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Features

Since the 6500 is an "EA" series router, it's app-based. Cisco looks like it is trying to move away from the Cisco Connect Cloud (CCC) branding that it originally launched the EA line with, but I was still able to find it by searching on Cisco's Home site. The links from the site's home page and product packaging all now feature Smart Wi-Fi branding.

Those familiar with the big fuss will remember that one of the complaints about CCC was that you could access only very limited admin features if the router was offline. If you wanted full admistrative access, you had to either fall back to the previous non-CCC firmware or sign up for CCC.

So I had another surprise when I hit the EA6500's login and saw the For local access, click here box highlighted in the screenshot below.

EA6500 admin login

EA6500 admin login

Clicking the link switched the screen to show an Access Router password login box that accepted the traditional Linksys admin password and then presented the full admin dashboard shown below.

EA6500 admin dashboard

EA6500 admin dashboard

The choice of local or CCC login is sticky, by the way, which is a nice touch that saves unnecessary clicking. So Cisco has come around to making the decision to sign up for CCC purely voluntary, as it probably should have been in the first place.

Craig fully reviewed CCC a few months ago, so I won't repeat that information here. The only change made in the router's main dashboard view shown above is the renaming of the built-in Apps section to Smart Wi-Fi Tools. The apps/tools themselves remain the same.

If you want to install optional apps, you will need to sign up for CCC. The Smart Wi-Fi App Center uses a carousel selector that makes it harder to see how few apps there still are. There are multiple copies of some apps that make it look like there are more than there are. But after a careful review, I was able to count only the six original apps shown in the list below from Craig's review. (The Device Monitoring app has been renamed to Device Monitr.)

Available Smart Wi-Fi Apps

Available Smart Wi-Fi Apps

One unique feature that Cisco featured in its original private press briefings was a demo of SimpleTap technology. According to Cisco's SimpleTap FAQ SimpleTap uses "Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which allows for easier connection of NFC-compatible smartphones to the router’s wireless network". At the briefings, Cisco demoed touching a SimpleTap-enabled phone to the top of the prototype router to quickly and easily establish the Wi-Fi connection.

Cisco must have rethought the approach or perhaps its commitment to SimpleTap. While the EA6500 does include the technology, it's in the form of a plastic card in the product box vs. a device inside the EA6500 itself. You tap a compatible phone with the card and you get connected to the router's 2.4 GHz radio. I didn't test this because I don't have a NFC-equipped phone.

Bundled SimpleTap card

Bundled SimpleTap card

I suppose it's just as cool (if you have an Android phone with NFC). But it just seems more like a gimmick or maybe another security risk. You can disable SimpleTap access via a checkbox in the router admin.

Routing Performance

Routing performance for the EA6500 using our standard test method is summarized in Table 2, along with the ASUS RT-AC66U and E4200v2/EA4500. The results show that the EA6500 has not only higher throughput than its Marvell-based sibling, but it also handles more simultaneous sessions. On the other hand, the EA6500 is slower than ASUS' draft 11ac router that uses most of the same components.

Note that the simultaneous connection test results indicated a collision with ports in use by Windows 7 vs. the inability to open additional ports. So the actual number of connections that the EA6500 can support is likely higher than the result shown.

Test Description EA6500 RT-AC66U E4200v2/EA4500
WAN - LAN 626 836 Mbps
254
LAN - WAN 633 839 Mbps
235
Total Simultaneous 742 819 Mbps
253
Maximum Simultaneous Connections 29,405 30,069 8,192
Firmware Version 1.1.27.142736 3.0.0.4.164
2.0.26.124551
Table 2: Routing throughput

The IxChariot plot for the routing tests shows generally stable throughput, but with a few pronounced dips. I experimented a bit and found that throughput would dip when I accessed the admin interface. Unlike other routers that are unresponsive when I'm blasting them with full-bore IxChariot traffic for these throughput tests, the EA6500 continued to respond to my admin navigation clicks.

EA6500 Routing throughput IxChariot plot summary

EA6500 Routing throughput IxChariot plot summary

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