TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router Review: Affordable High Quality Wi-Fi

TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router Review: Affordable High Quality Wi-Fi

Over the holidays I was asked a lot of tech questions from my extended family who look to me as their preferred form of tech support. It’s almost as if they bundle up all their questions throughout the year just to throw them at me during the annual holiday party. A common question this year was, “Why should we waste our money on an expensive router when the ISP provides an all-in-one modem for free.” Fair question, so let’s use this opportune review as an answer. Enter the TP-Link Archer AC2300, an affordable Mu-Mimo router that provides users with all of the modern performance and security features required to run a high quality home Wi-Fi network.

TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router Review: Affordable High Quality Wi-Fi
TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router (image credit CGM Staff).

Retailing for $150 CAD, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 packs a modest punch of power, running off a 1.8GHz dual-core processor and 512mb of RAM. With these specs, the router is capable of achieving a dual-band connection with max speeds up to 2.25 Gbps. To be more specific, the 5GHz connection has a max speed of 1625 Mbps and the 2.4GHz connection reaches up to 600 Mbps. Compared to the estimated Wi-Fi speeds on ISP provided units, users should expect the TP-Link Archer to double their download speed and provide a more consistent upload speed all around the house. This reflects well in our testing.

To test the TP-Link Archer’s capabilities I pitted the router against my Rogers modem and 1 GB Ethernet connection at different times of the day for a week and averaged the scores to achieve my final conclusions. Obviously, Ethernet is the clear winner across all of the fields, but that requires users to ditch their wireless lifestyles, which is realistically never happening. It was honestly shocking how slow the Rogers modem was, only able to reach 33 per cent of the performance of my Ethernet connection. No wonder signal sucks when I go upstairs or walk out onto the porch. There are clear dead zones where this device can’t reach. The TP-Link Archer AC2300 showed much better performance scores, reaching 60 per cent of my Ethernet connection’s total performance. Not only were my upload and download speeds faster, but the Archer was also able to provide a more stable connection due to its wider area coverage and Range-Boost technology.

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TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router (image credit CGM Staff).

Another positive over an ISP unit is the quality of life improvements routers provide. For example, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 doesn’t need to be set up or managed using a desktop computer. Users can instead use their smartphone and download the free TP-Link Tether app and manage their network that way.  The app is rather simplistic in layout and functions, but it does provide the user with essential information, including the number of devices on the network and their level of priority. Users can even set up guest passwords and assign restrictions, which is particularly good for using on a child’s device because it gives the parent a wider range of control.

My only real complaint with the TP-Link Archer AC2300 is that I think it looks like an eyesore and suffers from a poorly designed LED layout. Unless the Archer is mounted on the wall it’s nearly impossible to read the LEDs to tell the status of my networks if I begin to notice disruptions. The symbols are simply too tiny and only light up in one colour, unlike my ISP unit where they are bold and shine blue or green to indicate the level of performance.

TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router Review: Affordable High Quality Wi-Fi 1
TP-Link Archer AC2300 Mu-Mimo Router (image credit CGM Staff).

While I may dislike the design, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 does provide enough performance for the dollar that I still recommend it as a good choice for users looking for an affordable router and a gateway to Mu-Mimo technology. Mu-Mimo is quickly becoming the industry standard for routers due to its low latency connections and top-notch efficiency with wireless devices, which is a huge benefit for households needing to support multiple users.

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Hardware) Review

Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Hardware) Review

Players always strive for the best. Whether it’s the best score, best killstreak, best games—whatever it is, they want the finest they can get. So when it comes to gaming online, players demand the absolute best from their routers. You can’t have your connection slowing down or even dropping during a crucial moment. Linksys understands this and has created a router that promises to bring players the absolute best network for their needs with the WRT 32X. Featuring some impressive specs and being the introduction to Linksys’s Killer technology, we set out to see if it really was the best.

Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Hardware) Review
Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Images via CG Magazine)

The Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router is an impressive looking router, to say the least. The all black design really sells the idea that this is a router that means business. It’s not that large, or that tall, which means that it can be out on a table or shelf and it won’t be an imposing figure. The front of the router features all the main LEDs and the blue colouring helps compliment the router’s design.

The Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router is a really good router that features a dual core 1.8 GHZ processor. This processor can handle all the traffic you could throw at it, regardless of whether it’s wireless, wired, USB 3.0, or eSATA. Alongside the processor is a pro-grade Ethernet switch. This switch comes with five integrated Gigabit Ethernet transceivers and is able to handle a large amount of routed, switched, or IPv6 traffic locally, so that processing power can be freed for wireless and USB connections. The Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router also comes with Tri-Stream 160, meaning there are three streams on a 160MHz-wide channel. This provides users with a theoretical maximum connection rate of 2.6Gbps. Alongside all this, MU-MIMO technology is built into this router, letting your devices get the connection they need.

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Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Images via CG Magazine)

MU-MIMO isn’t the only technology built into the Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router. The highlight of the new router is the Killer Priority Engine. This engine ensures that any and all packets of data relating to playing your game are treated with the highest priority. This means that you should never experience lag or slowdown on your own network while gaming. Built right into the router and accompanying motherboards, the Killer Priority Engine promises to bring players the absolute fastest speeds by offering a highway just for their gaming traffic. As long as you have a motherboard with the Killer Technology in it, you get access to the full suite of features that the Killer Priority Engine provides. With a UI that should make any player feel comfortable, you are able to see the state of your network traffic, the Wi-Fi signals in your area, what networks are broadcasting on them, and how busy each one is. In testing, I didn’t notice a substantial gain in speeds. Instead, I gained more control and more reliability on my network.

However, that all changes if you don’t have the right motherboard in your PC. My home PC doesn’t have the Killer Priority Engine technology in it, so it didn’t have access to all the fancy features the WRT 32X could provide. To my PC, the Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router was nothing but a standard router. As such, when comparing it to the EA9300 that I already had at home, I didn’t notice anything substantial. If anything, the WRT 32X would have lagged behind my normal router as it only features a dual-core processor compared to the quad-core I already possess. Every standard action was available to me, such as being able to access my router from my PC, change standard settings such as DNS, and the ability to manage my network, without the special motherboard, the WRT 32X provided nothing special.

Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Hardware) Review 5
Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Images via CG Magazine)

That’s my main gripe with the WRT 32X. It relies on a special and separate piece of hardware to function at its utmost best. Once it is working together with the motherboard, gaming is a breeze. All the worries of lag, dropped packets, or disconnecting vanish. However, without that motherboard, the Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router is nothing but another run-of-the-mill router.

Is it still a good router? Yes.

Is it the best router at that price point? No.

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Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router (Images via CG Magazine)

That’s where I stand with the Linksys WRT 32X Gaming Router. I love what it is and what it stands for. It’s a router designed with players and our unique needs in mind. It provides the ability to better control our networks and tailor them to our purposes. However, it can only do that if we purchase a separate, additional piece of hardware. That reliance on something else both helps elevate the router and drag it down. If you have the cash to burn, buying the router and the motherboard is a solid option. If you just want a new router, there are better options.

TP Link Deco M5 Router (Hardware) Review

TP Link Deco M5 Router (Hardware) Review

A recent networking trend to hit the market are mesh networks. Built off of two- sometimes even four identical small routers, mesh networks are the latest solution to creating strong and reliable Wi-Fi in homes. While Linksys and Netgear have been the quickest to launch their products, TP Link took time to flesh out the idea further and develop the Deco M5, the ideal networking solution for large homes and growing families.

TP Link Deco M5 Router (Hardware) Review

Mesh networks are easy to explain. By connecting one of the included units to the central modem and then setting up the rest of the units around the home as extenders, the user will be able to create a strong Wi-Fi network that delivers consistent performance no matter where the user is. The hook that brings in consumers is range. By boasting upwards of 4500 Sq.Ft on the box, TP Link and their competitors are hitting a target market that’s been sorely neglected for some time, families.

