PC

Tri-band router dazzles with speed, features

The Linksys EA9500 is a tri-band router that offers two 5GHz wireless bands and one 2.4GHz band.
The Linksys EA9500 is a tri-band router that offers two 5GHz wireless bands and one 2.4GHz band.PHOTO: LINKSYS

The Linksys EA9500 is among the most expensive but it will stand the test of time

Linksys' latest router packs more features than the average model.

It is a tri-band router that offers two 5GHz wireless bands and a 2.4GHz band.

The aggregate theoretical speed of these three wireless bands is around 5,400Mbps (5,334Mbps to be precise), hence its name (EA9500 Max-stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router).

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $539

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 8 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2, WEP

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Max-stream branding indicates support for the new Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) feature increasingly found in newer, high-end routers.

Routers with this feature are able to transmit data simultaneously to multiple compatible client devices, such as the latest smartphones, instead of one at a time.

At around 1.7kg, the EA9500 is bulky by router standards. It cannot be wall-mounted.

At the back are eight Gigabit LAN ports, twice that of the standard router. Unlike the high-end routers from Asus and Netgear, the EA9500 does not support port aggregation, which combines the output from two ports into a single 2Gbps channel.

It has a modern Web-based user interface. Settings are displayed on the left panel while the rest of the page is filled with widgets. These widgets offer a quick way to make changes to settings with a few clicks, though you will have to delve into the settings at the left panel for more advanced options.

Thanks to its 1.4GHz dual-core processor, the router's user interface is responsive - it takes less than 10 seconds to save changes to the settings.

Linksys recently updated its companion Smart Wi-Fi app (available for iOS and Android) with a brand- new look and additional features.

The app now alerts you via a notification if your router goes offline, a feature that currently works only with the EA9500.

You can also conveniently send your router's network password to your contacts via SMS or e-mail from within the Linksys app.

Other features that are uncommon for a router's mobile app include the ability to set up a Wi-Fi MAC filter, port forwarding and advanced Wi-Fi settings.

However, I feel that the app could do with an alternate theme that is brighter than its current dark blue appearance, which is difficult to read at times.

In my usual Wi-Fi speed test, which measures the transfer speeds between two PCs connected to the router, the EA9500 managed an impressive average download speed of 686Mbps.

It rivals the 695Mbps recorded by my current top performer, the Asus RT-5300.

My only beef with the EA9500 is its $539 price tag, which makes it one of the most expensive routers in the market. I would rather spend this amount on a new graphics card, which would give me a more tangible performance boost.

Nevertheless, the EA9500 ranks as one of the best routers I have tested this year.

It is almost certainly overkill for most consumers, but it is a router that should be good for many years to come.

• Verdict: This pricey router impresses with its performance, user interface and coverage. The companion app is excellent, too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Tri-band router dazzles with speed, features'. Print Edition | Subscribe