The New Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream Wi-Fi Router: All The Bandwidth, All The Time

Having super-fast, 802.11ac is great for high-speed file transfers -- we know this much from testing the Linksys WRT1900AC, the Netgear Nighthawk X6 and D-Link's crazy DIR-890L. The brand new Linksys EA8500, though, one-ups all of those by being super-fast for multiple devices at once using a new technology called MU-MIMO beamforming.

Beamforming is still a pretty new tech, but it makes sense once you think about how it should work. The four different antennas on the Linksys EA8500 will transfer data with very slightly different latencies to a client, because they are all very slightly different distances away from it.

Ars Technica explains the concept very well, but basically what happens is the antenna closest to that device is prioritised and given more transmit power while the others are powered down. Faster transfer rates, but plenty of capacity for other devices that want to use bandwidth too.

The Linksys EA8500 is the first router with MU-MIMO in Australia, with 4x4 802.11ac that promises a potential of four simutaneous high-speed data transfers. You'll only get it on Wi-Fi AC clients, for what it's worth, but the router also has (simultaneous) 802.11n and operates over 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless channels. Linksys says it's seen effective Wi-Fi transfer speeds more than doubled, a 2.5x increase compared to existing tri-band routers when three clients or more are connected. With a single client, speed boosts can be as much as five times.

With a 1.4GHz Qualcomm chip inside, the Linksys EA8500 has a maximum link rate of 1733Mbps over the 5GHz AC channel and 800Mbps for the 2.4Ghz channel. It's much like any other high-end router in that it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port for connecting a dedicated (ADSL/cable/NBN/4G mobile broadband) modem, USB 3.0 storage and a USB 2.0/eSATA storage/printer I/O port.

Out right now through Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi, the Linksys EA8500 will set you back $429.95 -- not a great deal when you think about how much you're spending monthly on tablets, smartphones, other technology and your various streaming music and video subscriptions. [Linksys]

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