Cisco Connect Cloud
Aside from 802.11ac the other key selling point of the EA6500 is Cisco Connect Cloud. CCC had a controversial start to life as it was a mandatory upgrade for all EA4500 owners and while this annoyed more advanced users, its simplicity makes adjusting router settings far easier for everyone else.
Furthermore, as a Cloud platform it is possible to access your router from any location by logging in at www.ciscoconnectcloud.com or using the Android and iOS app, which enables you to remotely add or remove devices from your network, adjust privacy and parental settings, control guest access, order media prioritisation and much more.
It is now possible to opt out of CCC, but given this added functionality is also bolstered by an API that is seeing a steady stream of third party apps including an IP camera viewer, video streaming, device monitoring, website filtering and parental controls it would seem foolhardy to do so.
The innovations don't stop there either. The EA6500 comes with a 'Simple Tap' card that works with any NFC-enabled phone. When running the free CCC app, handsets can simply be tapped against the card to connect to the wireless network. Non NFC-enabled phones meanwhile can use the virtual Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button in the app in conjunction with the WPS button on the router to also connect without a password.
In practice, the time it takes to install the mobile app and find the card or press both WPS buttons means little time is saved compared to simply entering a password. But it's a clever party trick none the less and especially useful to those who choose long, complex passwords.
The initial setup is a breeze too, with the bundled CD getting us up and running with our chosen SSID, passwords and WPA2 security in minutes. If you're adverse to bundled CDs (and in this case you shouldn't be since it doesn't install any bloatware) then you can setup manually, but we'd strongly suggest sticking to protocol here.
So the EA6500 may be packed with all the latest must-have tech, but ultimately a router succeeds or fails depending on its level of real world performance. Happily, we found Cisco has come up with a game changer. The lack of compatible 802.11ac equipment means, like all other 802.11ac routers we have tested, we had to use a bridge to attain our results (Linksys offers the WUMC710 Universal Media Connector'– pictured below), but that made the figures no less impressive.
Consequently at distances of two metres, 10 metres (line of sight) and 13 metres with two solid walls in between, the EA6500 delivered 802.11ac throughput speeds of 30.2MBps (241.6Mbit), 27.2MBps (217.6MBit) and 22.7Mbit (181.6Mbit). Interestingly the fastest speed here is slightly slower than the 802.11ac-equipped Netgear R6300, which managed 32.8MBps. But the real standout is range where the EA6500 triples the R6300's performance as distance and walls come into effect. This also gives the EA6500 a substantial advantage over the Buffalo 802.11ac AirStation 1750, which only managed 26.7MB per second, 16.2MB per second and 5.61MB per second in exactly the same locations.