Finding the Right Cisco Wireless Router

Cisco Wireless Routers

The Cisco wireless router family keeps growing. There are currently a few dozen models to choose from. This begs the question, “Which is the right one for me and my needs?”

In order to answer this question, you need to do a comparison between the prices first, to determine which ones are in your desired price range. Once you’ve whittled the selection down, you need to look at features — what do you need for your router to do for you?

Finally, you may even want to look at how they look and how they can be proudly displayed or discretely hidden away. Before I begin, I need to let you know that Cisco markets their residential network product line under the Linksys name.
Cisco Wireless Router -- E900_Main01

A Look at Cisco Wireless Router Prices

I’m going to use the Linksys website for my price reference for this section — the prices you have available in your area may be lower or higher, depending on the number of shopping choices you have. Also, due to the number of different models, I’m only going to be able to give a general price range and the prices for a few models from each category.

Cisco/Linksys offers the E-series of Linksys/Cisco wireless router on the low end of the spectrum. These are the Simplicity E900 at $39.99, the Monitor E1200 at $44.99, the E1500 SpeedBoost at $49.99, and the Multiple Use E2500 at $79.99. They also have the slightly older WRT54GL which is a Linux-based Wi-Fi router for $49.99 and the N300 DSL X2000 Wi-Fi Gateway for $89.99.

Cisco Wireless Router E2500_Main02Cisco/Linksys also offers what they call the SMART Wi-Fi Router lineup. These range in price from about $90 up to about $200. Examples in this product line include the Linksys EA2700 Network Manager N600 for $90 and the Linksys EA4500 Media Stream N900 for $130 at or near the bottom of the price range. For just under $200, buyers can become the proud owners of the Linksys EA6900 HD Video Pro router.

What Your Cisco Wireless Router Dollars Get You

As you can imagine with a price range running from $40 to $200, there is a fairly wide range of features available when looking for a Linksys/Cisco Wi-Fi router. Let’s take a look at the high and low end of the E-series, the E900 and the E2500, first.

The Linksys E900 Simplicity N300 Wi-Fi Wireless Router operates using the wireless-N revision of the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard. This means that connected devices also making use of the wireless-N standard communicate with the router at speeds up to 300 Megabits per second (Mbps). Reliable communications are assured throughout the range of the devices by the use of what is known as Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna technology — fancy verbiage, for it has more than one antenna for sending, and more than one for receiving operations. The router also has four Fast Ethernet ports on the back that operate at 10/100 Mbps. In the box, you will find a CD that makes basic setup quite easy.

The E2500 also uses the 802.11n standard, so communication between it and devices is done at 300 Mbps. However, it has more antennas and uses two different radio frequencies to make for more reliable communication over slightly longer distances or where they may be radio interference. There are also some software improvements that make this model better for media heavy traffic-video streaming and gaming especially. It also comes with an easy setup CD. Additionally, there is a provision for a “guest” account on the router that allows visitors to access the Internet, but not your internal home network.

The Linksys SMART Family of Wireless Routers

The next batch in the Cisco wireless router family of products we’re going to look at is their SMART wireless family. At the low end of the spectrum is the EA2700 Network Manager N600. It looks like most of the other routers I’ve mentioned, but has some notable differences. It still uses the wireless-n standard, but instead of the Ethernet ports being 10/100, they are Gigabit Ethernet ports, or 10 times as fast as the others. On top of the guest account, it also has parental controls built into the router software. It’s also compatible with several Cisco/Linksys router apps for greater flexibility.

Linksys 5 EA4500_Main01In the middle of the SMART family, we have the EA4500 Media Stream N900 SMART Wi-Fi Wireless Router. This router offers communication speed of up to 450 Mbps, plus app compatibility. It has the features of the lower-priced units, plus offers a USB port allowing you to connect a home server or printer. There’s also an option for a home cloud to make managing your media easier. Additionally, it offers compatibility with the new IPv6 standard, which allows for a greater number of IP addresses. This device also allows the use of what Cisco calls the SimpleTap™ card, which allows you to configure certain devices just by touching the card to the device.

Cisco Wireless Router 6 EA6900_Main01At the high end of the SMART spectrum is the EA6900 HD Video Pro Wireless-AC AC1900 Router. This device is for the family that streams a lot of HD video content and communicates between wireless-AC devices at speeds of over one gigabit. It also uses a technology called beam-forming to enable the best performance between devices. Additonally, it has two USB ports (one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0), allowing users to connect both a media server and a printer to the network.

That’s a quick and dirty look at the Cisco wireless router family of products. One last thing — all of the devices in the Cisco/Linksys product line work with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Photo Credit: Cisco Pics