Starting off with design, the TP Link Deco M5 system comes with three shell shaped units, each housing a dedicated USB-Type C power and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Due to their small form factor, setting up these units around the house requires little effort and even if they’re peeking out from a hiding spot or even in plain sight, their simplistic design keeps them from looking like an eye-sore.

Specs are an interesting subject because I wasn’t expecting this level of quality of performance from TP Link, who is known for their budget aimed systems and hardware. Each one of the included Deco M5 Units includes a dedicated quad-core CPU, four internal antennas and a Bluetooth chip to tie together the system through the downloadable Deco app for Android and iOS devices. After the mesh network is created, users come into possession of a dual-band network that sports speeds of 400 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz connection and upwards of 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz connection. While the speeds seem lacking when compared to previous routers I’ve reviewed these numbers are in line to support standard households instead of enthusiasts or gamers. A shortcoming though compared to the competition is that there is no dedicated band to handle backhaul traffic, which creates some signal loss and weaker speeds.

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To further support that this system is built for families is that every bit of the included software is handled by the user’s Android or iOS device through a Bluetooth connection. The Deco App is a smart idea for people who aren’t as adept with tech, but the fact that there is no browser option whatsoever is a little disappointing for people who would like to explore more settings and network customization. A prime example is the parental controls. If you wanted to restrict Bowser Jr.’s access to Netflix after 10pm then you’re free to and can ensure it only restricts the device or computer they are using. A traditional browser based system would’ve given me the ability to restrict specific devices on the network on a one-on-one basis.

A welcome addition to the TP Link Deco M5 is the antivirus protection. Instead of handling anti-virus through the computer, the Deco M5 has the ability to identify and delete viruses from potentially harmful files and software from the system itself. The only disappointing part about this included protection is that unfortunately it’s not permanent. After three years with the system the user will have to subscribe to the antivirus to enable the service again for a fee.

TP Link Deco M5 Router (Hardware) Review 1

Overall I think the TP Link Deco M5 is a quality piece of networking hardware, but it simply isn’t for me. The consumers who will really benefit from this mesh networking system are large households and growing families that need additional protection from the harmful things found in the darkest parts of the internet. Enthusiasts should look elsewhere for a type of system that can prioritize their gaming needs.

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review

My first router review, and I was given a damn fine one to kick things off. The TP-Link Archer C9 Wireless Dual Band Router is sleek, and well-rounded on the performance side of things. It’s also one of the cheapest on the market, but certainly doesn’t seem like it. If you’re unfamiliar with the TP-Link brand, they’re mostly known for producing more of a mid-tier router which isn’t going to make your wallet cry. With the Archer C9, they’ve moved up the ladder in terms of quality while still retaining a great price point. This router is an amazing pick if you’re either working from home or just chilling.

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review 2Kicking off with the design, the TP-Link Archer C9 boasts a beautiful glossy white body with a metal frame surrounding it. It’s certainly a looker, but the frame holds the body in a fixed up-right position, so laying it flat is out of the question. On top of the router, you will find the spots to screw in the three antennas for Wi-Fi use. These are included, but you can always get stronger ones if needed. Around back is where we’ll find almost all of our ports. We are given a USB 2.0 slot, the WPS button, the Ethernet Port, four LAN ports, the powers switch, and the power port. Notice I said “almost all.” If you will direct your attention to the left side of the TP-Link Archer C9, you will find the Wi-Fi button and a USB 3.0 slot. This router features pretty much everything you’ll need on the outside, aside from maybe having a second USB 3.0 slot, but I can look past that.

