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Wireless Reviews

Inside

The image below shows the top view of the main PCB of the RE6500. The two RF modules, the Mediatek MT7602 (2.4 GHz 2X2) and Mediatek MT7612 (5 GHz 802.11ac 2 X 2) are located near the bottom. The Mediatek MD7621AT CPU/Ethernet switch is covered by a heatsink.

Linksys RE6500 Main PCB

Linksys RE6500 Main PCB

The table below compares the major components of the Linksys RE6500, the NETGEAR EX6100 and the NETGEAR EX6200 dual band wireless range extenders.

  RE6500 NETGEAR EX6100 EX6200
CPU Mediatek MT7621AT WiSoC MediaTek MT7620A WiSoC Broadcom BCM4708A or BCM4708A1 (guess)
Switch In Mediatek MT7621AT Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver In BCM4708A
RAM 64 MB Etron Tech EM68B16CWQD 64 MB Winbond W9751G6KB DDR2 ?
Flash 8 MB Macronix MX25L6406E 8 MB Macronix MC25L6406 8 MB
2.4 GHz Radio Mediatek MT7602 2x2 11n In MT7620A Broadcom BCM43217 2x2 802.11b/g/n transceiver + unidentified 2.4 GHz
power amps (markings 088649E310)
5 GHz radio - Mediatek MT7612 2x2 11ac - MediaTek MT7610EN 1x1 11ac radio
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz power amp (x1)
Broadcom BCM4352KMLG + Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz, 23dBm Power Amplifier with Power Detector (x2)
Audio Wolfson WM8960 CODEC WITH CLASS D SPEAKER DRIVER N/A  
Table 1: Linksys RE6500 key components

Setup

There's really not a lot of work to set up the RE6500. The quick start guide instructs you to connect a wireless client to a wireless setup network named Linksys Extender Setup. I used my iPad to connect to the setup network. Immediately, my web browser was re-directed to the RE6500 setup wizard running in the device. If automatic re-direction doesn't work, you can also point your browser to http://192.168.1.1.

After accepting terms and conditions, the RE6500 performs a site survey to find nearby wireless networks. I first selected my 5 GHz network and entered in the WPA key when prompted. The RE6500 verified credentials and then prompted me to select a 2.4 GHz network. After selecting my 2.4 GHz network and entering in the WPA key, the RE6500 verified the credentials and provided a summary screen showing that the setup was complete. The screenshot below shows that the extender setup is complete. (I grayed out my WPA key for security).

Linksys RE6500 Setup complete

Linksys RE6500 Setup complete

A couple of things to note:

  • The range extender uses the same SSID and WPA keys for the extended networks as the linked-to network by default. This helps facilitate roaming between the wireless router and the range extender. But it prevents you from being sure that you are connected to the extender and not the base router. You can change the extender SSID, but that requires logging into the router admin, which can be a challenge (see below)
  • According to the user guide, you can configure the RE6500 wireless extender using WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). If you choose this method, you'll need to run WPS twice - once for each band. The RE6500 supports both push button and WPS PIN code configuration.
  • The setup confirmation screen doesn't provide the IP address of the range extender, which changes depending on the IP scheme of the router it is connected to. And the Linksys doesn't have a URL that is locally resolved like the mywifiextender.net found on NETGEAR extenders.
    Instead, the user guide instructs you how to find the RE6500. For Windows Vista, Windows 7 & Windows 8, you can find it in Windows Explorer under the Network Infrastructure section as shown in the screenshot below. Just click on Linksys Range Extender, and you'll be taken to the home page where you can log in with the default credentials. (user name - blank; Password - admin).
    For Windows XP, you'll either need to install UPnP, or find the IP address the old-fashioned way - find it in you're router's DHCP table or connected client's table. For OSX, Bonjour will discover the RE6500. The screenshot below shows how the RE6500 appeared on my Windows 7 computer.

Windows 7 Explorer finds the RE6500 under Network Infrastructure

Windows 7 Explorer finds the RE6500 under Network Infrastructure

Hands On

When you log into the management page, you'll note the familiar Linksys blue and white design with menus across the top and sub menus on tabs below the top level menus. There's really not much to manage, as the device itself is fairly simple. I did, however, log in and change the wireless network SSIDs so that I could tell whether I was actually connected to the extender.

The one interesting screenshot from the UI was the WLAN Statistics under the Status menu shown below. For the network name, is uses the name of the router's wireless networks - not the name of the extended networks if you have renamed them. There's only top level data available, so you don't really know for sure what's happening on the wireless extender. You can, however, see signal strength and quality for each wireless network. This tool can help you with the placement of the RE6500 in your home, but how many people are ever going to log in to access it?

Linksys RE6500 WLAN Statistics

Linksys RE6500 WLAN Statistics

Audio Streaming

One unique feature of the RE6500 is the ability to stream music through the analog audio port located on the rear of the device. You need a DLNA compatible source, as noted above, that can stream music to a DLNA player. To test this feature, I connected a pair of powered speakers to the audio jack on the RE6500 and tried my usual DLNA player - Synology's DS-Audio on my iPad. While it isn't on the supported player list for either iOS or Android (there's a DS-Audio version for both platforms), I recalled that the player could stream to other media streamers on the network.

I launched DS-Audio and opened the list of target DLNA streamers on my local network. The screenshot below shows that I selected the Linksys Range Extender. After selecting it, I created a playlist, started the player and was rewarded with music. This could be handy feature if you have your RE6500 located near an entertainment system.

Using a compatible DLNA player, you can redirect streaming audio to the Linksys RE6500

Using a compatible DLNA player, you can redirect streaming audio to the Linksys RE6500

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