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Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 Review

The key feature of any router testing is the performance. We focus on two key aspects, range and speed. We also split out testing into 2 stages; a very simple and crude wireless speed against range test, and a throughput speed test.

For our crude wireless speed against range test we are using the built-in windows wireless speed reading (if you right-click on the wireless connection and click status). This tells us the speed that the computer is connected to the router.

We then measure these readings from different points in our house, firstly within 1 metre (i.e. sat next to the router in our lounge), within 5 metres (reading taken in our kitchen through 1 internal wall), then 10 metres (including 2 walls, the second being our external wall) and 15 metres (the furthest away we can get while staying in our garden).

We are using two wireless dongles, a Buffalo N450 Wireless-N (WLI-UC-G450) USB Adapter, and a Netgear A6200 802.11ac Dual Band USB Adapter. This gives us the fastest possible dongle for the 2.4 GHz range (the Buffalo adapter gives up to 450 Mbps) and currently the fastest possible USB dongle for the 5.0 GHz AC range (up to 900 Mbps from the Netgear adapter).

To give you some idea of the speeds of this router compared to another high-powered router we are using our Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Dual Band High Power Router (WZR-HP-AG300H), which operates at up to 300 Mbps on both bands. While this is now a touch out-dated, this is still faster and more powerful than the standard routers supplied by most Internet Service Providers (like Virgin or BT).

While the performance of the Buffalo Nfiniti router is good, the Linksys EA6500 is vastly superior. Over the first 5 metres the Buffalo performance deteriorated noticeably, but the Linksys was still running at full speed.

The Linksys router is able to deliver a faster speed at 10 metres distance than the Buffalo could in the same room, this is a significant improvement. At the full distance of 15 metres the Linksys router was performing at twice the speed of the Buffalo, a very impressive result considering the distance and the two walls in the middle.

While the Linksys EA6500 performance on the 2.4 GHz band is very good and probably makes it one of the best routers on the market, the 5.0 GHz band is where its performance really shines.

While we have used the fastest AC dongle on the market it is not fast enough for this router as it was limited at 866.5 Mbps whereas the router can theoretically top out at 1300 Mbps (we saw this with the ASUS RT-AC66U as well) . Once again we see that the Buffalo Nfiniti performance drops quickly with distance, but at 10 metres the Linksys EA6500 is still offering nearly 500 Mbps. Over the full distance of 15 metres, both lose a lot of performance from their maximum, but the Linksys still held strong at 175 Mbps at the top end of our garden.

Real-life speeds.

The main aim of this test is to illustrate how much faster this router is compared to the best of the previous generation of routers (i.e. N300 speeds).

For this test, we set-up one of our computers next to the router so that we could connect it via the Gigabit Ethernet. We then connected our other computer by wireless. The test was then to transfer a large file (large video file), over the network from the cabled computer to the wireless one. We recorded the maximum speed obtained (although we ignored the first few seconds to allow the speeds to settle).

Both computers use fast solid state drives as their primary drive and we used the faster 5.0 Ghz band for the test. The wireless computer is approximately 10 metres away from the router with several walls and a floor in between. For our base test we used a standard Wireless-N connection with the Buffalo adapter which is able to maintain close to 300 Mbps over this distance.

Maximum throughput speed via Linksys AC at 10 metres: 14 MB/s

Maximum throughput speed via Wireless-N at 10 metres: 2.5 MB/s

While these speeds are not impressive in their own right, it is the difference between them that is the most astounding. With this Linksys EA6500 router and the Netgear A6200 Adapter we were able to see speeds nearly 5 times faster than the previous best of N300.

In terms of transferring data across a wireless network this is a very significant improvement, but in a home environment this will still improve HD video streaming and gaming as you will have spare bandwidth to play with – of course the limiting factor will again be your internet connection.

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