Linksys EA4500 - Cloud Control

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Cloud Control

While similar systems are expected from Cisco rivals in the near future, it is no exaggeration to say CCC is a revelation. Routers have a well deserved reputation as intimidating devices you setup once and hope to never touch again, but CCC overhauls their complex, aged interfaces with a slick, graphically driven UI that even the most technophobic user will understand. In practice this means a simple list of functionality down one side: 'Device List', 'Guest Access', 'Parental Controls', 'Media Prioritization', 'Speed Test' and 'USB Storage', router settings below that and, to the right, simple widgets.

These widgets show at a glance information which becomes more detailed when clicked, but never does it break from its raison d'être: be simple. A good example is Media Prioritisation - a complex task on most routers - here it involves two sections: High Priority and Normal Priority. Connected devices are shown in Normal Priority (with editable names and representative icons) and you just drag them to the setting you want. Applications and games can also be added via the dropdown menu while techies are not left behind since custom settings, port ranges and protocols can be specified.

Similarly Guest Access (Internet without access to other computers or devices on the network) is connected to via a separate wireless SSID and password. Should you want you can alter each with a single click as well as specifying the total number of guests you will allow. CCC removes the fear factor associated with router settings allowing you to do more.

Remote Access

Extending this further are CCC mobile apps (currently for Android and iOS) which beautifully mimic its UI for smaller screens and, interestingly, third party applications. These are made via an official API released to developers and a particularly impressive early example is Block the Bad Stuff. This simple app lets you remote switch between three filter levels for your network while another Netproofer let you apply blocks for specific websites. In future you will be able to monitor the surfing of each connected device and even remotely kick off devices which shouldn't be connected. The parental potential here is huge: block Facebook after 10pm or before homework is finished, disconnect the Xbox, turn down the filter after children have gone to bed… to name just a few.

Other apps include HipPlay (yet to be released in the UK), a media aggregator which combines DropBox, Facebook & home media content for remote viewing and Gemini IP Camera Viewer which enables remote viewing of compatible IP cameras. What the long term take up will be is currently unknown, but the potential for apps for connected devices (turn the oven on/lights down/open the garage door) is virtually limitless.

Again we stress other router manufacturers are heading down a similar route, but CCC is an extremely impressive debut. Will techies feel it is all somewhat dumbed down? Possibly (notably only three devices can currently be set as High Priority for Media Prioritisation) and the roll out of the service hasn't been entirely smooth, but overall it is a huge change for the better. Techies themselves will also appreciate being able to log into a less savvy friend or relative's router remotely and take control.

Zeus

July 10, 2012, 3:07 pm

Great Review Gordon. I do like you mentioned the new ac standard. Any chance you can do a a review on the new Netgear R6300 which I believe is their ac version. Randomly looking around the internet I have found comments that it is better than the previous Netgear 'best' being the N900. But a proper review comparing the Buffalo would be great.

Epic

July 10, 2012, 4:48 pm

A word of warning....
In the US, Cisco are being pilloried for forcing firmware updates to customers routers that switches them from normal LAN based Admin to Cisco Cloud Connect even though they had autoupdate disabled.

Nice review, but indeed, at this price I'd rather buy a £25 noname router and put the money saved towards a NAS than trust "the Cloud".

Cisco will no doubt have some success selling this into broadband and cable tv suppliers but they don't have the brand awareness in the consumer market for people to buy into Cisco branded cloud services.

Gordon394

July 10, 2012, 8:54 pm

Thanks Zeus, the R6300 is on our hit list... to be fair along with all the impending 802.11ac routers. We'll be intrigued to see what comes out top.

Gordon394

July 10, 2012, 8:59 pm

Hi Epic, yes I mentioned this in the review and linked to Cisco's replies on the matter.

I can see why some advanced users are getting upset at the universal upgrade (it should have been optional), but from what I have seen the move to a Cloud base is a very important evolutionary step. It will make routers easier to manage and more accessible for 99% of users.

Ultimately Cisco is just the first of many companies doing this so long term resistance will be futile.

Lastly, while NAS are wonderfully devices, I'd avoid £25 routers if I were you!

