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You are here: Wireless Wireless Reviews Cisco Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router Review Followup

Cisco Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router Review Followup

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Introduction

I had to post yesterday's review before finishing all the testing, specifically the Maximum Wireless Bandwidth and Router Stress tests that I've run on other simultaneous dual-band routers, NETGEAR's WNDR3700 and Cisco's Linksys E3000, specifically. But before I get to that, let me address a few other points.

Some posts over in the SNB Forums insist that the E4200 supports IPv6. I wasn't able to confirm this by running the same test because my DSL modem is actually a router that doesn't support bridging. But having IPv6 6to4 mode enabled is one thing and having it officially specified and supported is another, which it isn't. There is also no IPv6 admin interface.

Cisco told me, however, that IPv6 support will be added sometime in March / April of this year. But I've learned to not count on features coming in future firmware updates until they actually appear. So if full IPv6 support is essential for you, I'd hold off on the E4200 for now.

I also neglected to comment on the E4200's three-stream N capability. First, I can't test for three-stream N because I have not invested in a three-stream capable notebook, which is the only device type to currently support three-stream N on both bands. I do have a TRENDnet TEW-687GA 450Mbps Wireless N Gaming Adapter in awaiting review. But since it supports 2.4 GHz only, I can't use it to test the E4200's 5 GHz band only three stream mode.

What I can say is that it doesn't appear that Broadcom's three-stream chipset is providing any particular 5 GHz band performance edge for the E4200, at least not in terms of extended range. If I do get in device with 5 GHz three-stream N support, I'll be sure to give it a whirl with the E4200.

Total Wireless Bandwidth Test

I've noticed that N routers sometimes can produce higher aggregate bandwidth using multiple connections vs. a single connection. So I duplicated the tests run on the WNDR3700 and E3000 running multiple simultaneous IxChariot scripts on each radio to see how the E4200 fared.

Figure 1 shows the setup used for this and the Stress test that follows below. For testing maximum wireless bandwidth I used two notebooks, both using Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN mini-PCIe cards. The "WAN" endpoint computer shown in Figure 1 is not used in this test.

Max Wireless Bandwidth and Stress Test setup

Figure 1: Max Wireless Bandwidth and Stress Test setup

The Acer Aspire 1810T notebook was used as the 5 GHz client and ran Win 7 Home Premium and Intel's Win 7 13.4.0.9 driver for the Intel card. A Dell Mini 12 running WinXP Home SP3 and using Intel's Win XP 12.4.3.9 driver served as the 2.4 GHz client. Both wireless clients were in the same room within 10 feet of the E4200, set to Auto (20 / 40 MHz) mode and with WPA2 / AES encryption enabled.

Each wireless client was paired with a wired test "endpoint" connected via Gigabit Ethernet. One of the two wired machines ran the IxChariot console, which coordinated all endpoints for the test. I probably could have gotten by using only one wired machine, but wanted to be sure that I wouldn't run out of bandwidth or CPU.

I started by running one downlink stream on each band just to check the setup, but noticed unusually low 2.4 GHz band throughput. It took a bit of detective work, but I think I've found a serious flaw in the E4200's design.

Figure 2 shows a downstream test starting on the 2.4 GHz radio, which produced throughput around 80 Mbps. But when the 5 GHz test starts 10 seconds later, 2.4 GHz throughput is cut in half to around 40 Mbps. Then when the 2.4 GHz traffic stops around 30 seconds into the test, the 5 GHz throughput jumps from 60 up to around 80 Mbps!

E4200 radio interaction

Figure 2: E4200 radio interaction

This effect was very repeatable and was present when I swapped notebooks between channels and ran uplink tests. I think the culprit is that the BCM4718 is doing double duty as the main CPU and BB / MAC for the 2.4 GHz radio.

But the E3000 uses a similar approach with the BCM4718 serving double duty as the main CPU and BB / MAC for its 5 GHz radio. So why didn't I notice then? Well, Figure 3, taken from the E3000 review, shows that a similar effect is probably in play on the E3000, with a distinct difference in 2.4 and 5 GHz throughput. But since I didn't run the staggered start test on the E3000, I didn't really confirm the effect.

E3000 simultaneous 2.4 and 5 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

Figure 3: E3000 simultaneous 2.4 and 5 GHz, 20 MHz channel, downlink

To duplicate the E3000 test in Figure 3, I started four downlink streams at the same time on the 2.4 and 5 GHz radios on the E4200. Figure 4 shows that this yielded only 150 Mbps of total wireless throughput, down from 190 Mbps on the E3000.

