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Wireless Reviews

Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1750 HD Video Pro
At a glance
ProductLinksys EA6500 Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1750 HD Video Pro   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based draft 802.11ac router with Gigabit ports, USB drive and printer sharing and optional cloud features
Pros• CCC no longer needed for full admin access
• High routing throughput
Cons• Slow storage read/write throughput
• USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0 ports

Typical Price: $98  Compare Prices  Check Amazon

Introduction

Updated 10/30/2012 - Added links to Part 2
Part 2 of the review has the two and three stream wireless test results and final conclusion.

Cisco is a relative latecomer to the draft 802.11ac market, lagging even behind D-Link, which usually takes a long time to ship after announcing product. But the company has finally started to ship its EA6500, so let's see whether it's any different than the current crop of first-generation draft AC routers.

I was surprised when I opened the shipping box from Cisco to see the new look for Linksys product packaging. The photo below compares the EA6500 and EA4500 product boxes. The things that stand out for me on the new look are the more prominent "Linksys" and the much smaller product photo. Most of the front of the box is given over to a busy kaleidoscope-style image on a black background. I'm not sure what Cisco is going for here, but it sure is a departure from past packaging.

Linksys EA6500 and EA4500 packaging compared

Linksys EA6500 and EA4500 packaging compared

At first glance, the EA6500 looks like its top-of-line N Linksys sibling, the EA4500. But stacking the two shows the 6500 has a larger footprint.

Linksys EA4500 and EA6500 compared

Linksys EA4500 and EA6500 compared

If you look closely in the photo above, you can also see an air vent at the top of the wider center band of the 6500, which is on the bottom of the stack.

The 6500's rear panel looks a lot like the EA4500/E4200v2's. The main difference is that the 6500 has two USB 2.0 ports. You would think that a tippy-top-of-line router these days would have USB 3.0 ports. But D-Link's DIR-857 and DIR-827 and NETGEAR's CENTRIA are currently the only routers to have those.

Linksys EA6500 rear panel callouts

Linksys EA6500 rear panel callouts

Unlike many current routers with vertical orientations, the 6500 is designed to sit flat on a table or desk. If you want to hang it in a wall, there are mounting slots on the bottom side. But they are at the left side of the router, so it will hang with all connections pointing right.

There is a user manual posted on the EA6500's support page that covers all four EA series routers. It doesn't really have much information, however, on the "Smart Wi-Fi" features. More on that in a bit.

Inside

Like all other first-generation draft 11ac routers, the EA6500 uses the same basic Broadcom-based design. The photo below shows the FCC ID photo of the 6500's inside.

There are six bent-metal internal antennas, three for each radio. The 5 GHz antennas are positioned left, center and right (black cabling). The 2.4 GHz antennas (grey cabling) have a similar spread, but the front-facing antenna is in the left front corner.

Like the Buffalo WZR-D1800H / WLI-H4-D1300 and NETGEAR R6300, Cisco has put the 6500's 5 GHz radio on a PCI-e card that sits at the front right of the router. The 2.4 GHz radio is integrated directly into the main board on its front left.

Linksys EA6500 rear panel callouts

Linksys EA6500 rear panel callouts

Table 1 summarizes the key components in the EA6500. The FCC photo was not clear enough to identify the Broadcom switch chip. I'm pegging it as a BCM53125, although it's possible that it is a Broadcom BCM53115, like NETGEAR uses in the R6300.

  Cisco Linksys EA6500
CPU Broadcom BCM4706
Switch Broadcom BCM53125 (unconfirmed)
RAM 128 MB
Flash 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - BCM4331
- MicroSemi LX5535 2.4 - 2.5 GHz Power Amplifier (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz, 23dBm Power Amp
w/ Power Detector (x3)
Table 1: EA6500 component summary

Another notable change from other designs is the use of MicroSemi LX5535 2.4 - 2.5 GHz power amplifiers in the 2.4 GHz radio. The NETGEAR and Buffalo draft 11ac routers use SiGE SE2594L 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN front ends.

There are more photos of the 6500's innards in the gallery below.

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