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Linksys EA9200 802.11ac Wi-Fi router review: Solid feature set; mediocre performance

Michael Brown | Feb. 10, 2015
The router industry got a bit over its skis when it started shipping so-called "wave 2" 802.11ac routers. The hardware is real, but the firmware to turn it on still isn't available. If you have a lot of wireless clients in your home, and you use a lot of them for streaming music and video, buying a so-called "tri-band" router is a better strategy.

Why is that? Despite its audacious form factor, the WRT1900AC is in some respects a more conventional 802.11ac router. It has two radios to the EA9200's three, and it doesn't offer Linksys's Smart Wi-Fi features. So you can't run apps on it and you can't manage it via the cloud. In the WRT1900AC's favor, at least from the perspective of hardcore router enthusiasts who like to tweak settings, you can install open-source firmware on the WRT1900AC, something you can't do with the EA9200.

The EA9200's 5GHz 802.11n performance was a little more impressive, at close range, that is. When the notebook client was in the same room as the router and connected to the router's 802.11n network (via the client's Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 Wi-Fi adapter), I saw TCP throughput of an impressive 281Mbps. That was 38Mbps faster than the second-place finisher.

The EA9200 finished third when I moved the client to the kitchen, 20 feet from the router, with one wall in between. And it took last-place finishes when the client was in my home theater (35 feet from the router) and in my home office (65 feet from the router).

If you have 2.4GHz 802.11n clients to support, the EA9200 once again delivers very good close-range performance, but is weak at longer range. It delivered the highest throughput of the five routers when I benchmarked it with the client in my bedroom, and the second-highest performance when the client was in my kitchen. But the router couldn't reach the client at all when the client was in my difficult-to-reach home theater, and it trailed the field by a wide margin when the client was in my home office.

Should you buy one?

As I said up top, tri-band routers are a good idea if you have lots of 802.11ac clients that will be streaming media across your network. And Linksys's Smart Connect feature that automatically distributes 802.11ac clients across its two 5GHz networks does work. But the performance of those networks doesn't justify this router's $300 price tag.


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