Thursday, 14 July 2016 10:02

Linksys wins a trifecta of firsts

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The world’s first AC5400, MU-MIMO, router; first AC1900, MU-MIMO range extender; and first AC600, MU-MIMO USB adaptor are all helping to extract the ultimate performance from your “skinny-band” pipe coming into most homes.

The key word above is MU-MIMO – multi-user, multiple inputs/multiple outputs, which in layman’s terms means not only a multi-lane highway but lanes with dedicated high speeds that won’t let slower cars choke the flow.

They are branded Linksys Max-Stream, and each product is a quantum leap over current technology. I mean AC5400 – that is more than twice as fast as the current speed demon AC2600 which is just becoming popular in homes.

It is interesting to see how Linksys has progressed since Belkin purchased it from Cisco and gaev it sufficient funds and resources to regain its former top spot in the home router market. In just two short years it has gained the number two position in most markets — taking sales from Netgear, D-Link, Asus, and others  all of which make formidable products. Yes, it wants to be number one.

I spoke to the ever affable Greg Morrison, Linksys business manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Linksys seems to be on the ascent – why?

"We are much more focused under Belkin who have allowed us returned to our roots – and that is the consumer, prosumer, and small office markets. Our strong technology base gives us the ability to innovate and get to market quickly," Morrison said.

"And we have realised that it is not just about boxes flying off the retailers’ shelves but the quality of after sales support and, if required, problem-solving that needs a personal touch. We are based on Sydney’s northern coast, and we know Australian issues like the NBN and all the ISPs. You won’t find a better support network than from our call centre, self-help web pages, tutorials, email support and real technical support. Even our install app is highly automated."

In part that response was to my question about ease of installation, given that most people are still using ADSL. The few lucky ones have Telstra Cable access.

“The Max-Stream range is designed to supplement your existing gateway or router. You can leave them in place and simply plug an Ethernet LAN cable from it to the Max-Stream and immediately get the benefits. There is no overlap in the two, and you don’t have to do a thing to your existing gateway/router that is probably delivering 300 to 600Mbps maximum out of your Internet pipe,” he said.

But isn’t AC5400 overkill? (Morrions's responses are paraphrased).

It is like that V8 supercar — you almost always never use all its power  but when you do!!! What this does is give you the power to expand the number of Wi-Fi devices in your home so that is good for security cameras; Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart locks; appliances like robotic vacuum cleaners, fridges, kettles, ovens; games consoles; smart TVs and video streaming – especially HD and 4K; music streaming; smartphones and tablets; and desktop computers.

But wait there is more. The $549 EA9500 Max-Stream router is tri-band. That is a 2.4GHz band for older Wi-Fi N/G devices providing up to 1000Mbps to be shared by them. It is also good for going through walls so it will get a signal almost anywhere in the typical Australian home. Then we have two 5Ghz bands offering up to 2166Mbps each. Many existing dual band routers are becoming overcrowded on their single 5GHz band so now you can dedicate one band to bandwidth-hungry devices and still get speed for your computer and smartphones on the other.

But it is not only about tri-band. The EA9500 has four simultaneous data streams per band using eight tunable antennas for maximum performance and coverage. Add to that beamforming  where each Wi-Fi signal can be ‘focused’ on a specific device to give increase signal strength  and every device will get maximum speed from this router.

Can you tell me about the AC1900 MU-MIMO range extender?

This $199 device works with any router to eliminate dead spots, but when it is paired with a Max-Stream it also allows seamless roaming around the house – one SSID. It is incredibly easy to set up using “spot finder” and push a button to connect. It has MU-MIMO to allow multiple devices to use it and not have to share bandwidth and all the Max-Stream features like beamforming and cross band (making the best use of dual band to get maximum speed). You would want one of these in a large house where signal strength may vary in rooms some distance away – or put it in the shed or pool house!

And the AC600 MU-MIMO USB plug?

Unless you have replaced your notebook or desktop computer very recently, it will have either older Wi-Fi N or G and is most likely single band 2.4GHz. While newer devices may have dual band, they don’t have MU-MIMO. This $59 device plugs into a USB port and supercharges the Wi-Fi connection regardless of the age of the device.

Base Specifications: iTWire will be reviewing these units over the coming weeks.

Linksys MAX-STREAM AC5400 tri-band Wi-Fi router with MU-MIMO (EA9500)

  • 1.4 GHz Dual Core Processor;
  • Tri-Band Wireless AC5400 (1000 Mbps 2.4Ghz + 2166 Mbps 5Ghz + 2166 Mbps 5GHz) = AC5400;
  • The Latest Wi-Fi Standard – 802.11ac Wave 2 includes MU-MIMO;
  • Room-to-Room Wi-Fi with seamless roaming technology;
  • 9 Gigabit Ethernet ports (8 LAN, 1 WAN) and USB 3.0, 2.0 ports;
  • 8 external antennas for maximum coverage;
  • First router capable of supporting up to 8 simultaneous MU-MIMO Streams;
  • WPA2 encryption and SPI firewall help keep your network safely connected; and
  • Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app for simple set up, remote access, control, and troubleshooting.
  • A video on the EA9500 can be seen here.

RRP $549.95 (NZ$569.95)

Linksys MAX-STREAM AC1900+ MU-MIMO Wi-Fi range extender with room-to-room Wi-Fi (RE7000)

  • Dual Band Wireless AC1900 - AC1733 + N300;
  • Room-to-room Wi-Fi with seamless roaming;
  • The latest Wi-Fi standard – 802.11ac Wave 2, includes MU-MIMO;
  • Crossband technology;
  • Multi-Mode – repeater, access point; and
  • One Gigabit Ethernet port.

RRP $199.95, (NZ$229.95)

Linksys MAX-STREAM AC600 USB MU-MIMO Adapter (WUSB6100M)

  • AC Wave 2 - MU-MIMO (AC433/N150);
  • Beamforming for more reliable connections;
  • Simple plug and play setup (Windows only); and
  • Works with any Wi-Fi router; optimised with Linksys Max-Stream solutions.

RRP: $59.95

Any last words?

These are all NBN-ready so when you do get a bigger pipe you will automatically have the best use of it. Oh, and why not buy all three devices to make it a winning trifecta?

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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