Linksys has been on a role enticing nostalgia with their WRT-series, and on the higher-end we have the EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router. That ol’ adage of “bigger is better” will really apply if you have all of these requirements, in no particular order: a spacious household, an abundance of network-hungry devices; and most importantly, plenty of network management options — whenever or wherever.
Physically, the EA9500 is one of the largest and more imposing routers that come to recent memory, probably ever (2.6” by 10.4” by 12.5” dimensionally) in all black. The eight non-removable external antennas make a hell of an impression, adorning the sides and rear and adjustable enough for directional reception. The top-front panel that reads simple with eight LED light bars that gives you adequate information, remaining solid under normal operation or flashing in pattern while booting up or during a firmware update.
You want connectivity? Look around back and any anxiety about lack of I/O ports will instantaneously quelled with two USB (version 2.0 + 3.0), WAN, and eight (god almighty) gigabit LAN ports. Other buttons include the typical power/reset with WPS and a Wi-Fi on/off toggle situated on the right side.
Under the Hood
The power under the hood is loaded with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor and tri-band 802.11ac capability, with a 2.4GHz band reaching theoretical speed of 1000Mb/s and two 5GHz bands each maxing out at 2166Mbps (N1000 + AC2166 + AC2166 = AC5400). To take advantage, the EA9500 utilizes MU-MIMO (4×4) which handles data transmission simultaneously to compatible clients, versus sequentially to reduce buffering.
Beamforming technology is supported to send signals directly to clients rather than a wide spectrum broadcast, and to for further effectiveness you can employ Seamless Roaming with a Linksys Max-Stream Range Extender, that will automatically connect you to the strongest wireless signal regardless of location. Remote management is also possible with the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app offering everything from on-the-fly device prioritization to guest privileges for up to 50 individuals.
Installation of the EA9500 is quick and idiot-proof, thanks in part to the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Setup utility. Connect the router directly to your PC, go to the supplied website (linksyssmartwifi.com), and follow the very straightforward on-screen directions to configure basic internet and wireless settings; and that’s it, nothing out of the ordinary compared to other modern routers.
A Benchmarking Elite
The EA9500 made a hell of an impression in the performance department. In our single-room proximity figures for both 2.4GHz (99.4Mb/s) were beyond satisfactory and even better in 5GHz (453Mb/s), with long-range speeds at 72.2Mb/s (2.4GHz) and 405Mb/s (5GHz). The EA9500 handily beating out the D-Link DIR-895L (83.9Mb/s and 424Mb/s) and ASUS RT-AC5300 (96.5Mb/s and 415Mb/s), and near-equal against the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 (91.6Mb/s and 448Mb/s) with only a 2%-4% difference in Linksys’s favor. On a purely technical note, Tolly reports a certified 57% improvement under thoroughly modified usage too.
Another throughput test we did was MU-MIMO performance, which admittedly was a challenge considering how few devices actually incorporate the feature. Sticking with an Acer Aspire V3-574G notebook which is the most affordable option equipped with a Qualcomm QCA61x4A wireless adapter, our near-quarter speeds at 10 feet was 226.2Mb/s and 181.1Mb/s at 40 feet. Putting the EA9500 through basic file-sharing duty gave us typical speeds when transferring a 5GB file at 35.9Mb/s (write) and 39.7 (read).
Clearly, the Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Routerhas a wealth of features and a figurative ton of performance to match. You’ll be paying for it but you get so much to warrant the heavy price, nobody should go wanting with eight Gigabit LAN ports and the ability to feed 50 clients by default — no matter if it’s desktops, laptops, game consoles, NAS servers, or anything network-related. The EA9500 is an amazing all-around choice with few top-tier equals.