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Cisco Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router Reviewed

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Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router
At a glance
ProductCisco Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based dual-band, dual-radio N router with Gigabit ports, USB drive sharing / media serving and 5 GHz only three-stream support
Pros• Chart-topping routing throughput
• Gigabit ports
• Guest WLAN supported in Web GUI
• Stable and strong 2.4 GHz radio
Cons• 2.4 GHz only guest access
• No IPv6 support
• No repeating / bridging
• Slow USB storage sharing

Typical Price: $140  Compare Prices  Check Amazon


Be sure to read the followup.

By dubbing its new top-of-line wireless router "Maximum Performance", Cisco is trying to send a not-so-subtle message that its Linksys E4200 is the new big dog in Wi-Fi town. Of course there are always Super, Ultra, Grande and even "Extra Special Good" left as superlatives for new routers to come. So don't think there will never be a better performing router.

But there might not be a more attractive one. Cisco has taken sort of a "Danish modern" styling approach that looks like it came from Bang and Olufsen. Cisco definitely wants high WAF for the E4200 so that it doesn't get hidden in a cabinet or basement furnace room.

There's only one front panel light, a steadily-lit white backlit Cisco logo that blinks while booting or during a firmware update or Wi-Fi Protected Access session. All the other lights are on the back panel (Figure 1), i.e. link / activity for one Gigabit WAN and four switched Gigabit LAN ports. There are no wireless activity indicators at all.

Linksys E4200 rear panel

Figure 1: Linksys E4200 rear panel

Also on the back panel are one USB 2.0 port for drive sharing and media serving (but still can't be used for printer sharing), Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) pushbutton, recessed reset switch and power port.

Internal Details

Not surprisingly, Cisco has stuck with Broadcom for its latest and greatest creation. But the E4200 is not just another rebranding of the WRT610 V2 / E3000. Cisco has asked the FCC to block access to the internal photos and other documents until Jan 30. So I had to open up the review unit that Cisco sent.

Figure 2 shows the board with cover removed. Both radios have three antennas—5 GHz on the left and 2.4 GHz on the right. Many of the key components have shields over them. But you can see a Broadcom BCM4331 Single-Chip 802.11n Dual-Band 3x3 parked next to the 5 GHz shielded area. Also visible are Macronix MX25L12845E 16 MB flash and Hynix H5PS5162FFR 64 MB RAM devices. Note the BCM4331 is three-stream N capable.

Linksys E4200 inside view

Figure 2: Linksys E4200 inside view

To get the rest of the component details, I had to remove three shields and one heatsink to reveal the view in Figure 3.

Under the heatsink was a Broadcom BCM4718 Intensi-fi XLR 802.11n Simultaneous Dual-Band (2.4/5 GHz) Router System-on-Chip, which serves as the main CPU and 2.4 GHz radio. This device is also used in the E3000 as CPU but as the 5 GHz radio.

Linksys E4200 inside view - shields removed

Figure 3: Linksys E4200 inside view - shields removed

Under the shield above the BCM4718 was a Broadcom BCM53115 Gigabit switch, again the same as used in the E3000. I've removed the thermal pad that couples the device to its shield cover to act as a heatsink for the switch.

The devices under the shields next to the two radios are RF amplifiers and switches, two SiGe 2528L 2.4 GHz power amps for 2.4 GHz and three SiGe SE2594L Dual Band 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless LAN front ends for 5 GHz. The use of only two power amps and BCM4718 for the 2.4 GHz radio says that it can't be software-enabled for three-stream N; it's two-stream only.

Figure 4 shows the E3000's board for reference.

Linksys E3000 (and WRT610 V2) board

Figure 4: Linksys E3000 (and WRT610 V2) board

The E3000 component summary is:

- CPU: Broadcom BCM4718 @ 480 MHz
- Switch: Broadcom BCM53115
- RAM: 64 MB
- Flash: 8 MB
- 5 GHz: In BCM4718
- 2.4GHz: Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.11n Transceiver




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User reviews

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Average user rating from: 17 user(s)

NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.

User Rating    [Back to Top]
Overall: 
 
3.5 Features :
 
3.8 Performance :
 
3.4 Reliability :
 
3.2
 
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Performance*
 
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E4200 V1 with Victek RAF tomato firmware

Overall rating: 
 
4.3
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by Moogle Stiltzkin
November 01, 2013
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Well judging the router with the default linksys firmware, of course the review is correct to say the software feature set is limited. With that said however, you should be using a tomato custom firmware for this router as it offers more features, better stability, better performance.

