Look no further than the room where people are placing their in-home network routers to tell how they’re using them. According to a study recently released by TDG Research, in 2006 some 39.2 percent of owners reported they put the router in a home office while only 18.4 percent put it one the living room. By 2011, the proportions had flipped, with 38 percent saying they installed the router in the living room and only 17.8 percent in the home office.
It’s a trend that Cisco’s Linksys division recognized early on with its line of user-friendly routers. As a great deal of household bit-shuffling moved from productivity to entertainment, and people became as likely to watch Internet-sourced video on a TV or tablet near the sofa rather than at a desktop computer, Linksys remade its product line in ways that optimize the shift. That’s because today’s home networks are more likely to be moving high-def movies, Skype videos, multiplayer games, high-res photos and uncompressed music to your home theater than simply empowering you to pay bills from your PC.
The other huge trend has been the proliferation of untethered network devices dependent on Wi-Fi. The first choice of anyone getting on the Internet from a smartphone or a tablet is a Wi-Fi hot spot. A residential LAN (local area network) really is home sweet home when it comes to handheld devices. If family members are in range of their wireless home router, the connection is almost always faster and cheaper than using a cellular broadband subscription. Beyond mobile devices, many home entertainment components including TV sets, Blu-ray Disc players, home theater receivers and Digital Video Recorders are now network-compatible. They still sport Ethernet (RJ-45) jacks, but the ports are increasingly being left unoccupied, thanks to the invisibility of linking wirelessly to the home router.
Three of the four models in this roundup of 2012 Linksys routers belong to the Wi-Fi Home Base group. The trio is not only fast and reliable, but also app enabled so you can download a free program into your Android smartphone or tablet or your Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to spontaneously control a bunch of convenient features. Now, when friends or relatives come over bearing pocket devices and ask to borrow your Wi-Fi, you can whip out your own smartphone or tablet and send them an access code without necessarily retreating to the home office to turn on your computer.
By wire, all three of the Wi-Fi Home Base models can push data at up to 1000 megabits per second. That’s gigabit Ethernet speed, which is 10 times faster than conventional 100 Mbps (called Fast Ethernet) speed. Two of these models include a USB port for use with a network attached storage device or shared printer.
Each of the four models in the roundup contains four ports for connecting your Ethernet cables to your home theater components or computers and one port (labeled Internet) for attaching the included 5-foot blue cable to your cable or DSL modem. They also come with a setup CD.
Operating wirelessly, the Home Base routers are all dual-band (2.4 and 5 Gigahertz), so interference or crowding in the radio spectrum shouldn’t be a problem.
The company’s 2012 lineup of Wi-Fi Home Base routers is composed of the:
|Linksys EA2700 Dual-Band N600 Router with Gigabit, which features four embedded antennas (two per band) and support for 802.11 A/B/G/N Wi-Fi.|
|Linksys EA3500 Dual-Band N750 Router with Gigabit and USB, which contains six embedded antennas (three per band), supports 802.11 A/B/G/N Wi-Fi and is Windows 7-certified. The USB port enables connection of a shared peripheral such as a hard drive or printer.|
|Linksys EA4500 Dual-Band N900 Router with Gigabit and USB is the top model in the line. It contains six embedded antennas (three per band), supports 802.11 A/B/G/N Wi-Fi and is both Windows 7- and DLNA-certified. (The Digital Living Network Alliance, which represents consumer electronics and computer makers, ensures that a device is capable of streaming various photo, music and video formats across a home network.) So, for example, by attaching a USB hard drive filled with media to the router, other devices on your network will be able to access all that content. Both of the USB-enabled routers recognize storage devices that incorporate the FAT, and NTFS or HFS+ file formats.|
|The company’s other new router is the Linksys E900 Wireless-N300 Router. It offers fewer features than the Home Base models but is the lightest and most affordable router here. With four Ethernet ports for attaching your devices, the E900 supports speeds up to 100 Mbps. Its single-band (2.4 GHz) radio frequency relies on two embedded antennas. It supports 802.11 B/G/N and is Windows 7-certified.|
All the Linksys routers support WEP, WPA and WPA2 security protocols and up to 128-bit encryption schemes. They’re all compatible with the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) network protocol in which devices discover each others’ presence upon being plugged in. All these routers enable you to set parental controls for restricting Internet access times and blocking specific Web sites as well as other sites, based on their content.
