By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
Cisco's new high-end router looks good and performs well.
WE don't often test routers here, but occasionally one comes in that catches our eye.
One such model is the Linksys E4200, one of the higher-end models in the company's range - like all modern Cisco/Linksys routers, this router has a very unique antenna-less design that I have to say looks way better than any other router out there.
However, looks aren't anything if it doesn't perform, does it? So let's get to the testing.
Out of the box
The E4200 comes with a pretty standard bundle in the box - you get the router, the AC adapter and a CAT 5E cable (necessary if you want Gigabit LAN).
There is a printed quick start guide, but it probably won't be necessary since the CD that comes with the router has an easier quick setup option as well.
As I mentioned before, when wired, this router supports Gigabit LAN speeds in each of its LAN ports.
Interestingly there's a USB port as well, which allows you to plug in a standard external hard disk drive and have it act as a UPnP AV media server - it's also auto-mounting so there's no complicated manual mounting procedure like in most Linux-based routers.
Setting it up is pretty easy - if you use the CD that comes with it, it'll install Cisco Connect and guide you through most of the important settings as well as prompt you to change the password.
Advanced users can opt to the web interface which is accessible via the web browser at 192.168.1.1, giving you access to all the advanced settings as well, but even here the router gives you a landing page that allows you to install the Cisco Connect software.
This router has a simultaneous dual-band mode for wireless-N, which means it can work within the 2.4GHz band most commonly used by all wireless routers, or it can at the same time, use the 5GHz band.
The problem with using 2.4GHz is that since so many routers use this band, there's a lot of interference which means wireless performance within your network takes a major hit.
The 5GHz band, since it's less common in most routers, will usually be the band that's less congested and therefore theoretically the fastest.
Having said that, not all devices support the 5GHz band - older Wireless-B and Wireless-G only devices will not work.
Even Wireless-N, the technology that the 5GHz option supports, won't work with all devices - some smartphones with Wireless-N only work in the 2.4GHz band and thus won't see the 5GHz SSID.
Oh yes, did I mention when we say simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz, you are actually running two wireless access points, with two different SSIDs - your devices will see this as two different WiFi access points.
Anyway once I got it set up the way we like it, the E4200 performed flawlessly, with an impressive coverage even down in the furthest corners of my double storey house, where certain routers (notably the notorious D-Link ones that are bundled with the UniFi service) typically have very weak coverage.
That's really good, considering that there are no external antennas visible on the router.
One of the interesting features of the E4200 is that it has a guest access mode, which appears as yet another SSID with only a web password enabled - in guest access mode, your guests can only utilise the network for Internet access but computers on the network as well as their shared folders will be inaccessible.
Stability was also very good, and in the time I used it, there was never a crash even when running the thing 24-hours a day.
There's very little to be said about the Linksys E4200 except that it works very well and is by far the best looking router out there.
The feature set is also solid, but the only thing is that you will really pay a premium for the brand and the quality.
Nevertheless, it's a solid performer and if you want something that will go well with your home theatre equipment, this is the one to get.
Pros: Good performance; good looks; media server function with any external hard disk.
Dual-band N wireless router
SPECIFICATIONS: 802.11b/g/n, 4 10/100/1000 LAN ports, USB port, Internet LAN input port
OTHER FEATURES: Simultaneous dual-band 802.11n, UPnP AV Media server
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 63.5 x 12.9 x 117.5mm
Review unit courtesy of Cisco Consumer Products, (03) 2081-1825