Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO Review

Editor rating

4.0/5 on March 18, 2018

User's rating

688 reviews

PROS

- Delivers excellent 5GHz Wi-Fi performance.

- Uses latest MU-MIMO technology.

- Assortment of ports and software.

- Can operate as wireless bridge or extender.

CONS

- The storage feature doesn't support Time Machine backup.

- Clients must support MU-MIMO to take advantage of enhanced performance.

VERDICT

With the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router, you get the latest wireless technology and solid 5GHz performance. If you have several devices vying for bandwidth, the EA8500 is one of the few routers out there that can serve multiple clients simultaneously, but those clients must have the 802.11ac circuitry that supports MU-MIMO to take full advantage of this feature, and as of now, there are very few.

The EA8500 replaces the WRT1900AC as Linksys' best router to date, not because it's offers faster connection to an individual client but because it's more efficient and delivers better overall performance for the entire network. On top of that, its speed when hosting a storage device is currently second to none among routers.

The Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router is the first router to use Qualcomm MU/EFX Wi-Fi technology, which promises better performance for a crowded mixed network. Linksys is positioning its EA8500 Max-Stream Wi-Fi AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi router one notch below its best offering.

MU-MIMO “ready” routers have been on the market for months, but the feature remains dormant in those products because the firmware needed to turn it on is yet to be released. The EA8500 is the first router to use Qualcomm’s brand-new QCA9980 chipset, and its MU-MIMO capabilities are enabled right out of the box.

When tested the speedy EA8500 router proved especially good when hosting a network that consisted of mixed 5GHz Wi-Fi clients, enabling each device to connect at its top speed. In addition, it also had excellent Wi-Fi coverage and stable Wi-Fi signals. Best of all, when coupled with external hard drive, the EA8500 delivered the network storage data rate by far the fastest to date among routers, rivaling that of even high-end dedicated NAS servers.

Video – The Linksys EA8500 Wi-Fi Router Is One Of A Kind For Now

 

 

Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO Features

 

– Works with Amazon Alexa.IPv6 compatible: Yes.

– 4×4 MU-MIMO (Multi-User MIMO) technology delivers four data streams for a seamless entertainment experience.

– MU-MIMO handles heavy network traffic and high-bandwidth activities on multiple devices at the same time.

– Powered by Qualcomm Internet Processor.

– Radio Frequency Bands: 2.4 & 5GHz.Wireless speeds of up to AC1733 Mbps + N800 Mbps.

– Networking Options:802.11b,802.11g,802.11n (2.4 GHz only).

– Data at speeds up to 2.53 Gbps, six times faster than Wireless-N.Platform Compatibility:Windows XP,Windows Vista 32/64,Windows 7 32/64,Windows 8 32/64,Windows 8.1 32/64,Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard,Mac OS X 10.6.1 Snow Leopard,Mac OS X 10.7 Lion,Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion,Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks,Windows 10 32/64.

Last updated on November 18, 2018 10:26 am

Our Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO Review

 

Front View Linksys AC2600 4 x 4 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Gigabit Router with USB 3.0 and eSATA (EA8500)

Here’s a brief recap of MU-MIMO, if you haven’t heard of the technology: All previous 802.11ac (and 802.11n) routers have been SU-MIMO (single-user MIMO) devices, meaning they can service only one client at a time. When they need to service multiple clients, they divide time into thin slices and talk to each one in a round-robin fashion. Each client’s turn comes fast enough so that you won’t see the impact of this time slicing, unless several of the clients are performing latency-sensitive tasks such as streaming video.

If those clients don’t buffer enough information, you could experience hiccups in the video streams. A MU-MIMO router can talk to all its clients without resorting to the round-robin trick. Because the various streams are never interrupted, you shouldn’t see any glitches even if several clients are streaming video.

The Qualcomm MU/EFX 802.11AC Wi-Fi chip features Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) technology, designed to handle Wi-Fi bandwidth efficiently, hence capable of delivering betters data rate to multiple connected clients at a time.

