The Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi router is the first router to use Qualcomm's MU/EFX Wi-Fi technology, which is supposed to have better performance for a crowded Wi-Fi network, which is becoming a common issue in households these days.
The EA8500 has a theoretical maximum throughput of 2.53Gbps and can output up to four streams of data. Testing shows it has strong performance in the 5GHz bands, and was able to transmit data to each connected client at its top speed. The flexible antennae also mean it has excellent coverage and stability. It is also very fast when interfacing with external hard drives, with speeds that can match a dedicated NAS unit. However, the EA8500 was slower than expected on the 2.4GHz bands.
The main selling point of the Linksys EA8500 is the Qualcomm MU/EFX 802.11AC Wi-Fi chip, which supports what is known MU-MIMO, or Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output, which is designed to handle Wi-Fi bandwidth efficiently when interfacing with multiple clients, allowing it to deliver a better data rate to multiple connected clients at a time, which traditionally has been a bane of Wi-Fi routers.
Routers with MU-MIMO such as the EA8500 are superior over existing routers using the original MIMO technology, because MIMO treats all connected Wi-Fi clients identically, although some clients have a much greater data transmission capacity. This means that a multi-stream router will use all streams to connect with any device, even if the other device can only utilize one or two streams of data at a time. This means that the other streams are wasting their data rate.
With MU-MIMO, different transmissions can be simultaneously sent on different Wi-Fi streams can be sent to multiple devices, allowing the router to send data to multiple clients simultaneously at the maximum speed each client can receive it.
Besides supporting MU-MIMO, the EA8500 itself is an extremely powerful router that can support a total of 2.53Gbps, 1733Mbps on the 5Ghz bands and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz bands, though note that most clients can only use up to 300Mbps on 2.4GHz. The EA8500 contains a 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 128MB of flash storage and 512MB of memory, which is some of the most powerful hardware in any router on the market. It has four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN input port, a USB 3.0 port, and a combination USB 2.0/eSATA port.
In terms of exterior design, the EA8500 strongly resembles the EA8350, with four detachable antennae. However, the antennae on the EA8500 are much larger and longer for a stronger signal. Other than a single LED indicating the router is on, the EA8500 lacks any indicator lights. Although most people won’t care, it does mean you can’t troubleshoot the network with indicator lights on the router. The router is designed to lay flat on a surface, but in can also be mounted on the wall if desired, though you’ll have to supply your own mounting screws.
Features and Management
You can access the router locally by connecting to its IP address, which is 192.168.1.1 by default. When you log in, the router will give you the option to log into Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi remote management. To do this, you will need to log into an existing Smart Wi-Fi account and then link the router with this account by typing in the router’s admin password. After linking it to your LinkSys Smart Wi-Fi account, you can access the router by going to linksysmartwifi.com and logging in with your account, which allows you to access and manage your router remotely from the internet.