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Wireless Reviews

AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router
At a glance
ProductLinksys AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router (EA9200)   [Website]
SummarySecond to market AC3200 router based on Broadcom XStream technology with two 5 GHz radios
Pros• Second 5 GHz radio can improve total throughput
• Dynamic 5 GHz band steering
Cons• Expensive
• Total throughput improvement from second radio depends on client mix
• No outbound port filtering
• No VPN server

Introduction

As much as ASUS fanboys have wanted to see their favorite company's answer to NETGEAR's first-to-market AC3200 class R8000 Nighthawk X6, Linksys beat ASUS to the punch with its EA9200 AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router.

Like the R8000, the EA9200 is based on Broadcom's XStream "tri-band" architecture. I've explored XStream in MU-MIMO vs. XStream: The Coming Battle For Wi-Fi Airtime and in the R8000 review, so I won't be repetitive here. Suffice to say that AC3200's key feature is the ability to squeeze higher total throughput out of multiple 5 GHz devices. XStream doesn't bring range improvement to the party and for maximum link rate, it's the same as an AC1900 router, i.e. 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz and 1300 Mbps in 5 GHz.

The EA9200 is Linksys' first stand-up router with a permanently attached base. The vertical posture assures that the three internal 5 GHz antennas will be positioned for best performance. There are lots of vent holes and slots on all surfaces except the front panel. There, only two small vent rows flank the central name plate above and below.

EA9200 front and rear views

EA9200 front and rear views

Linksys brought back the backlit logo on the front panel dropped from the AC2350 class E9200. The callout graphic below shows the Gigabit WAN and LAN ports each have link and activity LEDs and even the USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports get itty bitty lights.

EA9200 front and rear panel callouts

EA9200 front and rear panel callouts

The right side of the router sports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and wireless on/off switches, the latter of which lights up red when wireless is disabled.

EA9200 side and top panel callouts

EA9200 side and top panel callouts

Inside

Linksys didn't delay releasing the FCC internal pictures, so we can start with a shot of the board out of its case, but with RF cans intact. The three RP-SMA connectors at the top of the board connect to dual-band antennas borrowed from the EA6900. The second 5 GHz radio has to settle for three internal printed circuit antennas that you can faintly see arrayed along the right board edge.

Linksys EA9200 inside

Linksys EA9200 inside

Popping the tops off all the RF cans show three Broadcom BCM43602 radios, one for 2.4 GHz, one dedicated to 5 GHz channels 36 - 48 and the other to channels 149 -161. Looks like each radio has external power amplifiers, although the photo isn't clear enough to ID the exact parts.

The device in a little can under the center (2.4 GHz) radio is a PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch. According to WikiDevi, its also in the R8000 and provides fast PCIe connection for all three radios to the Broadcom BCM4709's single PCIe bus.

Linksys EA9200 board

Linksys EA9200 board

Here's all the components in one nice table.

  Linksys EA9200 NETGEAR R8000
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4709A in BCM4709A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- 2.4 GHz Power Amps (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- 2.4 GHz Power Amps (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
- Broadcom BCM43602
- 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
PCIe PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch (guess, but WikiDevi confirms)
Table 1: Component summary

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