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review 3

As far as how well it performs, you won’t be disappointed on that front either. It is an AC1900-rated dual-band router. Confused? This means that the Archer C9 can do 802.11ac (5GHz) at 1300Mbps, and 802.11n (2GHz) at around 600Mbps. Still confused? Basically, the Wi-Fi capabilities of this router are incredible. At short distances, around five metres and under, I was able to transfer information such as files at speeds greater than 40 megabytes per second, and I’ve read other reports of this as well. It also helps that the antennas used for the Archer C9 are also comparable to the ones found on higher-end routers, where the signal can be directed to a device as opposed to going all over the place. To truly take advantage of the 802.11ac, your PC, laptop, smartphone, or whichever piece of equipment you’ll be using will need to have an 802.11ac wireless adapter. Thankfully, most modern devices feature this by default.

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review 4The TP-Link Archer C9 is also very easy to set up and use, featuring one of the cleanest user interfaces I’ve seen on a router. A ton of basic information is given by default, and you’re presented with a nifty map of the network to see what’s connected. A quality of service (QoS) management tool called NAT Boost is also enabled from the beginning, and personally I didn’t have to turn it off for any reason. It’s designed to speed up Internet connections by sending out transmission frames right when it receives the destination. The only reason you may need to turn it off is for instances such as port forwarding or parental control. It also features a pretty fleshed-out “Advanced” options list offering plenty of things for you tinkerers out there to get their hands on.

TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 (Hardware) Review 5

TP-Link have upped their game with the Archer C9, offering a higher mid-range router for an extraordinary price point. I’ve noticed that seems to be the trend recently for the tech world. I’ve dealt with a lot of mid-range smartphones this year that felt more like a flagship phone based on performance and design. It’s a trend both me and my wallet will be happy to see continue.

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review

You know you have a damn good router on your hands when even your mother loves it. Linksys routers have been a standard inclusion in most family’s homes for quite a while, but the company hasn’t pushed the innovation button in years and the competition is rapidly picking up steam. To reclaim their title, Linksys has revealed their new family of MAX STREAM products and their powerhouse router, the Linksys EA9500.

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review 2

The technology that binds the MAX STREAM family of products together is MU-MIMO wireless, which improves the efficiency of your Internet experience by interacting with all of your connected devices at the same time instead of on a one-on-one basis. Most routers are still single user based, which creates a priority line of weak and buffered connections when all of your devices need to ping it for information. The EA9500 is powerful enough to support an entire household’s set of consoles, phones, computers and tablets, while still featuring the ability to deliver stable wireless connectivity at fast speeds.

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review

My current wireless 5 GHz connection would normally clock in at a wavering 6.5-8.0 MB/s when downloading a game from Steam, but after installing the Linksys EA9500 it was like my download speed took a shot of adrenaline and it suddenly began showing stable speeds of 9.5-10.0 MB/s. My next test was range, and this is where my mom professed her love for this router. She’s the kind of person who loves to stream her favourite shows and movies while she’s cooking but will constantly complain to her son whenever the Internet cuts out or her shows start to buffer. After this eight-towered beast entered the home, her passionate cries of anguish and grief ceased and I was able to enjoy multiple silent evenings of entertainment. A little overdramatic maybe, but the Linksys EA9500 eliminated every dead zone in my house and every device was able to access the 5 GHz connection, which is saying a lot when the modem has always been located in the basement beside my PC.

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review 5

With this kind of power output comes a pretty hefty MSRP of $399.99 USD. The cost of the Linksys EA9500 is overkill for most households, but this router has always been aimed at the tech enthusiast. Packing eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor and featuring tri-band Wi-Fi, the EA9500 can be used to host a variety of gaming events, such as LAN parties, local eSports tournaments or simply streaming your group’s favourite titles.

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That’s not to say that the everyday home user can’t take advantage of some features as well. The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi interface is very friendly to beginners and explains in easy language how to set-up multiple custom networks and establish how much power you want to dedicate to them. If you’re sick of handing out your Wi-Fi password to friends, extended family or uninvited guests, you can create a specific guest password that gives them only as much access to your networks as you specify. You can also monitor how much power each connected device is consuming and redistribute the power to whatever device you want to prioritize immediately, whether that’s your workstation PC or your streaming console.

