A well-designed and easy-to-use router, the $200 Cisco Linksys E4200v2 is an improved version of our Editor's Choice from last year. As a dual-band router, the E4200v2 lets you access either the 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz band, and hums along without any speed bumps. The E4200v2 also supports the new IPv6 standard, has a USB port and four Gigabit ports. Plus, Cisco throws in mobile apps that let you configure parental controls. Is this still the best dual-band router? Read on to find out.
The sleek design and dark gray look of the E4200 fits well on a desk, but only lays flat -- you can't prop the router on its side. Ports are clearly labeled, but not quite as easy to understand as the labels on the Belkin N900. Cisco includes a remarkable configuration tool called Cisco Connect that hides all the technical details, and makes the router easy to setup. We had the E4200v2 up and running in about five minutes.
Like the first generation, the E4200v2 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus a USB port that can be used to network a hard drive or printer.
Setup and Features
Using an included utility, you can set guest accounts (visitors just type a code on a Web page to get online, almost like being at the airport), security passwords, set parental controls for blocking sites and even update the firmware. Even better, Cisco offers a free iPad, iPhone, and Android app with the same feature set. The desktop and mobile app function the same way; our only gripe is that you can't configure the router remotely.
Security and Features
Like most recent routers, the E4200v2 supports WPA2 encryption for added security. You can set up a UPnP AV Media server to stream files directly to a set-top box or video game console. One interesting trick: you can name your 2.4 and 5.0 channels the same so they look like one network. The router then uses whatever band the device supports.
To use the USB port, we had to create a share in settings; the drive then came up in the Network icon instead of under My Computer. That's a bit unusual, but it still worked fine. A connected printer, the HP Photosmart D110, worked well.
In our speed tests with Ixia Chariot, the E4200v2 proved its worth. Speeds hit a high of 160 Mbps from 5 feet away on the 5-GHz channel, dropping to 74 Mbps form 150 feet away. By comparison, the Netgear N900 notched 164 Mbps at 5 feet, and 100 Mbps at 150 feet. On the 2.4-GHz band, speeds on the E4200 ran about 90 Mbps from 5 feet away, and barely dipped at 150 feet, to 88 Mbps. Those results are a notch above the Netgear N900 (80/70 Mbps).
A 3GB file we transferred from one laptop to another took just 3 minutes; a 2GB collection of 400 files (videos, photos, and audio) took just 2 minutes to copy. Both are close to two times faster than the average, and on a par with the Netgear N900 (4 and 2 minutes, respectively),
Remarkably, the E4200v2 still connected in a typical suburban home all the way out to our mailbox, or more than 1,000 feet away -- with two bars of signal strength. We had no problems testing the router with multiple downloads, movie streams and Skype calls running. Still, the Netgear N900 connected from a few feet beyond the E4200v2 and tested faster. A Hulu.com video still played without any stuttering even all the way out to a mailbox at the end of a long driveway.
With iTunes enabled as a high priority for bandwidth, a download went from 5 hours while watching Hulu down to just 3 hours. Yet, the Hulu stream, at 480p, was still smooth with no audio stuttering.
Overall, the $200 Cisco Linksys E4200v2 is an excellent sequel to the original. It connects at long distances, provides excellent throughput and even has mobile apps to set security features. We give a slight edge to the Netgear N900, which, for $20 less, offers even better range and connection speeds and has an additional USB port. Neverthelss, the Linksys E4200v2 is a great router.