Thinking the recently-announced Linksys Velop MX4200 Tri-Band AX4200 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (model MX12600) is an upgrade, or a downgrade, to the Velop MX10600 that came out at the beginning of 2020? You’re mistaken. It’s neither.
Looking past the lengthy, innately confusing name and the familiar design, this Velop is somewhat new hardware. It’s is both superior and inferior to the older cousin, depending on how you look at it.
One thing is for sure: If you live in a large home of somewhere between 4000 ft2 (372 m2) to 6000 ft2 (560 m2) and need a fully wireless system, at the suggested retail price of some $500, this 3-pack Velop MX12600 is a much better buy than the 2-Pack Velop MX10600. And as long as you’re happy with sub-Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds, you’ll love its reliable performance.
(You can also get the Velop MX4200 as a single unit for around $250 for those living in a smaller home. But in that case, you should opt for one of these standalone routers instead.)
Linksys Velop Tri-Band AX4200 Whole Home Mesh Router WiFi 6 System (MX12600)
- Reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
- Helpful mobile app, full web interface
- Fast NAS speeds when hosting external drives
- Comparatively affordable
- No support for 160MHz channel bandwidth
- Mobile app (and login account) required for initial mesh setup
- Spartan Wi-Fi settings, modest feature set
- No multi-gig network ports, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
- No setting backup/restore
The MX4200 is the second Wi-Fi 6 Velop. Still, it seems Belkin couldn’t make up its mind on the naming.
A confusing naming convention
I have a hard time trying to figure out how to call this thing. The new Velop is available as a single router or a mesh set of three identical ones. Here are now Belkin calls them:
- Velop AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (model MX4200) for a single unit or a 1-pack. As a result, you can call it a Velop MX4200 or a Velop AX4200. Or you have to use the entire name, which is a mouthful.
- A 3-pack is also called, well, Velop AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System, but it has a different model number, which is MX12600. So you should probably call it Velop MX12600 for short.
(In case you’re wondering, 12600 = 4200 x 3. The number is intended to show the system’s total bandwidth, in megabits per second, of all hardware units. Don’t count on this marketing tactic, though. The system doesn’t have that much bandwidth — check out this post on a mesh’s bandwidth for more.)
Here’s my pet-peeve: You can’t call a single hardware unit “system.” Also, why not just call it Velop MAX4200 to minimize the jargon? But at the same time, it’s Belkin’s prerogative to call anything whatever it’d like. It’s a free country.
The point is, I feel the networking vendor ran out of creativity on this one. But in this review, I’ll use Velop MX4200 to mention the single router or Velop MX12600 to refer to the 3-pack.
A first full Wi-Fi 6 Velop router, still no 160MHz channel width support
Despite the lower number, the MX4200 is actually a somewhat more “advanced” tri-band router than the previous MX5300.
That’s because it’s the first Velop router that features Wi-Fi 6 in all of its bands. (One of the MX5300’s 5GHz bands uses Wi-Fi 5). Still, it’s odd, having two 5GHz bands of two different tiers, as you can see in the hardware specifications below.
What’s notable is the fact the MX4200 also doesn’t support the 160MHz channel width. As a result, chances are you won’t be able to get faster than 1200Mps of negotiated speed out of it — nor did I in my testing. The real-world speeds will be significantly slower.
Like all mesh systems, you can use multiple hardware units of the MX4200 to form a mesh system. In this case, one of them is the router that connects to an Internet source, and the rest will work as satellites that extend the router’s Wi-Fi network.
|Full Name||Linksys Tri-Band AX4200 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router|
|Mesh Availability||Linksys Velop AX4200 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System (3-pack)|
|Dimensions||4.5 x 4.5 x 9.6 inches (11.43 x 11.43 x 24.38 cm)|
|Weight||2.5 lbs. (1.33 kg)|
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs||4×4 Wi-Fi 6: up to 2404 Mbps|
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 Wi-Fi 6: 1201 Mbps|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 Wi-Fi 6: 574 Mbs|
|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|
|AP (Bridge) Mode||Yes|
|USB Port||1x USB 3.2 Gen 1|
|Network Ports||3 x Gigabit LAN ports, 1 x Gigabit WAN port|
|Processing power||1.4 GHz Quad-Core Processor, 512MB of Flash, 512MB of RAM|
|Suggest Retail Price||$250 (1-pack), $499.99 (3-pack)|
Tri-band with dynamic backhaul, no multi-gig port
Like the case of the Velop MX5300, the Velop 4200 is a tri-band router that has two different 5GHz bands. One is a dual-stream (2×2), and the other is a quad-stream (4×4).