Specifically, existing 802.11AC routers (or Wi-Fi access points) employ the original MIMO technology (aka single-user MIMO) and that means they treat all Wi-Fi clients the same, regardless of their Wi-Fi power. Since a router typically has more Wi-Fi power than a client, in a particular wireless connection, the router is hardly used at full capacity.

For example, a three-stream 802.11ac router, such as the Linksys WRT1900AC, has a max Wi-Fi rate of 1,300Mbps, but the iPhone 6 has a max Wi-Fi rate of just 433Mbps (single stream). When the two are connected, the router still uses the entire 1,300Mbps transmission to the phone, wasting 867Mbps.

With MU-MIMO, multiple simultaneous transmissions of different Wi-Fi tiers are sent to multiple devices at the same time, enabling them to connect at the speed each client needs. In other words, having a MU-MIMO Wi-Fi network is like having multiple wireless routers of different Wi-Fi tiers.

Each of these “routers” is dedicated to each tier of devices in the network so that multiple devices can connect at the same time without slowing down one another. At least this is what MU-MIMO promises to offer. In reality, in order for MU-MIMO to work at its best, the technology needs to be supported by both the router and the connected clients.

Linksys MU-MIMO Technology

EA8500 Software

At the heart of the EA8500’s operation, you’ll find the Smart Wi-Fi software used with other Linksys products. The main screen shows a column of Tools on the left, including Network Map, Parental Controls, Media Prioritization and External Storage. Below are Settings options that range from Security and Wireless to Troubleshooting and Connectivity. Click on any of them to get to detailed configuration screens.

On the right, eight active areas show the overall status, the Wireless networks and Guest Access. These fields can’t be enlarged, and they display a modest amount of actual information. For instance, the Wireless section has the name of each network, but if you tap it, you’ll see the password.

Along the top of the window, the Linksys App Center offers a small selection of downloadable items that extend the router’s abilities. There are free apps for sharing music and viewing Facebook content, and paid ones for turning the router’s access on and off as well as blocking potentially dangerous websites and software.

All of this can be done remotely on a phone or tablet with the Smart Wi-Fi apps for iOS and Android. One of the best external apps for a router, Smart Wi-Fi lets you tweak settings, change the bandwidth priorities and view who’s online.

Is Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Powerful Hardware

Other than the support for MU-MIMO, the EA8500 itself is a powerful router offering up to 1733Mbps on the 5Ghz band and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. The router is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 128MB Flash storage and 512MB DDR3 RAM memory, the most souped up hardware specs I’ve seen to date. On top of that, it has four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port, one USB 3.0 port and one USB2.0/eSATA combo port.

Design-wise, the EA8500 looks very similar to the EA8350 that came out last October, with four detachable antennas. These antennas are much larger and longer, however, promising better coverage. The EA8500 doesn’t have any indicator lights, other than the power status light on top that shapes into the Linksys logo. While home users won’t mind this omission, savvy users will likely miss the ability to troubleshoot the network by looking at little LEDs.

The new router is designed to stay flat on a surface, but it can also be wall-mounted, though it doesn’t include any mounting screws.

Linksys AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO

EA8500 Installation & Performance

The EA8500 is easy to install. Once the router is plugged in and connected to your PC, open a browser and type linksyssmartwifi.com in the address bar. This launches the Smart Wi-Fi Setup program that will walk you through the process of naming SSIDs, creating passwords, and setting up security options. You can also set up guest networks at this time or go back and do it later. The interface is very user friendly and uses widgets to take you from one page to another.

I ran the usual throughput and storage tests on the EA8500 and added a couple of MU-MIMO tests to determine throughput speeds with three MU-MIMO clients. I also ran these tests in SU-MIMO mode (or rather, with MU-MIMO disabled) for comparison.

I measured close-proximity (same-room) throughput with three laptops hitting the 5GHz band at the same time. The average throughput speed was 209 Mbps in testing, with the highest score coming in at 213Mbps. With MU-MIMO disabled, the average speed was 113Mbps, with a high score of 131Mbps. On average, MU-MIMO delivered an 84-percent increase in bandwidth across all three clients.

