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Wireless Reviews

Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router
At a glanceAC Router Performance
October 2016
ProductLinksys Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router (EA9500)   [Website]
SummaryAC5300 class Broadcom-based tri-band router with two 4x4 MU-MIMO enabled 5 GHz radios.
Pros• Eight gigabit LAN ports
• MU-MIMO that works
• Smart Connect band steering
Cons• Undistinguished routing feature set
• MU-MIMO doesn't work as well as QCA-based products
• Smart Connect works only between 5 GHz radios

Typical Price: $280  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Linksys' EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router is the first of a second round of tri-radio routers based on Broadcom's 4x4 MU-MIMO chipset. Unlike the first round that included NETGEAR's R8500 Nighthawk X8 [reviewed] and ASUS' RT-AC5300 [reviewed], the new routers from Linksys and TP-LINK decided to adopt Broadcom's official 5.4 Gbps rating, hence their AC5400 moniker vs. NETGEAR and ASUS' AC5300. To avoid confusion, I'll be classing them all as AC5300, since that was the first to be used.

At any rate, neither the EA9500 nor TP-LINK's Archer C5400 that started shipping earlier this week offer anything new. All use the same 4x4 Broadcom chipset with tri-radio architecture. The main difference is in number of LAN ports, port aggregation support, antenna configuration and whether MU-MIMO is supported. Table 1 summarizes these differences. Kudos to Linksys for being the first to market with an AC5300 class MU-MIMO router that actually supports MU-MIMO!

  Linksys EA9500 TP-LINK Archer C5400 NETGEAR R8500 ASUS RT-AC5300
LAN ports 8 4 6 4
Aggregation N N Y Y
Antenna 8 external attached 8 external attached 4 external attached
4 internal
8 external RP-SMA
MU-MIMO Support Y
2 STA per radio
N Beta Alpha
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

If you want the meanest-looking, most physically imposing router to impress your friends, you'll want ASUS' RT-AC5300. But if you'd rather have an eight-antenna router that doesn't look like one, you'll like the EA9500. Keeping antennas off the front panel makes for a much cleaner design, to my eye. Of course a big black slab with eight things sticking up from it is hardly a recipe for high WAF.

The front panel callout diagram below describes the unique front panel lighting. I didn't verify the MU-MIMO light feature because I had to remove the panel to directly connect to the radio for MU-MIMO testing.

EA9500 front panel callouts

EA9500 front panel callouts

The rear panel has one each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one WAN port. Port aggregation is not supported, but at least every port has its own link and activity LEDs that should be called out in the diagram. The right side of the router sports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and wireless on/off switches.

EA9500 side and rear panel callouts

EA9500 side and rear panel callouts

Inside

Linksys released the FCC internal pictures, so major surgery wasn't required to perform component analysis. The shot below is with the top, internal cover support frame and heatsinks removed.

Linksys EA9500 inside

Linksys EA9500 inside

Stripping off all the RF can tops shows the CPU / switch section at top, 5 GHz high-band and 2.4 GHz radios at bottom left and 5 GHz low band radio at lower right. The 5 GHz high-band and 2.4 GHz radios share the left side antennas while the 5 GHz low band has the right four antennas all to itself.

Linksys EA9500 inside

Linksys EA9500 board

Table two summarizes the key components for the EA9500 and NETGEAR and ASUS AC5300 routers. The processor and radio components are all the same. The Linksys is the only one of the three with only 256 MB of RAM.

  Linksys EA9500 NETGEAR R8500 ASUS RT-AC5300
CPU Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz
Switch in BCM4709C0KFEBG & BCM53125 in BCM4709C0KFEBG & BCM53125 Realtek RTL8365MB or in BCM4709C0KFEBG
RAM 256 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
5 GHz radio - BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
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 ASMedia ASM1182e
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

Check the gallery for more inside photos and commentary.

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