According to the Linksys Intelligent Mesh, Velop Wi-Fi routers use dynamic backhaul in a mesh setup, meaning they’ll use any of their three bands to work as the link between the broadcasters dynamically. There are upside and downside to this.
The upside is the fact all three bands are always available to clients. Also, when you use wired backhaul, you won’t need to worry about still losing a band for the wireless backhaul, like the case of the Netgear Orbi. In fact, this Velop is great for a larger home that’s already wired with network cables.
The downside is the performance. Technically, there’s no band dedicated to the job of linking broadcasters so, in certain situations, you’d still have to deal with signal loss.
What’s more, if you place the hardware far enough apart, the system might use the 2.4GHz band as the backhaul, which is very slow. And there’s no way to dictate which band to work as the backhaul.
It’s important to note that the Velop MX4200 doesn’t have a multi-gig port. That plus the mix-bag of wireless bands means you shouldn’t expect Gigabit-class performance out of it, especially in a wireless mesh setup.
Similar hardware design
Out of the box, the Velop MX4200 looks identical to Velop MX5300, from most angles. The two share the same dimensions, taking the cylindrical shape with their ports stacking up vertically on the back.
The MX4200 has one LAN port fewer than the MX5300 — just three — plus a WAN port. All of them are Gigabit. It also has a USB 3.0 port awkwardly placed on top of the network ports. This port is to host an external storage device for the router’s NAS function.
(In case you’re wondering, yes, you can use the USB port on a satellite. So in a 3-pack setup, you can connect up to three external storage drives to the network for your mini NAS server. Note, though, unless you have wired backhaul, only the one connected to the router unit would deliver the best performance. More below.)
And the number of ports and hardware specs are about the only things that set the MX4200 and MX5300 apart. On the inside, the two feature the same set of features and settings. They also share the same setup process and the Linksy mobile app.
The same (mediocre) mobile app and setup process
For a long time now, Belkin has been forcing users to use its mobile app for the setup and management of its Linksys router. That’s the case for all Wi-Fi 6 routers I’ve reviewed, including the MX5300, MR7350, MR9600, and now this MX4200.
(The mobile app requires a Linksys login account, and your system will then connect to Linksys at all times, which can be a privacy issue.)
You can forgo this mobile app (and the login account) when using a standalone router by following the trick I detailed in this post about mobile app vs. web interface. In a mesh setup, though, you must use the mobile app. There’s no way to add a satellite using the web interface.
The setup process of the MX4200 was straight forward in my testing. You just need to run the mobile and follow the onscreen instruction. A couple of things to note.
- You need to set up one unit at a time. If you plug all three into the power and place them near each other for the setup process, you might run into all kinds of issues.
- The process can be more time-consuming than you’d expect. That’s partly because the MX4200 takes a long time — a couple of minutes — to be ready. After that, it can take up to 6 minutes to add a unit to the mesh.
- In my experience with all Linksys Wi-Fi 6 solutions, the mobile app is laggy and not well-optimized for Android. So make sure you’re patient.
After the setup process, you can forget about the app completely and just use the web interface, which you can reach by pointing a browser to 192.168.1.1. Now, for the most part, you can manage your network the way you do a standard router.
Familiar networking settings and features
The MX4200 share the same settings and features that those of the MX5300. To avoid repeating myself. I’d put here a few bullet points.
- Device Prioritization: A relatively simple QoS feature that allows you to drag and drop up to three connected devices on to the Internet prioritized list. There’s no application-based prioritization.
- Parental Control: Also quite simple. You can block internet access or filter specific websites from certain clients at all times or based on a schedule.
- Essential network settings: Like most routers, the MX4200 has Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, IP reservation, and other common network settings.
After that’s there’s no extra. The MX4200 can’t work as a VPN server, nor does it provide built-in online protection or any specific game-related features.
Important note: Like previous Velop-base Wi-Fi 6 solutions, the MX4200 doesn’t allow for backing up its settings to a file to restore at a later time. In other words, if you want to get a replacement or mess up the configuration somehow, you’ll have to start from scratch.