Martin Daler

July 10, 2012, 10:27 pm

I thought the big stink was to do with the invasive 'privacy' policy that came with the unwanted cloud service - Cisco were to be able to read your web browsing history off the router, and even share it with others. Who needs a router that broadcasts their internet habits to the world?

Martin Daler

July 10, 2012, 10:56 pm

"Why would you do this? With CCC the fundamental ease of use means: why wouldn't you do this? "

You seem to be using the simple and effective UI as justification for the fact that you have to go via the cloud. But I fail to see any connection there - a decent UI is one thing, a cloud based UI is another thing, and the one does not imply the other.

Why can't we just have a decent UI, and be rid of the whole cloud thing, with all its attendant privacy and security issues?

nanite2000

July 11, 2012, 2:51 am

I love how people seem to think that just because the "average user" doesn't know what's going on inside their router, this gives companies the right to exploit them. And that no one thinks they can change this.

And, despite acknowledging that Cisco are doing something *very* wrong with the direction of their product, it still warrants a 'Gold Star' review.

Question: if all hardware review sites gave this product the poor rating it deserves on the basis of this (admittedly major) security flaw and company policy, to the extent that "average users" avoided buying their products, do you think that Cisco would continue with this strategy? Would resistance be futile then?

Gordon394

July 11, 2012, 5:26 pm

@Martin - having spoken with Cisco reps I'm told that the company is not tracking users' web history and will not and cannot legally sell it off to third parties.

@nanite2000 - A decent UI is a welcome and much needed improvement but it is far from the only benefit of CCC. The primary benefit is the simple remote access it gives the mass market to their router when away from home. It also unlocks an API which third parties can use to good effect - such as the easy, real time content filters seen in the Block the Bad stuff app. The CCC is a platform, not just an (admittedly impressive) UI and specifically for this review the EA4500 also performs extremely well, is rock solid and can be setup in minutes. All these factors contribute to a 'Recommended' award (though not our top level 'Editors Choice' award.

Gordon394

July 11, 2012, 5:31 pm

Please see reply in the thread above.

Simon Heather

July 13, 2012, 2:19 am

One comment on the DIR-645 - it currently has a firmware glitch which frequently drops connection to the BT Infinity VDSL modem and needs rebooting before it will reconnect. It does have great wireless performance and the USB printer feature works well but D-Link haven't released a single firmware update for this router yet.

Geoffrey Swenson

August 12, 2012, 2:02 am

There are huge advantages to the cloud connect software, which I worked on at Cisco (I have since left the company). You can login to the router from anywhere connected to the internet, not just inside the network. It also makes it possible to build a much more complex UI than what the limited processor and memory on the embedded ARM processor can handle. Adding a hugely faster CPU and more memory just to support a fancy UI doesn't make much sense when the cloud lets you share the resources of a secure server with the router.

AvrilMcC

October 18, 2012, 5:22 pm

I got the Asus Dark Knight delivered earlier today. This is a superbly good router, especially for those with technical capability. Router delivers the best Wi-Fi signal range and speed of any router I've seen under $200. It delivers a solid 2.4GHz signal to every level of a four story structure even on the opposite side of an elevator. Its 5GHz signal is also exceptional and almost matches the range of the 2.4Ghz signal.

Read more: www.istumbledupon.com/asus-rt-...

Steve

September 5, 2013, 4:29 pm

Was a bit worried about the install with this EA4500. Read a bunch on line, watched you tube video, fretted a bit. Finally inserted the disc in the drive and no lies... no stories, not one glitch... everything ran as promised. seamless. Performance is phenomenal with a marked notice in speed and reliability. Holy cow, it is just as they promised it would be. Stay tuned for update in a few months.

Mick1166

October 7, 2015, 3:19 pm

Good when it works, rebooting the system is painful after the upgrade to Cisco Cloud Connect. Reset it to factory default but problem still persist. The router lasted 2 years and 4 months. I would not recommend to buy this expensive router to anyone. Plenty of dual core /dual band routers around 60 euro with similar features and lasting longer. Remember the guarantee is only for 2 years...

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