Of course there is a big snag in all our praise of CCC and that is while the EA4500 is the first router to receive it the platform will be rolled out to every new Linksys model. So does the EA4500 stand up on its own? Yes, it does.
We always test in a real world environment and found the EA4500 to be amongst the fastest 802.11n routers we have seen. At two metres the EA4500 managed to hit speeds of 9.38MB per second (75Mbit) and 10.6MBps (84.8Mbit) when transferring a 3GB file across the network using 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. Equally healthy rates of 6.95MBps (55.6Mbit) and 7.34MBps (58.72Mbit) at 10 metres with a wall in-between followed. Only at 13 metres with two walls did we see our first significant drop offs recording 1.68MBps (13.44Mbit) and 2.31MBps (18.48Mbit) for 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
Consequently the EA4500 is only bested by the D-Link DIR-645 Smartbeam at distance (it achieved 2.57MBps at 13 metres with two walls in the way, but was otherwise very similar) and all speeds are fast enough to comfortably stream HD video.
So where do the faults lie? The big elephant in the room is 802.11ac. We have already reviewed the Buffalo AirStation 1750 D1800H - the first ac router out the gate - and while we haven't yet been able to compare its performance with others its speeds (26.7MBps, 16.2MBps and 5.61MBps) obliterate 802.11n. Furthermore Cisco itself has already confirmed the 'EA6500', its first 802.11ac router, will launch in September. Whether you own or plan on snapping up 802.11ac kit or not, there is great security in future proofing.
If you aren't sucked in by 802.11ac though the £159.99 RRP on the EA4500 could be a significant stumbling block. This is right at the top of the price bracket for n routers and at just £79.99 the equally fast D-Link DIR-645 is more compelling if you don't mind being restricted to a single band or losing the CCC interface.
All of which makes it hard to grade the EA4500. Make no mistake it is an exceptional router with top notch performance and a interesting UI, but investing in 802.11n restricted technology at this moment feels short sighted. If you absolutely must buy a new router now and have enough legacy equipment that 802.11ac won't matter for some time then we can thoroughly recommend the EA4500 - it is brilliant. For everyone else, we suggest you sit tight for two months…
Cisco's Linksys EA4500 is a router which masters its art. It looks great, performance is top notch and the new Cisco Connect Cloud user interface is a revolution which the rest of the industry will soon follow. The trouble is the EA4500's art is 802.11n and it comes in at a premium price when 802.11ac routers are starting to hit the market. As such we love the Linksys EA4500, but know our romantic intentions won't last long…