Intuitive, user-friendly setup; Sleek and clean design; Fast for an 802.11n router; Useful mobile apps and widgets;
No 802.11ac support
The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA4500 router offers good performance and useful apps for making the most of your home network.
For some, the only purpose of a router is to get you online. With the Cisco Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA4500 ($141), there's a lot more to the story. The first router to offer legitimate apps and widgets that you can use to extend its capability, the EA4500 is a groundbreaking device. While it lacks the fastest networking speeds, the other features make this router one of the best money can buy.
Setup and Install
From start to finish, the installation process for the Linksys EA4500 took less than two minutes. The router comes with an installer CD that walks you through everything. (You can also download the installer app online.) Fortunately, even if you want to explore the more advanced features, you don't have to take a trip out to your browser and type in an IP address. Instead, most of the advanced settings are available right from the main installer app.
But the big difference is when you install a new software program called Cisco Connect Cloud, which includes widgets that run in your browser. There's one for changing passcodes, enabling parental filters and adjusting network optimization. Cisco has promised a boatload of new widgets for Connect Cloud, including those that will work with a laundry room appliance, your Xbox in the living room or maybe even a sprinkler system.
Connect Cloud is designed for those who don't live and breathe tech. For example, when you want to adjust settings under Media Prioritization, you don't have to learn about techie terms such as quality-of-service. Instead, you see a list of attached devices and commonly used Web apps, and you can drag and drop these in order of importance.
To evaluate Connect Cloud, we set Netflix as the top priority on our entire network. That meant, no matter what happens elsewhere, Netflix will play smoothly. We tested this feature by playing the movie "Thor" on one laptop, downloaded a 6GB file on a second laptop, and played multiple Hulu.com videos on a third laptop. The Hulu streams stuttered and the download took 14 minutes, but the Netflix stream stayed smooth.
As expected, transferring a 6GB collection of files between two HP Envy 17 notebooks took 10 minutes 20 seconds, and a 1.2GB collection of files took 2 minutes and 14 seconds. Those speeds are fairly typical for 802.11n.
At 150 feet from the router, the EA4500 notched 62 Mbps, which is on a par with the average. The D-Link DIR865L, however, was more than twice as fast, at 170 Mbps. The Belkin AC1200 averaged 160 Mbps from 5 feet, and 65 Mbps from 150 feet.
The Belkin AC1200 offers a couple of extras not found on the Linksys EA4500. That router has a tool for monitoring traffic, and a way to set specific download and upload speeds for an attached device.
|Ports||4 Gigabit Ethernet|
|Size||2.8 x 12 x 9.2 inches|