The Cisco Linksys E2000 shares the same design and desktop software as other new routers from Cisco, such as the Valet Plus and the E3000. Novice users won't have any problem setting it up and advanced users can also take advantage of its robust Web interface. In addition, the E2000 has the best performance we've seen.
Unfortunately, the router also shares the same major drawbacks as others in Cisco's Linksys E and Valet series: its easy-to-use desktop software doesn't work with its Web interface, and you'll need both to take advantage of all of its features. The router also doesn't come with a USB port and it can only work in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band at a time, rather than both at the same time.
At the street price of around $90, however, those who want a fast and friendly router for their home need not look any further than the E2000.
Design and ease of use
The Linksys E2000 looks good with its sleek, plate-shaped chassis. All of its antennas are hidden within the chassis, so the router seems much smaller. Its flat design helps it stay grounded on any surface; it's also wall-mountable.
On the back, the E2000 has four Gigabit LAN ports (to host wired network devices) and one WAN port (to connect to an Internet source, such as a cable modem). Also on the back are a recessed Reset button (it restores the router to its factory default settings when pressed) and the power jack. There's no USB port, so there's no network storage or print-serving capability.
On the front, the router has an array of sleek-looking blue LEDs to show the status of the ports and the Internet connection and wireless connection. In the middle of these lights is the Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which initiates the 2-minute window time for hooking the WPS-enabled wireless device to a wireless network.
It's very easy to set up the router with the included CD, which contains the setup and managing software called Cisco Connect. The CD walks you through the steps of how to unpack the router and connect it to the modem with the cable. After that, the software takes about 5 minutes to do the configuration for you. 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 such as "RedHorse" or "BusyMonkey." You can change this name if you want, but you won't even need to memorize it. 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. At most, you just have to interact with the application via two or three mouse clicks.
If you have computers that don't have an optical drive, such as Netbooks, you can make a copy of the Cisco Connect software from the CD to a thumbdrive and use it via a USB port. For other devices, such as a wireless printer or a handheld device, the setup software shows the wireless network information together with the encryption key for you to enter them manually. You can also use the Wi-Fi Protected Setup function to connect those that are WPS-enabled.
It's worth noting that the software runs directly from the CD (or the thumbdrive) without installing anything on your computer. This means you don't have to clutter your computer with extra software.
Now, for most users, there's no need to do anything else. Advanced users, however, might want to check out the router's Web interface. The first time you do this, you'll need to run the Cisco Connect software and go to its "Advanced" section, which will reveal the log-in information and will launch the Web interface for you. Once you have memorized the log-in username and password, you can always go to this Web interface by pointing a browser to the default IP address: 192.168.1.1. The Web interface allows you to further customize and access the router's other advanced functions.
The Web interface is also the only way you can use the E2000 in situations where no Internet connection is needed; for example, when you want to set up an isolated network. The setup software will not finish the initial automatic setup process when it can't detect a connection to the Internet.
Though we liked the setup and software and the Web interface, we were disappointed by the fact that they don't work together. For example, once you have logged into the Web interface and made some significant changes, such as changing the admin's password or the wireless network's name, the desktop software will stop working. To use the software again, you'll need to reset the router and run the setup process from beginning.