Linksys EA6700 - Setup
When it launched Connect Cloud made setting up the EA6500 a breeze, but with the launch of the EA6700 and the new Smart WiFi moniker it has hit a new level of user friendliness. In an age of smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks, we criticised the EA6500 for still basing its (otherwise straightforward) setup on a CD, but with the EA6700 everything is handled by the router itself.
As such setup is as follows: plug the EA6700 in and wait less than a minute for it to boot, connect to it via WPS or entering its default wireless password (printed on the bottom of the router) or using Simple Tap. Open any page in your web browser and it loads the Smart WiFi wizard, updates the router to the latest firmware, sets your SSIDs, wireless and router passwords and gives you the option to register a Smart WiFi account or log in with an existing one. If you own multiple Linksys routers Smart WiFi will let you toggle between them. Job done.
Linksys EA6700 - Performance
Given the wireless arrangement within the EA6700 is unchanged from the EA6500 and we tested using the exact same environment and identical equipment (including Linksys’ own 802.11ac wireless bridge - the ‘WUMC710 Universal Media Connector’ - below) we expected near identical results, but that wasn’t what we got.
At our test distances of two metres line of sight, 10 metres line of sight and 13 metres between two solid walls the EA6700 recorded average 802.11ac speeds of 32.2 megabytes per second (257.6 megabits per second), 30.8MBps (246.4Mbit) and 21.5MBps (172Mbit) respectively (grab below). This compares to results of 30.2MBps (241.6Mbit), 27.2MBps (217.6MBit) and 22.7Mbit (181.6Mbit) with the EA6500.
Speed at maximum distance are down fractionally, but seeing the EA6700 at 10 metres outperform the EA6500 at two metres was a huge surprise making it the faster router we’ve ever tested. Needless to say these speeds will handle anything your internal network can throw at them, including multiple streams of 1080p video or even 4K video.
Results for 802.11n at 5GHz also make for interesting reading. The EA6700 managed speeds of 24.5MBps (196Mbit), 22MBps (176Mbit) and 7.7MBps (61.6Mbit) versus the EA6500’s 23.1MBps (184.8Mbit), 16.8MBps (134.4Mbit) and 10.4MBps (83.2Mbit). Again the EA6700 nearly bests its predecessor’s two metre performance at 10 metres again making it our new benchmark, but interestingly it is still slower (and this time significantly) at maximum distance.
This pattern continued with 802.11n at 2.4GHz with the EA6700 hitting 9.1MBps (72.8Mbit), 9MBps (72Mbit) and 3.5MBps (28Mbit) compared to the EA6500’s results of 8.1MBps (64.8Mbit), 5MBps (40Mbit) and 3.9MBps (31.2Mbit). Once more the EA6700 has a large advantage at midrange, but tails off slightly at maximum distance - though this time not enough to be a concern.
As for the inclusion of USB 3.0, we found it a useful addition but not vital. Transfer rates for USB 2.0 connected storage is notoriously slow (circa 5MBps, roughly 40Mbit) and the addition of USB 3.0 saw this increase to a little over 7MBps (56Mbit). Despite this both trail 802.11ac and 802.11n 5GHz wireless performance and don’t approach the speeds of Gigabit Ethernet connected NAS boxes or even the 30-40MBps USB 2.0 is capable of when plugged directly into a PC. Despite this it makes for a useful way to quickly share media on an external drive across a network, but it isn’t an ideal long term setup.
Update 26.07.13: Due to new firmware on our 802.11ac test equipment we have retested the EA6700. It achieved significant boosts to 36.7 megabytes per second (293.6 megabits per second), 35.2MBps (281.6Mbit) and 28.8MBps (230.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m respectively. At the time of this update the EA6700 remains the fastest router we have tested and these scores will be referenced in future router reviews. The update does not affect 802.11n test results.
Should I buy the Linksys EA6700?
Since the EA6700 improves on the EA6500 in virtually every significant aspect the answer is yes. Furthermore while Linksys doesn’t set RRPs, online retailers are selling the EA6700 for £169 - a £20 saving on the launch price of the EA6500. Yes to achieve 802.11ac speeds right now you will need the MUMC710 (£99), but a wave of devices with integrated 802.11ac will hit during the second half of 2013.
Furthermore with governing body the WiFi Alliance now beginning formal 802.11ac certification Linksys has confirmed both the EA6500 and EA6700 will be fully compliant come testing (via an automatic firmware update) which removes fears of any long term compatibility issues.
The caveat in all this is as stocks dwindle the EA6500 it can be found at the time of writing for under £120 which is a real bargain. Then again this will be a short lived phenomenon and Linksys should be commended for improving on which was already benchmark product while eroding the price tag.
Linksys routers are far from the cheapest on the market, but right now it has a monopoly on the best.
Linksys EA6700 - Verdict
The EA6500 was already the best 802.11ac router available and the EA6700 takes that up a notch. Admittedly the improvements are mostly incremental, but with it coming in at £20 less than the launch price of its predecessor it is easy to recommend. Linksys rivals, over to you…