If you're looking to build a new high-speed wired or wireless network for your McMansion or inner-city penthouse apartment, then you're flush with choices — and any modern Wi-Fi routers or modem-router will do a very good job. Routers are getting faster all the time, though, and Linksys has a new range that should be more than enough for even the largest and most technologically-advanced home — including a new router capable of wirelessly broadcasting 20 streams of high quality 4K video simultaneously, at a price $150 cheaper than the competition.
The new Linksys EA9500 is a $549.95 behemoth that takes on D-Link's $699.95 DIR-895L, and it's Linksys' first router to support eight simultaneous (4x4) MU-MIMO streams (with an imminent software update). It's also the fastest Wi-Fi router that Linksys has made, with a total of 5400Mbps theoretical throughput over 802.11ac — two 2166Mbps 5GHz channels and one 1000Mbps 2.4GHz channel.
MU-MIMO stands for 'multiple user, multiple input / multiple output', and refers to a relatively new wireless communication method that opens multiple channels and actually uses Wi-Fi interference to speed up transfers, as well as allowing every client to connect at its maximum speed without impacting others. MU-MIMO client devices like smartphones and laptops are — for now — restricted to high-end gadgets like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the HP Spectre. Linksys says that within the next three years, 84 per cent of all devices will support MU-MIMO.
The EA9500 also has eight wired Gigabit Ethernet ports for LAN and one for WAN, to hook up an external modem — the EA9500 doesn't have any ADSL, cable or NBN modem integrated. Both a USB 3.0 port and USB 2.0 port can connect external storage or a non-network-enabled printer. The new 'Wave 2' standard for 802.11ac works with the EA9500's eight external antennas, and should provide excellent coverage even for large and multi-level homes. Linksys has also overhauled its Smart Wi-Fi app for smartphones (iOS and Android), which will work with the EA9500 and other Smart Wi-Fi routers.
Alongside the new EA9500, Linksys is rounding out its new MU-MIMO portfolio of gadgets with a Wi-Fi range extender and Wi-Fi USB adapter. The $199.95 RE7000 range extender includes the same speed-boosting MU-MIMO tech, but when connected to an equally new Max-Stream router the RE7000 can piggy-back off the router's same network name — so you can walk around your house without your phone or laptop having to switch between discrete Wi-Fi networks, which can kill Skype or Facetime calls or corrupt downloads in progress — the first with what Linksys is calling 'seamless roaming'. It also has support for dual-band AC1900 Wi-Fi, beamforming and includes a Gigabit Ethernet network port so a wired device can also be connected.
Linksys also has the first MU-MIMO enabled USB adapter on the market in the WUSB6100M, a $59.95 dongle that can be used to upgrade older computers to the 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO standard. Like the range extender it uses MU-MIMO and beamforming, can run at up to AC433 and N150 speeds, and any Windows PC from Windows 7 upwards can automatically download the necessary Linksys driver — although a driver CD is also included. [Linksys]