This is Linksys’ first attempt to make a mass market 802.11ac router. To date its premium models have been exceptional: the WRTAC1900 is the fastest router we’re tested to date and the EA6900 is the best all-round wireless ac router available. Can Linksys cut a few corners and produce a mid-priced marvel? Read on.
The bonkers WRTAC1900 may have seen Linksys’ designers take a hefty swig of crazy juice, but the EA6400 sees the company return to the subtle and stylish cues of its EA6xxx ac range. This is a welcome move. For our money this is the best looking router range on the market and its practical matt grey and silver finish is backed up with sturdy build quality and whisper quiet operation. It is also wall mountable.
That said the exterior is where you’ll see the first sign of cost cutting. Compared to the EA6900 its little brother drops the showy external antennas and where there were two USB 3.0 ports now you’ll find just a single USB 3.0.
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Crucially Linksys has also cut back on the wireless performance. This is an AC1600 rated router which means a 2x2 antenna array (as opposed to the 3x3 array in the EA6900 and 4x4 array in the WRTAC1900) which results in a theoretical maximum of AC1300 rather than the more typical AC1750 or premium AC1900 models. 802.11n is also cut from 600Mbit in AC1900 products and 450Mbit in AC1750 products to a more standard 300Mbit. In theory none of this should heavily impact performance at close range, but the lesser number of antennas should weaken its performance at range.
From this point onwards the cuts stop. You’ll find 4x Gigabit LAN and 1x Gigabit WAN, WPS and WPA/WPA2 security and IPv6 support. Linksys’ Smart WiFi is also present and remains the sector’s most fully realised Cloud router platform allowing users to remotely access and control all aspects of their router from any computer, smartphone or tablet with an Internet connection.
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The EA6400 also sees Linksys carry across the industry leading setup process it shares with Asus. Plug in the router and its SSIDs (5GHz and 2.4GHz) are left open but the moment you connect to one it automatically opens a browser window and begins a setup wizard. This lets you set your own passwords, SSID names and admin password while it self-configures your Internet connection. It is seamless and even technophobes would be hard pushed to go wrong.
A nice touch is the EA6400 also includes ‘SimpleTap’. This is a card supplied with the router which has an NFC chip and you touch it against any NFC enabled device (read: anything except Apple devices) and they are instantly connected to your network.
Meanwhile the user interface for the aforementioned Smart WiFi remains a joy to use. It’s graphical, drag and drop operation is highly intuitive and while hardcore users may say it dumbs down some options it makes using your router far easier for the vast majority. For the paranoid, remote access to Smart WiFi can also be disabled so it is a win/win situation and until D-Link, Asus, Netgear and others update their ageing UIs it gives Linksys routers a significant advantage.