Linksys E1200 Monitor N300 Wireless-N Router (1-Year Warranty) review: Linksys E1200 Monitor N300 Wireless-N Router (1-Year Warranty)
At just around $50, the Linksys E1200 is the most affordable in Cisco's new refreshed E series of Wireless-N routers. For this reason, it's also the one that offers the least. It's a single-band router with no bells and whistles. In our testing, it offered some of the lowest throughput and shortest range of the routers we compared.
The E1200's saving grace, apart from its affordability, is the fact that its as easy to use as the rest of the E series, thanks to the included Cisco Connect software and its signal stability. If you're looking for a simple entry-level Wireless-N router so you can share Internet access in a small apartment or office, the E1200 will get the job done. Otherwise, spend a little more for a more robust router, such as the Linksys E3200 or even the Linksys E1500.
Design, ease of use
The Linksys E1200 has the same flat UFO design as the rest of the new E series: compact, good-looking, and with internal antennas. It's not wall-mountable.
Similar to the E2500 and E1500, on its back the E1200 has four LAN ports and one WAN port, the push button for the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature, and the power connector. The router has no status lights on the front as other routers do. In fact, it has no indicator lights at all, except for the LEDs on each of the ports, which can't be seen from the front.
The router can be set up via the included Cisco Connect software, which makes the job a no-brainer. All you have to do is pop the CD into a computer and then follow the onscreen instructions; this gets most of the work done without your interaction.
Once the software has configured the router with Internet access--live Internet access is required for the software to work, by the way--it will pick a catchy name, such as YellowMonkey, and an easy-to-remember password for your wireless network. You can either keep that name and password or type in ones of your liking before finishing the initial setup.
In addition to the setup process, with the Cisco Connect software you can also turn the guest network on or off, manage the parental control features, and run the included Speed Test tool that shows how fast the connection to the Internet is.
If you want to use the router in an isolated network that's disconnected from the Internet, or take advantage of other functions, you'll need to log in to the router's Web interface. You can get there by following the "advanced setup" link within Cisco Connect, or by pointing a connected computer's browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1.
Note that if you want to skip using Cisco Connect and use just the Web interface to manage the router, by default the password to log in to the interface is "admin," with the username being left blank.
The Linksys E1200 is a single-band Wireless-N router that works only on the 2.4GHz frequency. The only noticeable feature it has is guest networking, which is convenient 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 router's guest networking feature allows a maximum of 10 clients, which is limited, but enough for the router's target customers.
Like the rest of the E series, the E1200 includes a simple yet robust parental control content-filtering system. This feature, which you can manage with Cisco Connect or the Web interface, enables you to change and limit the way a particular computer on the network accesses the Internet. Via the router's Web interface, you can also access the Applications & Gaming feature that 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 point, 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 E1200 supports all available wireless encryption standards, including WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. The router supports VPN pass-through for all existing VPN protocols, including IPsec, L2TP, and PPTP, so you can use a VPN client to access your office via a VPN connection.
The Linksys E1200 has nothing to show off when it comes to performance. The router was one of the slowest of the recent Wireless-N routers we've reviewed, averaging just 35.7Mbps when used with clients that were just 15 feet away. When we increased the distance to 100 feet, this number dropped to a dismal 6.4Mbps. Note that this only means that the router won't do well hosting heavy local network traffic. If you just want to share Internet access, that would pose no problem, as most Internet connections are still much slower than the speed the router has to offer.
We also found the E1200's wireless range to be very short, just about 175 feet at most, and the router should be used within 100 feet or less for its signal to be strong enough. Within that range, it passed our 48-hour stress test, in which it was set to transfer lots of data back and forth between clients. It didn't disconnect once.
2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
As with the rest of routers in the E series, Cisco backs the Linksys E1200 with a one-year limited warranty, which is short, but the same as for 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.
With short range, low throughput speeds, and a spartan set of features, the simple-to-use and affordable Linksys E1200 would make a good entry-level Wireless-N router only for those who want to share Internet access within a small space, such as an apartment or mobile home.