Results were not nearly as dramatic when testing at a distance of 30 feet; with MU-MIMO disabled, the average throughput speed was 82.3Mbps, and with MU-MIMO enabled, it was 90Mbps. That’s only a 9.4-percent improvement over SU-MIMO.

On my single-user throughput tests, the EA8500 delivered a speedy score of 313Mbps on the 5GHz close-proximity test, beating the Netgear Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band R8000 (171Mbps) and the Asus RT-AC68U (290.5Mbps), but trailing the D-Link DIR-890L/R (558Mbps) and the Asus RT-AC3200 (452Mbps). At a distance of 30 feet, the EA8500 managed 140Mbps, which is decent, but significantly lower than the 310Mbps provided by the D-Link DIR-890L/R and the 305Mbps speed delivered by the Asus RT-AC68U.

The EA8500’s 2.4GHz throughput was mediocre in testing. It scored 54.4Mbps on the close-proximity test and 43Mbps on the 30-foot test. The Netgear R8000 outperformed it on both tests (90.7Mbps and 76.2Mbps, respectively), as did the D-Link DIR-890L/R (92.7Mbps and 82Mbps), the Asus RT-AC68U (90Mbps and 81.9Mbps), and the Asus RT-AC3200 (86Mbps and 65.7Mbps).

To test the router’s file-sharing performance, I connected a USB drive to the USB 3.0 port and transferred a 1.5GB folder containing a mix of video, music, photo, and data files. The EA8500’s read result of 57.3MBps is slightly faster than the D-Link DIR-890L/R’s speed of 52.2MBps and the Linksys EA9200’s 34.9MBps but falls short of the Linksys EA8350’s speed of 73.8MBps. The EA8500’s write speed of 66MBps is dead-even with the Linksys WRT1900AC and is much faster than the D-Link DIR-890L/R (26.5MBps) and the Asus RT-AC3200 (23.2MBps).

Linksys Familiar Features

If you’ve used a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi router before, there’s no learning curve with the EA8500. It shares the same interface as well as features as any Smart Wi-Fi routers released in the last five years. The Interface is organized with a list of items on the left and widgets in the main page. Each menu item or widget will take you to a feature or setting of the router.

The router has a Network Map that displays all connected clients sorted by connection type (wireless or wired) or device types (computers, mobile devices, printers, and others), each with its own icon. By clicking on an icon, you can quickly add or remove a connected client to an IP reservation/blocking pool or view more information on it.

The second big feature is the Media Prioritization, which allows you to drag and drop connected clients between the High priority and Normal priority lists. (The former will have priority access to the Internet.) There’s also a handy Internet Speed test (available only locally) and a simple Parental Control feature that allows you to block certain connected clients’ access to the Internet or just to certain Web sites. You can also schedule the time when the blocking is in effect.

The router’s USB and eSATA ports can be used to connect to external storage devices of any capacity. When a drive is plugged in, you can share its content with other network devices, either via regular file-sharing protocol or through streaming. By default, all clients in your home network can access all the content stored on a connected drive, but you can also turn on secure sharing by creating user accounts. The router supports UPnP and DNLA streaming standards, meaning content stored on the connected drive can be played back by network media streamers, set top boxes and game consoles.

Other than that, the Linksys EA8500 offers all the other common features and settings found in most new routers, such as IPv6, DynDNS, port-forwarding, WPA/WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption methods, and so on.

Rear View Linksys AC2600 4 x 4 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Gigabit Router with USB 3.0 and eSATA (EA8500)

Minor Negatives

Similar to its siblings in the Smart Wi-Fi family, the Linksys EA8500 has a few minor shortcomings. First the interface doesn’t allow for deep customizations of the Wi-Fi networks. For example, on the 5GHz band, you can change its network mode setting to Auto, N-only, A-only or A/N, but you can’t make it work in AC-only mode. You can’t pick a frequency higher than 40MHz, either. While this is not a big deal, and the Auto setting will work out in most cases, savvy users will miss the ability to customize the Wi-Fi networks to their own preferences; for example, making the 5GHz work only with AC clients to get the best performance.

