Linksys EA8300 Max Stream AC2200 Router review: This little Linksys router gets the job done -- up to a point
The Linksys EA8300 Max-Stream router boasts top speeds and tons of features for medium-size homes, and it's affordable at $200 or £150 in the UK. Its tri-band and MU-MIMO capabilities can help improve your Wi-Fi signal, but its AC2200 class distinction implies that it's not quite a top-tier router like the similarly priced Asus RT-AC3200. The EA8300 will get the job done today, but as you acquire more devices in the coming years, you will probably want an upgrade. With less theoretical speed but similar features to the Linksys EA8500 and EA9500, the EA8300 is a nice little router – and I do mean little – for anyone in need of upgrading their networking equipment.
Compact design to fit anywhere in your home
The EA8300 is lightweight (1.3 pounds) and compact (8.4 by 6.4 by 2.2-inches), much the opposite of its high-octane EA9500 brother. With its all-black design and a small digital display, it's not inherently ugly, so you shouldn't have to hide it from view. The display shows the Linksys logo and an orange icon when you aren't connected to the internet. Nothing too flashy.
The four external antennas are adjustable (but not detachable) and aren't too large, so you can display them in whatever manner you like (no guarantees that will give you the best signal though).Two antennas offer dual-band technology and two are single-band. Since most devices these days only have one or two antennas, this router has just enough to give you the best Wi-Fi speeds you can get.
Easy setup, convenient Smart Wi-Fi app
Setting up the EA8300 was pretty much plug and play. Just connect it to the internet and follow the onscreen prompts to set the name of your network, give it a password, update the firmware and you're good to go.
The menus were very easy to navigate with options for a Network Map, Guest Access, Parental Controls, Media Prioritization, Speed Test, External Storage and general settings. Everything will feel familiar if you have owned a Linksys router before. The main menu also has a convenient grid showing an overview of your settings.
Linksys also gives you the option of creating a Smart Wi-Fi account that gives you access to your router from another computer or mobile device. The app is pretty much the same as the browser interface and was very easy to navigate.
Many ways to easily customize your home network
The EA8300 tri-band router offers a quad-core 716 MHz processor with 256 MB of RAM as well as flash memory. You get one gigabit WAN port to connect it to the internet and the standard four gigabit LAN ports for your wired devices. You can even use it with other Max-Stream devices as a router, access point, repeater or bridge.
It has two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band, which top out at theoretical speeds of only 867Mbps and 400Mbps, respectively. Many similarly priced tri-band routers like the Asus RT-AC3200 offer much higher speeds. However, in the real world, most devices won't reach those speeds anyway since environmental factors make all signals volatile. The Linksys EA8300 should have more than enough bandwidth for any small or medium-size home.
The band steering option is nice as well, allowing the router to choose the best band for optimal performance. If you disable band-steering, you can customize the channel, channel width and network mode (802.11ac only, 802.11n only, and so on).
The Linksys EA8300 also offers MU-MIMO technology, which is quickly becoming the standard for today's routers, allowing multiple devices to connect simultaneously at their maximum speeds. The only problem is that each laptop, phone or tablet also needs to have MU-MIMO technology for it to work. If none do, you won't experience a benefit. However, if only one or a few do, it could still help by speeding up the MU-MIMO devices and leaving more bandwidth for everything else.
You can enable Guest Wi-Fi on both the 2.4GHz band and 5GHz band. However, there's a lack of options to throttle down the guest network speeds so your regular devices won't suffer. The only thing you can change is the total number that can connect, not the speed.
Parental controls are also very easy to set up. You choose the device, which sites to block and what times you want them blocked. One nice feature is the ability to block encrypted (https) sites, which some routers aren't able to do. That means Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blockable, much to the dismay of your kids.
You can also use Amazon Alexa with the EA8300 if you want to turn on/off the guest network, get the guest Wi-Fi log-in credentials or if you forget your regular Wi-Fi password. That last part is a little scary in that anyone can ask her for your password, and Linksys says that you can shut this feature off.
Consistent speed on 2.4GHz, top speed on 5GHz
Features are nice, but what about speed? Well, this AC2200-rated router showed plenty during my testing. I tried it out at short range (seven feet, within the same room), midrange (25 feet, one room away) and long range (50 feet, two rooms away) in our CNET Smart Home. I used Jperf, a utility that measures throughput between a server and a client computer connected by the router. Internet speeds from an ISP don't factor in here.
Despite its AC2200 rating, I was pleasantly surprised with the consistency of the 2.4GHz band. Linksys' beamforming technology may be one of the reasons for this. Beamforming helps with signal range, allowing the router to target a device and steer the signal towards it. The EA8300 performed around 110Mbps at all three distances. I actually measured the fastest speeds during midrange testing, clocking an average of 116Mbps.
The throughput on the 5GHz band was 655Mbps at short range, 367Mbps at midrange and 89Mbps at long range. This type of drop off is standard for 5GHz, which is affected greatly by distance and interference. Still, the top speed of 655Mbps is pretty close to its theoretical maximum of 867. I would like to see a little better throughput at the longer range, so larger homes may not benefit much with the EA8300 on the 5GHz band due to signal loss.
Keep in mind though that many people have internet speeds under 100Mbps anyway, so that is where you will experience a bottleneck. Only local file and data transfers between your devices will be able to take advantage of the top speeds -- that is, if your devices have hardware capable of those faster speeds. Remember that when it comes to Wi-Fi, it's only as fast as the slowest device in the chain.
Should you buy one?
It looks like good things do come in small packages. The compact Linksys EA8300 Max-Stream router offers tops speeds, tons of the latest features, an easy-to-use interface and multi-functionality as an access point, repeater or bridge. The AC2200 rating keeps it from being top of its class, but its speeds were very impressive, maxing out at 116Mbps on 2.4GHz and 655Mbps on 5GHz. The Smart Wi-Fi web interface raised some concerns over its security, but the app is very convenient if you need to update your settings. For $200 with a one-year warranty, Linksys has delivered on an affordable router that gets the job done – plus extras.
Linksys EA8300 specs
|IEEE 802.11 Standard||a/b/g/n/ac||CPU Processor||Quad Core 716MHz|
|Frequency||Tri-Band (2.4GHz+5GHz+5GHz)||RAM Memory||256MB|
|Speed (Mbps)||2,134 (400+867+867)||Guest Wi-Fi||Yes|
|Ethernet Ports||1 Gigabit WAN; 4 Gigabit LAN||Parental Controls||Yes|
|USB Ports||1 USB 3.0||MU-MIMO||Yes|
|Antennas||2-External (2x2), 2-External (1x1)||Beamforming||Yes|
|Security||64/128-bit WEP, WPA2 Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA/WPA2, 128 bit AES link encryption||Setup||App or Browser|
|Size (inches)||8.38 by 6.37 by 2.16||Weight (pounds)||1.34|