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Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router Review: Great Speed and Reach

While larger than many routers to support its eight antennas, the AC5400 reaches farther with faster signals than all others we've tested. By James E. Gaskin

New WI-FI Routers that run faster and jump higher seem to appear each month. Linksys has several fast MIMO (Multi-Input, Multi-Output) routers in its product line already, but the company keeps upgrading. Its new maximum Wi-Fi beast of a router is the AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router, model number EA9500. The "5400" part of the AC5400 name is for the combined throughput rounded up to 5,400 Mbps when including the one 24 GHz radio (1,000 Mbps) and two 5 GHz radios (2,166 Mbps each). The "MU" in MU-MIMO is for Multi-User, supporting eight concurrent MIMO streams with no task switching, according to Linksys, which is now part of Belkin International Inc., headquartered in Playa Vista, Calif. The router supported clients farther out than we've ever seen before, and throughput increased as well.

Unboxing and Setup

One strong pitch from Linksys for the new AC5400 is the modern connected home with multiple mobile devices and Wi-Fi TVs with 4K resolution. Is there a serious need? Forbes reports 1 in 8 U.S. households will have an Ultra HD/4K TV by the end of 2016 (about 11 million). Not all will connect over Wi-Fi, but new TVs and the increasing mobile device count in modern homes demand better Wi-Fi.

That explains the retail packaging for this larger-than-usual router and the "Ideal for 4K/HD TV" blurb on the box. When you take this to clients, the packaging should help convince them this is a serious router.

How serious? Eight larger-than-normal Wi-Fi antennas, for one, with three on each side and two at the back. Eight 1GB Ethernet ports, for another, along with two USB ports, one version 2.0 and the other version 3.0

Setup was a snap, as illustrated by the quite small Quick Start Guide. First, plug in the power, turn on the router, and connect your internet modem to the ninth Ethernet port, in yellow, labeled "Internet."

The unit's wireless SSID (Service Set IDentifier) was on a label inside the Quick Start Guide and on the bottom of the AC5400, as was the password. Next we connected a PC to one of the Ethernet ports, even though there are instructions included for setting up the router over Wi-Fi. We typed LinksysSmartWiFi.com into our browser window and connected. The router checked for an update, applied it with our permission, and came back ready to go. We refreshed the browser window and saw that all was good. Then we opened a second window and pulled up a website. We had internet access, both wired and wireless, that quickly.

Configuration

When you open the admin utility the dashboard appears. On the left are the admin modules. The top group includes ways to manage and monitor clients while the bottom half focuses on router configuration details. On the right are card-like widgets that show some basic information.

Users seem fascinated by network maps, so they should like this. The router is in the middle with devices floating around, including the wired ones. Phones appear as phones, but computers appear as just a keyboard and monitor.

Guest Access, when enabled, adds SSIDs for both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, and appends a "-guest" designation to the name for both. A password is required, but a simple one, with no symbols or space. You can limit guests to between five and 50 in increments of five.
Individual machines can be blocked always, never, or at specific times. You can block specific sites, but only individually by name, and blocking is spotty. There's no handy drop-down list with categories like Adult or Fantasy Sports to make restrictions easier.

About the Author

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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