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Gigabit Wireless? Five 802.11ac Routers, Benchmarked

Linksys EA6500/AC1750 And Netgear R6300

Linksys EA6566/AC1750

The Cisco Linksys EA6500 ($200 at Newegg) arrived in our hands, along with Cisco’s bundled WUMC710 802.11ac bridge ($150 separately). Based on some of our prior testing with the E3000 and other Linksys models, we had high hopes for the EA6500, and there were times when those hopes were met. However, we would recommend that, if you’re interested in the EA6500, you should read through the recent Newegg customer comments on the model. Some of the negative comments are indeed reflected in our results; others have clearly been addressed by Cisco already.

Linksys EA6500 - Front

Linksys EA6500 - Rear

The EA6500 has a lot going for it, though. The router is simultaneous dual-band, with 3x3:3 antenna configurations in both bands. Two USB ports allow for printer sharing and add-on USB storage. DLNA support provides media serving, and QoS tools help prioritize certain traffic types.

Linksys AC1750

As with Asus, Cisco has whipped up an app/browser-based control and file-streaming platform, called Linksys Smart Wi-Fi. This gives you the ability to control several of your router’s features, such as parental control, guest access, QoS, and USB storage, straight from your handset or tablet. Additionally, there are half a dozen applications (some of which are iOS- or Android-only, while others support both) for IP security camera monitoring, network security, media streaming, and so on.

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi in Chrome

As mentioned earlier, Cisco has continued Linksys’ propensity for kicking butt on its router’s built-in menus and options. While deep, the feature set is tidily swept inside of a very elegant, largely intuitive tabbed interface. That is, if you’re using a compatible browser. When we tried to log in via Chrome, all we saw was the “Log in” button and the country pull-down menu. Remember that Chrome is now the dominant PC Web browser. Oops.

Netgear R6300

Last up, we have the Netgear R6300 ($200 on Newegg). After the Asus and Linksys models, the R6300 is going to look a bit repetitive, but that’s primarily because the major router vendors have their businesses pretty much down to a pattern these days. A premium model, such as one debuting the latest Wi-Fi technology, is going to have two USB ports, simultaneous dual-band with a 3x3:3 design on both bands, a streamlined installation process, WPS, and four gigabit ports. All boxes come checked off here, and if you like Netgear’s upright, trapezoidal design, even better.

Netgear R6300

Not to be outdone by Linksys Smart Wi-Fi, Netgear has its own Netgear Genie, available for Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS. Netgear Genie lets you monitor and manage your network from afar. Apple iOS users can also output to any AirPrint-compatible printer using the AirPrint app through Netgear Genie.

Because we received two R6300s, we used our second unit as a 2.4 GHz bridge, given that Netgear advertises the router as being configurable to both bridge and AP modes. However, be prepared to do some research on how to get back into the device after switching modes because it’s no longer accessible from the default IP, and Netgear doesn’t go out of its way to illustrate the process. We'll give the company fair marks for a deep, feature-rich menu system with both Basic and Advanced tab views.

Netgear Genie

Netgear Genie