The Linksys AC2400 (model E8350) is Belkin's first quad-stream 802.11ac router. That makes it only the third such device on the market right now, after the Netgear R7500 and the Asus RT-AC87U. In comparison, it's neither the best nor the worst of this trio.
The E8350 has great performance on the 5Ghz frequency band, and like the Netgear and Asus, its powerful specs deliver fast storage performance when coupled with an external hard drive. On the 2.4Ghz band, though, it's slower, mostly because it reuses the old interface of the E series, which favors compatibility over performance.
The A2400 also stands apart from its competitors in two ways. First, the pricing, at the suggested price of around $250, it's some $40 cheaper. (Linksys hasn't announced the pricing and availability of the E8350 in the UK and Australia, but direct conversions would be about £150 or AU$280, respectively.) And second, it's the first home router I've seen that doesn't have any exterior indicator lights.
If you can live without the latter, and are looking to upgrade your home network, the Linksys E8350 is a very good buy. It's best suited for Wi-Fi clients that support 5Ghz band, which all newer devices do now. But if you're set on experiencing consistently high speeds, flexible customizations, and more features, invest the extra cash for the Asus RT-AC87U device.
For even more buying choices, check out this list of top 802.11ac routers on the market.
The Linksys E8350 loses the retro design of the recently released, but it's retro in its own way. The router shares similar physical design with the newer Links EA series, such as the , but reuses the Web interface of the previous E series, such as the , that came out a few years ago.
Like the WRT1900AC, the E8350 has four detachable antennas, two on the back and two on its side. These antennas are quite short compared to those of the WRT1900AC, however. Once attached to the router, they can be tilted in different angles. For the best Wi-Fi signals, Linksys recommends using the two on the back straight up, and the two on the side at 45 degrees.
The router comes with the usual four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired clients) and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port to connect to an Internet source. Uniquely, it comes with one USB 3.0 port and another port that works as either a USB 2.0 port or an eSATA port. These ports can be used to host a printer or a storage device, which will turn the router into a network attached store (NAS) server.
As I mentioned, the E8350 doesn't have any indicator lights. While most of the time, you you won't miss them, the lack of status lights is annoying when you need to quickly troubleshoot your home network. In fact, there's no way to even tell if it's powered on by simply looking at it.
Setup and interface
As the model name suggests, the new router seems to belong to the E series. And this means two things.
First, the E8350 doesn't support Linksys Smart Wi-Fi remote access. Introduced by Cisco, who sold Linksys to Belkin last March, the Smart Wi-Fi feature (formerly) allows users to conveniently and remotely manage their home network via web browser or mobile app by logging via an account with Linksys. (In return, this feature has raised privacy concerns). The E8350 is the first router from Linksys in a long time that doesn't include the remote access.
And secondly, the E8350 share the same Web interface, the setup process and, for the most part, the features as the rest of the E series, which have their own shares of pros and cons.
Out of the box, the E8450 comes with a CD that contains Linksys Connect setup software for both Windows machines and Macs. (The software can also be downloaded in case you have a computer that doesn't have an optical drive.) Once installed, the Linksys Connect application will walk you though the setup process step by step, from hooking up the router to the power, to setting Wi-Fi and Internet access. After that you can always use this software to manage a few settings of the routers.
For beginners, this software can be a convenient way to get the router up and running. For savvy users, it's totally unnecessary. That's because Linksys Connect allows for access to just a few settings of the router, for the rest, you'll need to use its Web Interface. Also, if you use this software, it will also make the password to access the router's interface (administration password) the same as the password of the Wi-Fi network. This is terrible in terms of security because allowing somebody to connect to your Wi-Fi network now also means letting that person access the router's interface and change your network's settings. For this reason alone, I'd recommend skipping the software entirely and use the router's Web interface, which is quite easy, instead.
By default, you access the router's Web interface by pointing a browser on a connected computer to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1 and login with the default credentials (admin for both username and password.)
The interface is organized and responsive. I liked the fact that it took very short time (a few seconds) to apply changes and most changes didn't require a restart to apply. However, it's designed with more of compatibility in mind than performance, especially when it comes to Wi-Fi network settings. For example, you can't set the Wi-Fi network to work on a specific channel width other than 20MHz, which produces the lowest data rate but is the most compatible. Note that to have to highest Wi-Fi speed, you need to use the higher channel width (40MHz for 802.11n and 80MHz for 802.11ac), but you can only use these channels in a mixed (auto) mode, where the router would go back to the lowest one if a legacy device is connected to the network. Also, on the 5Ghz band, you can't make the router to work only in the 802.11ac mode either.