Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Router

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Product: Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Router
Provided By: Linksys
Price: $249.99 MSRP at time of publication

 

 

Introduction:

Today we have a new router from Linksys on the bench that is not the fastest connected router we've seen lately, but it does claim some pretty impressive features. While many routers claim to have incredible speed when combining all of their wireless bands, the reality is that not many client devices have tri-band chips let alone quad-band chips that we are seeing in some new routers. The Linksys EA7500 is on our bench and this router claims to meet AC1900 802.11ac speeds, but it adds a bit of something different as a twist.

The Linksys EA7500 is a MU-MIMO router that supports multiple-input/multiple-output connections – as do many other MIMO routers, but this version adds a “MU” to the list. It's pronounced [moo-mee-mow] and the “moo” is for multiple users. Not only does the EA7500 support multiple-input/multiple-output connections – it does so for several users making the wireless performance in the real world potentially better. Let's take a closer look as we jump right in.

Box

 

First Look:

The EA7500 router has the same external styling as the E8350 – but lacks one of the antenna. The EA7500 has three antennae and is a full tri-band unit. Internally the router is a fair bit different as it houses a 1.4GHz dual-core CPU that claims to be capable of handling up to three separate MU-MIMO data streams. We pushed this router to the limit at a recent LAN event and attempted to use it as the backbone to over 50 computers as well as well over 30 wireless clients (tablets, phones, and laptops). It looks pretty robust on a specification and physical front.

Bundle

 

In the bundle we found the antennae, a short Ethernet cable, the power adapter and of course a quick-install guide. All of these add up to a very basic bundle – but one that will easily get the job done. Although this MAX-STREAM router is part of the Smart Wi-Fi family from Linksys, it doesn't have an NFC card or anything similar to make connection super simple. Instead, you have to rely on WPS or entering a security key manually.

EA7500 Rear Profile

 

With the router now laid bare before us, there really isn't a lot more to explain as we tour around. The front is super non-exciting but the rear is a wee bit interesting. There are both USB2.0 and USB3.0 ports on the rear of the unit as well as a WPS button, recessed “Reset” button, and five GB Ethernet ports. One of these is marked for the WAN, and the other four are set for your local network. To the right of all of these ports is the power connector and a power switch.

The power switch is a nice touch as many routers require a very ungraceful unplug if they need to be rebooted or if you're going away on holidays for an extended period and you want to disable your network while you are away. The switch makes this process a little more eloquent.

On the next page we'll cover the features and specifications of the EA7500 before we carry on through setup and performance testing.


Quick Features:

  • EASY SETUP - Installation is fast and easy. No CD required.
  • MU-MIMO - Latest Wireless-AC technology for simultaneously streaming and gaming on multiple devices.
  • MEDIUM HOUSEHOLD - Experience powerful Wi-Fi coverage throughout a medium-size house.
  • 1.4 GHz DUAL-CORE CPU - Promotes simultaneous high-speed data processing.

 

More Features:

NEXT-GEN AC DELIVERS POWERFUL WI-FI TO MULTIPLE DEVICES
The Linksys MAX-STREAM AC1900 features MU-MIMO, the latest advance toward uninterrupted, simultaneous Wi-Fi connections.
Devices such as HD streaming media players, 4K TVs, tablets, and game consoles use a lot of bandwidth. But with MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) technology, the MAX-STREAM AC1900 sends advanced Wi-Fi to multiple devices at the same time and same speed. Your whole family can play, stream, and work at once, without experiencing lag or buffering - at up to 2x the speed of a non-MU-MIMO router.*
 
 
 
ENJOY COMBINED WI-FI SPEEDS UP TO 1.9 Gbps
Our MAX-STREAM AC1900 Multi User-MIMO Router offers two dedicated Wi-Fi bands that deliver combined speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps. It also allows you to make your time online more efficient: simply assign high-bandwidth activities, like 4K video streaming, to the high-speed 5 GHz band, and leave basic activities like email to the 2.4 GHz band.
 
POWERFUL PROCESSOR FOR IMPROVED PERFORMANCE
Enjoy fast-paced Wi-Fi activities such as online multiplayer gaming with the MAX-STREAM AC1900. Powered by a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, it is capable of handling three simultaneous data streams. This results in improved Wi-Fi performance and faster Wi-Fi speeds to more devices.
 
HIGH-SPEED WIRED CONNECTIVITY WITH GIGABIT ETHERNET PORTS
Connect more devices and share files at speeds 10x faster than Fast Ethernet with four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Connect a storage device to the USB 3.0 port and quickly transfer files. Or, share devices such as printers across your Wi-Fi network using the USB 2.0 port.
 
IMPROVED Wi-Fi SPEED AND RANGE WITH BEAMFORMING
Direct Wi-Fi signals to each of your mobile devices to increase signal strength and coverage with our MAX-STREAM Wi-Fi router using Beamforming technology. Play video games, listen to music, check emails, shop online, stream HD movies, and more, without having to worry about dropped signals.

EA7500

 

Specifications:

 

On the following page, we'll take a quick look at the router web interface, set it up and then jump into testing.


 

Web Interface & Setup:

The interface of the EA7500 follows along closely with other Smart Wi-Fi routers. In fact, the interface is pretty much exactly the same as the older EA6500 router we looked at over a couple of years back. The interface works, and once you get used to the graphical design, it works well. I do like the idea of it, but still prefer a more text-heavy interface like they use on their E8350 unit.

