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Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900 review: Powerful hardware plagued by QA issues

Belkin's Linksys EA6900 Smart Wi-Fi has all there is to be a great router in theory but it fails to deliver in practice.

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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9 min read

Sporting a dual-core 800MHz processor and new Wi-Fi chip, Belkin's Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900 is supposed one of the best routers on the market. Alas, it is not.

EA6900_(7).jpg
6.8

Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900

The Good

The <b> Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900 </b>sports powerful hardware to offer superfast Wi-Fi speed at close range. The router boasts a compact and practical design.

The Bad

The Linksys EA6900 has a long list of issues, including an unstable 5GHz band, a nonworking USB 3.0 port, a glitchy Linksys Smart Wi-Fi cloud-based feature, and overheating. Its performance over longer range is also not as good as similarly configured routers, and there are no new features.

The Bottom Line

Plagued by issues, the Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900 is only as good as a single-band router and hence not worth its premium price.

In my testing, the router was indeed fast; in fact, it was the fastest at close range I've seen. It offered stellar range, especially on the 2.4GHz frequency band, and it includes an easy-to-use method to remotely manage their home network via the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Web site and mobile app.

Unfortunately, it also comes with a long list of issues, including a seemingly nonworking USB 3.0 port, a buggy mobile app, the instability of the 5GHz band, and overheating. On top of that the router doesn't have any new features compared with previous models.

All things considered, the Linksys EA6900 is still a good router, if you just want to use it as a 2.4GHz single-band router. But in this case, it's not worth its current premium price of $200. Until the above mentioned issues are worked out, for about the same amount of cash, you should get either the Asus RT-AC68U or the Netgear R7000. For more options of excellent 802.11ac routers, check out those on this list.

The Linksys EA6900 now comes with three external antennas, first in all EA series.
The Linksys EA6900 now comes with three external antennas, first in all EA series. Dong Ngo/CNET

Familiar design, powerful hardware components
Similar to the EA6500 and the EA6400, the new EA6900 has a nice-looking design, taking the shape of an UFO with a glossy-finish top. However, the new router has three external detachable antennas coming up from its back -- previous models of the EA series use internal antennas. The router is designed to stay flat on a surface but it's also wall-mountable. Despite the external antennas, the EA6900 remains quite compact, measuring just 10.1 inches by 7.3 inches by 1.6 inches. In fact it's the most compact router of its type.

Granted, it's of a new type; it's the third router I've seen that's equipped with the new Broadcom TurboQAM Wi-Fi chip (the other two are the Asus and the Netgear mentioned above.) This chip supports the top tier (1.3Gbps) of 802.11ac on the 5GHz band and on the 2.4GHz band, offers up to 600Mbps (compared to the 450Mbps of existing Wi-Fi chips). This is because with TurboQAM technology each 2.4GHz spatial stream can deliver up to 200Mbps instead of 150Mbps. On top of that, the router is powered by a dual-core 800MHz processor. It's easily the most powerful router Belkin has offered thus far.

Top Wi-Fi speed CPU USB 3.0 support Dimensions Weight
Asus RT-N68U 1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz) Dual-core 800MHz Yes 8.7 x 6.3 x 3.3 inches 1.4 pounds
Linksys EA6900 1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz) Dual-Core 800MHz Yes 10.1 x 7.3 x 1.6 inches 1.2 pounds
Netgear R7000 1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz) Dual-Core 1000MHz Yes 11.2 x 7.3 x 2.0 inches 1.65 pounds

On the front the EA6900 has just one white LED status light in the shape of Linksys' logo. On the back it has four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, one USB 2.0 port, and one USB 3.0. You can use these ports to host either printers or external storage devices. Oddly, the router allows users to turn off its network ports' light via its Web interface, but not the status light on the front.

Also on the back, there's a little button for the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature and a recessed reset button. The former initiates a 2-minute window in which WPS-enabled clients can automatically connect to the router's Wi-Fi networks, and the latter brings the router back to its default manufacturer settings.

Very easy to set up, glitchy Linksys Smart Wi-Fi cloud feature
Like the rest in the Linksys EA series, the Linksys EA6900 is very easy to set up. By default, the router comes preset with a Wi-Fi network and a password, the information for which you can find printed on the router's underside. While there's only one set of information, the router actually comes with two Wi-Fi networks, one for each of its wireless bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz), but both share the same name and password. And in most cases, this is all you need to get your home network up and running. All you have to do is plug the router into power and connect its WAN (Internet) port to an Internet source, such as a cable modem.

If you want to customize the settings, such as changing the Wi-Fi network's name and password, or using the router's other features, then you need to use its Web interface. To get to the router's Web interface from a connected device, just point a browser to linksyssmartwifi.com, or to its default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1. The router's default log-in password is admin.

At the log-in page, you also have the option of creating a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account and adding the router to that account (by typing in the router's log-in password). If you choose to do so, from then on, you'll be able to access the router's Web interface even when you're not using a computer in the same network that's hosted by the router. In other words, once your account is created, you can just go to linksyssmartwifi.com from any Internet-ready computer and manage your home network when you're out and about. On top of that you can also use a sizable collection of mobile apps to manage the router's settings and features, again, via the Internet.

In my trial, I created a new account and associated the review unit with this account. Later on, I was able to use the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Web site to manage the network remotely. However, when I used the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi mobile app, it wouldn't accept my log-in information. On the other hand, the account that I had created before while reviewing the EA6400 worked well with the mobile app, but wouldn't work with the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Web site. This was likely caused by the fact that Linksys is still transitioning from Cisco to Belkin; hopefully this glitch will be fixed in a near future.

