The Cisco Linksys E1500 shares its design with the top-of-the-line Linksys E4200. On the inside, however, it's a simple router designed for basic home networking.
Advanced users might be vexed by the fact that the router's Cisco Connect software doesn't offer complete control of its features and will not work with the Web interface. The lack of an USB port and Gigabit Ethernet also means that it's not an ideal router for network storage and media streaming.
At the retail price of just around $80 (expect street prices to be even lower), the E1500 would still be a good buy for many homes. For about the same price, we'd also recommend the Cisco Linksys E2000. For a more complete router that's similarly easy to use but at a slightly higher price, check out the Asus RT-N56U.
Design and ease of use
Like the Linksys E4200, the Linksys E1500 router looks more like an expensive jewelry gift box than a router. With its flat shape and internal-antenna design, the router is even more compact than the already compact E4200. It's not wall-mountable, but it is a type of networking device that you are likely to show off in the open rather than hiding it underneath a desk or tucking it in a corner of the house.
On the back, the E1500 has four LAN ports for wired network devices and one WAN port for connecting to an Internet source, such as a cable modem. Unfortunately none of these ports is Gigabit Ethernet, which would offer throughput of 1,000Mbps. There's no USB port, either, so there's no built-in network storage or print-serving capability.
Unlike other routers, the E1500 doesn't come with an array of status lights. Instead, it has only one white light on top in the shape of the Cisco logo. This light is on solidly when everything is in order and blinks when the router boots up or something is not going right. On the back, near the ports, it has a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button that initiates the 2-minute time window for hooking up the WPS-enabled wireless device to a wireless network.
Like the rest of the E series, it's very easy to set up the E1500 with the Cisco Connect software included on a CD. The software walks you through the steps of how to unpack the router and connect it to the modem with the cable. After that, it takes about 5 minutes to configure the system. This includes establishing the connection to the Internet, creating a wireless network name (SSID), encrypting the wireless connection, and picking a password (or the encryption key). The network's name is picked at random, but it's always something short and catchy like "BlueSky" or "BusyBee." You can change this as well as the random encryption key to meet your preference. When you want to add another computer, be it a PC or a Mac, to the wireless network, just insert the CD and again the software will take care of the rest. Devices that can't use the CD, such as a printer, can be added manually or via WPS.
Unlike with the previous router in the E series, the Cisco Connect software now offers a new Speed Test function that shows how fast the connection to the Internet is. This tool would come in handy if you wanted to find out if your Internet speed is what you pay for.
The Linksys E1500 insists on using the Cisco Connect software for the setup process. For example, if you skip the software and use a browser after you have connected the router for the first time, a Web page will appear to tell you to run the CD first. This is rather annoying if you just want to use the Web interface. To bypass this, you can manually point the browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1, and use its default log-in credentials ("admin" for both username and password). If you have used the Cisco Connect software, the log-in password for the Web interface is the same as the encryption key.
The E1500 is a rather basic Wireless-N router with Cisco's SpeedBoost feature, which is designed to provide a long-range connection. The router doesn't have dual-band or Gigabit Ethernet. It does, however, offer Guest Networking, so you can set up a separate wireless network that is isolated from your main network. Clients connected to the guest network have access to the Internet but not your local resources such as files or a printer.
The Guest Network is limited to only 10 users at a time. You can use the Cisco Connect software to set it up and to manage the router's Parental Control feature, which can restrict access to the Internet for chosen clients in the network.