An advantage integrated into the top two models, the EA3500 and EA4500, is a feature that the company terms SpeedBoost technology. According to Linksys, the higher quality antenna technology helps maintain high speeds across greater distances throughout your home.
If you have a mobile device and any of the E-series routers above (except for the E900), you’ll want to download the free Cisco Connect Express app from Google Play (formerly Android Market) or Apple’s iTunes App Store. Users need to have Android 2.2.1 or higher or iOS 4.2.1 or greater installed on their portable devices.
Here are some of the key activities you’ll be able to perform using the app on your handheld touch screen:
With all that control in your hands, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without the Cisco Connect Express app before.
So, there you have it. With four new home-friendly routers to choose from, it’s a Linksys lineup made for today’s modern family.
|Switch Port Speed||10/100 Mbps (Fast Ethernet)||10/100/1000 Mbps (Gigabit Ethernet)||10/100/1000 Mbps (Gigabit Ethernet)||10/100/1000 Mbps (Gigabit Ethernet)|
|Radio Frequency||2.4 GHz||2.4 and 5 GHz||2.4 and 5 GHz||2.4 and 5 GHz|
|Number of Antennas||2||4 (2 per band)||6 (3 per band)||6 (3 per band)|
|Ports||Power, Internet and Ethernet (1-4)||Power, Internet and Ethernet (1-4)||Power, USB, Internet Ethernet (1-4)||Power, USB, Internet Ethernet (1-4)|
|Buttons||Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup||Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup||Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup||Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup|
|LEDs||Power/Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Internet, Ethernet (1-4)||Power/Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Internet, Ethernet (1-4)||Power, Internet, Ethernet (1-4)||Top panel: Power, Back panel: Internet, Ethernet (1-4)|
|Mobile App Enabled||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Security Features||WEP, WPA, WPA2||WEP, WPA, WPA2||WEP, WPA, WPA2||WEP, WPA, WPA2|
|Security Key Bits||Up to 128-bit encryption||Up to 128-bit encryption||Up to 128-bit encryption||Up to 128-bit encryption|
|Storage File System Support||N.A||N.A.||FAT, NTFS, HFS+||FAT, NTFS, HFS+|
|Dimensions||7.43 × 5.97 × 1.23" - 188.7 × 151.7 × 31.2mm||6.85 x 7.48 x 1.10" - 174 x 190 x 28mm||6.69 x 0.98 x 7.48" - 170 x 25 x 190mm||8.86 x 0.98 x 6.30" - 225 x 25 x 160mm|
|Unit Weight||7.13 oz (202 g)||10.5 oz (297.7 g)||11.5 oz (326 g)||12.7 oz (360 g)|
|Power||12V, 0.5A||12V, 1A||12V, 2A||12V, 2A|
|Certifications||FCC, UL/cUL, ICES-003, RSS210, CE, Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n), WPA2, WMM, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Windows 7||FCC, IC, CE, Wi-Fi A/B/G/N||FCC, IC, CE, Wi-Fi A/B/G/N, Windows 7||FCC, IC, CE, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Windows 7, DLNA|
|Included||Power adapter, 5-foot blue Ethernet cable, Setup CD and documentation||Power adapter, 5-foot blue Ethernet cable, Setup CD and documentation||Power adapter, 5-foot blue Ethernet cable, Setup CD and documentation||Power adapter, 5-foot blue Ethernet cable, Setup CD and documentation|