Secondly, the router’s Speed Test is grossly inaccurate and, in my testing, showed much lower numbers than the actual Internet speed I had at the time of testing.

Finally, the router’s network storage feature doesn’t support Time Machine backup. This significantly reduces its usefulness to Mac users. Note that many routers from Asus and Netgear feature Time Machine backup when hosting an external hard drive.

Note: Some advanced settings are hidden and can only be accessed by entering 192.168.1.1/ui/dynamic/advanced-wireless.html in your browser’s address bar on your PC or Mac. Here, you’ll find settings for each band that include things like AP Isolation (in which each of your wireless clients will be in its own virtual network and will not be able to communicate with each other), Frame Burst (which allows the router’s transmitter to send a series of frames in succession without giving up control of the transmission medium), Transmission Power, Beacon Interval (which controls the lag time between each of the beacon transmissions sent by the router), and WEP Authentication. There’s also a Qualcomm tab for enabling Beamforming and MU-MIMO enabling and disabling options.

Last updated on November 18, 2018 10:26 am

What Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router Customers Say

 

“I was going back and forth between buying this or the Netgear or Dlink equivalent for almost a week. Watched a cnet review by Dong Ngo and was convinced to get this one and very glad i chose it. Setup was a breeze. I did not choose manual setup I let the router do its work and i was back up and running in less than 10 minutes with no issues. So i’m honestly not sure how anyone is having trouble setting this up. It literally did everything itself including updates. All i had to do was name my connection and input desired password, that was literally the hardest part. I now currently have 2 desktop computers hardwired to it as well as 2 more computers using wireless along with 3 smartphones and my ps4 and wiiu. Everyone is connected with extremely fast connection and NO LAG. Completely worth the money.

Update 2018:

I thought I would do another update. I bought this router in 2015. It is now 2018, I bought a new house and brought it with me. It is still going strong. I now have a 4 bedroom house which is much bigger than where I lived previously and I get full coverage throughout without the need for range extenders. My internet speed here is also MUCH faster than I had before and this handles it with no problems. Great buy and if it suddenly decided to die on me today I would gladly buy another. I have had zero issues with this router in 3 years and it’s still going. I’d give 10 stars at this point if I could.” …. Read More

Linksys AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO Reviews

 

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Linksys EA8500 AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO Review Verdict

 

With the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router, you get the latest wireless technology and solid 5GHz performance. If you have several devices vying for bandwidth, the EA8500 is one of the few routers out there that can serve multiple clients simultaneously, but those clients must have the 802.11ac circuitry that supports MU-MIMO to take full advantage of this feature, and as of now, there are very few.

The EA8500 replaces the WRT1900AC as Linksys’ best router to date, not because it’s offers faster connection to an individual client but because it’s more efficient and delivers better overall performance for the entire network. On top of that, its speed when hosting a storage device is currently second to none among routers.

 

Linksys AC2600 Dual Band Wireless Router MU-MIMO, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA8500)

$289.00
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10 used from $ 83.00
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as of November 18, 2018 10:26 am

Features

  • Works with Amazon Alexa.IPv6 compatible: Yes
  • 4x4 MU-MIMO (Multi-User MIMO) technology delivers four data streams for a seamless entertainment experience
  • MU-MIMO handles heavy network traffic and high-bandwidth activities on multiple devices at the same time
  • Powered by Qualcomm Internet Processor. Radio Frequency Bands: 2.4 & 5GHz.Wireless speeds of up to AC1733 Mbps + N800 Mbps.Networking Options:802.11b,802.11g,802.11n (2.4 GHz only)
  • Data at speeds up to 2.53 Gbps, six times faster than Wireless-N.Platform Compatibility:Windows XP,Windows Vista 32/64,Windows 7 32/64,Windows 8 32/64,Windows 8.1 32/64,Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard,Mac OS X 10.6.1 Snow Leopard,Mac OS X 10.7 Lion,Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion,Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks,Windows 10 32/64