Limited Wi-Fi settings
By default, you cannot customize the MX4200’s Wi-Fi further than separating its 2.4GHz and 5GHz into two networks (SSIDs). Even when I used the hidden CA mode, there wasn’t much more to do.
Specifically, now, you can change each band’s channels and bandwidth. Ironically, you can only make them work exclusively in a narrow (slow) channel and not in a wider (faster) one. There’s no option to make them work in the 80MHz or 160MHz, either.
So compared with all Wi-Fi 6 solutions I’ve tested, the MX4200, as well as those from Linksys are among the most limited in terms of Wi-Fi settings. They are made to be more compatible than to be fast.
I tested the Velop MX4200 both as a 3-pack mesh system and a single router, and it performed as expected. That’s of course with its modest hardware specs and the lack of a multi-gig port in mind.
I used a few 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 and 4×4 / 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 clients for the testing. More on that in this post on how to test Wi-Fi.
Fast performance as a single router
As a router, the MX4200 did quite well. My 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client connected at 1.2Gbps of negotiated speed and managed to average some 860Mbps at a close range and more than 800Mbps at 40 feet (12m) away. That was the case when I used either of the router’s two 5GHz bands.
Just for kicks, I used a second Wi-Fi 6 client for a wireless-to-wireless test. Now each of the two 5GHz bands hosted just one client. In this case, the sustained throughput was around 700Mbps with the distance up to 40 feet away. Note: one of the clients remained close to the router (less than 10 feet) at all times.
On the Wi-Fi 5 front, my 4×4 clients managed to connect at 1.7Gbps and had a sustained speed of almost 830Mbps at a close range. At 40 feet away, my 3×3 clients had sustained speeds of some 570Mbps, via the negotiated connection that fluctuated between 887Mbps and 1.3Gbps.
On the 2.4GHz band, the MX4200 also did very well. In fact, it was faster than the MX5300 despite having lower specs.
Note that since many Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems don’t allow for separating the Wi-Fi bands (as two different networks), I compared the MX4200’s performance on the 2.4GHz band also with other standalone routers.
A single MX4200 unit has about the same range as that of the MX5300, so if you live in a home of some 1800 ft2 (167 m2) or so, a 1-pack can handle that. However, in this case, you probably are better off picking one of these standard alone routers, considering the cost.
Reliable but average Mesh speeds
Having “dynamic backhaul,” the MX12600 effectively has no dedicated backhaul band. And it seemed in my testing that the system did suffer a bit from signal loss. It was generally slower than other systems with a dedicated backhaul band.
(Note: Depending on your situation, the mesh might work as one with a dedicated backhaul. The way it’s designed, though, it’s impossible to make sure of that. The numbers on the charts below were those I got from over a week of real-world experience. )
Still, it did well with the sustained Wi-Fi 6 speeds averaging between 290Mbs and 450Mbps. Interestingly, Wi-Fi 5 clients had a better deal with connecting to the MX4200 working as a satellite. My 3×3 test device registered 534Mbps and 320Mbps at the close and long ranges, respectively.
The MX4200 passed my 5-day stress tests with no issues. I also noted that clients were able to move between hardware units (router and satellites) seamlessly, which has always been a strong point of Linksys Velop.
Fast NAS speeds
Similar to the MX5300, the MX4200 did well in my NAS tests. I tested it using a few portable drives and, via a Gigabit connection, it averaged some 110MB/s for both read and write tests.
As mentioned above, when working as a mesh system, the MX12600 can host multiple portable drives — one at each hardware unit.
I connected a second portable drive on a wireless node (40 feet away) and did a test via a Gigabit connection to the router. The performance now averaged some 100MB/s for writing but just about 62MB/s for reading.
So if you want to host multiple drives, the Velop MX12600 will get the job done. But if you want the best performance, it’s best to use the router unit as the storage host.
The Linksys Velop MX4200 Tri-Band AX4200 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System is in no way the fastest Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, nor is it one with the most features. But it sure delivers in terms of Wi-Fi coverage and reliability.
On top of that, the fact it costs just around $500 for a pack of three hardware units means it’s a much better deal than the previous Linksys MX10 Velop AX. So if you’re a fan of Linksys Velop and living in a large home that’s not wired with network cables, this system is an excellent buy.