Review: (Cisco) Linksys E4200

The Linksys E4200 is described by parent company Cisco as a Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router. Whilst it is becoming more common to see routers operating in both 2.4ghz and 5ghz bands it is still relatively unusual to see them in a router packed for home use. The model I have for review doesn’t include ADSL and is designed to be plugged into a cable modem. As I am on Virgin cable that was perfect for me but will be restrictive for many homes in the UK. Having said that you might want to use it as a secondary wireless access point to take advantage of the dual band.

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Out of the box it looks well styled with no external aerials. Also noticeable is the lack of flashing lights with only one illuminated Cisco logo to indicate status. This remains stable when all is ok but flashes on start-up and if any issues arise – not that I ever saw this latter indication. One other think that is very noticeable is the prominence of the Cisco branding and lack of Linksys branding.

Testing

One issue with testing this router is finding anything as quick as it to connect to it.  Cisco claim 300mbps for 2.4ghz and 450mbps speeds for 5ghz. As usual these claims are very theoretical and also rely on the adaptor you are using supporting similar speeds – very few do. Mine certainly don’t but never the less real world speeds were very impressive. On 5ghz I was able to get speeds average 80mbps and peaking at 100mbps. On 2.4ghz I didn’t get as good results but still very favourable at around 50mbps peaking at just over 60mbps. If you want to take advantage of the E4200’s full speed you are going to need an adaptor that supports the new 3 stream standard such as an Intel ultimate N 6300 or 5300 Wi Fi. Range was good to. 

It is well equipped on the port front with all the LAN ports being Gigabit. More on the USB port later.

 

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Configuring the Linksys E4200 is a breeze – if you have an active broadband to plug it into. If you do then you can just plug the router into it and use the supplied disk to set up Cisco Connect on your pc.

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This is really easy to follow just asking a few questions about your connection type and how you want to get your wireless configured. By default it will configure both 2.4 and 5Ghz with the same name and password which is convenient but can make it difficult to identify which band you are on. One thing to note here is this is a true dual band router able to operate on both 2.4 and 5Ghz at the same time.

The easy setup also allows you to set up a 2.4Ghz guest band which will only allow access to the broadband but not your local computers and devices. This guest network can only have 10 users but is certainly a nice addition to have.

If you don’t want to connect your new router directly to the broadband – say as purely a wireless access point then things are a little trickier.  The Cisco connect software will just not work if you don’t have the router connected and just sits showing ‘Configuring the Internet connection’. There is a web access on a default address of 192.168.1.1 but finding this and the admin user name and password is a little challenging as it was not in the supplied documentation. I did eventually find the default name is Admin and a blank password (some people have reported there password as being Admin too).

The web interface is pretty easy to follow and whilst not as comprehensive in features as some does allow for port forwarding, uPNP (which actually worked), DMZ and parental access settings. It doesn’t have a built in VPN client but can pass-through VPN traffic. With many routers I have found this last feature doesn’t always work well with one particular VPN I have to dial into regularly often locking them up. The E4200 handled it perfectly.

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One really neat feature is that the E4200 has a USB port that you can plug a storage device into and set it up to be shared on the network. This also supports FTP access and a DLNA server.

I did run into one problem with the Hitachi drive I reviewed a week or so back. I tried plugging this in but nothing I could do could get the E4200 to recognise it. I tried a couple of USB pens which it recognised fine. The performance form the attached storage wasn’t has good as some specifically designed Network Attached Storage devices I have tried but certainly usable.

I have to say this router is excellent in the connected home with really good QOS (quality of service) support for media streaming. I was able to get HD streams working really well. At one stage I managed to have 3 HD streams working simultaneously something my current DLink access point has never managed.

Streaming from external sites worked really well too – although I do realise this is not purely down to the router – I was able to stream HD from BBC iPlayer without any trouble which hasn’t always been the case over other Wi Fi devices

In Conclusion

This is a really good router for the connected home with really good throughput and a good wireless range. The dual band support is really good  and the Guest modes and built in DLNA server are certainly nice to have.

I will be sad to let this one go.  Having said that the going price seems to be about £169 and that puts it at the high-end for home use.

 

 

Specification from the Cisco site:

Technology:
Wireless-N

Bands:
Simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

Transmit / receive:
3 x 3

Antennas:
6 Internal

Ethernet ports x speed:
4 x Gigabit

USB storage port:
Yes, Shared Storage, Virtual USB and Media Server

 

EDIT: Fellow Microsoft MVP Barb Bowman pointed out the general lack of IPV6 support in Linksys routers http://www6.nohold.net/Cisco2/ukp.aspx?pid=93&login=1&vw=1&app=search&articleid=23904&userrole=LinksysTAC&pk=99b00af64db444d3a50f724e22fdb016&donelr=1.

If IPV6 tunnelling is important to you then you will need to make sure you have updated to the latest firmware release http://homedownloads.cisco.com/downloads/E4200Firmware_Release_Note_06142011.txt

About the author Garry Whittaker:
Regular presenter and occasional host on The Digital Lifestyle Show. Contributing writer. Convenience Computing enthusiast. Author of the Media Center Decoder tool. Microsoft MVP