Welcome to our latest router review! Today, we’ll be checking out a mid-range offering from esteemed network hardware producer Linksys.
The full name of this router is the Linksys Max Stream MR9600. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so here from here on out, we’re just going to call it the MR9600.
So what’s the deal with this one? That’s what we’ve been finding out. Over the past few days, we’ve run a whole bunch of tests on the MR9600 and have been exploring the features so that we can let you know whether it’s worth buying or not.
We tested its download speed from 5ft only to discover that it just ain’t that quick. Unfortunately, it also lacks range when compared to some of its competitors. More on the performance of this device coming up later on.
So why exactly would you want to buy this router? Well, there are a couple of specific circumstances in which it might be right for you. So let’s find out what those would be so you know if you meet that criteria or not.
|Max Tested Wi-Fi Speed||455.55 Mbps|
|Approximate Range||80-90 feet|
|Wireless Standard||Wi-Fi 6 AX6000|
|Bands||2.4 GHz, 5 GHz|
|WAN Port||1x Gigabit|
|LAN Port||4x Gigabit|
|Dimensions||11.02 x 6.69 x 2.36 inches|
Linksys MR9600 Overview
If you’re crazy about download speed (or if you have an internet service plan that offers more than 500 Mbps), the MR9600 probably isn’t the right router for you.
When we tested it from 5ft away, it managed a pretty disappointing 455.55 Mbps. That makes it one of the slowest Wi-Fi 6 routers we’ve tested, and we’ve tested a lot. It’s also by no means the cheapest.
So is it the range that makes this router worth its money? Kind of, but not in itself. In fact, we found that the standard router range is between 80 and 90 feet. Again, that’s worse than a lot of its competitors.
But the cool thing about the MR9600 is that you can integrate it into a Linksys Mesh network. But what the heck is Mesh!? Let us explain.
Mesh is a replacement technology for standard Wi-Fi repeaters. It allows you to move seamlessly from room to room without having to connect to a new network name when you go out of range of the original router.
So the question now is, does the ability to integrate Mesh with this router make it worth buying? To cut a long story short, we feel that the answer is no. But we’ll let you be the judge of that as you go on through our review today.
You’ll still need to pick up a separate modem (not for fiber) if you’re looking to buy a MR9600. This is just a router. Not a modem/router combo like a lot of devices you get from your ISP. Let’s make that very clear! If you’re unclear as to what hardware you need for your home setup, check out this guide.
Here’s where the Linksys MR9600 lets us down the most, to be quite frank. It certainly isn’t the slowest router in the world, nor does it have the weakest range. But for the price you pay for it, you’d expect better.
Let’s break that down a little with the help of some comparisons to other routers out there.
As we mentioned just now, the Linksys MR9600 achieved a download speed of 455.55 Mbps when measured from 5ft away from the router. That’s not brutally slow, but it certainly could be better.
For day to day use, it’s actually quite strong. We looked at the download speed of 500 Mbps and found out that you could actually do a fair amount with it.
For example, at 500 Mbps it’s possible to make as many as 300 Zoom calls or watch 20 4K Netflix streams. That’s not bad, especially if you incorporate Mesh!
But when compared to some other routers of similar or lower prices, it starts to look a little poorer. For example, the TP-Link Archer AX50 is actually less than half the price of the MR9600 yet it achieves a download speed of 690.52 Mbps from 5ft away.
What’s the deal with that!? That extra 240 Mbps goes a long way! So if you’re looking for pure value for money when it comes to speed, you’re probably going to want to stay well clear of the MR9600.
So does the MR9600 make up for its lack of speed with range? Not really. The 80-90 feet of range it managed to achieve in our tests is a little below average.
Let’s compare the AX50 once again (remember, that router is cheaper!). This router managed 90-100ft. It might not seem like much, but 10ft can go a long way.
For further comparison, let’s look at the download speed achieved at a distance of 50ft away from the router. Here, the MR9600 managed to get 105.37 Mbps. Not ideal.
