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Wireless Reviews

Backhaul

Wi-Fi Systems live or die on the strength of their backhaul bandwidth. Backhaul tests run traffic between the root node LAN-side Ethernet port and the Ethernet port on each leaf mesh node. The results shown below do not bode well for Velop DB's mesh performance, with only 90 Mbps of bandwidth available at the first hop node.

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 1

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 1

Throughput degrades further with an additional hop, so that only around 16 and 19 Mbps of bandwidth are available to serve devices for downlink and uplink, respectively.

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 2

Wi-Fi System Backhaul - Hop 2

Wi-Fi System

These benchmarks measure up and downlink 2.4 and 5 GHz throughput at each system node, by "walking" the octoScope Pal dual-band test client from node to node. Since tests are made with 0 dB attenuation between the Pal test client and each system node, all measurements are best case. In the following charts, A bars represent the root node, B bars the Hop 1 node and C bars the Hop 2 node.

As we've seen previously, 2.4 GHz downlink results show Velop TB dominating the field for all three nodes. But GWifi beats Velop DB in two out of three benchmarks, too.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

Results are similar for 2.4 GHz uplink.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

5 GHz downlink once again shows Velop TB best of the three and GWifi again easily beating Velop DB.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

5 GHz uplink shows the narrowest performance gap among the three for the Root node, but another weak showing for Velop DB at the other nodes.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Capacity

Our Wi-Fi System capacity test uses three 2x2 AC clients, a 2.4 GHz client is connected to the root node and 5 GHz to the others. 0 dB of attenuation was applied between the Pals and each node. This test runs for 30 minutes to see if any attempts are made to balance throughput by throttling backhaul or client bandwidth so that more bandwidth is made available to the other.

The Capacity bar charts show throughput for the three test clients in each direction. One of the dirty little secrets of mesh Wi-Fi systems that don't have a separate radio for backhaul is that loading the root node usually starves leaf nodes for bandwidth. It doesn't have to be this way; the system could balance the root node radio to limit device bandwidth to provide more bandwidth to backhaul. I've never seen this happen, however.

In fact, even Linksys TB, which has a second 5 GHz radio that could be devoted to backhaul, doesn't clearly outperform Velop DB and GWifi, which have only one radio per band, in the downlink test.

Wi-Fi System Capacity - down

Wi-Fi System Capacity - down

Uplink results do show Velop TB with a significant edge over the other two products, however.

Wi-Fi System Capacity - up

Wi-Fi System Capacity - up

The capacity throughput vs. time plots usually provide additional insight into the capacity tests. The Downlink plot clearly shows the root node 2.4 GHz connection getting the highest average throughput, averaging just under 190 Mbps. Hop 1's 47 Mbps is about half what we measured in the backhaul downlink test for that node. This is probably due to the 23 Mbps of bandwidth being drawn by the Hop 2 STA. There doesn't appear to be any effort to re-allocate bandwidth during the 30 minute test.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Uplink shows lower throughput on the root node—~160 Mbps—but higher for Hop 1 @ 113 Mbps. Hop 2 once again comes up on the short end, getting only 16 Mbps or so. Again, no effort is made to change bandwidth allocation during the run.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Closing Thoughts

It's possible Linksys could make some improvements in firmware to improve the DB's performance. But, for now, it's a significant step back from the original (and significantly more expensive) tri-band Velop if you're looking for a mesh Wi-Fi system and trying to save some dough. If you're looking to stay at $300 or a bit under, either the #1 ranked original Orbi RBK50 (currently around $290) or the RBK40 Orbi "mini" would be the way to go.

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