Cisco Linksys E4200 review
Fast, particularly over 5GHz, but a little light on features for such an expensive router
In order to achieve the best possible speed from your router, you generally need a top-end adapter with a 3x3 antenna configuration, such as Intel’s Ultimate-N WiFi Link 5300 or Ultimate-N 6300. That hasn’t changed with the Cisco Linksys E4200 cable router, but what is new is its maximum theoretical throughput: it’s the first router we’ve come across rated at 450Mbits/sec; most other high-end dual-band models top out at a theoretical 300Mbits/sec.
As with all routers, the real-world speeds you can achieve, even in ideal conditions, differ vastly from these headline speeds. And note: 450Mbits/sec is achievable only over 5GHz; 2.4GHz devices connect at the slower 300Mbits/sec.
There’s no denying it’s a quick router, though. Over 5GHz we achieved average throughput of 161.1Mbits/sec transmitting large files from our test laptop to a laptop hooked up to one of the E4200’s four Gigabit Ethernet ports. That’s around 14Mbits/sec faster than the fastest router we’ve previously seen in this test, the D-Link DIR 855.
In other tests at close range, the E4200 is less consistent than the D-Link, though. Speeds dropped to 95Mbits/sec when receiving the same files, and to 96Mbits/sec and 80Mbits/sec when transmitting and receiving 1GB of smaller, 1MB files. Over 2.4GHz it’s slower still, achieving large-file transmit and receive speeds of 94.2Mbits/sec and 72.2Mbits/sec, and small-file transmit and receive speeds of 58.5Mbits/sec and 66.8Mbits/sec.
What’s most notable about the E4200, however, isn’t its performance at close range, but its speed at long distance. Where most other routers slow dramatically or completely fail to connect consistently over 5GHz in our long-range test (this involves moving the laptop 40m away from the router, with a wood wall and double glazed window in the way), the E4200 put in a sterling performance.
Despite lacking external antennae (there are six inside, three each for 2.4GHz and 5GHz), we measured transmit and receive rates for large files of 51.5Mbits/sec and 50.7Mbits/sec, and 37.7Mbits/sec and 51.4Mbits/sec for small files. For comparison, the D-Link DIR-855 failed to complete this test over 5GHz; only the Belkin Double N+ is faster at long range over 5GHz. We can only imagine what the performance would be if only Cisco would forego the internal antenna design.
Elsewhere, however, the E4200 isn’t quite as impressive. Long-range performance over 2.4GHz is below average, and features aren’t stellar either. You get four Gigabit Ethernet ports and concurrent 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, as you’d expect, but there’s little else to justify the high price tag. A single USB port enables NAS features, but speeds are slow at 5.4MB/sec for large file transfers and 5MB/sec for small files. There’s nothing unusual in the web settings pages either. You can set up a guest network, and there are basic parental controls, but there’s no sign of proper hardware VPN, VoIP or support for 3G dongles or printers.
At £169 though, notwithstanding the excellent all-round performance, we’d expect rather more than this. The Cisco Linksys E4200 may be cutting edge, but there are very few adapters that allow you to take full advantage of its 450Mbits/sec speed, and without a more rounded feature set it’s hard to recommend.
|Ethernet WAN port?||N/A|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Gigabit LAN ports||4|
|10/100 LAN ports||0|
|MAC address cloning||yes|
|Wireless bridge (WDS)||no|
|WPA Enterprise support||yes|
|WPS (wireless protected setup)||yes|
|MAC address filtering||yes|
|Port forwarding/virtual server||yes|
|Dimensions||226 x 157 x 31mm (WDH)|