The AX50 was nearly 1.5x quicker at this speed with a download speed of 155.54 Mbps. That’s two more 4K Netflix streams, so let that sink in!
The MR9600 makes up for its lack of performance a tiny bit when we get into the features. While the features aren’t perfect, they do go some way to justifying the price tag on this router. That being said, there are one or two things we’re not keen on feature-wise.
Before we go any further into the features, allow us to quickly tell you about the Linksys app. The reason for this is that a lot of the features are controlled through it.
And the app is… okay. It has a lot of functions but the interface isn’t quite as nice as the alternatives from TP-Link and ASUS, for example.
If you can get past the lack of aesthetics, the Linksys app will serve you pretty well. It’s actually the only way to set up the router as well, so you’re going to need to try to like it if you want this router!
We’ve been mentioning how Linksys’ Mesh is one of the main selling points for the MR9600 router. But what exactly is Mesh?
It’s effectively a replacement technology for the traditional Wi-Fi extender. Anyone who’s used one of these before will know how annoying it is to have to reconnect to a different network name whenever you want to move into a different room. But you don’t with Mesh.
Mesh allows you to move from room to room with seamless switches between satellites. It won’t even affect your Netflix stream or your video call. So you’re out of luck for excuses in your next work meeting.
Linksys’ Mesh branding is called Intelligent Mesh and it’s one of the finer examples of router Mesh integration without purchasing a full Mesh system (that’s a different thing altogether).
With it, you can connect to up to 40 devices and cover up to 3000 square feet of space. That’s not bad at all. But you will need to pay for it by adding extra satellites if you see fit to do so. (Actually, if you don’t see fit to do so, you might as well have another router…)
Quality of Service
Many next gen routers these days have a feature called Quality of Service, often shortened to QoS. This gives you a greater deal of control over how your router interacts with the devices connected to it.
With QoS, you can assign more power from the network to individual devices on it. So, if your internet plan isn’t that strong and you need all you can get from it on one device at one time, that becomes possible with this feature.
QoS will be controlled through the Linksys app. There, you’ll be able to select which devices get the best treatment from the network. So, if you’re about to head into a gaming session and need a lot of ping, your Xbox can get the most out of the router.
Warning: make sure you consult with your other family members before you do this…
Have you ever wanted to talk to your router? We imagine the answer is probably ‘no’ unless you’ve had a particularly heavy night. Next time that happens though, you can let the conversation flow with Alexa compatibility for the MR9600.
Jokes aside, combining Alexa with your router does make life quite a bit easier in a few ways that you might not have considered before.
You can use Alexa for a few different things. Here are just a couple of examples of those:
- Control QoS (“Alexa, set gaming priority to my Xbox”)
- Set up Parental Controls (“Alexa, put iPad Air into safe mode)
- Turn down the LEDs (“Alexa, the router is too bright!)
On the subject of Parental Controls, this is something we would consider to be a ‘must-have’ feature on any next-gen Wi-Fi router and fortunately, Linksys have come up with the goods for the MR9600.
Again, Linksys Parental Controls are controlled through the app so it’s not exactly a beautiful experience but the functionality is definitely there.
You can pause access to the internet as a whole or just adult or unsafe content for specific devices, which is great for kids or any other vulnerable internet user.
On top of that, you can block specific websites to the whole network or block by category if you so wish.
That’s great if you’re trying to get the kids to get back to work or are concerned about online security for a vulnerable relative or friend.
If you have either of these categories of people using your home network, parental controls are essential for security and with Linksys, they’re relatively easy to set up and configure.
Elite Wi-Fi technology
A good thing about the MR9600 is that it comes with three Wi-Fi technologies that will have a big impact on the device’s performance: MU-MIMO, OFDMA and Beamforming.
Beamforming effectively channels the signal from each of the antennas on the router to be more powerful than they are as individual signals. As a result, it gives the router better range and speed.
The other two technologies, MU-MIMO and OFDMA, kind of come as a pair in that they offer a similar benefit (faster communication between multiple devices) albeit in a different way.
