Nonetheless, the setup process was fast. The router has a default Wi-Fi network information printed on its underside, which you can use to link it up with the mobile app. Then, the app will walk you through the steps off setting up the Wi-Fi network, including adding more Velop units to form a mesh.
After the setup process, the router's web interface is now available via the default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1, and you can manage your network the standard way.
The familiarly modest feature set
Despite being the latest Velop, the Linksys MX5300, for the most part, has the same feature set as that of the Velop Dual-Band.
Most notably, there's a special QoS feature called Device Prioritization. It's quite simple. Drag and drop up to three connected devices onto the prioritized list and they will get on the fast lane to the Internet. In other words, the rest of the network will get the leftover bandwidth after those three.
The second big feature is Parental Control. Again, it's also simple. You can block internet access or filter specific websites from certain clients at all times or based on a schedule. There's nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
Other than that, you can also program the network with standard settings, such as port forwarding, IP reservation, Dynamic DNS, and so on. But there's no more advanced feature, such as the ability to work as a VPN server or online protection.
The router also has spartan Wi-Fi settings. Other than using all the bands as a single network (SmartConnect) or picking a separate SSID for each of them, there's nothing else you can customize.
Linksys Velop MX5300: Detail 2-pack photos
Linksys MX5300: Reliable 2-pack mesh performance
I tested the Linksys MX10 both as a mesh system and a router, and it performed well for a Wi-Fi 6 solution with modest specs and no multi-gig port, that is.
As a router, my 4x4 Wi-Fi 5 clients had the best speeds in close range test, registering a sustained rate of more than 875 Mbps. At the long-range test, my 3x3 Wi-Fi 5 clients now averaged almost 520 Mbps.
For Wi-Fi 6, 2x2 test client got sustained speeds of almost 810 Mbps and nearly 710 Mbps at the close- and long-range, respectively. There weren't the fastest but quite close to maxing out a Gigabit connection.
On the 2.4GHz, which I only tested when the Linksys MX5300 works as a standalone router, the performance was similar to that of other Wi-Fi 6 routers. There was anything of note. Generally, you can count on it to deliver a typical internet connection in full.
As a mesh system, the Linksys MX10 did well, too. I noted that it seems the system used the 4x4 Wi-Fi 5 band as its backhaul since I was able to connect to both the router and the satellite unit using Wi-Fi 6 at the same time.
And there were signs of signal loss. My test clients, of both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6, had sustained speeds lower than when they connected directly to the router unit. However, they were still quite fast, ranging from almost 390 Mbps to some 650 Mbps.
The Linksys MX10's coverage was also quite good, though not the best I've seen. That, of course, depends on how fast you want your network to be.
That said, with two units, in my tests, the system can handle some 4500 ft² (418 m²) of residential space with connection speeds of some 200 Mbps or faster. Your experience sure will vary.
The system had good signal hand-off, too. Devices automatically moved from one unit to another as I roamed around my place.
Gigabit-class NAS speeds
The Linksys MX10 did well in my testing when hosting an external drive as its storage space. I tested it by using the SanDisk Extreme Portable drive with the router unit's USB port.
Via a Gigabit connection, the registered copy speed of more than 111 megabytes per second for both writing and reading. That's about as fast as can before a 1Gbps connection.
I also tried plugging my test portable drive into the satellite unit's USB port, and, in this case, the system scored just slightly slower, around 100 MB/s. Still, that was quite impressive.
It's important to note that the router's NAS features don't require the old SMBv1 protocol to work. It supports a newer and more secure version of the popular network communication protocol for shared file access.
That said, if you want to have a simple storage sharing solution -- you can't do anything else with the USB port -- the Linksys MX5 will get the job done.
Linksys MX10 Velop AX's Rating
Reliable and relatively fast Wi-Fi performance
Helpful mobile app, full web interface
Effective backhaul that delivers Wi-Fi 6 throughout in a mesh setup
Fast NAS speeds when hosting an external drive
Expensive with comparatively low Wi-Fi specs
No support for 160MHz channel bandwidth
Mobile app and login account required for initial setup
Spartan Wi-Fi settings, modest feature set
No multi-gig network ports, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
USB port awkwardly place, not mountable
The Linksys MX10 Velop AX sure is not the fastest Wi-Fi 6 mesh system on the market. It's also not the most affordable, nor is it one with the best set of features. So it sure is not a must-have. As a router, the Linksys MX5 unit doesn't have anything that stands out, either.
But if you're looking for a system or standalone router that will give you peace of mind -- the reliability and performance you can count on -- the new Velop hardware is worth considering. If you've had experience with previous Linksys mesh hardware, keep in mind that the Linksys MX10 is the best of its type.
Whether or not all that is worth the crazy-expensive price, it's your call. But it never hurt to wait till you get a deal on it.