E4200 simultaneous wireless bandwidth test

Figure 4: E4200 simultaneous wireless bandwidth test



Related Items:

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Three Stream N Performance: Two More
Cisco Unveils 450 Mbps Dual-Band N Router
Cisco Linksys E3000 High Performance Wireless-N Router Reviewed
New To The Wireless Charts: D-Link DIR-665 Xtreme N 450 Gigabit Router

User reviews

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Average user rating from: 12 user(s)

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3.4 Features :
 
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2.9
 
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E4200 is nice for home usage, but not the office

Overall rating: 
 
3.0
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Fredrik
June 20, 2012
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I have three E4200 v1 with firmware 1.0.04 which I have owned for about 2 months.

One at home witch is performing very well. It is quick and able to handle a high number of connections. It is connected to my fiber internet 60/60mbit.

The other two is located at my office and serves up to 70 people. These are running in bridge mode and are very unstable. We have to restart these many times during the week.

The user interface is okay. I'm missing an option to see who is connected to the router and there are no option to mount the router to the wall.

 

E4200 is dying at 6 weeks old

Overall rating: 
 
2.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Steve
December 11, 2011
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Bought the E4200 6 weeks ago. Worked fine until yesterday. (of course just 2 weeks past the retail stores deadline for returns) My wife called me to say she couldn't connect with her Mac. So she tried my pc laptop. Same result. When I got home I tried connecting and ended up with the same results. I reset the cable modem, reset the router, with same results. Keep in mind neither of us had made any changes to our computers or the router.

A couple hours later she tried again and was able to connect. I asked her to check her speed on speedtest.net. She was getting about 1/3 her normal speed. I was finally able to connect and tested at about 1/10 normal speed. (in my experience this is exactly how my other routers have died in the past) Then we both lost connection.

So I read up on Cisco's return policy etc. *I* get to call their support to have them run me through every hoop they can think of before they will admit that their product is failing. Shouldn't take more than 45 minutes of fustrating wasted time on the phone. Then once I get a return authorization *I* get to pack it up and take it to a shipping place at *my* expense. Then *I* get to be without a router which *I* already paid for. I fully expect that after waiting 10 days or so, that the repaired or replaced unit will fail shortly thereafter.

*I* am done with Cisco. Crappy product, crappy return policy. *I* met my obligation when I gave them my money for their product. It fails and they seem to do everything they can to make returning the product inconvienent. Before buying this unit I investigated many routers. This one had it's fair share of reliability complaints, but I thought surely it won't happen to me. I was wrong. Beware!!!

 

5GHz radio now runs in Tomato firmware

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by Toink
September 29, 2011
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I withheld opening my brandnew E4200 until Tomato firmware fully supports the 5GHz radio. A couple of days ago Toastman released his BETA firmware build 1.28.0485 and the wireless speeds is very impressive! Although the current BETA build 0485.3 is without a few bugs, running Tomato on this router is way better and stable than using the factory firmware.

 

Mostly Good Router But Beware if you plan to use built-in UPnP Media Server!!!

Overall rating: 
 
3.3
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
2.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by AnClar
September 20, 2011
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This router has worked well for me with one glaring exception...with the current firmware, the media server is broken. Cisco is aware of this and supposedly a new firmware is due to be released sometime in the next few days to address the issue. If the media server is not a major selling point for you, you should be fine...if it is, either wait for the new firmware or look elsewhere.

 

Best router I have ever owned.

Overall rating: 
 
4.3
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by Ali
August 02, 2011
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I just the router over the weekend from Staples for $93. I think that the price for this router is unbeatable.

I faced minor issues with renewing the IP and adding the entry DhcpConnForceBroadcastFlag solve the problem.

If you configure the router correctly you can get 300 Mbps. It really depends on the location and distance to the router. I get mostly 150 Mbps which is much better then my previous netgear 802.11g router.

I attached a WD Elements 2TB hard drive and it was very easy to set it up. Right know I don't need the ftp and media server capabilities so I shut them down. I read that the media server has a few bugs and I don't use it for now. I might get an DLNA enabled TV soon and I will try it and let you know. Streaming blue-ray movies was perfect from hard drive no problems at all.

I was comparing E4200 with the ASUS RT-N56U and I decided to based on the reasonable price for the unit. Besides the VPN support for E4200 much more mature then the one on Asus.

I have tried the VPN connection from home to work a few times and it works all fine no issues. Over the weekend I talked to my friend in Germany and used Skype and I recognized the the video quality was much better. I think E4200 streams very good.


I think this router can be always recommended.

 
 
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