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Linksys EA6900 dual band Smart Wi-Fi AC1900 router review

linksys-ea6900-router-front-rearRouters. Not generally the sexiest tech out there are they? Let’s face it, most of us won’t get all giddy when faced with a new router but speedy internet connections are a lot of fun. One way to acheive better speeds is to change your router to something faster than the default one that comes with your broadband package. Enter the Linksys EA6900 dual band Smart Wi-Fi router.

The Linksys EA6900 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router AC1900 is equipped with 802.11ac on-board for faster speeds and a bunch of other natty features but does it actually make a difference?

Design

There are very few routers that will produce a gasp of admiration and stir passions you never realised you had and the EA6900 is not really one of them. I’m not saying that it’s bad looking, it has a smart black and silver design which is classicly understated, but I’m thinking that I wouldn’t have it as a central conversation piece really.

All the action happens around the back which is highlighted by the three large directional aerials that protrude from the sleek box. These are screwed in by hand after you take it out of the box. I’m guessing that the positioning of these aeriels may make a difference but I couldn’t really find one. Handy to have though if you were going to mount the router on the wall, or at an angle, etc. In between the central aerial and the right-hand one (as you look at it from the rear) you’ll find four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

There are also two USB sockets that allow you to connect hard drives to the router to be shared on the network. Everything is clearly labelled and easy enough to understand – even for me!

Setup

smart wi-fi appNow, I have to confess to something rather embarrassing at this point. My last 4 or 5 routers have also had in-built modems, the Linksys EA6900 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless AC Router AC1900 doesn’t. I guess that the hint is in its name but it took me a fair few minutes to work out why I wasn’t getting any internets even though there was a strong Wi-Fi signal coming from the Linksys.

So, you’ll still have to use the router that came with your broadband connection, and simply turn off its wireless connection or, as I have done, kept the bundled modem/router in the living room and simply run some Cat5 in to the office which suffered from a low Wi-Fi signal anyway. Yes, this means you’ve got two boxes to contend with, but the promise of enhanced capabilities is more than worth the effort.

Once connected to your modem and powered on, it’s a case of pointing a browser at the setup system and away you go. There is no special software to install and it’s all very straightforward in terms of walking you through the process once everything is hooked up as it should be.

There is the option to sign up get a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account, but you don’t need to for the router to get up and running however, it is recommended if you want to manage your router via an Android or iPhone app, or a different computer/network.

Network options

The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi system comes with a number of different options, again all without you having to see a DCHP protocol or a MAC address. It cuts the jargon out, and you know how GadgetyNews loves low jargon high tech.

Via the browser and app interfaces you can monitor which devices are connected to the network, create and control guest access, manage parental controls, work out which devices or apps get media prioritisation, manage your USB storage, and even perform a speed test.

  • The Device List is shown in the picture above and helps you keep an eye on how many devices are wanting a piece of your network.
  • Guest Access means you can give people that visit access to your internet connection, but not your devices/storage connected to it. You can even limit the number of guests that can log on at one time from 50 to 5. This is equipped with the option of assigning a different password compared to your main network to ensure everything is kept secure.
  • Parental Controls do exactly what they say. They options are really simple to understand, but incredibly effective. You can restrict internet access to a specific device and even go one step further by blocking internet access at specific times – handy for stopping the kids using their computer when they should be in bed or having family time. However, you can’t go as far as blocking specific people at specific times.
  • Media Prioritization is exactly what it sounds like and lets you say you want certain apps, games, or certain devices to have priority over your networks wireless signal – a must if online gaming. You could also give your smartphone priority over your partner’s laptop if you were so inclined or give Skype calls precedence over Spotify streaming.

The ports are finished off by way of a USB 2 and a USB 3 socket which gives you the neccessary to connect a large drive to your network to share music, photos, videos and other files which can then be accessed from a remote computer that has access to the internet. Great for streaming media and the like.

Speed

Once setup and running it did feel like my connection had been given a bump up and the Linksys does have a much better range than the unit I got from TalkTalk.

I tested the speed by downloading a music plug-in bundle via the TalkTalk router and then again with the Linksys. Looking at the Linksys Speed Test results, my ADSL line is showing around a 9.4MB/s connection.

The Linksys EA6900 shaved off a good 45 seconds of download time which might not sound much and you may experience better than that, especially with much larger files perhaps saving you minutes through the EA6900.

Conclusion

For most people the bundled router/modem that comes with their broadband package will be enough. They do the job and they’re usually ‘free’ but if you’re looking for a snappier Wi-Fi for downloading videos, software updates, streaming music and movies or gaming, then this is where the Linksys AC1900 dual band Smart Wi-Fi router steps in.

Not only does it increase the speed and reach of your wireless connection, it has a bunch of handy tools for controlling access to your network and allows you to fit external hardrives to it so that they’re accessable to anyone on your network – unless they have a Guest account 😉

I’m more than happy with the EA6900 and they retail for £138 on Amazon.co.uk.

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Linksys EA6900 dual band Smart Wi-Fi AC1900 router review

by Jay Garrett time to read: 5 min
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