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Wireless Reviews

Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router
At a glance
ProductLinksys Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router (EA8500)   [Website]
SummaryQCA based AC2600 MU-MIMO enabled router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 2.0/eSATA/USB 3.0 storage and printer sharing
Pros• Supports bridged router, wireless bridge & wireless repeating
• MU-MIMO support provides moderate total throughput improvement
Cons• No outbound port/service filtering
• You'll need to buy new devices to benefit from MU-MIMO

Typical Price: $249  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

This is the second half of the Linksys EA8500 review. Part 1 focused on evaluating the product's MU-MIMO wireless performance. This time I'll be covering Storage, Routing and our standard Wireless Performance tests.

Linksys EA8500

Storage Performance

The summary below shows the top ten routers tested with our standard procedure for USB 3.0 connections and both drive formats. For reference, the EA8500 topped all four USB 2.0 performance charts with the following results: FAT32 Write - 38.1 MB/s; FAT32 Read - 42.9 MB/s; NTFS Write - 37.9 MB/s; NTFS Read - 42.9 MB/s.

In contrast, the EA8500 was beaten in all four USB 3.0 benchmarks by Linksys' WRT1200AC, which has a 1.33 GHz dual-core Marvell Armada 385 SoC as its processor. The EA8500's weakest storage performance looks to be NTFS writes, where we measured 59 MB/s vs. the WRT1200AC's 100 MB/s. At least the EA8500 beat all of last year's 4x4 AC2350 class routers.

Storage Performance Comparison - USB 3.0

Storage Performance Comparison - USB 3.0

Routing Performance

Updated 12/16/15 Router performance retest due to measurement process error

Routing throughput was measured using our standard router test process with the router loaded with 1.1.3.166845 firmware. Table 1 summarizes the results and includes the three first-generation 4x4 routers for comparison. Remember, for ranking purposes, we consider anything over 30,000 connections as equal due to limitations of our test method.

Test Description Linksys EA8500 ASUS RT-AC87U NETGEAR R7500 Linksys E8350
WAN - LAN 702 787 750 703
LAN - WAN 805 816 814 816
Total Simultaneous 1493 1392 1502 1448
Maximum Simultaneous Connections 35,230 36,805 42,122 30,572
Firmware Version 1.1.3.166845 3.0.0.4.376_2044 v1.0.0.52 1.0.00
Table 1: Routing throughput

The IxChariot unidirectional composite plot for the EA8500 shows typical cyclical variation between mid-to-high 700 Mbps range and peak speeds near 950 Mbps for both directions. The higher uplink throughput is consistent from product to product and likely a test method artifact.

Routing throughput unidirectional summary

Routing throughput unidirectional summary

The simultaneous up/downlink benchmark plot shows a jump up in WAN > LAN throughput due to IxChariot's Nagle's algorithm implementation. After the jump, uplink throughput looks better behaved than downlink, with higher average throughput as a result.

Routing throughput bidirectional summary

Routing throughput bidirectional summary

Wireless Performance

The EA8500 is Wi-Fi Certified, but only for three spatial streams. The Wi-Fi Alliance won't be doing MU-MIMO Certification until 2016.

We tested using the V8 Wireless test process using 1.1.3.166845 firmware. The router comes with WPS enabled. I connected a Windows 8.1 notebook to the router's 5 GHz and was prompted for WPS PIN with a pushbutton alternative. A pushbutton session quickly resulted in a WPA2/AES connection. The tiny back panel LED under the WPS button flashes during the WPS session; the big front panel Linksys logo doesn't blink during WPS.

The EA8500's wireless defaults are shown below. The Network name/SSID will be unique for each router because the five digits are the last five of the router's MAC address.

EA8500 Wireless defaults

EA8500 Wireless defaults

For throughput testing, the router was first reset to factory defaults with channel 6 set for 2.4 GHz and bandwidth mode set to 20 MHz. The 5 GHz radio was set to channel 153 and Auto bandwidth mode to enable 802.11ac link rates. The NETGEAR R7000 bridge mode standard test client was connected using WPA2/AES encryption.

Our standard practice is to center the router under test's antennas on the turntable, both front-to-back and side-to-side in the chamber. The chamber antennas are also centered on the turntable (front-to-back of chamber). This method is intended to keep maximum distance between the router under test and chamber antennas. The front-to-back position of the EA8500 centered the space between the front and rear antenna pairs.

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