For tomato firmwares, there are a few variants being developed by different people, and these are Shibby, Toastman and Victek. Any of these would be fine for use, as they are active developers for their tomato firmware updates.

Reliability for the router, if using one of the top 3 tomato firmwares, is amazing. I haven't had my router failed me for a very long time. I leave the router on 24/7 and hardly have any issues.

Performance wise, it's good, but obviously there are newer routers out there with newer hardware. So of course the Linksys E4200 V1 is outdated, but it's still considered a solid performer, if not the best. Seeing as it's widely supported by the tomato community, you can be sure this model will have long time support from these developers :) so it has that for it.

Wireless performance people mentioned about range. But for home usage it's not bad, but if your expecting to get more range beyond that, then you may need to look elsewhere.

Software features as mentioned is not an issue as highlighted why, but as i said it's outdated, so hardware wise it lacks the newer wireless 802.11ac, but instead has 802.11n

Over all it's a good router, so if you can come by it second hand for a good price, it's most likely a good deal.

But if your a new buyer, and can afford buying the top 5 latest, then get one of those, but be sure it's a model supported by the tomato community ^-^;

 

Tomato Shibby firmware saved this router from the garbage

Overall rating: 
 
3.0
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Patrick
February 08, 2013
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My ratings reflect my experiences with the Cisco firmware. The Cisco firmware for this router had one problem after another. The only somewhat reliable version was 1.0.01, but this version had the WPS security hole. I could not use any of the Cisco firmware newer versions as they always broke some feature, such as compatibility with my VOIP device. As my network got more complex, this router became less reliable needing daily reboots. Cisco's firmware is complete garbage in my opinion.

Thankfully I tried Tomato Shibby firmware and this has completely transformed this router. With the Tomato firmware, Features get a 5, Performance still a 4 (because of the limited range of the internal antennas), and Reliability now a 5.

If you have one of these, do yourself a favor and install Tomato Shibby:
http://tomato.groov.pl/download/K26RT-N/build5x-105-EN/Linksys%20E-series/tomato-E3200USB-NVRAM60K-1.28.RT-N5x-MIPSR2-105-AIO.bin

Be sure to clear the NVRAM after installing before you configure the router.

 

Linksys blows

Overall rating: 
 
2.7
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Evin
February 29, 2012
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As a caveat, it is quite fast when working properly. however a majority of the time this sh*t crashes CONSTANTLY. not worth the $150

 

I must be crazy - i keep buying these useless devices

Overall rating: 
 
2.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Phil Morgan
January 18, 2012
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There must be something wrong with me, I keep buying product from Linksys but they ALWAYS let me down. the latest E4200 after 6 months has suddenly started hanging and has cut throughput from my internet connection from 30MbPS to about 3MbPS. When they work they are fine but how can a company this large get away with building such fragile products?

Even though these jokers offer 12 months of hardware support there is only 90 days of telephone support so you have to pay to get this useless hardware working despite the hardware warranty. So after countless WRT54G's, two E3000's and now the E4200 I paid my money to Apple and bought an Airport. It may not have all of the fancy features of the Linksys but I have a feeling it will be working in 6 months time.

Any suggestion for what to do with my Linksys graveyard of 6 dead wireless routers?

 

not impressed

Overall rating: 
 
2.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
2.0
Reliability:
 
2.0
Reviewed by not that
August 04, 2011
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Not impressed. Maybe the reviewer got a golden sample. The range on my first one was about 30 feet before signal dropped off massively. Straight shot down the hall of my house, no metal. The second one, after RMA, was better for the first day until it had a chance to heat up (overheat?) then it's range dropped off as well. THAT seemed very telling to me. I live in a cool region of the country, and this thing still gets very hot here. Designed with no thought to heat dissipation, the top is cup shaped, holds heat in. If it lasts long enough to be out of warranty I'll drill holes in it to let heat out. They could have put unobtrusive lights on the top to indicate cable connectivity, just make them muted and unblinking, like my 5-port D-Link switch. Antenna design is poor, but maybe the best you can do in a saucer shape?

Pros:
Easy to set up
Separate 2.4 & 5GHz SSIDs.
Looks swoopy like a flying saucer
Can run DD-WRT
RMA process was quick. (something of a pro, I guess)

Cons:
Short radio range
HOT, HOT, HOT
No lights on top, you wonder if your cable is plugged in, no?

Other:
I think it would have great radio range straight above and straight below it, just based on the antenna design. Do you live in a tall, thin, tower ? Put it on the top floor and try it out !!
I would also keep in mind that my perceived radio range is affected by the laptops antenna design as well, maybe I just have a crappy laptop.

 
 
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