New smart Wi-Fi Router review – Linksys EA2700

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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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