Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router Review

The Linksys Max-Stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router (EA9500) has been available in Singapore since 1st August 2016. It is retailing for S$539.

The EA9500 is the highest-end router of the Linksys Max-Stream family. I did a review of the mid-range model which is the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 Router back in October 2015.

EA9500 features 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi standard which includes MU-MIMO (8 simultaneous MU-MIMO streams) and has tri-band wireless AC5400 (1,000Mbps 2.4GHz + 2,166Mbps 5GHz + 2,166Mbps 5GHz).

You can read more about MIMO and MU-MIMO in my review of the Linksys EA8500 Router as mentioned earlier.

When paired with the Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Range Extender, Seamless Roaming Technology allows you to have a single network in your home with a single SSID so you can walk around your home without having to manually connect to the range extender.

You can read more about Seamless Roaming in my Linksys RE7000 Range Extender post.

There are 8 external non-removable antennas on the router, 9 Gigabit Ethernet ports (8 LAN, 1 WAN), 1 USB 3.0 and 1 USB 2.0 port.

It is powered by Broadcom 1.4GHz Dual-Core processor, has 256MB of RAM and 128MB of flash storage.

Despite it being Linksys highest-end router, it is weird that it only has 256MB of RAM. In comparison, the mid-range router, EA8500, has 512MB of RAM.

Specifications (Credits: SmallNetBuilder and WikiDevi)

  • CPU: Broadcom BCM4709C0 1.4 GHz Dual-Core Processor
  • RAM: 256MB (2x EtronTech EM6GD16EWXD-12H)
  • Flash: 128MB (Toshiba TC58BVG0S3HTA00)
  • Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

    • 2.4GHz
      • Broadcom BCM4366 4×4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
      • Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
      • IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b
      • Speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
    • 5GHz
      • Broadcom BCM4366 4×4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
      • RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
      • IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11n & IEEE 802.11a
      • Speeds up to 2,166 Mbps
    • 5GHz
      • Broadcom BCM4366 4×4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
      • RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
      • IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11n & IEEE 802.11a
      • Speeds up to 2,166 Mbps
  • LAN/WAN

    • Broadcom BCM53125
    • 8x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN ports
    • 1x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN port
  • Antennas: Eight external non-removable antennas
  • Other Ports: 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x USB 2.0 Port
  • Dimensions (Without Antennas): 264.52 x 318.15 x 66.66 (mm)
  • Weight: 1.73kg

Unboxing

EA9500 - Box Front
EA9500 – Box Front

EA9500 - Box Back
EA9500 – Box Back

EA9500 - Box
EA9500 – Box

EA9500 - Box Open
EA9500 – Box Open

EA9500 - Box Contents
EA9500 – Box Contents

EA9500 - Power Adapter
EA9500 – Power Adapter

Design
The router is huge and heavy. These days, I am not sure if the dimensions and weight correspond to the price of the routers.

EA9500 - Top
EA9500 – Top

EA9500 - Bottom
EA9500 – Bottom

Despite there are holes all over the router for ventilation, the router still feels very hot. I remember attending a demo of the EA9500 and it is placed on a laptop cooler even though it is in office settings with air conditioning switched on.

EA9500 - Front
EA9500 – Front

EA9500 - Back
EA9500 – Back

There are eight LAN ports and one WAN ports at the back. It also comes with one USB 3 and one USB 2 port.

EA9500 - Buttons & Ports
EA9500 – Buttons & Ports

EA9500 - Left
EA9500 – Left

EA9500 - Right
EA9500 – Right

There are eight external non-removable antennas. Three on each side and two at the back. Personally, I prefer non-removable antennas as they are less flimsy and doesn’t come loose easily. Also, how often do you really change the antennas? If your antennas spoilt, probably it is time for you to change a new router.

EA9500 - Wi-Fi & WPS Button
EA9500 – Wi-Fi & WPS Button

UI
The EA9500 is a Smart Wi-Fi Router. That means you can access and control your home network from anywhere with a web browser or a mobile device via an iOS or Android App.

I would not be covering the router UI here since it is the same across all the latest Linksys router that I reviewed.