The E8350 and EA7500 are both dual-core units that run at 1.4GHz, but because of the extra graphical interface, the EA7500 feels slower when it comes to navigating the web interface and applying settings. The throughput and performance is very solid, but I found the interface on this particular unit to be a bit sluggish – where the WRT1900AC and its quad-core CPU kept the interface running more smoothly.

Instead of including a bunch of screenshots and written information detailing ever screen on the router, we've put together a bit of a video showcasing all of the settings, features, and setup of the EA7500. Please check out the video below and watch full screen at 1080p for best quality. 

 

Testing:

As far as performance goes, we fired up iperf to do a little benchmarking on this router. Iperf results show bandwidth that the network is capable of. In the real world, you don't often see wired transfer rates approaching 1000mbps because mechanical hard drives are barely fast enough to read and write at this speed. Also, CPU overhead can become an issue on slower systems when transferring data at high speed. We use iperf with confidence as it shows how good the network hardware actually is and if it can perform anywhere close to rated specs. We will be testing both wireless and wired performance.

Wired Performance

 

 

For reference we compared this router to Trendnet’s TEW-672GR, TEW-691GR, TEW-812DRU routers as well as D-Link's DGL-4500 and DGL-655 units. Also compared are the Linksys' WRT610N, E4200, EA6500, WRT1900AC and E8350 routers as well as one unit from Rosewill – the T600N. Many of the wireless adapters have changed over the years but we have always been using the current equivalents throughout these tests to keep everything as close to realistic as possible. As you can see, the results of the EA7500 are listed at the top of the chart and the performance is very good. It doesn't take top spot by all means, but it still shows some solid wired performance clocking in at 928Mbps. It is just 17Mbps off the top spot and comes in 57Mbps better than the Rosewill T600N – the slowest wired router in the mix.

On the next page, we'll continue on with testing and cover wireless performance.


Testing (Continued):

Wireless performance is done in two parts. First, we compare the wireless performance of the router when connected by its fastest mode to a wireless client PC. This is the way we've done all our wireless performance tests in the past as it shows the evolution of wireless performance and hardware. After the first router comparison chart, we will show the difference in speed when connected to a 2.4GHz network and a 5GHz network on a client machine. We also connected the EA7500 to another dual-band router as a wireless bridge to see how much faster the performance is when you have a client that actually supports data transfer over a multi-band network.

Wireless Network Performance

 

The EA7500 came in second place in wireless network performance - coming in behind the E8350 AC2400 unit. The best we could squeeze out of the EA7500 when connected to a Lenovo T540s was 358Mbps – which is a very solid showing. The E8350 managed an incredible 383Mbps. That is a very fast connection that should provide excellent performance.

 

As networking hardware continues to evolve, routers lead the way. The larger size allows bigger and hotter chipsets, larger antenna arrays and faster performance. Client hardware – usually limited to notebooks – is always a ways behind. We decided to hook a couple of routers together in a wireless bridge mode to see how fast the actual wireless throughput could be – if both sides have the capability to run multiple-bands at full speed. The results are below.

We show 2.4GHz and 5GHz performance connected to a client PC, then wrap up with the wireless bridge from router-to-router.

Suddenly we are running a wireless network at speeds over 775 Mbps. That is a big step in the right direction – thanks solely to a client device that has more antennae.

 

Final Thoughts:

Overall the performance of the EA7500 is quite fantastic. While the dual-core CPU seems to be a bit laggy when it comes to loading pages and data on the web interface, it certainly has enough power to run a loaded network. The router ended up being the backbone at our 2016 LAN event - VulcLAN and it kept up with over 80 connected devices. It managed traffic, connections, wired and wireless clients and even managed to pull some limited QoS. 

It did it all without a hiccup in the performance arena, without dropping connections and without slowdowns or crashing. I was impressed. I've used more expensive consumer-level routers in the past with poorer results. It was 100% solid.

What felt weak though was the limited Parental Controls and client devices that could be managed. You are allowed a total of 14 devices to manage - and while that won't be an issue on 95% of home networks, there are limitations and this is a bit of a setback. There was no way to block certain sites across the entire network and we had to add custom rules for specific computers. Again, for home use, this won't be an issue - but it is worth mentioning.

The Smart Wi-Fi interface takes some time to get used to, but it seems to work well. I had no issues with it at all and have learned to like it quite a bit. As previously mentioned, some pages loaded slowly, but it didn't actually affect network performance.

 

Pros:

  • Great wireless performance (best we've seen in a bridge) and great range.
  • Dual-Band wireless with separate configuration
  • Secure Guest Network
  • MU-MIMO lives up to the promise
  • Can handle small business networks as easily as a home network

 

Cons:

  • Interface can be laggy
  • Parental controls limited to 14 clients

 

 

While I'd like to knock some points off for the interface lag (yeah, it really bugs me), the truth is the router is super solid and was able to run a much larger-than-expected network without any issues. It's so solid that I can't give it anything less than a "Gold" Editor's Choice award.

I'd like to thank Linksys for sending this over to power VulcLAN and for the review. If you have any questions, comment or general feedback, please feel free to post in the forum at the link below.

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