Just over 4 years ago I purchased a Linksys WRT54GS router from Best Buy. The main reason was to use my work notebook PC because I was not able to go downstairs due to a foot injury. The Linksys WRT54GS worked great. I never had a problem with firmware updates, the radio signal was strong, and everything I connected through Wi-Fi (including the Wii) worked. But lately I’ve had a desire to replace the unit to take advantage of wireless N which is on my Sager notebook and my work notebook (Dell Latitude E6400).
I am happy with Linksys products, I’ve recommend them to family, friends, and clients. So when I heard the Linksys E4200 was available, I had to get it. But yikes, look at that price!! Way too expensive, besides the WRT54GS is working fine, no need to upgrade. However, almost every week, Best Buy or some other company would have ads in the Sunday paper showing me the router I wanted to get, but could not justify the price point.
Then this past Sunday, Best Buy had the router on sale, save $30.00. Then I remembered I had a Reward Zone $5.00 coupon that was going to expire within 2 weeks, and a $10.00 Best Buy gift card that was waiting for me to use. My inner voice now said, “How do you feel about saving $45.00 on the router you want? It has wireless N with a max speed of 450Mbps, guest wireless access, USB drive hookup, and GB wired connections.” Let’s go shopping!!
So on Tuesday I purchased the Linksys E4200 and installed it inplace of the WRT54GS. The design looks business class. The Cisco logo lights up. When the light it solid, everything is good, it blinks during power on or if something is wrong. The port lights on the back light up, but you can turn them off via the internal web page for whatever reason. The power supply looks like something your would expect to see in a notebook. I like this design over the large block which seems to always take 1.5 – 2 spaces on most power strips and surge protectors. However, the cord from the AC outlet to the transformer could be a little longer.
You can setup the router with the Cisco software or via your Internet browser at address http://192.168.1.1. The default password is admin. I prefer to use the web browser because I have better control of the features I want to enable. Plus I’ve installed the Linksys software once before on my old Dell PC. the software brought the PC to an unbearable performance level.
Fist thing, CHANGE THE ROUTER PASSWORD. Everyone who has a Linksys router has the same password. If you want to help keep people out of your network, pick a nice complex password, or better a pass-phrase. Now that’s done, time to setup the wireless. In my opinion, setting your router not to broadcast your SSID is false security. Anyone can use Wireshark or other applications to scan the wireless spectrum and will see your SSID anyways. I like themes, and the last 10 years has been a Star Trek theme for just about everything. So with my new router, I am going with a new theme. Now the SSID has a name which reflects the theme I am going with on my PCs.
I left both 5.0 and 2.4GHz on the same SSID with the default channel settings and signal strengths. Time to start the Sager notebook and experience all the goodness of wireless N… and nothing. What?? I know the Intel 5300 AGN is a wireless N card like the name states. Checking Ubuntu Forums, I found an answer from user scarey9. After modifying the config file, I rebooted the notebook and was ready to experience wireless N… and now what?? Why is my speed fluctuating from 420 Mbps to 1Mbps?
Accessing my e-mail, Internet, playing videos from Youtube was painful. So let me try booting into Windows 7 x64. I made the connection to my new router, and I was having the same speed issues. Playing Battlefied Heroes was terrible. Something is not right because my old router at a solid 54Mbps can play my on-line games just fine. Time to do some research again. Everything I could fine regarding this router stated how great and fantastic it was. Even after installing the first firmware from Linksys did nothing for me.
I ended up going to Linksys and using WebEx on-line chat. The technician started helping me by supplying directions on how to configure the router. After about 45 minutes and looking at the clock (yikes, it is 1:00AM) he said I should take it back to Best Buy an get another one. Something was wrong with the Wi-Fi. So I printed the chat history and took it with me when I wen back to Best Buy.
The second router works much better. The best consistent speed I received is 270 Mbps. I did see it jump to 450 Mbps, but it does not stay there. Now I kept some of the suggestions the Linksys tech gave me such as:
- Setting both 5 and 2.4GHz Network Mode to Mixed.
- Setting the Channel Width to 40MHz on the 5GHz and moving to Channel 48 – 5.240GHz.
- Setting the Channel Width to Auto on the 2.4GHz and moving to Channel 9 – 2.452GHz.
- Enabling SSID Brodcast on both radio frequencies.
What I don’t like about the E4200
Two things that I am very disappointed with this router: USB interface and lack of Parent Controls as in the Linksys Valet.
First, the USB port is 1.1 and 2.0 compliant. Why not USB 3.0? It’s been out for a little while, and from what i gathered, the pin connection has not changed for at least 6 months, if not longer. Plus the performance of the USB port is terrible. All of my FTP clients and smb connections (Windows shares) timed out.
The Parental Controls via the web interface and the Cisco software are terrible. With the Valet router I saw, you can select one of the radio buttons for Parent, Teen, Child. Why would they not include this in the E series? To my knowledge this is not a business class router. I can only block a total of 8 URLs on the router. This is a poor design and should be addressed for the next firmware update.
On last thing which I am confused about is the guest access. Basically you grant someone access to your wireless connection, they get a 192.168.133.x address and open their web browser. they enter the password and off they go. But from what I gathered is they will always have access to you guest network as long as you don’t change the SSID or the password. This would be OK if the lease expired in a week. But you can only have a maximum of 10 devices connected. So if grandma visits for the week with her notebook and does not come back for three months, does that mean I am down to 9 available device connections? This should be addressed too. Let me kick off the guest device without having to reset passwords.
I would still recommend this router to anyone who is looking for a high performance unit. The design is pleasing, the speed is there, the guest access is cool, but I am not impressed with the USB port.