When things were working, locally or via the Internet, the EA6900's Web interface always worked well. It's also very responsive and well-organized.

No new features, nonworking USB 3.0 port
The EA6900 has about the same features found in the EA6500 router. It's a top-tier true dual-band router that offers up to 1.3Gbps Wi-Fi speed on the 5GHz band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band (as opposed to just 450Mbps of the EA6500). As the way Wi-Fi works, you only get these top speeds with compatible clients. All existing clients, however will work with the router at their respective cap speed. And all can enjoy the router's extra long range.

Other than that the router has no new features at all. In fact it has exactly the same as what the EA6500 has to offer, inlcuding the shortcomings. For example its Guest Access feature is still available only on the 2.4GHz band, and you can't change the name of this guest network. It still takes the name of the main network and add the "-guest" suffix to it. This means you have to reveal your main network's name to guests, up to 50 of whom are supported.

The two main features of the router are Media Prioritization list or a Parental Control list. The former is a convenient quality-of-service (QoS) feature that allows you to prioritize Internet traffic to certain connected clients; the latter, as the name suggests, is for when you want to restrict access to the Internet to certain clients.

The router's USB ports can be used to host a printer or an external hard drive of any capacity. In my trial, unfortunately, its USB 3.0 port didn't recognize any portable drives I tried it with, while the USB 2.0 port worked just fine. This means you can't really take advantage of the faster USB 3.0 speed. When a drive is recognized, you can share its content with other network devices, either via regular file-sharing protocol or streaming. The router supports UPnP and DNLA streaming standards. You can share data to everyone or use a more advanced method in which you can create accounts with access restriction.

The EA6900 has all the other common features and settings found in most new routers, such as IPv6, DynDNS, a firewall, WPA/WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption methods, and so on.

Fast performance plagued by overheating
I used two units of the Linksys EA6900 for the reviews and experienced the same consistent performance, as well as issues, with both.

First of all, the Linksys EA6900 is both the fastest and the hottest Wi-Fi router I've seen. In fact, I believe its overheating issue keeps it from being the great router it could potentially be. The router gets hot very quickly after being turned on and during heavy loads, it was actually too hot for me to rest my finger on its underside for longer than a few seconds. During my stress test, in which the router was set to transfer a large amount of data back and forth between multiple Wi-Fi clients, its 5GHz frequency band would cut out by itself after just more than an hour. While I'm not sure why this happened, I assume that was because the router was overheated.

Note that since by default the router comes with two Wi-Fi networks (one for the 2.4GHz band and the other for the 5GHz band) that share the same name and password, most users might not notice the disappearance of the router's 5GHz Wi-Fi network at all. CNET Labs always names two networks with two separate names during testing.

During the period that the router was working well, it was the fastest at close range. When used with compatible 802.11ac clients, at a close range of 15 feet, it offered a sustained speed of 72MBps (or some 550Mbps), the fastest I've seen. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, it still offered 31MBps (or 251Mbps).

CNET Labs 802.11ac performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput

Linksys EA6900
251.2
580.5

Asus RT-AC68U
336
521.4

Netgear R7000
295
431

Asus RT-AC66U
178.5
339.2

Netgear R6300
208
331.32

Amp Wireless RTA15
165.5
205.5

D-Link DIR-865L
135.2
199.2

D-Link DGL-5500
113.8
157.8

When used with regular 802.11n clients on the 5GHz band, the EA6900 registered 208Mbps and 87Mbps for close and long range, respectively.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput

Asus RT-AC66U
166.6
208.2

Linksys EA6900
87.3
207.7

Asus RT-AC68U
176
202.8

Netgear R7000
181
188

Netgear R6300
144.8
178.8

D-Link DIR-868L
161.5
178

D-Link DGL-5500
97.6
156

D-Link DIR-865L
121.6
147.6

Most impressively, on the 2.4GHz, which is the band that benefits the most from the Broadcom TurboQAM Wi-Fi chip, at close range the EA6900 scored 241Mbps, by far the fastest. At 100 feet out, however, it then registered just 96Mbps.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput

In all, the router excelled at close range but didn't impress as much further out. It did offer stellar range overall in my testing, comparable to those of the Asus RT-AC68U and the Netgear R7000 with the effective range being some 200 feet away. I was able to pick up its signal much further than that -- up to 300 feet away -- but at over 200 feet, the signal was not strong enough for a reliable Wi-Fi connection.

Note that I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are walls and many Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of a Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

The router passed my 48-hour stress test with no problem on the 2.4GHz band. As mentioned above, its 5GHz band couldn't last for more than a few hours before turning off by itself.

Since I wasn't able to make the router's USB 3.0 port work with any of the portable drives, I used its USB 2.0 port for the storage test. Via a Gigabit connection, the router offered about 14MBps for writing and 14.5MBps for reading. That's fast enough for most casual data sharing and media streaming needs.

CNET Labs NAS performance scores -- via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

Seagate Central
74.4
39.5

Netgear R7000
60.41
38.6

Asus RT-AC68U
53.86
41.2

Linksys EA6900
14.52
14

Asus RT-N56U
13
11.9

D-Link DIR-868L
12.81
12.5

Asus RT-N66U
11
16.5

Asus RT-AC66U
9.6
16.7

Conclusion
The Linksys EA6900 seems to have to all the requirements for a great router. Unfortunately it fails to deliver due to quality-assurance problems. The router seems to be buggy and not fully tested for the market. Hopefully this will be fixed via future firmware updates. For now, there are many 802.11ac routers on the market that offer similar performance, and better features, but without the issues, at the same or lower prices.

EA6900_(7).jpg
6.8

Linksys EA6900 Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router AC1900

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 6Performance 6Support 8
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