Linksys EA7500 MU-MIMO router review
The Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream router has recently hit the shelves so it seems only right that it gets the GadgetyNews once-over.
When was the last time you thought about your router? I am also guilty of switching on my computer, turning on my telly and heading to Netflix, watching cat videos on my phone and streaming tunes from Tidal to my Hi-Fi all without a moments thought about the little thing in the corner dishing out all this interwebs. Until, that is, something goes wrong – or slow.
What once was considered to be magical and amazing (hey, I remember getting dial up when you had to but your phone on the modem!) but now we not only take broadband internet for granted, but also Wi-Fi in our homes. Not just Wi-Fi though, this wireless connection to our social networks has to reach every corner of the household – and at full strength.
These days we need 4K streaming in to the kitchen and Hi Res audio in the bathroom, all whilst folks are watching catch-up TV in the living-room and PC gaming is happening in a bedroom with everything ramped up to ultra settings.
Our demands on that little box in the corner have become much more, well, demanding. Is the Linksys EA7500 up to the task? Well, looking at its spec sheet it should be.
The Linksys EA7500 is powered by a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, offering up to 1.9Gbps of bandwidth you can use across multiple devices. That should enough bandwidth to handle a home full of streamers and gamers. Let’s have a look.
Linksys EA7500 design
The first thing that struck me about the EA7500 is the strong link to its predecessor that I am still using, the EA6900.
The shape, size and overall look is very familiar if you have ever owned a Linksys EA-series router. The EA7500 is definitely the updated version, and it looks like it has been working out. The EA7500 is a chunky little bugger (left in the picture above).
The router measures 10-inches wide, 7-inches deep, and 2-inches tall so it’s not what I’d call compact and, when you take in to consideration the three 7-inch adjustable antennas coming out the back, you do need to hand over some real estate to it.
The back of the EA7500 has five Gigabyte Ethernet ports. One is a WAN port for connecting to your modem, and the others are LAN ports for connecting other wired devices. There’s also USB ports — one USB 3.0, the other is USB 2.0 — for plugging in a lovely NAS (network attached storage) filled with lossless digital audio, for instance.
So, wired connections are covered but what about wireless? Well, the Linksys EA7500 looks handy here too. This 802.11ac device offers 1.9Gbps speeds on two simultaneous bands, a 2.4GHz band offering up to 600Mbps and a 5GHz band offering up to 1300Mbps.
Linksys EA7500 set up
You can have the EA7500 plugged in and ready to go in a matter of seconds if you’re ok using the supplied network names and passwords. If you are swapping out your old router and want the same settings on your new one, this saves on having to enter new passwords on everything, then you’ll need to head to ‘192.168.1.1’ or ‘myrouter.local’ via your browser.
As I already have a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account, I went for the latter.
You will see two different Wi-Fi networks, one on the 2.4GHz channel, the other on 5GHz. The split spectrum allows users to consider who and what uses which band in order to best utilise what’s available.
The 5GHz channel should be used for bandwidth-hungry devices, such as 4K streaming media boxes, that are near the router and will benefit from the 1300mps speed.
This configuration, just one of many, means the connection on your phone or laptop isn’t slowed when you’re watching Netflix on your smart TV. Alternatively, if you’re in a house with lots of rabid Wi-Fi users, you could simply switch from one network to the other when things slow down. Cheekily, I have the networks set up with different names and passwords as I am the main culprit for slurping up bandwidth, I have my laptop, tablet, as well as the telly, set up for the 5 GHz Wi-Fi.
The Linksys EA7500 is pretty clever as it will specifically direct its signals to connected devices using MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output), or beamforming.
A normal router actually broadcasts its signal in every direction, which is effective, but results in poorer signal strength. MU-MIMO beams the signal towards the target device, instead. This feature is usually only found on routers near the upper end of the market. Granted, you need to have devices that support this standard but they are gradually increasing, including handsets, tablets and laptops.
If you’ve a bunch of devices simultaneously using a lot of bandwidth, this router should be able to handle it and, assuming every device is within range, your connection speed is more likely to be the bottleneck for speed than your Wi-Fi signal. I know that’s true for me having to survive on ADSL as I can’t get fibre – yes, even in London there are parts where a fibre connection is still but a dream!
If you’re a parent and want the Wi-Fi to cut off at a certain time on certain devices – why should not be able to continue to use Wi-Fi just because your precious little darlings can’t be trusted?
So, as well as being able to select which device will be de-Wi-Fi’d you can easily map what times you want that device to go dark too, using a simple graph.
Here you just colour in the times you want to block Wi-Fi to that device. As you can see, I am not being totally heartless with my fictional offspring. Yes they’ll get no connection after 8pm Sunday to Thursday but, on Fridays and Saturdays, they get a full extra two hours. I know, I’m a great fictional dad.
Linksys EA7500 performance
Spotty Wi-Fi connection can be caused by many things. Position of the router is a top one – are you trying to hide it in a cupboard, in the corner of the home or under the stairs? Yes, this happens. It’s time to embrace the fact that your router needs to be able to ‘see’.
Even though I have placed the EA7500 in the same spot as my EA6900 usually sits, the signal is stronger from the new guy. I’m lucky in so much as I live on the end of a row so there’s only one neighbour whose signal might really cross over at any strength at the 2.4 GHz band.
2.4 GHz is great for distances whereas 5 GHz is the one for speed and chunky files – kinda like 3G phone signals will be there when your 4G drops out, and then when 3G drops out, good ol’ 2G will be there.
5 GHz just about reached my back bedroom with the EA6900 but the EA7500 is a sure fire improvement. The 2.4 GHz has also improved to the point where repeaters/boosters are no longer required.
Linksys EA7500 review conclusion
The Linksys EA7500 might not be the flashiest looking, most powerful or smartest router out there right now, but I think it is definitely up there.
I reckon that anyone with a basic understanding about what does what in the settings menu will have things tweaked satisfactorily in no time. For people with a bit more knowledge, getting knees deep in the advanced settings is just as easy.
To get more powerful and still have the amount of ports on offer you’re going to need a lot more than the Linksys EA7500’s £150 asking price.
If you are in a data-hungry household with Wi-Fi not spots then upgrading your router could solve many of your issues. Add in to that the parental controls and simple set-up then the Linksys EA7500 makes sense.
If you are looking for a high-end router but not necessarily the budget to back that up, you need to try this one.
For more information head over to the Linksys website.