When looking to buy a router there is always a question of whether a potential router will meet all your needs. With so many wireless products now in homes it is more important than ever for the router to not only boast a long list of features and the latest in wireless specs but also be able to handle it all while being connected to by many devices. The Linksys EA6500 takes on this task and passes with flying colours.
When you open the box the first thing you will notice is the sleek clean design that we have all grown to expect from Linksys products. It fits in well with most home theatre setups and with little to no flashing lights it will not interfere with a movie or game experience. This is a welcome change from some competing products that pack as many LED lights on the device as possible making it near impossible to have the device in the open near any TV or media centre. The ES6500 also includes the welcome addition of mounting holes on the bottom for wall mounting.
Most modern home routers present users with a limited selection of choices for connectivity though wired means. Sadly this router is no different. It has the usual 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports and an internet port. The addition of 2 USB 2.0 ports is nice and allows for the easy addition of network hard-drives and in our tests these work very well although an extra Ethernet port would have been nice.
Beyond the hard connectivity the EA6500 is a duel band router working on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz range and with this latest router and the AC spec these get up to a theoretical 450Mbit and 1300Mbit respectively. This is a great addition and with more devices using the AC spec in the future (hopefully the next generation of consoles) this may make the need for Gigabit ports a thing of the past, but only time will tell if this becomes the norm.
The real selling point of the EA6500 is the addition of Cisco Connect Cloud, the service that allows the user to control the router from anywhere with an internet connection. This may sound more like a gimmick then a selling feature, but I am happy to say this is not the case. Setup was done in around 2 minutes from start to finish. Once set up, the easy to use interface allows the user to quickly and easily perform complex tasks on other routers. As a gamer, the need to have speed for online games is paramount. Sometimes other network devices leech up bandwidth leaving little for the all important ping. With the Cloud Connect it was possible with a few clicks to not only make the console the top priority device but to push down devices that were not needed at the present time. This will not magically create more bandwidth if your internet is slow, but it will allow you to use the available bandwidth to its maximum potential.
With Connect Cloud also comes an app framework for iOS and Android, making it possible to do all the above changes from the comfort of the couch through the free app. It ensured playtime was never interrupted for more than a few seconds. The user interface was easy and all the important settings were never more than a few taps away. Linksys also boasts a selection of third party applications that will do similar tasks in different ways. These apps were not up to the level that I would like yet, although many show promise. I hope to see more of this sort of framework on competing products since the html interface presented on older routers is feeling rather dated in today’s web application world.
In real word tests the EA6500 holds up with even the most difficult conditions. Using the router for the Extra-Life 24hr session at the C&G offices pushed the router to the limit. Four PS3 systems, an Xbox 360, numerous laptops, and a selection of mobile phones were all connected to it and the router held its own. Though the entire 24 hours of playtime it did not need to be restarted once. The network speeds remained in very playable condition and no devices were kicked off the network. All the connected devices maintained a solid signal from the router even in the backroom of the office. This is by far the best performance for the cost we have seen in recent years.
Now the downside; the price. This is a top of the line router and as such, has a top of the line price. With an MSRP of $219, this is an expensive router and on the top end of consumer routers. It is $10-$20 more than competing products, but with the rock solid performance and the Cloud Connect system it is giving the user a fully loaded package for the money.
When it comes down to it, this router is for the person that will not sacrifice performance when it comes to gaming or media. It boasts the new AC spec and will happily sit in your home for years to come making it a better value than the low end $40 use-for-a-year and throw away routers. With the dual band, Connect Cloud, and the inclusion of 2 USB 2.0 ports Linksys pushes the value to a new level. As long as you can afford the price I would recommend it to any gamer or internet lover looking for an upgrade.