Linksys routers are affordable and easy to configure for most people at home. Even when you want to configure them for special applications, while maintaining an acceptable level of security, the user manuals that come with them are well-written and easy to follow.
As an example, I run a private file transfer protocol server (FTP) on my network for friends and family. With my Linksys EtherFast router, it took less than five minutes to configure the router to allow the FTP protocol on the router and specify the inside and outside IP addresses that were able to access the server. However, my current router, a Thomson wired/wireless combo, took me almost 30 minutes to set up. Let’s take a look at the product offerings that Linksys has now, starting with the differences in the Wi-Fi standards.
Wi-Fi Standards in Use by Linksys Routers
The overall Wi-Fi standard is the 802.11 standard, as defined by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Technically, 802.11 actually refers to the working group within the IEEE (Eye-Triple-E) that deals with wireless local area networks. The standard has gone through several iterations:
The last two are the ones we’re going to concern ourselves with here, since they are going to be the only ones that are available for new routers. Although, all of them are backwards-compatible with the previous standards, meaning a wireless router using the 802.11n standard will work with a computer’s wireless adapter that uses the 802.11a standard. The difference being that the older card won’t be able to use all the features of the newer router and standard, including the speed with which they communicate between each other.
The 802.11n standard is the older of the two and allows for data communication speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) (Under ideal conditions, users can see up to 600 Mbps.) This standard is also less prone to radio interference than other standards. More importantly though, the 802.11n standard enables a higher degree of security than before, with what is known as Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). Yeah, I know, lots of gobbledygook. What you need to know, dear reader, is that it’s faster, safer, and the signal is stronger.
The IEEE adopted the newest in the series of 802.11 standards over the summer of 2013. This is known as the 802.11ac standard and promises Gigabit speeds and at least 500 Mbps, basically half again what the maximum speed under ideal conditions is for the previous standard. At the time of this writing, the standard hasn’t been completely approved, and I haven’t found any evidence of improvements or enhancements to security on the wireless network.
Linksys SMART Wireless Routers
The newest product line in the family of Linksys routers is their SMART wireless router family. The original members of the SMART line were the EA4500, EA3500, and the EA2700, all of which utilize the 802.11N Wi-Fi standard. Linksys has recently added the 6000-series of routers to their lineup. These consist of:
These all operate using the newer 802.11AC standard. Although, there are a number of other Linksys routers available, these seven are the ones you will most likely encounter as you go shopping. If you have questions about other Linksys products, drop me a note in comments section below and I’ll be happy to help you if I can.
Linksys EA4500 Features
This baby has four wired Ethernet ports that operate at Gigabit (10/100/1000) speeds.
The Wi-Fi section operates on the 11n standard and delivers maximum speeds (known as throughput) of around 400-450 Mbps. It also has a USB port, allowing you to share your printer or external hard drive over the network.
Although, color and shell design change, this is what the back of all Linksys routers looks like.
Features of the Linksys EA3500
The EA3500 offers the same speed, functionality and security of the EA4500, which includes a Guest Access feature that allows you to give household guests Internet access, while easily restricting their access to your home network.
Additionally, for those that desire a slightly higher level of security, this model also includes advanced firewall features such as stateful packet inspection (SPI).
The Linksys EA2700
Like the above offerings, the Linksys EA2700 has four Ethernet ports, Wireless-N, and a Guest account, although it doesn’t offer SPI.
Like the others, it offers several security features to choose from, including Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP-Weak Encryption Protocol is what it’s known as), WPA (See above), WPA2, and Mixed mode WPA/WPA2. Unfortunately, the USB port was removed in this model.
Linksys Routers Running Wireless-AC
The Linksys EA6200 and EA6300 both offer data rates up to 867 Mbps, multiple security options, and the USB port for a printer, hard drive, or media server. The difference between them is that the EA6300 has a Simple Tap™ setup card, while the 6200 doesn’t.
The EA6400, EA6700, EA 6900 all offer a max throughput of 1.3 Gbps on the high end and 300, 450, and 600 on the low end, respectively. The EA6900 doesn’t have the Simple Tap™ card option for easier setup. It is also equipped with three external antennas, while the other models have internal antennas.
Hopefully, this short review of some of the different Linksys routers out there was helpful! We all need our networks running in tip-top shape.
Photo Credit: AustrianPsycho