The Linksys Hydra Pro 6 ($299.99) is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router that can also be pressed into duty as a mesh router to provide a whole-home Wi-Fi system. Easy to install, the Hydra Pro 6 uses an intuitive mobile app to apply basic parental controls and assign bandwidth priority to specific clients using your phone. The router delivered fast throughput in our tests, but its file-transfer performance was merely average, so it doesn’t unseat the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 as our Editors’ Choice pick for mainstream routers.
Transforms Into Mesh, If You Need It
The “Mesh” in the Hydra Pro 6’s full name doesn’t mean that it’s a mesh system out of the box. Rather, it refers to Linksys’ Intelligent Mesh Technology, which lets you add a compatible Linksys router that you already own or buy separately to form a seamless mesh network.
With its glossy black finish and textured top, the Hydra Pro 6 looks nearly identical to the Hydra Pro 6E router that we reviewed last year. But the Hydra Pro 6 uses only two adjustable antennas, instead of the four on the Pro 6E.
The Hydra Pro 6’s cabinet measures 2.2 by 8.4 by 6.1 inches (HWD) and has a LED indicator on the front. Different colors indicate the current status of the router: blinking blue for Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) mode, solid purple when ready for setup, blinking purple during setup, solid blue when the router is connected and working properly, and solid red when the router is not connected to the internet.
The rear panel contains four gigabit LAN ports, a gigabit WAN port, a USB 3.0 port, a WPS button, a reset button, and a power switch and power port. The Hydra Pro 6 lacks the multi-gig WAN port that you get with the TP-Link Archer GX-90 and the Hydra Pro 6E. You might want multi-gig WAN if you have internet speeds of 1Gbps or more; otherwise, it’s not a must-have feature at this price.
The Hydra Pro 6 is a dual-band AX5400 router, which means it’s capable of reaching maximum (theoretical) data rates of up to 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 4,804Mbps on the 5GHz band, for a total of 5,400Mbps. It is powered by a 1GHz dual-core CPU.
The Pro 6 employs the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technologies, including 160MHz channel bandwidth, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), WPA3 encryption, MU-MIMO data streaming, and direct-to-client signal transmissions (otherwise known as beamforming).
Decent Parental Controls; No Anti-Malware
The Hydra Pro 6 can be managed using a web console or the Linksys mobile app. Both are easy to use, but you’ll need the web console to create two separate Wi-Fi bands. (The default setting uses one SSID for both bands.)
The router comes with built-in parental control software that lets you pause internet access, schedule a pause, and block specific websites, but it lacks the age-based filters and anti-malware tools that you get with the TP-Link Archer GX-90 and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400.
The user-friendly mobile app opens to a home screen with tabs for the router and connected devices. Tap the Router tab to open a Network Administration screen where you can change the router name and password, report issues, and restart the router. Tap the Devices tab to see which clients are currently connected, enable parental controls, and assign bandwidth priority to a specific client.
Below the two tabs is an Internet Speed panel that shows the latest results of an Ookla-powered Speedtest that measures Internet upload and download speed. (Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.) You can tap the panel to run a new test. The bottom portion of the screen displays the last five connections on the network.
Additional settings can be accessed by tapping the three bars in the upper left corner of the screen. This opens a menu where you can configure parental controls, adjust Wi-Fi settings, enable guest networking, configure external storage (USB drives), set bandwidth priority, and add mesh nodes. Advanced settings include Port Forwarding, Port Triggering, WiFi MAC filtering, and DHCP Server settings.
Testing the Hydra Pro 6: Easy to Install, Solid-Enough Speeds
I had the Hydra Pro 6 router up and running in minutes. I started by downloading the mobile app, then created an account and tapped Set up a New Wi-Fi Network. I selected Mesh WiFi Router (MR Series) from the list, and followed the instructions to plug in the router and connect it to my modem. The app woke up the router, and after a few seconds the LED went from solid blue to blinking purple. I confirmed the LED color, and after a few more seconds, the router was connected to the internet. I created an account, entered a new network name and password, and gave the router a location label; with that, the installation was finished.
The Hydra Pro 6 delivered solid throughput scores in testing. Its score of 121Mbps on the 2.4GHz close-proximity (same room) test was faster than both the TP-Link GX-90 (120Mbps) and the Linksys MR9600 (111Mbps), but not quite as fast as the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (128Mbps). On the 30-foot test, the Hydra Pro 6 scored 42Mbps, beating the Linksys MR9600 (38Mbps), but not the TP-Link GX-90 (46Mbps) or the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (44Mbps).
The Hydra Pro 6’s score of 830Mbps on the 5GHz close-proximity test was 10Mbps slower than the TP-Link GX-90 and the Linksys MR9600 (both scored 840Mbps), and 16Mbps slower than the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (846Mbps). However, its score of 400Mbps on the 5GHz 30-foot test beat the TP-Link GX-90 (339Mbps) and the Linksys MR9600 (228Mbps). The Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 led the pack with a score of 424Mbps.
In addition to throughput testing, we measure file transfer performance (read and write speeds) by moving a 1.5GB folder consisting of music, video, and office document files back and forth between a USB 3.0 drive and a desktop PC, both of which are connected to the router. Here, the Hydra Pro 6 had trouble keeping pace with the competition. Its score of 55MBps on the write test was significantly slower than the TP-Link GX-90 (70MBps), the Linksys MR9600 (73MBps), and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (69MBps).
Results were similar on the read test: the Hydra Pro 6 managed 57MBps, while the TP-Link GX-90, the Linksys MR9600, and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 scored 68MBps, 70MBps, and 85MBps, respectively.
To test wireless signal strength, we use an Ekahau Sidekick Wi-Fi diagnostic device and Ekahau’s Survey mobile app, which together generate heat maps that show the router’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz signal strength throughout our test home. (Note: Ekahau, too, is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.) The white circle on the map represents the location of the router, and the colors represent signal strength. Darker greens indicate the strongest signal, yellows indicate a weaker signal, and grays indicate no perceptible signal reception.
Linksys Hydra Pro 6 Dual-Band Mesh Router 2.4GHz (top) and 5GHz (bottom) signal strength maps
As shown on the maps, the Hydra Pro 6 provided solid 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals throughout the home, but both signals were somewhat weaker in the far corners of the house.
A Cutting-Edge Wi-Fi 6 Router
If you’re in the market for a Wi-Fi 6 router that is easy to install and manage, the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 is worth a look. With support for 160MHz channel bandwidth and the latest Wi-Fi 6 technologies, this dual-band router delivered fast throughput performance in testing and provided a relatively strong signal throughout our test home. As an added bonus, it can be used to create a whole-home mesh network if you’ve got a second compatible Linksys router.
The big distinctions come around the supporting services: The Hydra Pro 6 comes with parental controls but lacks age-based filtering and malware protection. Its file transfer performance also failed to impress. For around $50 less, the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 offers better all-around performance and a full suite of parental control and anti-malware software. Because of those advantages, it remains our Editors’ Choice pick for mainstream Wi-Fi 6 routers.
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