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Review: Linksys EA3500 wireless router

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Published on May 8, 2012

The Linksys EA3500 has a decent feature set, is easy to setup and provides excellent performance.

The Setup CD makes the installation and initial setup of your router painless. The entire setup process takes only about 5 minutes and is nearly hands-off. All you need to do is launch Cisco Connect, attach the power cord to the router and plug in the ethernet cable when instructed to do so and then about midway through the process you can either accept the SSID name and password or type in your preferred name and password. It's that easy.

Guest Access is great (although not that secure.) You can setup your router to have a separate login for guest access to the Internet. You can specify how many simultaneous guest connections you'll allow. The Guest access password is different (or should be different) than the admin password for access. Another issue I have though is that you cannot change the SSID for Guest Access. It will always be named the same as your main SSID with the addition of "-guest." So if your main SSID were "OurHouse," the Guest access SSID would be "OurHouse-guest" and that cannot be changed to anything else.

The router has gigabit ethernet ports for equipment that is capable of utilizing gigabit throughput.

A USB port on the router allows the user to attach a hard drive for shared across the network access. You can assign users and privileges easily. At the time I made my video review, I had not yet attempted to hook up an external drive but since then, I have. It is really awesome to be able to have network attached storage that all or specified users can access. You can use it for network wide backups of your other connected computers or simply for file storage to keep things off your primary hard drive. It's a great feature that I've never had before and I love it. However, it is not without it's issues either. At this time, you are unable to use automated backup solutions, like Time Machine.

There is an iPhone and Android app you can get to allow you to manage the router with a limited number of options. The app is called Connect Express and it gives you the ability to do certain things such as edit guest access, change the Router network name and password, view what devices are connected to your network, and a few other "advanced" settings. You can even check for firmware updates for the router. It's quite handy to be able to do this from your iPhone but not as full-featured as it should be to be completely useful.

The router itself is quite small and runs quite cool. Actually the bottom of the router gets warmer than the top of the router. I like that there are no protruding antennas, yet coverage and signal strength in my house was excellent. I've got a 2000 sq ft house and the router is on the second floor in my office. The signal reaches all areas of my house with very good to excellent signal strength.

There are no obnoxious blinking lights on this router. Only on the back of the router will you see LED activity which you can use for troubleshooting to make sure you have data moving.

Parental Controls may be helpful for some but it is quite limited in what hours you can block. You can block access by device name with each device having a different schedule. You can block out chunks of time on "School nights" and/or "Weekends" between the hours specified. But what is weird is that you can only start blocking between Noon and Midnight and you can only stop the blocking between the hours of 12:30AM to 11:30AM. If you wanted to block access starting at 9AM until 3PM, you could not specify that time.

It's also possible to block specific URL's but you are limited to only 8 blocked URL's. When you attempt to go to a blocked URL, the browser displays a warning page that the site is blocked and allows access only if the parental control password is entered. You can also completely block access to a specific device by choosing the "always" option. It's basic protection but better than none I guess. It's just not that robust.

My final thoughts: The security issues are troubling. Maybe in a home situation you can let some of these slide, but you certainly would want to consult with a security expert before considering the use of this router in a business setting.

The iPhone app, although better than nothing I suppose, leaves much to be desired in what you can really accomplish with it.

The web interface that Linksys uses has a very tired look to it. It's looked this way ever since I started using Linksys routers and while there is something to be said for familiarity, it really could use a serious updating. In my opinion, Netgear has a much nicer user interface and their newer routers also have a slick application for managing the router that offers more control of router functions and settings.

Overall, It's a decent router, if not a little pricey, in an attractive, compact and unpretentious package.

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