I am still not a fan of the web UI, I find it pleasing to the eyes, but it is much slower than D-Link or Asus router UI.

The EA9500 supports VLAN tagging and OpenVPN.

Speed

Linksys EA9500 - 2.4GHz - Living RoomAsus RT-AC88U - 2.4GHz - Living Room
2.4GHz – Living Room (EA9500 vs RT-AC88U)

Linksys EA9500 - 2.4GHz - Master BedroomAsus RT-AC88U - 2.4GHz - Master Bedroom
2.4GHz – Master Bedroom (EA9500 vs RT-AC88U)

Asus RT-AC88U - 5.0GHz - Living RoomLinksys EA9500 - 5.0GHz - Living Room
5.0GHz – Living Room (EA9500 vs RT-AC88U)

Asus RT-AC88U - 5.0GHz - Master Bedroom
Asus RT-AC88U – 5.0GHz – Master Bedroom

Using the EA9500, I can’t get any Internet connection on my 5GHZ band network in my master bedroom.

Location EA9500 RT-AC88U
Living Room (2.4GHz) (Download) 90.11Mbps 90.14Mbps
Living Room (2.4GHz) (Upload) 119.41Mbps 127.32Mbps
Living Room (5GHz) (Download) 444.58Mbps 465.90Mbps
Living Room (5GHz) (Upload) 282.32Mbps 377.75Mbps
Master Bedroom (2.4GHz) (Download) 24.49Mbps 32.06Mbps
Master Bedroom (2.4GHz) (Upload) 10.64Mbps 8.83Mbps
Master Bedroom (5GHz) (Download) 0.62Mbps
Master Bedroom (5GHz) (Upload) 1.31Mbps

I am not impressed with the wireless speed of the EA9500, in most tests, it still loses out to my Asus RT-AC88U.

Coverage

Linksys EA9500 - 2.4GHz - Heatmap
Linksys EA9500 – 2.4GHz – Heatmap

Asus RT-AC88U - 2.4GHz - Heatmap
Asus RT-AC88U – 2.4GHz – Heatmap

Linksys EA9500 - 5.0GHz - Heatmap
Linksys EA9500 – 5.0GHz – Heatmap

Asus RT-AC88U - 5.0GHz - Heatmap
Asus RT-AC88U – 5.0GHz – Heatmap

As you can see from the heat map of my house, generally for the 2.4GHz band, it fares slightly poorer than the Asus RT-AC88U. You can look out for the bluish area which means there is little wireless coverage.

For the 5.0GHz band, the coverage is almost the same as my Asus RT-AC88U but I am not sure why the EA9500 can’t get any Internet connection in the master bedroom on it.

RE7000 Range Extender
The saving grace of the EA9500 would be using it with the Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Range Extender. I find the seamless roaming works as advertised.

I ran a speed test while walking from the living room to my master bedroom.

During the transition period between the EA9500 and RE7000, the speed test pauses for about 8 seconds before resuming to the full 5GHz band speed as it is now connected to the RE7000. Before using the RE7000, I wasn’t able to get any Internet connection on the 5GHz band in my master bedroom.

Here is how the heat map looks like if you include the RE7000 coverage.

Linksys EA9500 with RE7000 - 2.4GHz - Heatmap
Linksys EA9500 with RE7000 – 2.4GHz – Heatmap

Linksys EA9500 with RE7000 - 5.0GHz - Heatmap
Linksys EA9500 with RE7000 – 5.0GHz – Heatmap

Conclusion
Given that this router is priced very steeply at S$539, it is not for everyone.

MU-MIMO is still in a very early stage. Despite being a techie guy, I have no MU-MIMO devices in my house that I can use to test with this router. So having MU-MIMO with eight simultaneous streams is not really a selling point for this router for most consumers.

In fact, the only attractive feature of this router is the seamless roaming. If you have a huge house, you can get the EA9500 with one or two RE7000 and your house wireless coverage will be sufficient. You can use the RE7000 as a wired range extender which is what I did for better speeds. It is a good alternative till wireless mesh network is more widely available for consumers in Singapore.

EA9500
EA9500

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