So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router review
The Best all-round MU-MIMO router of the moment
- Eight Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Costs less than rivals
It does everything well and costs less than its rivals. The eight Ethernet ports are the cherry on top.
Price$ 500.00 (AUD)
This review is taken from a larger group test: AC5300 Router reviews: Linksys EA9500 vs. Netgear Nighthawk X8 vs. D-Link DIR-895L and also an investigation into whether Mu-MIMO makes a difference.
Price: $549 RRP (From $500 real world)
Stated Max throughput: 5.3Gb/s
Processor: 1.4GHz dual-core
Antennae: 8 external
Ethernet ports: WAN plus 8 Gigabit
Bands: 1 x 2.4GHz, 2 x 5GHz (combined via Smart Connect)
USB: 1 x USB2, 1 x USB 3
Other features: N/A
Warranty: 3 years
Linksys’ latest looks a bit like a massive upturned spider which can be a bit disconcerting in low-light and shadow-rich environments. It’s no looker, although the LED lights on the front have a certain Knight Rider quality to them. At the side are two buttons, one for WPS connection and the other turns off WiFi. They are not clearly labelled(!)
But it’s at the back where the magic happens. In addition to the USB2 and USB3 ports, there are eight (count’em) Gigabit Ethernet ports. If that seems like overkill, you’d be utterly and completely wrong. These days they can fill up quickly. It’s not uncommon to have a cable TV box, Apple TV, other media streaming device, TV, game console and powerline extender all connected – four ports can be constrictive and piling them all onto WiFi can be an unnecessary stress for even powerful routers like these.
Setting up requires making a Linksys online account which is a bit weird. Settings are displayed a bit more n00b-friendly than with Netgear but arguably not quite so well as the D-Link. Nonetheless, the near-interactive menu structure and status display is well laid out.
Parental controls let you simply choose devices and block them either permanently or at different times. It’s not as complex as Netgear’s offering but on or off are what many parents will want.
Linksys also makes use of Smart Connect (where one network ID is displayed for two bands) but only for the 5GHz channels – you can’t actually separate the two 5GHz networks but few people will need to.
All other settings including USB storage handling and sharing are standard fare.
In terms of performance the Linksys was the most consistent. (Full performance results can be seen here) It wasn’t always the fastest but it was often up there. At close range it held its own at 2.4GHz and at 5GHz (mainly using the MU-MIMO dongle). One floor up it saw consistently-strong performance even though it didn’t come first in any tests. At two floors up it arguably pulled away from the field as the Netgear couldn’t connect at 5GHz and the D-Link appears to have resorted to choosing the 2.4GHz band.
At $150 less than the competition, it’s a clear winner among its peers – the consistent performance at all ranges, the ease of use, those eight network ports all would have had it winning if it cost $700 like its rivals.
It’s hard to imagine anyone buying one of the latest routers and regretting it. They’re all good and they generally do the same thing.
Netgear offers a few more configuration options than the competitors, including more complex parental controls, open source software compatibility, port aggregation and a backup app but these aren’t earth shattering.
The clear winner is the Linksys. It would arguably win if it cost $700 like its rivals but it’s actually $150 less. The eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, the simple settings pages and consistently-strong performance at all ranges means that while it might not have won many of the tests outright, overall it’s the champion.
Finally, for more information on the MU-MIMO WiFi adapter that we used for testing, check out this review, here. We also reviewed Linksys' WiFi range extender, here. Finally, we investigated MU-MIMO itself and saw whether the benefits were worth paying extra for (at the moment), here.
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