Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO Router [REVIEW]

December 22, 2015

9:00 pm

Between the Internet of Things taking over and a few new, shiny web-enabled devices after the holidays, there is a huge likelihood that your bandwidth will be stretched thin. Little Jimmy is upstairs playing his Xbox, mom and dad are watching Netflix, and Suzy is watching YouTube videos of cats – all of this adds up quickly, and will cause lag, degraded video quality, and not enough kittens.

With the MU-MIMO enabled Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream router, each device (that supports it) will be fed that sweet sweet Internet juice simultaneously.

Future Proofing With MU-MIMO

MU-MIMO (multi-user, multi-input, multi-output) is new for 2015, and although other routers support it, the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream router is the first to enable it right out of the box. As with all new technology, there is a limited selection of devices that fully support it; however, there are some mediums to gain the benefits in the short-term as well.

MU-MIMO essentially allows each device to simultaneously receive data, whereas most other routers do not truly feed data to more than one device at a time (SU-MIMO). Essentially the new feature allows you to reduce outgoing lag and splits data evenly. And with the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi, you can also prioritize which device and site gets the most data. For a device to properly make use of MU-MIMO, it needs to support IEEE 802.11ac or run through a wireless AC bridge and wired to it with an Ethernet cord. It’s also important to know that this does not explicitly speed anything up, but helps to distribute it better.

Router Specs

The EA8500 Max-Stream Router has the following specs:

  • Network Standards:
    • IEEE 802.11a
    • IEEE 802.11b
    • IEEE 802.11g
    • IEEE 802.11n
    • IEEE 802.11ac
  • Radio Frequency Bands: 2.4 & 5GHz
  • Wireless speeds of up to AC1733 Mbps + N800 Mbps
  • Ports:Power, Internet, Ethernet (1-4), USB 3.0, USB 2.0 / eSATA combo
  • 1.4 GHZ DUAL-CORE CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU)
  • Four antennas
  • Parental control (adjusted by device)
  • Linksys Smart Wi-Fi

Additional specs and size information can be found on Linksys’s site.

Speed Test

Even though there are not many devices that fully support MU-MIMO, this router easily can distribute bandwidth. For our speed test we focused on three elements: overall speed, extended distance from router speed, excessive bandwidth use speed. All tests were completed using speedtest.net on the 5 Ghz, and were not compared to other devices. This was tested on a Northern Virginia internet connection hosted by Comcast. It’s top listed speed for the area is supposed to be 75 Mbps.

Average Speed Over Five Tests: 89.4 Mbps

Average Speed While Streaming Netflix and Game on PS4: 48.2 Mbps with peak of 73 Mbps

Average Speed While Out of Ideal Range: 22.25 Mbps

The average upload speed only improved by 1 Mbps, but that is also due to the connection provided being limited to about 5 Mbps on average.

When comparing the 5 Ghz to the regular 2.4 Ghz connection there is an absolute and clear difference between the two, which is also by design. While on the 2.4 Ghz connection, speeds ranged between 41-46 Mbps, which was mirrored by the standard modem/router provided by Comcast. Unfortunately there is not much of an improvement here.

While playing a multiplayer game on my computer and on the PS4 (separately) there was a noticeable decline in lag as a result of the 5 Ghz connection when connected to the Max-Stream router. In most cases for gaming it’s ideal to be directly connected to the source, but the lag was inconsequential while connected wirelessly.

We also had no issues or noticeable lag or buffering while streaming 4K content directly from the Netflix app built into the Samsung UN55JU7100. The only downside of the 5 Ghz connection is that it can’t penetrate walls like the 2.4 Ghz connection; however, in an open environment, it works great. Both connections are made available by default for easy switching based on your location to the router.

Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream MU-MIMO Router

Installation

If there is one thing from my past that I hated more than installing a new wireless card into my PC, it was setting up a new wireless network. The installation process on the Max-Stream on the hand was incredibly simple and easy walkthrough. In total, it took less than 10 minutes to setup, and this also included a small firmware update as well.

One of my favorite features on the router is using the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi site and app. In the past, you’d have to type in the router IP address and go through a hideously ugly UI, but the smart Wi-Fi feature makes it as simple as creating an account and creating a few passwords and network names. The router also has a parental control feature that allows you to limit access things by device rather than network wide, which to me is a huge plus.

Price

The Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream is the first router to hit the market that fully supports MU-MIMO out of the box, which really allows you to future-proof your network. The only downside of futuring proofing is that it comes at a higher cost, and frankly there are just not that many devices that fully support 802.11ac. Although the 5 Ghz connection is wonderful, there is not a noticeable difference on the 2.4 Ghz connection.

Cost: $249

Overall Impressions

For a home with multiple devices and heavy internet users, the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream is an absolute contender. You can easily play multiplayer games and stream movies on Netflix without a huge degradation to quality or an increase in lag. As noted, the only small issue is the premium you pay for future proofing your wireless network, but that is not a negative reflection on the hardware or software.

Would recommend to Buy: 4.5 / 5 [Buy]

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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