Linksys EA9500 MU-MIMO Router (Hardware) Review 1

The Linksys EA9500 is easily the most powerful router I’ve used to date. The whopping price tag may scare away many consumers, but I have to admit that the EA9500 does the job its advertised to do and at the top of its class. My wireless speeds have never been faster, my home’s devices can easily connect to it anywhere at any given time and hosting my first LAN party with six bulky PCs was an absolute blast.  If you’re a gamer who craves powerful wireless, then the Linksys EA9500 has every one of your desires covered.

Linksys WRT 1900 ACS (Hardware) Review

Linksys WRT 1900 ACS (Hardware) Review

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am basically 100% reliant on the internet. When I see those pictures of picturesque houses in an idyllic countryside, captioned by “Could you live here for one month without internet?” my answer is always NO.

And I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We live in a time where we can access multitudes of information at the tips of our fingers almost instantly. We’re only a few steps away from the TRON future I so dream of. The Linksys WRT 1900 ACS brings us that much closer.

The Linksys 1900 ACS Dual-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router is easily the best router I’ve ever used. Downloading and uploading were liquid smooth thanks to a 2.5 GHz Dual Band Wi-Fi output. This is backed by a 1.3 GHz Dual Core processor allowing for multiple units to be connected to the router without slowdown. The unit also comes equipped with four Gigabit LAN ports as well as a USB port to add external storage or to share networks.

Linksys WRT 1900 ACS (Hardware) Review 1

The 1900 ACS Dual-Band is a relatively small unit at 9.7×7.6×2 inches, although it appears a bit larger with its four signal boosting antennae.

I’ve often tested routers by how well they can handle Smash Bros for 3DS’ online, and based on that rating system, the 1900 ACS is among the best, with little to no lag during online matches. Gaming, streaming, YouTube and almost all Internet use was fast and hassle free.

Priced at $229.99, it’s fairly reasonable for such a competent router. If you’re like me and value fast Internet speeds and little hassle, the Linksys 1900 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router is definitely worth a look.

Linksys EA8500 Router (Hardware) Review

Linksys EA8500 Router (Hardware) Review

Losing internet connectivity, lagging, and buffering are considered the three most annoying things about the internet. Even the dial-tone of the 90s was more bearable than having to wait for a single .jpeg to load. With the Linksys EA8500 max-stream wi-fi AC2600 MU-MIMO gigabit router, waiting isn’t necessary. The router boosts network performance, even with multiple devices connected, and provides a better experience for users, but does have one minor problem: the lack of MU-MIMO devices on the market.

MU-MIMO allows for more than one client to be connected to the device without having to rotate between them, unlike SU-MIMO. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other devices out there yet that support this feature, so getting the full experience means
waiting to dish out more money. Despite that, it still performed well while keeping all devices connected.

Included in the box was the router itself, the manual, four detachable antennas, an ethernet cable, power adapter, and the CD-ROM to install it.

The router itself isn’t that large. It’s dimensions are  9.8 x 7.7 x 2 inches (24.8 x 19.5 x 5 cm), and weighs roughly 2 pounds. It’s appearance is similar to any other Linksys router with a sleek black design, similar to the Linksys E8350 IEEE 802.11ac Ethernet Wireless Router, but all black.

EA8500-2

The EA8500 allows for multiple devices to run smoothly at the same time. It’s equipped with a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, dual bands, and 4×4 AC. The 5GHz band offers up to 73.1Mbps, and a 2.4 GHz band with 800 Mbps. There’s 128MB of flash storage and 512MB DDR3 RAM memory available as well, and the included free app controls the Smart wi-fi, which allows the user to prioritize devices, control content coming in, turn on and off access for any device, and create separate guest networks.

Live streaming, gaming, and generally using the internet was hassle free. There were little to no cases of lagging or buffering, and even when there was, they were so short that it wasn’t noteworthy, and the wi-fi range is very large, reaching farther than it needed to, which is great for people who need a larger span.

