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Linksys’ new Wi-Fi 6E routers include the most expensive mesh yet


The newest Linksys Velop mesh router supports Wi-Fi 6E, which means it can transmit on the ultrawide 6GHz band.


Linksys

Linksys has two new routers up for sale Thursday, and both support Wi-Fi 6E — that means they can transmit in the 6GHz band, which offers more than twice the bandwidth of 5GHz, and which the Federal Communications Commission opened up for unlicensed use last year. Called the Atlas Max 6E and the Hydra Pro 6E, both routers will set you back at least $500 — make that $1,200 if you want a complete, three-piece mesh system.

Let’s start with that mesh option, the Atlas Max. It’s the newest addition to the Linksys Velop line of mesh routers, and it looks just like previous Velop routers, distinguished only by a Wi-Fi 6E label stamped on the front. Seems a shame not to get a design update to go along with the new Atlas Max branding, though — and given that you’ll need to spend $500 for a single device, $900 for a two-pack, or a whopping $1,200 for a three-pack, a more distinct, premium-feeling build that doesn’t feel like a last-gen router would have been well justified here.

linksys-atlas-max-6e-3pck-2

The LInksys Velop Atlas Max 6E looks just like previous Linksys Velop mesh routers.


Linksys

Looks aside, the Atlas Max is a tri-band AXE8400 device — the “AXE” part signifying that it supports Wi-Fi 6E, and the “8400” telling you that the top theoretical speeds of its three bands add up to 8,400Mbps, or 8.4 gigabits per second. Just keep in mind that you can only connect to one band at a time, and that your internet speeds will always depend upon your home internet plan. Right now, the fastest internet plans in the country offer download and upload speeds that top out at 2 gigs.

Those three bands are the 2.4 and 5GHz bands most internet users are already familiar with, along with that newly-opened 6GHz band. The only devices that can connect to that 6GHz band — or even see it listed among nearby networks — are other 6E devices equipped to operate on the 6GHz band. There are hardly any of those on the market yet, save for the Samsung Galaxy S21 and standalone 6E cards that you can install in a computer or laptop if you’re feeling handy.

As for the motion-tracking Linksys Aware feature that uses frequency disturbances to tell when someone is passing through a room, Linksys says that it’s only available with Wi-Fi 5 Velop devices.

“As of now it’s not available on the 6E routers,” a Linksys spokesperson tells CNET. “We intend to roll it out to new routers such as the Atlas Max but we don’t have a timeline for that right now.”

All of that means that it’s probably much too early for anyone to spend $1,200 here, but I’ll be interested to see how the Atlas Max performs as a mesh system, with multiple devices spreading a faster connection throughout the home. Those Atlas Max devices can all use the 6GHz band as a dedicated, interference-free backhaul network for moving data around your home as efficiently as possible. If it works as promised (and if the 6GHz band’s more limited range doesn’t complicate things), then maybe a mesh system like the Atlas Max is where Wi-Fi 6E will make the most sense as a potential upgrade for the home.

linksys-hydra-pro-6e-wi-fi-router-promo

The Linksys Hydra Pro 6E is a standalone Wi-Fi 6E router that can work with other Linksys routers to form its own mesh network.


Linksys

Perhaps to that end, the other new piece of hardware from Linksys is an AXE6600 router that can be used in conjunction with other Linksys routers to form a mesh network of its own. Called the Linksys Hydra Pro 6E, it’s available now at an asking price of $500.

Like the Atlas Max, the Hydra Pro supports 4×4 MU-MIMO connections and includes a 5Gbps WAN port — a future-friendly inclusion that means it’ll be able to accept incoming wired speeds that are twice as fast as the fastest internet speeds available today without a hitch. Should you choose to use it as the centerpiece of a mesh setup, you’ll be able to connect it with any other product that supports Linksys Intelligent Mesh. Here’s the full list:

  • Wi-Fi 6E: AXE8400 (Atlas Max)
  • Wi-Fi 6E: MR7500 (Hydra Pro)
  • Wi-Fi 6: MX4200/MX8400/MX12600
  • Wi-Fi 6: MX5300/MX10600
  • Wi-Fi 6: MR9600
  • Wi-Fi 6: MR7350
  • Wi-Fi 5: WHW0303/WHW0302/WHW0301
  • Wi-Fi 5: WHW0103/WHW0102/WHW0101
  • Wi-Fi 5: MR9000
  • Wi-Fi 5: MR8300
  • Wi-Fi 5: MR6350

Both the Atlas Max 6E and the Hydra Pro 6E are available now on the Linksys website, and expected to arrive at retail locations across the US in the coming weeks. I’ll be testing both of them out very soon, so expect to hear more about them here on CNET shortly.



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