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Wireless Reviews

Wireless AC Router SMART Wi-Fi Dual Band AC1900
At a glance
ProductLinksys EA6900 Wireless AC Router SMART Wi-Fi Dual Band AC1900   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based AC1900 class router with Gigabit ports, USB 2.0 & USB 3.0 drive and printer sharing and optional cloud features
Pros• USB 2.0 & 3.0 ports
• High routing throughput
Cons• Guest network for 2.4 GHz only
• Doesn't function as a wireless bridge or support WDS
• Poor 2.4 GHz performance
• USB sharing problems

Typical Price: $140  Compare Prices  Check Amazon

Introduction

My AC1900 First Look: NETGEAR R7000 & ASUS RT-AC68U has been a popular read since it posted about two weeks ago. Since then, ASUS still hasn't delivered a driver for its PCE-AC68U card that enables TurboQAM and its firmware remains a work in progress. NETGEAR, on the other hand, seems content to stand pat with its first firmware.

I still haven't gotten around to testing the TurboQAM feature of any of these three routers and frankly, I'm in no big hurry to do so for the reasons I described in AC1900: Innovation or 3D Wi-Fi?. I'll probably do a separate article covering all three, once things have settled down and Broadcom and ASUS get their TurboQAM client-side acts together. So, please note this review of Linksys' EA6900 tests it as an AC1750 router.

Linksys has stuck with the basic look of its other EA series routers for the 6900. The main differences are the three external, upgradeable (RP-SMA) dual-band antennas. The Cisco logo has finally been banished, replaced by a bright white Linksys.

Linksys EA6900 front panel callouts

Linksys EA6900 front panel callouts

All link activity lights have been banished to the back panel and integrated into the Ethernet jacks. Unfortunately, this means there are no wireless indicators of any kind. Both USB jacks (2.0 and 3.0) are nestled next to the WAN port. (The one with the blue insert is 3.0; it's not labeled.)

Linksys EA6900 rear panel callouts

Linksys EA6900 rear panel callouts

The EA6900 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 EA6900's support page. It describes the main router admin features using a How To approach. Less experienced users may find this more helpful than the usual describe-the-screenshot "What"-centric approach taken by most router manuals.

One thing you won't find in the user manual is any mention of the SimpleTap easy-connect feature. Since there was no SimpleTap card in the box either, it looks like this feature has been relegated to the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time pile.

Following the trend adopted by many new routers, the EA6900's installation doesn't require running a CD. (Oddly, there is one in the box, but it contains only a user guide that you can download anyway.) All you need to do is plug in your modem cable, power it up and try to hit the internet with a browser. You'll get redirected to a setup wizard that will get you up and running in no time.

Inside

Like NETGEAR and ASUS, Linksys has also temporarily suppressed the inside photos in its FCC filings. So I opened it up after testing to find a design an interesting mix of the NETGEAR's and ASUS designs.

The most notable finding is that the EA6900 uses the Broadcom BCM4708A. This leaves the NETGEAR Nighthawk as the only AC1900 router using the 1 GHz Broadcom BCM4709A. The key components for all three routers are summarized in Table 1 below.

Linksys EA6900 NETGEAR R7000 (Nighthawk) ASUS RT-AC68U
CPU Broadcom BCM4708A Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A
Switch In BCM4708A in BCM4709A In BCM4708A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz Power Amp marked 397 649e 230(x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- SiGE 5023L 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
Table 1: Component summary

Here's a look at the top of the EA6900 board with its RF covers removed so you can see the two BCM4360 radios. Both radios have the same outboard Skyworks 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers used in the Nighthawk.

Linksys EA6900 board top

Linksys EA6900 board top

All three routers use dual-band external antennas that require combining the two radios' RF before they hit the antennas. But Linksys keeps the two radios completely separated instead of putting them all into a single compartmentalized RF enclosure as ASUS and NETGEAR did.

There are a few more internal photos in the gallery below. The EA6900 has the least amount of heatsinking of the three AC1900 designs.

For easy comparison, here is the NETGEAR Nighthawk gallery

And the ASUS RT-AC68U gallery.

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