While it’s great to have a router that offers a fast internet experience, it does come at a price. The Linksys router sells for $299.99 USD ($371.39 CAD). While it is on sale for $279.99, ($346.63 CAD), it may be best to wait for the price to drop a bit since MU-MIMO devices aren’t as prominent right now.

Overall, the Linksys EA8500 is great for gamers, businesses, larger families, and generally anyone running multiple devices at once while doing lots of work that requires a solid connection. It’s probably best if investing in a MU-MIMO device, but it still works otherwise.

D-Link DIR-868L (Hardware) Review

D-Link DIR-868L (Hardware) Review

Wireless routers are often thought of as an install-it-and-forget-it device. Many people settle for the low end offerings, as meet most general consumer needs. However, if you are an enthusiast of gaming or online media, it performance matters a lot more. The D-Link DIR-868L is a router for more demanding users, with performance that satisfies media producers, or competitive players, but it comes at a price.

The design of the router is a bit different from others. Rather than being the traditional rectangular box, D-Link have opted for a glossy black cylinder. The back of the router has a USB 3.0 port, WLAN connection and the standard compliment of gigabit Ethernet ports, somewhat of a necessity for any router being used for media or gaming. The front is minimal with a lights for power and internet status. Overall the look is elegant, with it being a welcome addition to most work areas, fitting right in with most modern technology.

Getting the router setup with a new or pre-existing network was a pleasure. It’s a simple process of plugging into the network and running the setup utility. The setup guides the user though the full process, making the total setup, including security for the network, taking a total of around 10 minutes.

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Bandwidth, and the ability of a router to handle internet gaming even with heavy traffic is an important element when looking for a new router. The need for the new wireless technologies such as 5Ghz is very important. With more and more people using wireless in their homes, the 2.4 Ghz band has become rather congested. This congestion leads to a drop in internet speed along with lost matches. The solution is ensuring your devices use the new 5Ghz band, which is less crowded but lacks the range of  2.4Ghz. It’s is a much faster and more reliable option when looking at wireless connectivity.

The fact the DIR-868L can go up to 1300Mbps on the 5Ghz spectrum makes the wireless comparable to the gigabit wired in peak situations. In our tests we found file transfers when using the 5Ghz spectrum to work well. A 100MB file transferred in just over a minute on both wired and wireless. Similar quality was also seen when testing live streaming of a PS4 title on twitch, quality was consistent with an acceptable number of dropped frames in the overall 30 minute test.

The need for fast Ethernet and steady speeds is essential in online games where timing is key or when streaming a match on twitch or another streaming service. I am happy to report with our heavy testing of the router, we did not experience any slowdown or dropped connection. Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer gave little to no issues. Even when the system (PS4) was on wireless. Even more impressive was the ability to stream gameplay to twitch and have an acceptable performance from the wireless setup. It should be noted that although wireless steaming was possible, CGM would always recommend a wired connection for streaming to ensure optimal performance.

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Despite its decline in recent years, LAN gaming is still something many players enjoy. This can sometimes be a challenge with too large a number of computers and devices connecting all at once. I am happy to report that LAN gaming was also feasible with the DIR-868L. After throwing classic LAN titles at the router, it was a pleasant surprise to see it run without issue. Games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, were playable even with over 10 computers connected. Even when testing computers on a wireless connection and there were still no issues. It is safe to say the router is a fantastic LAN gaming choice for the people still interested in that style of play.

Overall the DIR-868L is a pleasant surprise, and although is a higher end router the price tag is justified with the features and flexibility of the device. With few slowdowns or real problems, it is hard to not recommend it for anyone interested in gaming or internet media. Speed and range make it a great choice for people that are forced to rely on the wireless option, but with the addition of Gigabit connections, it allows for the true enthusiast to achieve the speeds they may need. If price is no object, the DIR-868L is a router that is hard to beat although may be better suited to the enthusiast.

Linksys EA6500 (Hardware) Review

Linksys EA6500 (Hardware) Review

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.

TN-90001 Linksys Smart WiFi Router EA6500 TopBeyond 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.

EA6500 ports

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.