Home Reviews Networking Linksys AC2600 EA8500 router – blazingly fast (review)

Linksys AC2600 EA8500 router – blazingly fast (review)

“It’s time to trade up – a 317% increase in speed at 15 metres and a whopping 2,329% at 35+ metres away through reinforced concrete and several walls.

If I had not seen similar figures from the excellent Netgear Nighthawk X4S that uses similar Qualcomm technology I would have found these figures [in comparison to N600] hard to swallow.

Linksys was first to market with an EA8500, AC2600, Max-Stream, Multi-User (MU), Multiple Input and Multiple Output (MIMO) smart Wi-Fi router. No these are not marketing terms but real advances in technology.

In part the massive speed increase comes courtesy of the Qualcomm 1.4GHz dual-core processor, four antennas, 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz dual band (means can combine), 4x4 (MU) streams of data and Linksys’s firmware.

So on with the review.

Let’s start with the tests. The modem was plugged in and connected via its WAN port to a Telstra Cable Gateway that is rated at 100Mbps but can go up to 135Mbps – lucky me. It is also compatible with VDSL, VDSL2, ADSL, ASDSL2, and ADSL2+.

That brings me to a pertinent point – the router will only transmit Wi-Fi nearly as fast as your internet connection – but wait until you see the results the further you get away from the router.

I used Ookla SpeedTest connecting to Telstra Sydney servers. The test device was a Samsung Galaxy S (last year’s model) with Wi-Fi AC, dual band 2.4Ghz and 5GHz, and MIMO capable. In other words, it is a perfect match for the router. I also tested against the N600 Telstra Gateway router as a control device.

The router presents three SSID – a secured 2.4GHz and a 5GHz band, and a 2.4Ghz and 5GHz ‘guest’ band that allows you to give them a password and keeps them off your network.

If you have a dual band device – as modern smartphones and tablets have, then use 5GHz. If you have an older device or Internet of Things (IoT) that only support 2.4Ghz connect to that.

Band

Speed is Mbps

10-15m (line of sight -- same room as router)

20m (Office through reinforced cement floor and plasterboard walls)

30-35m (rear bedroom and ensuite through reinforced concrete floors and walls)

AC2600 5Ghz

113.57

111.64

107.48

AC2600 2.4GHz

105.78

82.1

59.62

N600 2.4Ghz

35.73

25.21

4.64

In comparison to the Netgear Nighthawk X4S the Linksys 5GHz band was almost the same, and the 2.4GHz band was slightly better over a distance – but tests can vary depending on router location, antenna placement, and a host of other things. I would say the Linksys at A$429 is a ‘nose’ ahead of the Netgear X4S at $488.

Out of the box

In the box is the router, four antennas, a 12V 3.5A power supply, Ethernet cable, and a quick start guide. Frankly that is all you need. You should then go to its setup site and check for firmware updates and you are away.

Looks wise it’s a little subtler with less obvious LED lights than the Nighthawk X4S but that is a matter of taste – I like it.

It has 2 x USB 3.0 ports (as it is always on these charge as well - one is also an eSATA combo for external storage), Four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port (for connection to another gateway or router) and reset, Wi-Fi protected setup, and power buttons.

Smart Wi-Fi account (formerly Cisco Cloud) for iOS and Android

It will encourage you to get a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account. As this was a review unit I skipped this.

Router management has transitioned to the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Account, an intelligent software platform for the next generation of home networking. It has:

  • a new level of management capabilities with a user-friendly interface
  • Tells you who or what devices are connected – useful to find pirates
  • Configure guest access and passwords
  • Parental Controls
  • Prioritise bandwidth (e.g. for video streaming) or allocate a fixed bandwidth
  • Test your internet connection speed (or use Ookla)
  • Set up external storage e.g. eSATA and USB Flash drives
  • Set up external ‘cloud’ access to your network
  • Change firewall settings and DMZ features
  • Implement IPV6, IPSec, PPTP, L2TP pass-through
  • Use as an access point or range extender (expands the network)
  • Trouble shoot – traceroute, pint, change WAN IP address, reset to factory defaults, change MTU
  • And much more – it is a very comprehensive, easy to use tool

Of course you can do most of this via a browser too.

Conclusion

Comparisons are difficult - the Linksys has a reasonable price edge over the Netgear Nighthawk X4S and a slightly better 2.4GHz performance. I like both and would be equally happy with either – until AC3200/5300 or WiGig becomes available at a reasonable price. Or we may see direct connect with 5G and 6G clouds – who knows.

I can say that under Belkin’s ownership and stewardship this represents a new wave of excellent routers that will help the iconic Linksys name to increase market share.

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Ray Shaw

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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!