New smart Wi-Fi Router review — Linksys EA2700

EA2700_500.jpg

Since the last time I looked at home Routers, home net­work­ing has got­ten more com­plex. These days, folks are hook­ing up almost everything to their home net­work, either wired or wire­lessly: game con­soles, audio sys­tems, tab­lets, hand­held gam­ing devices… the list goes on. And older routers have occa­sion­ally been cranky when mix­ing brands and types — caus­ing more net­work head­aches.

That being said, home net­work­ing just got much easi­er with the recent intro­duc­tion of the new smart Wi-Fi router lineup from Link­sys.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be look­ing at three mem­bers of this linup — start­ing with the power­ful Link­sys EA2700.


Update: If you’ve got this router, you may want to read this post re: Cisco’s forced Cloud ser­vice update and how to revert back to a pre­vi­ous ver­sion of router firm­ware: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/07/freeing-your-router-from-ciscos-anti-porn-pro-copyright-cloud-service/

Fur­ther Update: Cisco changes it’s mind: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/07/cisco-backpedals-after-uproar-drops-cloud-from-default-router-setting/


Over­view
I’m going to start by look­ing at a fea­ture that shows a lot of prom­ise in this product series. The Link­sys EA2700 is the low­est priced of the Link­sys EA lineup that is ‘App Enabled’ — a fea­ture and func­tion set that allows 3rd parties to devel­op hard­ware and soft­ware that work seam­lessly with these routers.

Accord­ing to Cisco/Linksys press mater­i­al, soon you’ll be see­ing com­put­ing devices and smart appli­ances (fridges, etc) that take advant­age of the App Enabled archi­tec­ture. This will allow con­sumers to con­trol their devices from any­where in the home, or, by using Ciscos’s Con­nect Cloud ser­vice, lit­er­ally any­where in the world. I can’t wait to try this stuff out!

You can expect to see Con­nect Cloud launch­ing later this year, and with it, a host of App Enabled products.

On to the router itself. Who’s it for?

So with three routers in this lineup, who would bene­fit from the EA2700 most. Well this unit is really designed to provide advanced per­form­ance for stream­ing video on tab­lets, gam­ing and file shar­ing. Accord­ing to the mar­ket­ing mater­i­al, it’s ideal for:

  • Net­work­ing lar­ger house­holds and home offices
  • Surf­ing the web, email­ing and print­ing wire­lessly
  • Con­nect­ing mul­tiple users and devices at high speed
  • Trans­fer­ring and down­load­ing lar­ger files
  • Adding stor­age, print­ers, or oth­er devices

And I agree! In my home test envir­on­ment, with mul­tiple wire­less devices and a rather extens­ive wired (Gig­abit) lay­out, the EA2700 worked like a champ — con­cur­rently stream­ing video from my loc­al stor­age, stream­ing music to my mobile device, copy­ing files to dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions, and down­load­ing Linux dis­tros without a hic­cup.

Adding it to your net­work­ing mix

Setup was a breeze, using the provided install­a­tion disk. This help­ful com­pany video pro­files the setup pro­cess.

Get­ting your hands dirty
Or, if you, like me, have a more com­plex net­work setup with maybe two routers, and if you’re not afraid of dig­ging into the arcane innards of net­work­ing, you can eas­ily cus­tom­ize and con­fig­ure the EA2700 from the browser. Though most com­mon set­tings and fea­tures can be man­aged through the com­puter applic­a­tion (or the free down­load­able mobile device app).

Fea­tures
And as long as we’re deal­ing with ‘advanced’ sub­jects, here’s a brief list of some of the key fea­tures of the Link­sys EA2700:

  • High speed (up to 300 + 300 Mbps)
  • Exten­ded range with MIMO antenna array
  • Gig­abit Eth­er­net Ports for 10x faster wired speeds than Eth­er­net
  • Sim­ul­tan­eous dual-band to max­im­ize through­put and help avoid net­work inter­fer­ence
  • Cisco Con­nect Cloud (Avail­able sum­mer 2012)- Get any­where, any­time access to your home net­work from a browser or mobile device. Plus, optim­ize your online exper­i­ences with included apps.

Thumbs up!
There you have it. I really like the Link­sys EA2700 router. I love the simple ‘Guest Inter­net Access’ setup and man­age­ment fea­ture, among oth­ers. It’s a great entry-level first router that has quite a few advanced fea­tures. It’s also a great add-on or exten­sion for an exist­ing home net­work.

Up next, I take a look at the Link­sys EA3500… watch for it!

Oh, and if you have any thoughts or aspects about these routers you’d like me to touch on, let me know in the com­ments!

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11 Replies to “New smart Wi-Fi Router review — Linksys EA2700”

  1. Thanks for the help­ful review. Although this router is app-enabled I’m not sure if I could use my iPad 2 to con­fig­ure it. I don’t have a com­puter at our camp in Maine so I was hop­ing I could con­fig­ure it with my iPad. Your input would be greatly appre­ci­ated.

    1. Great ques­tion Bri­an. Actu­ally you don’t need to use the App aware func­tion­al­ity to con­fig­ure the router without a PC. You can simply plug in the router and power it up (without yet con­nect­ing it to your camp net­work).

      Then, you have to find the router in your iPad’s WiFi set­tings — it usu­ally starts with the name Cisco. Con­nect to that device and wait for the net­work con­nec­tion to sta­bil­ize, maybe 30 sec.

      Next, open a browser on your iPad, Safari works great. Nav­ig­ate to http://192.168.1.1 (the router default web admin pan­el address).

      Click on the link at the bot­tom that says “Con­tin­ue with an open and unse­cured net­work (not recom­men­ded)” — yes, it’s safe, you’re not con­nec­ted to any­thing oth­er than the router at this point.

