Cisco Linksys E3000 review:

Cisco Linksys E3000

Guest networking is a great solution when you want to share the Internet with others but want to keep them from accessing your local resources such as files or printers. The Cisco Connect software allows you to configure a guest network, pick an easy-to-remember password (or just leave it password-free), and set the number of guests who can use the network. Unfortunately, you can't set more than 10 guests at a time. This means the E3000's guest networking is not a viable Wi-Fi hot-spot solution for a cafe or restaurant. Also, you can't configure the guest network via the Web interface; instead, you must use the Cisco Connect software.

The only way to configure the router's network storage function is via its Web interface. The E3000 has simple support for network storage including the ability to share the content of an USB external hard drive (formatted using either NTFS or FAT32), with user account restriction. It also has a built-in UPnP Media Server that allows for streaming digital content, including photos, music, and video, to other UPnP-compliant devices, such as set-top boxes or game consoles. Unfortunately, while the photo and MP3 streaming worked well in our trials, the video streaming wasn't smooth and sometimes didn't seem to work at all. We suspect that the router's NAS function doesn't provide enough bandwidth for streaming large files.

For file sharing, the E3000 supports Windows SMB so you can browse the share folders easily while using a network browser, such as Windows Explorer. It also has the ability to turn a folder on the attached USB hard drive into an FTP site.

Other E3000 networking features include a simple, yet robust, parental control content filtering system. This feature, which you can manage with the Cisco Software or the Web interface, allows you to change the way a particular computer of the network accesses the Internet. You can restrict the connection based on time, or on age of the user (with two options being "Teen" or "Child"), or you can block individual sites. The router also has a feature called Safe Web Surfing, which warns you if you're about to go to a Web site that's deemed unsafe.

The Web interface also gives access to the router's "Applications & Gaming" feature, which lets you set port forwarding and triggering for specific applications such as games, remote desktop, or FTP and HTTP servers. You can also assign static IP addresses to certain computers in the network, making the port forwarding much more relevant and easy to do. If you want to create a VPN connection, an FTP access, or a remote desktop connection to a certain computer in the network, you will find the above handy and convenient.

Like most recent routers, the Linksys E3000 supports all available wireless encryption standards including WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. The router allows for VPN passthrough for all existing VPN protocols including IPsec, L2TP and PPTP, meaning having the router at home, you can use a VPN client to access your office via a VPN connection.

We tested the Linksys E3000 both as a wireless router and a NAS server, and it offered mixed results.

As a wireless router, it excelled. In the 5GHz frequency tests, the router registered 65.4Mbps on a close-range throughput test, which is about 5Mbps faster than the Netgear WNDR3700. On our long-range test, the E3000 scored 48.8Mbps, which is 8.8Mbps faster than the Netgear.

On our 2.4GHz frequency tests, the router scores, as expected, weren't as high as those of the 5GHz frequency. It scored 43.5Mbps on the close-range throughput test and 33.6Mbps on the long-range test. On the mixed-mode test, where the router was set to work with both N and legacy G wireless clients, it scored 44.4Mbps. The Linksys E3000 offers very good range, up to 280 feet in the 2.4GHz band and about 250 feet with its 5GHz band. Both are long among high-end true dual-band routers. The router also passed our 48-hour stress test; during this extended amount of time its signal didn't reset once.

On the other hand, the router's NAS performance was mediocre at best. We tested it with a USB portable hard drive, and the scores were nowhere close to those of dedicated NAS servers. The router's write speed was merely 57.1Mbps and the read speed was 32.2Mbps. However, this is common among routers with built-in NAS capability. So far, the network storage functionality among routers that have this feature built in, including the E3000, is only suitable for casual small file sharing among network computers. If you want to do heavy file sharing or media streaming, we'd recommend a dedicated NAS server, such as the HP MediaSmart EX495 or the Synology DS410.

NAS performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed Mode  
D-Link DIR-825
Belkin N+ Wireless Router
Netgear WNDR3700
Cisco Linksys E3000
Apple Airport Extreme Base Station
Linksys WRT610n
Apple Time Capsule

5GHz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
D-Link DIR-825
Apple Time Capsule
Cisco Linksys E3000
Linksys WRT610n
Netgear WNDR3700

Service and support
Cisco backs the Linksys E3000 with a one-year limited warranty, which, though short, is the same as most routers on the market. Cisco's toll-free phone support is available 24-7, as is online chat with a support representative. The company's Web site includes software, drivers, and firmware downloads as well as a FAQ section.

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