MU-MIMO does this by focusing the Wi-Fi signal more specifically to the devices whereas OFDMA assigns helps designate subsets of carriers from a Wi-Fi signal to them.
The bottom line is that you’re going to get faster speeds on those devices and a lower wait time to connect to devices in the first place.
Solid security… at a price
It’s just not parental controls you need to protect your home network. Your router needs to have strong antivirus controls. But antivirus ain’t free with Linksys! And that’s a shame.
While you can get a free 90-day trial, you’ll need to pay $4.99 a month thereafter if you want to keep Linksys Shield, which you should (because if your home network becomes compromised, so does each device that’s connected to it).
But this is just another cost on top of a router that we already think is too expensive for what it is. And TP-Link and ASUS don’t charge for their respective antivirus technologies.
Linksys Shield is very good. It offers regular updates to keep out the latest of threats. It’s an essential cost but definitely a frustrating one.
One of the areas in which the Linksys MR9600 lets itself down a little bit is its warranty. For errors with the router, you’re only covered for one year in the US (it does vary from country to country based on law) which really isn’t good. If you have any issues after that… well, you’re out of luck.
You do get one year of technical support from the date of purchase but that probably isn’t much good if the router is faulty.
TP-Link, on the other hand, offers limited warranty for life on some of their routers. ASUS gives two or three years. That makes the Linksys offering look quite poor indeed.
If you care about interior design a lot then you won’t need to worry too much about your router looking out of place if you opt for the Linksys MR9600. It’s pretty good-looking in a minimal way. There’s nothing too flashy or garish about the design and we’re good with that.
At 906g, the router is of a pretty average weight so you’re not going to need an extra pair of hands should you wish to relocate it all of a sudden.
In terms of the more practical side of the router, let’s find out how many ports it has. Of course, there’s a WAN port and it’s just a Gigabit one this time around. No complaints.
There are the standard four WAN ports, each of them also a Gigabit. So, if you want to plug in any devices using Ethernet to get the optimal speed out of your router, you can do that four times over. You’ll just need four Ethernet cables, of course.
There are also two USB ports should you wish to use them. The main function of these is to plug in any external hardware such as a printer. But you can also use them to charge your phone via USB, for example. That could come in handy one time. Who knows?
The app we’ve been mentioning throughout this article is integral to setting up the MR9600. All you need to do is download it, connect to the router with your smartphone via Bluetooth and follow the instructions in the app. It’s really easy, and should only take two minutes.
You can bypass this smart setup if you want to, but it’s definitely a lot easier to do it through the app. Either way, setup is pretty simple with this router.
We also feel that this is a good moment to mention once more that the MR9600 is not a modem! You will need to buy a modem separately (only for Cable and DSL). Check out our guide to the best modems for the perfect router partner.
With everything in mind in terms of features, performance, setup and design, is the MR9600’s price tag justified? Well, not really. It’s more expensive than a few other routers that have a lot more to offer.
Let’s look at the TP-Link AX50 again. As we mentioned before, it’s faster and has a better range as well as a free antivirus tool. Plus, it’s cheaper. This one kind of feels like a no brainer.
In fact, the only thing the MR9600 has above and beyond the AX50 is Mesh. TP-Link’s AX50 doesn’t come with the TP-Link branded Mesh network called OneMesh.
But if you want a router that’s faster than the MR9600, comes with some kind of Mesh integration and has better features and all for a similar price, then just buy the ASUS RT-AX86U…
What does the rest of the world think?
You may (or may not) be pleased to hear that the critics are pretty much all in agreement on this one. The Linksys MR9600 is a bit too expensive for what it has to offer.
Sure, it has Mesh. And sure, it has Alexa compatibility. These are cool features and are sure to bring up the price a little bit! And the critics love that.
But there aren’t many people in the world of router reviews who believe that this router is worth buying at the price that it costs.
Everyone is in agreement that there are just better value routers out there. Period.
A few other routers to consider
You might not be convinced by the MR9600 thus far, and we don’t blame you. But there are other options. Check these out if you’re on the hunt for a new router: