As the Linksys brand slowly recedes into the distance and the Cisco brand takes prominence, we have the Cisco Linksys X2000. It's a basic modem/router following the same design cues as the company's previous "UFO"-shaped routers, although this time comes in a matte black, rather than glossy black and blue.
It's nice to see that you can wall mount it, too — something that Cisco foolishly left off its E series of routers in its bid for the lounge room.
Specs at a glance
|Highest wireless security||WPA2|
|Ethernet ports||3x 100Mbit, 1x 100Mbit WAN|
|USB print sharing/storage||No|
|Accessories||Set-up CD, Ethernet cable, phone cable|
Rather than the expected four Ethernet jacks, it comes with three, and a WAN port. Disappointingly, the WAN port cannot be reconfigured to be another LAN port. All of the above are 100Mb, meaning that this router is for those who just want wireless access to the net, and aren't necessarily transferring large files around their home network. Considering the target market, the WAN port is an interesting addition. While we're sure that cable modem users would be better off just getting a straight router, it does mean that should the NBN roll past your door, the X2000 will be ready.
Phone line in, WAN port, 3x 100Mb ports, power jack, power switch.
UI and features
One thing that Cisco is incredibly proud of is its Cisco Connect software. It has every right to be, from an ease-of-use perspective — the wizard walks you through in an understandable fashion to get things online, including setting up an SSID. The first time, it wanted to call the router "SmallSpruce", the second time "RedCedar", amusingly following an adjective/tree combination. You then have the option of configuring the router or connecting other devices to it. Of note is its "Easy Setup Key" — plug in any USB stick, and software will be copied onto it. Plug it into another PC and run connect.exe, and you'll be connected to the router. No passwords, no fuss. There are some problems, though.
Firstly, it requires your internet connection to be working. If it's not, then you won't be able to progress through the steps and set up your router.
Secondly, and much more importantly, it creates some horrific security issues. Any laptop that you add using this method gets full access to the router, and the router password is identical to the wireless password. Bad Cisco, bad! Thanks to an extra password on the parental controls, these are momentarily safe — until the restricted party realises that they can harvest all of the set-up information they need to replicate, ditch the stuff they don't want and then easily reset the router to factory settings from the web interface. This does require physical access to the device, but, given parental controls will mostly be deployed in the home, we doubt whether this will be an issue.
You can choose to set up guest internet access, of course, and just give someone the password, but this prevents access to local network resources. We'd strongly recommend you toss the CD as a result, and set things up manually through the web interface.
Cisco uses the same boring, hard-to-find-features navigation that it has had since time immemorial.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)
Sadly, all of this work on building client-side software means that Cisco's web interface has remained unchanged. It's functional, sure, but the organisation of features could sure do with a spring cleaning, and the interface with some prettying. There's nothing, feature-wise, to make the X2000 stand out, offering the usual DDNS, port forwarding, reserved DHCP, wireless and networking settings et al. Its parental controls do offer time-of-day scheduling for internet access, but are otherwise insufficient; you can only block up to eight inappropriate sites, otherwise you need to choose whether you want it to block sites that are inappropriate for a "teen" or "child". Cisco offers absolutely no explanation of what these settings block, expecting the user to trust its judgment.
Finally, maybe we can't find the secret squirrel hole it's hidden in — but how do you exactly log out of this device? Or are you expected to wait for the session to time out?
After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, the clearest 2.4GHz channel is chosen for wireless testing. Usually, the router is restricted to the 20MHz band if the option is available.
We used iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams, with a TCP window size of 1MB and an interval of one second. The test is run for five minutes in three different locations, on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router, one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors and two floors down, under the same conditions.
The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets (the Atheros AR5008X, the Ralink RT2870 and the Intel Ultimate-N 6300), and then all of the results are averaged.
2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)
- Netgear DGND3700
- Location one (same room, no obstructions) 107.5399.7084.3769.20
- Location two (one floor down, some obstructions) 114.338366.3064.63
- Location three (two floors down, some obstructions) 53.2744.9044.3038.23
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
It might be only a 2.4GHz router, but wireless performance was excellent across all three areas and chipsets, beating out even some of the top-tier routers.
Cisco only offers a one-year warranty with the Linksys X2000, which is disappointing compared to Billion's two years, and AVM's five years.
Cisco's Linksys X2000 is a simple modem/router aimed at those who just need wireless access to the net, and it manages to pack in excellent wireless performance along the way. The security concerns that come with using its included software are worrying, though, and we suggest that you skip the easy set-up and do things manually through the web interface.