Owned by Cisco until March 2013, and now owned by Belkin, Linksys products offer a unique networking experience. Built with cutting-edge technology developed deep in the super labs of its former parent company, Linksys hides this complexity behind a user interface that even your gran could understand.
There's a slight hitch with this approach, though; these high-tech components aren't exactly cheap. Just look at the EA6500, which commands a price that's sure to raise a few eyebrows, especially considering it doesn't even include an ADSL2+ modem.
Specs at a glance
|Wireless protocols||802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) & 802.11ac (5GHz)|
|Highest wireless security||WPA2|
|Ethernet ports||4 + WAN|
|USB print sharing/storage||2x for storage, printer|
|Accessories||Ethernet cable, power supply, driver disk|
Compared to some of the plain plastic boxes that pass for routers, the EA6500 is quite a stylish little number. The advanced 3D antenna array is tucked away inside the curved chassis — which is no small feat, considering it's built from six antennas — so there are no ugly external masts sticking out at odd angles. The organic lines help make the EA6500 look slightly smaller than it really is, with the desk footprint a little larger than most competing routers.
Tucked away on the reverse side are four gigabit Ethernet ports alongside a single WAN port. Twin USB 2.0 ports on the rear deliver simultaneous printer and external storage sharing across the network, but it can't handle 3G/4G dongles. The USB storage interface is a delight to use, allowing for the simple set-up of FTP and media servers, which can also be accessed remotely.
UI and features
Linksys insists on the installation of its software before letting the user log in. Those with an ounce of network knowledge prefer to drill straight into the router's web interface, without wading through a chunky bloatware install, but Linksys doesn't even list the IP in any of the included "quick start" material. It's understandable that it wants users to check out the fancy "smart Wi-Fi" cloud features, but not giving users the default IP is a bit mean.
Having said that, installing the software does reveal a few nice touches. Network management tools can be run remotely on any smartphone or tablet, and you can even repair the network from the office should your partner or housemate phone to complain that the home network is down.
(Screenshot by Bennett Ring/CNET Australia)
Those who are allergic to the Wi-Fi settings on their mobile can use the SimpleTap feature to connect to the network, but to be honest, it requires even more steps than usual to connect. A guest network mode allows visitors to connect to your Wi-Fi network without getting access to your home's networked devices.
Accessing these features, as well as the standard Wi-Fi configuration options, is a breeze, thanks to the EA6500's stunning interface. Everything is laid out clearly and concisely, with the router's different features broken down into sensible menus. A comprehensive online manual is included, explaining every feature outside of the advanced menus. We especially appreciate the excellent Quality of Service interface, which makes prioritising a certain device on your network a cinch.