Linksys E4200 Review
The Linksys E4200 is definitely one of Cisco’s higher-end consumer-level routers, in price if nothing else.
You’re typically going to spend around $200 to purchase one; this is a product that competes with some of the best routers on the market.
Everyone is bringing the best that they can produce.
A router at this price point is as much about creating a halo effect for the lower-end models as it is creating something that’s a successful, profitable product in its own right.
So, when the Linksys line often has issues providing the functionality that more advanced users want…
…some skepticism is understandable.
Does Cisco provide a wireless router that’s worth its lavish price tag, or not?
Linksys E4200 Review – Hardware
As with any wireless router especially at the high end of the market – wireless performance is paramount. As an 802.11n model with triple-channel broadcasting on the 5GHz band…
…it’s positioned to fully exploit the bandwidth
When connecting on the 5GHz band, you can expect speeds of about 300Mbps from several rooms away, even accounting for walls; that’s not bad at all.
However, beyond that distance, the connection becomes erratic; it’ll waver between that 300Mbps figure and as low as 10Mbps.
This only really occurs on the 5GHz band, and it’s odd; you have excellent range in theory, but in practice the unstable connection makes the E4200 poorly suited to anything beyond two or three rooms away in its highest-speed mode.
It’s an unfortunate black mark…
…on what’s otherwise a pretty good picture, with regards to performance; by contrast, the 2.4GHz band provides around 130Mbps in that range and its speeds gracefully degrade with distance…
…providing you with usable levels – in the neighborhood of 50Mbps – even a considerable distance from the router.
Outside of those distance issues, though, performance is consistent; a stable connection won’t suddenly lose speed or cut out entirely.
Wired connectivity is excellent
for what it’s worth; you have four gigabit Ethernet ports that tend to provide speeds at around that limit.
The other thing you’ll notice on the back of the router is the USB port; only having one is an annoyance, but it is at least a fairly fast one.
The USB port won’t prove a bottleneck for access to connected devices
Under the hood, the E4200 is adequate…
…but doesn’t particularly impress; it’s well-made, but it’s not a router you’d particularly want
to play with.
You can install third-party firmware, but you don’t have a lot of performance headroom for adding additional functionality.
Cisco provided enough hardware grunt to comfortably suit the needs of their own firmware, but they didn’t put money into making the router capable of a whole lot more than that.
Linksys E4200 Review – Software
The E4200 advertises the same Cisco Connect suite as the rest of the line. It’s convenient enough, and can be handy to help less tech-savvy users get their router setup…
…but it’s not any more fully-featured than it is on the lower-end routers in the current line, and so you’re really going to have to go into the standard control panel sooner or later, whether you want to or not.
What’s more, using Cisco Connect requires that your admin password and your network key are the same value; this is a huge security risk that, on its own, is enough to outweigh the merits of the suite.
Perhaps you might find some use for Cisco Connect as a glorified setup wizard – but once that’s dealt with, you’ll want to deal with the WPA key, and that will mean accepting that Cisco Connect isn’t going to be of much use to you in future.
Linksys E4200 Review – The rest of the features provided are more interesting
You’ve got the standard NAS and printer sharing schemes, which work well enough, plus a media server that’s surprisingly good.
Despite the security issues presented by Cisco Connect…
…the firmware still has all the security features you’d expect in this price range, like a virtual guest network
– and it’s very solid and reliable; uptime isn’t an issue at all.
If you like to tinker, then there are still probably better routers for you than the Linksys E4200
Cisco Connect is oversimplified and made largely useless by one glaring security issue, but the rest of the feature set is appealing enough, and performance is mostly good.
It’s not the best router out there by any means, but it’s worth its price tag; you could do much worse for yourself.