The number of 802.11ac routers is steadily increasing. The latest one we got our hands on comes from Cisco, in the form of the Linksys EA6500. It's supposed to become the new router for the consumer market. Hardware.Info tested the EA6500 to find out whether the performance and features warrant those dreams. See all Wi-Fi and networking reviews.
Not yet a better option than a high-end 802.11n router
Cisco is not the first to come with an 802.11ac router, but it did right away also release an 802.11ac bridge with the Linksys WUMC710. The only other manufacturer to do so thusfar is Buffalo. The EA6500 costs around £160, while the WUMC710 has a price of around £90. Together these are definitely not an affordable setup, but it beats buying two routers in order to put one in bridge mode. See also: Group test: what's the best wireless router?
The 'EA' in the Cisco Linksys EA6500 stands for App Enabled, which means the router is compatible with the Connect Cloud firmware and you can use apps to do things remotely. The number of available apps is still very limited, but the service is relatively young still. Cisco says that a number of developers are working on it.
You can clearly see that the Linksys EA6500 is a Cisco product, albeit in a larger form. It's possible to mount the router on a wall. You get two USB 2.0 ports, compared to the single USB port on the EA4500. An improvement on the back of the Linksys EA6500 compared to earlier models is the new location of the WPS button, which is now much easier to reach.
The hardware inside the 802.11ac routers that we've seen has been very similar, and that's once again the case. When more 802.11ac modules become available, that will likely change. Until then, you will see the name Broadcom being mentioned quite a bit, since those are the chips being used in 802.11ac routers right now, also in this EA6500.
Two 128MB modules create 256MB of RAM, and the antennas are spread around the chassis. These are single-band antennas, that support a single frequency. ASUS, for example, uses dual-band antennas.
If you frequently use QoS, then the interface of the Linksys EA6500 does have added value over that of many other routers. It automatically indexes all devices connected to the router, after which you can drag and drop them into the order you want. Adding applications and online games to the QoS list is equally straight-forward.
An interesting extra feature is Simple Tap. Cisco includes a card with an NFC chip with the router. To use it you have to install the Connect Cloud app on your mobile device, and you have to enable it in the router interface. Once you've done that, when you hold the smartphone or tablet with NFC chip against the card, it will automatically connect to the router's wireless network. The connection is a temporary one at first. It's too bad that it's only available for the standard network, and not on the guest network which would have been great if you have large numbers of visitors.
To find out how well this new ac router performs, read the full review on Hardware.Info.