Linksys E3000 dual-band wireless router

Linksys E3000 review: An 802.11n router with simultaneous dual-band operation and Gigabit Ethernet

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Linksys E3000
  • Linksys E3000
  • Linksys E3000
  • Linksys E3000

Pros

  • Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Good speed and reliability in our tests
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • USB storage port is of limited usefulness
  • LEDs are too bright

Bottom Line

The Linksys E3000 is a good quality router that can simultaneously run 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks. It performed well in our tests and we found it to be reliable throughout our test period. It has good features and it's easy to set up.

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The E3000 is one of Linksys' high-end consumer routers, featuring simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and a USB port for attaching external storage devices. It retains the sleek styling of past Linksys routers that we've reviewed and it's easy to set up through its Web interface.

The E3000 sits above the E2000 and just below the E4200 in the current Linksys range of home routers. The E3000 differs to the E2000 in a couple of significant ways. Most importantly, the E3000 can run its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands simultaneously (with three antennas for each band), while the E2000 allows you to run only one or the other. This makes the E3000 perfect for those of you who want to create two networks to segregate traffic for different devices. You can have one network dedicated to your computers, with the other dedicated to your gaming console to maximise its network performance.

However, to use the 5GHz band you will need 5GHz-capable devices. Many mid-to-high-end laptops have dual-band networking by default, but gaming consoles and most media streamers don't. For devices that don't, you can always invest in an Ethernet-to-wireless bridge that's capable of running at 5GHz.

The other feature that differentiates the E3000 from the E2000 is the addition of a USB storage port. This port allows the E3000 to turn in to a media server. You can also set it up for FTP access and remote Internet access, and you can create users and groups to control access to individual folders. However, you can't use an attached drive like a network attached storage device — it doesn't show up as a network drive in Windows.

By enabling the UPnP media server function in the router, you'll be able to serve music and videos off an attached hard drive to devices such as gaming consoles or media streamers. In our tests, the USB port worked fine with basic USB keys, and also with desktop-style external USB drives that have their own power supply. It didn't work with pocket USB drives that draw power from the USB port. We plugged in two different pocket drives and weren't able to access either of them.

The E3000 doesn't have a modem built in to it, so you'll have to use your own; we used Billion's little 5200S RD ADSL2+ modem. We attached the router to two PCs using Gigabit Ethernet and connected another couple of laptops and a media streamer using Wi-Fi. It managed the flow of traffic through all of the devices without any problems and its performance was quite good, too.

For our wireless tests, we transferred video files from our standard test PC to our standard wireless laptop, at distances of 2m and 10m away and using both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Using the 2.4GHz band, the router recorded an average rate of 8.84MBps (megabytes per second), while at 10m it recorded 7.1MBps. Using the 5GHz, the router recorded 11.5MBps from 2m away and 8.05MBps from 10m away. Its 2.4GHz results aren't as fast as the results we achieved with the E2000, but its 5Ghz results are faster. We managed to get a useable signal up to approximately 38m away from the router. The distance and speeds you get will vary depending on your environment, but compared against other routers we have seen, the E3000's performance and reliability is very good.

During simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz tests, we achieved a transfer rate of 10.2MBps on the 5GHz band, while at the same time transferring data over the 2.4GHz band. This highlights the usefulness of running two networks, especially if you live in a shared household with lots of devices, as both networks can run at their full speed.

It's very easy to set up the two different networks; the Web interface allows you to enable both networks from the same configuration page, and from another page you can enable encryption (up to WPA2-PSK). If you're familiar with wireless networking (and let's face it, if you're considering this type of router you should be), then you should shun the easy install CD that the router ships with and just go straight through the Web interface (192.168.1.1). We had the router up and running within a few minutes of getting it out of the box and we didn't have to troubleshoot it once.

Physically, the router looks good and it has the same sleek design we're accustomed to seeing from Linksys routers. It has a big blue wing on it, which signifies that it's a high-end product, it doesn't have external antennas, it has a power switch on its rear and a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button on the front. The one blemish on its physical design is that it has overly bright status LEDs which can be very annoying in a dark room.

The E3000 has a recommended retail price of $249, but if you shop around online you'll be able to find it for well under $200. We think it's a good unit for anyone who wants to set up a dual-band wireless network. It performed swiftly and reliably in our tests and it's easy to set up.

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