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Disappointment: Linksys Maximum Performance Dual-Band N900 Router (E4200 v2)

541 Words. Plan about 3 minute(s) to read this.

I’ve owned the Linksys E4200 v2 wireless access point & firewall/router for over a year now. I bought it because primarily because it tested reasonably well for performance when first released, and it had radios for both 2.4 and 5GHz. I have a number of devices that can take advantage of the higher throughput and less crowded 5GHz spectrum, so that was important to me. The rest of the features (like attaching USB storage to turn the E4200 into a NAS) was nice to have, but not driving the buying decision. Also, I’ve owned a bunch of Linksys gear over the years with consistently good luck. I used to believe brand reputation meant something.

For the most part, the AP has been okay. The throughput for things like file transfers between a wireless laptop and my Synology NAS would clip along consistently well. But a couple of other aspects have become so annoying as to make me want to fling the thing into the backyard.

  1. Devices connected to one radio can’t talk to devices on the other. This came up when trying to print. I have a wireless printer that only talks on the 2.4GHz band. I was unable to print from a system that was on the 5GHz band – couldn’t find the printer. As soon as I switched the system to either wired or 2.4GHz, the problem went away. I haven’t researched to find out if this issue is common with dual-band radios, but I can’t think it should be – makes no sense that a dual-band AP wouldn’t be able to bridge between the two radios as a normal function.
  2. Video streaming is painful. I’ve started watching a fair amount of YouTube content in recent weeks, as I’ve discovered quite a lot of useful technical content there. Some of the content I watch really needs to be at 720p or 1080p, because it’s a screen capture of a computer application where you need the HD resolution to read the characters on the screen and follow what’s going on. This device just can’t handle Internet video streaming, especially higher bandwidth streams, when using it as a firewall. My consistent experience through several software versions is that the stream will start, freeze several seconds in, and then buffer/play/freeze/buffer/play/freeze in painful fits and starts. Streaming was almost unwatchable as a result, unless I was very patient.

I’m using the E4200 as a simple AP now. I’ve replaced the firewall function with a standalone firewall, and my video streaming issues have gone away, even on wireless devices still running through the E4200 v2. That’s a real shame, because at the time I bought the E4200 v2, it was one of the priciest consumer grade APs. But not even the “reassuringly expensive” (to quote a friend of mine) price tag of a device is any guarantee of quality. A further disappointment has been that keeping up with firmware (the device is current as of this writing) has made no useful difference whatsoever. Linksys has been focused on dumbing down the interface to make it more consumer friendly, as opposed to adding functionality. Indeed, the interface is shiny now, but it’s nothing I’d inflict on anyone with technical chops.

Ethan Banks writes & podcasts about IT, new media, and personal tech.
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