      Click the ‘under­stand’ check­box on the next page to indic­ate that you under­stand you’re doing some­thing that is not ‘nor­mal’ for most home users 🙂

      Then, you’ll have to enter the default User­name and Pass­word for the router. On these it’s ‘admin’ and ‘admin’ — without the quotes. You’ll change this in your router setup, I hope 😉

      And you’ll be in to the router admin pan­el.

      Now, I did get a ‘could not com­plete this request’ error once dur­ing this pro­cess… but I simply hit the back but­ton and then everything worked.

      Good luck! I’m actu­ally impressed that the router can be set up this way!

  2. Brad, thank you for test­ing this and post­ing such clear instruc­tions. I do have two ques­tions. First, if I under­stand you cor­rectly, I can do all of the above without con­nect­ing the router to the cable modem (and simply plug the router into the cable modem once I’ve com­pleted set­ting up the router). Is that cor­rect? If so, I’ll be pleas­antly sur­prised as I didn’t know that Safari would work without an inter­net con­nec­tion. Second, will things be fairly straight­for­ward once I’m in the router admin pan­el? I’m assum­ing that’s where I set up my User­name and Pass­word, secur­ity set­tings, guest info, etc. Thanks again for your kind and gen­er­ous assist­ance. I go to Maine to relax and up until now I was afraid that set­ting up a router with my iPad would a real head­ache. On anoth­er note, not know­ing much about the vari­ous for­ums online I don’t know how best to point iPad own­ers to your site. I searched high and low before I came across your site. I’m sure there are oth­er folks who would appre­ci­ate your post. If you have any sug­ges­tions as to how/where I can inform oth­ers of your post please let me know.

  3. Hey Bri­an, my pleas­ure.

    1) Yep, don’t plug the router into the cable modem until you’ve got the thing con­figured. Since you’d just pre­vi­ously con­nec­ted to the router (Cisco in WiFi net­work­ing) and the router’s IP address is (192.168.1.1), enter­ing that address in Safari con­nects you dir­ectly to the router’s web serv­er. Then you log in as I’d describe.

    2) Yes, though there may be a few tabs and set­tings there for the Advanced user. Page 21 of the manu­al (PDF HERE: http://homedownloads.cisco.com/downloads/userguide/EA-Series_UG_Full_3425-01601_EN_Web.pdf ) describes manu­ally set­ting up the router. Hope­fully that’ll help.

    3) Thanks! You can point people at my blog.. I write about all sorts of tech, not just iPad, but do enjoy using mine 🙂 http://blog.bradgrier.com or the short­link for this post is: http://g1z.me/IfJvti

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks again, Brad. Since I try my best to actu­ally under­stand what I’m doing (rather than simply doing it) I have one more ques­tion. I under­stand that the iPad will find the router by wire­lessly pick­ing up the router’s sig­nals; how­ever, since I won’t have a wire­less net­work until I con­nect the router to the cable modem I don’t under­stand how I can use Safari to con­nect to the router’s web serv­er … unless the router accesses a satel­lite. What am I miss­ing, Brad?!

  5. No wor­ries Bri­an. You won’t have wire­less Inter­net until you hook up the cable modem, but once you power on the router and con­nect to it with the iPad, you’ve got a private WiFi net­work between the two devices; the iPad and the router.

    The thing to real­ize is that the numer­ic address (192.168.1.1) isn’t an ‘Inter­net’ IP address, it’s actu­ally a ‘private net­work’ IP address, one of many in a range of private net­work addresses that has been set aside to run net­works inde­pend­ent of the Inter­net.

    So, when you tell Safari to look for that address, your iPad will only try and find that spe­cif­ic numer­ic address. And since the router is cur­rently man­aging your net­work, not passing traffic through to the Inter­net, all you’ll be able to see through Safari is what that router sends it — it’s own intern­al con­fig­ur­a­tion web pages.

    Just remem­ber that you’re ini­tially set­ting up a private net­work between your iPad and the router and you’ll be fine 😉

  6. Thank you! I got it! The notion of a “private net­work” really helped. As a life-long learner I so appre­ci­ate those won­der­ful “Aha” moments! Since you were impressed that this router could be set up this way I’m assum­ing it’s the new tech­no­logy that makes this pos­sible (that is, I prob­ably wouldn’t be able to do this with pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion routers). Thanks again for your kind and gen­er­ous assist­ance, Brad.

  7. Out­stand­ing! I’m glad it makes sense, and I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. I’m actu­ally doing two more reviews of a couple oth­er items in the Link­sys lineup so will be ref­er­en­cing our exchange — I appre­ci­ate your ques­tions!

    As for new tech, not really, actu­ally. The abil­ity for routers to be man­aged via private net­work has been around for about 10 years. But nev­er before have I found it to work so smoothly! I lit­er­ally plugged in the router and logged in to it on WiFi. It was set up with­in minutes.

    The new tech in this router has to do with the speed, num­ber of sup­por­ted devices, pro­to­cols sup­por­ted, etc. Lots of detail here: http://home.cisco.com/en-ca/products/family

    Good luck with your router install. Take your time and you’ll be fine!

  8. Thank you, Brad. I appre­ci­ate your once again clear­ing things up for me. I’ll look for­ward to read­ing your next review … in Maine! Bless­ings!

  9. Love read­ing the info on your site.
    I only recently star­ted using a Link­sys router. It was so easy to set up and makes it so con­veni­ent for my wife & I to be online at the same time at home, with all our devices. I know if I come across any prob­lems I can come back here to find easy to fol­low instruc­tions.
    Thanks!!

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