Linksys EA6500

There is no denying how expensive the Linksys EA6500 is, but with performance like this, it's a price tag that is easy to justify.


9.0
CNET Rating

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Owned by Cisco until March 2013, and now owned by Belkin, Linksys products offer a unique networking experience. Built with cutting-edge technology developed deep in the super labs of its former parent company, Linksys hides this complexity behind a user interface that even your gran could understand.

There's a slight hitch with this approach, though; these high-tech components aren't exactly cheap. Just look at the EA6500, which commands a price that's sure to raise a few eyebrows, especially considering it doesn't even include an ADSL2+ modem.

Specs at a glance

Firmware tested 1.1.27.144156
ADSL2+ modem No
Annex M No
3G modem No
IPv6 Yes
NBN ready? No
Wireless protocols 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) & 802.11ac (5GHz)
Dual band Yes
Highest wireless security WPA2
WDS Yes
Ethernet ports 4 + WAN
USB print sharing/storage 2x for storage, printer
Accessories Ethernet cable, power supply, driver disk

Connections

Compared to some of the plain plastic boxes that pass for routers, the EA6500 is quite a stylish little number. The advanced 3D antenna array is tucked away inside the curved chassis — which is no small feat, considering it's built from six antennas — so there are no ugly external masts sticking out at odd angles. The organic lines help make the EA6500 look slightly smaller than it really is, with the desk footprint a little larger than most competing routers.

Tucked away on the reverse side are four gigabit Ethernet ports alongside a single WAN port. Twin USB 2.0 ports on the rear deliver simultaneous printer and external storage sharing across the network, but it can't handle 3G/4G dongles. The USB storage interface is a delight to use, allowing for the simple set-up of FTP and media servers, which can also be accessed remotely.

UI and features

Linksys insists on the installation of its software before letting the user log in. Those with an ounce of network knowledge prefer to drill straight into the router's web interface, without wading through a chunky bloatware install, but Linksys doesn't even list the IP in any of the included "quick start" material. It's understandable that it wants users to check out the fancy "smart Wi-Fi" cloud features, but not giving users the default IP is a bit mean.

Having said that, installing the software does reveal a few nice touches. Network management tools can be run remotely on any smartphone or tablet, and you can even repair the network from the office should your partner or housemate phone to complain that the home network is down.

(Screenshot by Bennett Ring/CNET Australia)

Those who are allergic to the Wi-Fi settings on their mobile can use the SimpleTap feature to connect to the network, but to be honest, it requires even more steps than usual to connect. A guest network mode allows visitors to connect to your Wi-Fi network without getting access to your home's networked devices.

Accessing these features, as well as the standard Wi-Fi configuration options, is a breeze, thanks to the EA6500's stunning interface. Everything is laid out clearly and concisely, with the router's different features broken down into sensible menus. A comprehensive online manual is included, explaining every feature outside of the advanced menus. We especially appreciate the excellent Quality of Service interface, which makes prioritising a certain device on your network a cinch.

(Screenshot by Bennett Ring/CNET Australia)

Overall, the interface is much easier to use than most other routers, but it does come at the expense of hiding more advanced features. Network professionals will find the list of supported features slightly lacking. There's also no sign of an integrated ADSL2+ modem, which means you'll need to plug the router into a modem to get to your full internet access.

Performance

The usual caveats of 802.11ac routers apply with the EA6500. It's a speedy protocol that hasn't been given the official stamp of approval, so there's a slight risk that when it does become formalised, the EA6500 won't work. Given our past experience with unratified network protocols, it's highly unlikely that this will occur, but we have to mention it.

Our tests were conducted using LAN Speed Test, sending five 50MB packets over the course of several minutes. We used an Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook as the roaming client for range tests. The first test was conducted in the same room as the router, at a range of 3 metres. Test two placed the ultrabook in the next room, at a distance of 5 metres and with one double-brick wall between them. Our final test saw the ultrabook moved 10 meters away, with three double-brick walls, a very challenging test indeed. Netgear's A6200 802.11ac dongle was used for the 802.11ac tests.

Performance across all three ranges was excellent — not always leading the pack, but also never trailing it. Especially remarkable was the long-range performance, posting incredible speeds where other routers struggle to maintain a connection, let alone deliver high bandwidth.

2.4GHz read and write (in Mbps)

  • Billion 7800NXL
  • Netgear D6300
  • Linksys EA6500
  • WD N750

  • 150.98 W 36.89 R 97.98 W 82.64 R 98.17 W 79.24 R 89.79 W 97.33 R
    Location one (same room, 3 metres, no obstruction)
  • 57.77 W 44.07 R 86.23 W 78.31 R 71.25 W 96.93 R 62.98 W 71.45 R
    Location two (next room, 5 metres, one brick wall)
  • 3.58 W 5.72 R 3.2 W 0 R 18.42 W 25.35 R 11.03 W 20.36 R
    Location three (three rooms away, 10 metres, three brick walls)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


5GHz read and write (in Mbps)

  • Netgear D6300 (802.11ac)
  • Linksys EA6500 (802.11ac)
  • WD N750 (802.11n)
  • D-Link AC 1750 (802.11ac)
  • Linksys WUMC710 (802.11ac)

  • 104.77 W 72.11 R 113.22 W 89.58 R 135.79 W 104.06 R 116.92 W 124.82 R 76.93 W 81.09 R
    Location one (same room, 3 metres, no obstruction)
  • 74.29 W 68.31 R 70.37 W 70.74 R 103.44 W 77.96 R 119.31 W 120.24 R 46.64 W 43.32 R
    Location two (next room, 5 metres, one brick wall)
  • 7.25 W 28.7 R 39.18 W 46.87 R 20.81 W 0 R 0 W 0 R 21.65 W 22.87 R
    Location three (three rooms away, 10 metres, three brick walls)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Warranty

The one-year limited warranty is lacking compared to the two years offered on most dual-band routers. Buyers should keep in mind that Australian Consumer Law offers substantially longer warranty coverage, despite what Linksys claims on the box.

Conclusion

There is no denying how expensive the Linksys EA6500 is, but with performance like this, it's a price tag that is easy to justify. Long-range use is a reality with this beast, wiping the floor with other routers when the going gets tough. It's also a breeze to use, though the SimpleTap feature feels more like a gimmick than a worthy feature.

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justlookin posted a comment   
Australia

NBN ready? No

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