Big, black and festooned with antennas describes the typical high performance WiFi router and the new EA9500 from Linksys is all that. It also more than fills the bill when it comes to performance setting the pace for all the rest.
Out of the box the EA9500 is your typical big and black router with one impressive difference. It sports 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports instead of the usual four. This is important because if you are the typical user of such a high performance router you likely have a bunch of things to plug into it as well a bigger bunch of WiFi Clients. I was able to slightly unclutter my desk by doing away with the switch I was using to accommodate a fifth and sometimes sixth ethernet connection.
Simple to install
Installation was simple..just connect the ethernet cables to clients and my cable router, plug it in and turn on the switch. That was pretty much it. It was ready to be configured using Linksys’ Smart WiFi app. It is just as easy to install locally using the router’s web access if you don’t feel like installing the app.
Before we start playing with this beast of a router let’s look at a some of its advanced features.
It features three advanced WiFi radios one at 2.5GHz with potential bandwidth of 1000Mbps, and two 5GHz radios with a potential bandwidth of 2167MHz hence the AC5400 designation. In the real world you won’t see those levels but this router is future proofed for the day when devices can handle those bandwidths. Still real world performance is blazingly fast.
MU-MIMO is another future proofing feature. Most routers are SU-MIMO (Single User Multiple In Multiple Out) That type of router can only handle one device at a time so it switches rapidly between them and is most cases you won’t notice the switching. Under heavy demand you could see lag, and buffering delays. Multiple User MIMO means bandwidth is directed at specific devices instead of splitting between them. The result is theoretically improved performance with three or more people streaming videos or otherwise using a lot of bandwidth, because users aren’t slowing each other down. Trouble is very few client devices are currently MU-MIMO capable. My Motorola Moto Z smartphone is so I was able to test it with the Linksys MU-MIMO USB WiFi adapter on a PC. More on that later.
I have been using the EA9500 for about a month and ot has proven to be solid as a rock…way more stable than previous Cisco designed routers Linksys sold. (I suspect this will likely be one of the last Cisco designed routers to come from Linksys as the company starts using designs from its current owner Belkin) During the month I did not experience one dropoff or loss of connection to individual devices or the modem.
Now to speed and range which turned out to be a mixed bag. The EA9500 proved to be the absolute fastest router I have tested. Under ideal conditions I was able to get close to 800Mbps in the same room with only one device connected (an early 2015 Macbook) but I am going to give you the results of my actual use situation testing with 17 or more devices connected and Smart Connect activated which uses the same SSID and connects WiFi devices automatically to the appropriate band. This router is impressive.
I used iperf3 to measure bandwidth. The server was connected to the EA9500 via Gigabit Ethernet and the client was my Macbook.
Same room bandwidth topped out at 598Mbps and averaged 548. Other rooms on the same floor averaged 497Mbps with a top of 575 in the adjacent room with only one wall in the way. Downstairs was a mixed bag most rooms and the back yard ranged from 92 to 104Mbps but really dropped off at my usual dead spots. The family room with three walls, one floor and a big TV in the way struggled at 4Mbps and the front porch (where I often work in summer) had no signal. Linksys supplied me with the Next-Gen AC Max-Stream AC600 WiFi Micro USB adapter to test MU-MIMO. Currently drivers are only available for Windows devices. I am a Mac household and only had one aging Windows PC and a Motorola Moto Z Smartphone to test..not an ideal situation using three different versions of iperf3. As a result my numbers were all over the place but it would appear that there is about a 25 to 40% increase in speed with MU-MIMO versus SU-MIMO
Dead Spot Solution
Fortunately Linksys has an elegant solution to my dead spot problems. The compact RE7000 Next Gen AC Max-Stream AC1900+ WiFi Range extender.
This is way more than your run of the mill extender, when paired with a Max-Stream router such as the EA9500 it allows for seamless roaming. Your devices will automatically switch to the most powerful signal and it is MU-MIMO compatible as well. On top of that Linksys adds more reliability and performance.
- Cross Band Technology to maximize simultaneous use of both bands for high speed connection
- Beamforming Technology to focus the Wi-Fi Signal directly to your smartphone, tablet, and laptop for faster Wi-Fi connection
One of the keys to an extender’s performance is proper placement to maximize the signal. The RE7000 uses Spot Finder technology to ensure you put the extender in the best location for maximum performance.
So what difference does the RE7000 make..well my dead spots are gone. Bandwidth in the family room is up from 4Mbps to 106 and the front porch jumped from no signal to 102Mbps. That means my entire house has more than enough WiFi bandwidth to handle my 60Mbps cable service and my three Apple TVs can stream simultaneously with no extra lag, dropouts or buffering.
The combination of the EA9500 router and the R7000 extender is the most powerful and future proofed setup you can install today. But it doesn’t come cheaply. The router sells for $500 the steep price reflecting what you get. If you have many devices especially several gaming and streaming boxes in use simultaneously plus you want to be prepared for the next generation of WiFi technology then this router is the one to buy. The RE7000 extender is competitively priced at $179. Both are available everywhere networking products are sold
If your needs are less demanding you may want to consider the EA8500 which is a dual band instead of try band router but still features Max-Stream and MU-MIMO for about half the price.