|At a glance|
|Product||Linksys Hydra Pro 6E (MR7500) [Website]|
|Summary||Qualcomm-based Wi-Fi 6E router with two-stream 2.4 and 5 GHz and four-stream 6 GHz radios.|
|Pros||• 5 GbE WAN port |
• Only 6 GHz is four stream
• Can be used as mesh node with other Velop products
|Cons||• 2.4 & 5 GHz throughput need improvement|
• 5 GbE port can't be switched to LAN
• Can't set IP address in AP (WAN bridge) mode
• Can't be used as Wireless bridge
Typical Price: $0 Buy From Amazon
Updated 8 June 2021: Latency measurements converted to scores.
Wi-Fi 6E routers are slowly making their way onto store shelves. Linksys recently started shipping two, the newly-announced Atlas Max 6E mesh system and the MR7500 Hydra Pro 6E conventional router that is the focus of this review. I find the choice of names confusing, given that Hydra is a multi-headed serpent in Greek mythology, which would imply a (multipoint) mesh system. But I guess that's why I'm not a marketing guru.
While I'll be focused on the Hydra Pro 6E (aka Hydra for the rest of this review), I'll be comparing it to ASUS' first-to-market 6E router, the GT-AXE11000 and its Wi-Fi 6 predecessor, the GT-AX11000. So if you're looking for performance details on either of those products, read on.
Linksys has given the Hydra Pro a streamlined look that's virtually identical to its MR9600 Wi-Fi 6 sibling, with only four external non-detachable antenna housings. Two have dual-band 2.4/5 GHz and separate 6 GHz dipoles inside, while two others hold two more 6 GHz dipoles. You might be disappointed that there's only two-stream support for the 2.4 and 5 GHz radios. But since most of the devices that will ever associate with most APs are two stream at most, this looks like an appropriate trade-off to reduce product cost. However, this might not be the case as we'll see when we get to performance. The 6 GHz radio supports four streams, so it gets the benefit of a bit more receive gain to help stretch range.
The callout diagram below shows the Hydra's rear panel. The front panel is very understated with only a single multi-color LED. Thankfully, all the Ethernet ports have link/activity LEDs. This is the first router I've encountered with a 5 GbE multi-Gig port (it also supports 2.5 and 1 Gbps). So there went my recently-acquired TP-Link TL-SG105-M2 2.5 GbE switch back to Amazon, replaced by a QNAP QSW-M408-4C 10 GbE managed switch to bring the SNB Wi-Fi test bench up to par with the routers it will be testing.
The good news is that the router can take advantage of its > 2.5 GbE port, as you'll see when I review performance shortly. But the bad news is the port can't be switched between LAN and WAN, which seems to be the approach other manufacturers have taken with multi-Gig ports. A single USB 3.0 port is included for storage sharing, which I'm no longer testing.
Linksys MR7500 Hydra Pro 6E callouts
Since FCC short-term confidentiality doesn't expire until August and I have to return the router to Linksys after testing, I didn't open it up. So all I know about the innards are what Linksys has disclosed. I've dutifully entered the info below for comparison to the ASUS GT-AXE11000.
|Linksys MR7500 Hydra Pro 6E||ASUS GT-AXE11000|
|CPU||Qualcomm Networking Pro 810 64 bit quad-core @ 1.8 GHz||Broadcom BCM4908 64 bit quad-core @ 1.8 GHz|
|Switch||Qualcomm QCA8075||Broadcom BCM54991E|
|RAM||512 MB||1024 MB|
|Flash||512 MB||256 MB|
|2.4 GHz Radio||- Qualcomm 2-stream an/ac/ax radio||- Broadcom BCM43684 4-stream an/ac/ax radio
- Skyworks SKY85216-11 2.4 GHz LNA (x4) ?
- Skyworks SKY85006-11 2.4 GHz PA (x4)
|5 GHz radio||- Qualcomm 2-stream an/ac/ax radio||- Broadcom BCM43684 4 stream an/ac/ax radio
- Skyworks SKY85743-21 5 GHz front end (x4)
|6 GHz||- Qualcomm 4-stream 6E radio||- Broadcom BCM43684 4 stream an/ac/ax radio
- Skyworks SKY85780 6 GHz front end (x4)
|Bluetooth||- Qualcomm||- Broadcom BCM43684 4 stream an/ac/ax radio
- Skyworks SKY85780 6 GHz front end (x4)
Table 1: Component summary
It's been a long time since I last had a Linksys router on the bench. But things haven't really changed that much. I'm not a big fan of app-based router management, which Linksys seems to prefer you use. The Hydra even has a Bluetooth radio that's required for app-based "onboarding" (aka setup). I used the good ol' "Smart Wi-Fi" UI shown below, which as I said, seems frozen in time.
Linksys Smart Wi-Fi UI Home
I'm not going to provide a feature blow-by-blow since there are plenty of other reviews where you can get that information. I'll instead focus on the Wi-Fi feature set. If you first click on Wi-Fi Settings, you won't see the screen below. The screen you'll see will only let you set Wi-Fi Name (SSID), password, security mode and Wi-Fi mode. To get the screen below, you first need to click on the CA highlighted in the screen above. Then you'll get the screen below when you click on Wi-Fi Settings.
Linksys MR7500 Wi-Fi Settings
The Advanced tab shows the defaults for three features. I'm surprised Client and Node Steering are enabled by default; they're useful only for mesh configurations, not standalone routers. These settings are here because the Hydra is part of the Velop product family, which now apparently includes standalone routers like this one that can be used to build mesh networks. So ASUS AiMesh isn't the only game in town anymore for roll-your-own Wi-Fi mesh builders.
Linksys MR7500 Advanced Wi-Fi Settings
Most Linksys users know about the hidden advanced-wireless.html page shown below. The 2.4 GHz options are essentially the same. Mess with these settings at your own risk.
Linksys MR7500 5 GHz Hidden Advanced Wi-Fi Settings
Here's the hidden Qualcomm tab; not too exciting. OFDMA enables would be a nice addition.
Linksys MR7500 Hidden Advanced Wi-Fi Qualcomm Settings
Supported 6E channels are shown below. You get a few more channels than the more expensive ASUS GT-AXE11000 supports, but Preferred Scanning Channels (PSC) mode is not supported.
Linksys MR7500 6E channels
Given the relative immaturity of 6E, I recommend sticking with using PSC channels for now (5, 21, 37,53,69,85,101,117,133,149,165,181,197,213,229). Check out Wi-Fi 6E: The Basics for more info on PSC.
Other Wi-Fi features are summarized in the table below.
|# of 2.4 GHz streams||2|
|# of 5 GHz streams||2|
|# of 6 GHz Streams||4|
|# of Radios||3|
|Radio 1||Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6|
|Radio 2||Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6|
|Radio 3||Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6|
|Antenna||Four multi-band dipole|
|Notes||Can form mesh with other Velop family products|
And other router features are summarized here:
|5 GbE port|
|10 GbE port|
|# WAN Ports||1|
|# LAN Ports||4|
|CPU||Qualcomm Networking Pro 810 Quad Core @ 1.8 GHz|