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Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi-Fi Router review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Summary

Our Score

8/10

User Score

Pros

  • Excellent 802.11n performance & range
  • Game changing Cloud-based user interface
  • Simple setup
  • Slick mobile access & third party apps

Cons

  • Expensive
  • 802.11ac devices are hitting the market

Review Price £159.99

Key Features: Cisco Cloud Connect user interface; 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual bands; 802.11b/g/n ; Four Ethernet Ports, one USB 2.0

Manufacturer: Linksys

Cloud Computing has long been touted as the service to revolutionise the way we use our devices. The likes of DropBox, iCloud, OnLive, Spotify, Google Docs and many more have set the process in motion, but few thought its next place of attack would be our home routers. This is exactly what Cisco has planned however and it has become the first in a wave of networking companies to launch a range of Cloud-based routers.

Features

The 'Linksys EA4500' is the flagship in this line-up and on paper a great deal is familiar. It is a dual band 802.11b/g/n router with a 3x3 antenna array to boost range and performance (theoretically 450Mbit per band), packs in four Gigbabit ports and one USB port and is compatible with IPv6 which means it will work with the 340 undecillion new device addresses the standard will support. It also has DNLA to allow DLNA certified devices like TVs, media players and games consoles to wirelessly stream media . So far so very normal.

Design

Take a closer look and the design of the EA4500 isn't particularly different either as it is virtually identical to its predecessor, the E4200. As such there is the same slim, rounded rectangular shape with smart matt black finish and metallic band around the outside. Build quality remains good too, but the moulded plastic feet really should be rubber. In sum it isn't until you switch on the EA4500 that you start to notice it is wholly different to anything we have seen before.

Setup

In a somewhat nanny state manner Cisco insists the initial EA4500 setup is only via the supplied CD (potentially a problem to the legion of netbook/Ultrabook owners who have long ditched CD drives), but the end result is well worth it. The simple process not only connects you to the router, but also automatically updates the firmware and lets you choose the router's SSID, WiFi and network passwords. It even creates a text file on your desktop with this information once it is finished. We found the process seamless and we were up and running in minutes.

From here things become interesting as you are directed to the 'Cisco Cloud Connect' (CCC) website and asked to create a user profile, rather than the usual next step of manually typing in the router's IP address. With your profile created you can now log into the router from the www.ciscoconnectcloud.com website and monitor and control it wherever you have an Internet connection. Yes, the admin is in the Cloud. This gives you far greater control as you can now remotely add or remove devices from your network, adjust privacy and parental settings, setup guest access, determine media prioritisation and much more without being home. Why would you do this? With CCC the fundamental ease of use means: why wouldn't you do this?

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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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