Review: Linksys EA7500 MAX-STREAM AC1900 MU-MIMO Router

Linksys has a solid pedigree when it comes to home routers. With their latest release, they are targeting network upgraders, particularly those with, or thinking of purchasing, a new 4K TV. Market research firm DisplaySearch/IHS recently reported shipments of 4K Ultra HDTVs reached 6 million in North America in 2015 and forecasts that figure to double to 12 million in 2016.

So, with home networks under increasing pressure to stream high-bandwidth content to multiple devices around the home, it makes sense that Linksys is positioning their Max-Stream routers to cater for the demands of UHD TV streaming. Key to this is the integration of MU-MIMO technology (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) which is designed to reduce the network congestion associated with simultaneous, multi-device networking.

Linksys and partners are promoting MU-MIMO as the technology to alleviate these issues, as it caters for households with multiple devices (which also must feature MU-MIMO support) connecting wirelessly to the router at the same time. Playing video games, listening to music, checking email, shopping, streaming movies, MU-MIMO allows the network to “function as if multiple devices have their own dedicated router”, Linksys says.

The Linksys EA7500 MAX-STREAM Router which, in conjunction with the previously released EA8500 and newly-announced EA9500, sees the company offer MU-MIMO networking devices across a range of price points. The EA7500 also features advanced beamforming technology and a 1.4GHz dual-core CPU from Qualcomm, with USB 3.0 support completing the package.

This entry-level MU-MIMO router was announced at CES this year, and looks set to help MU-MIMO enter the mainstream. While compatible network clients have been thin on the ground to date, an increasing number of mobile devices are launching with integrated MU-MIMO support. As they become more prevalent, we should really see the claimed benefits of this technology. When we first reported the announcement of this router we covered a list of compatible client devices, check it out here to see if you’ll benefit.

With all these features the Linksys EA7500 should have a lot to offer most home users, not just those with a 4K TV. At a retail price of $199.99/£149.99, the Linksys EA7500 is one of the most competitively priced MU-MIMO routers available, theoretically bringing a significant technology boost over previous wireless technologies.

The Linksys EA7500 comes in a colourful retail box, proclaiming the benefits of MU-MIMO and highlighting the benefits to 4K TV owners. The sides of the box picture a handy shot of the ports available and list the key benefits and features of the device. The back of the box illustrates how MU-MIMO works to increase overall network speed when you have many Wi-Fi devices in the home, and also pictures a group of friends who appear to be celebrating setting up their router (I really hope they’re doing something more fun).

Linksys EA7500
Linksys EA7500

Taking the EA7500 out of the box you will see that it comes with three antennas, a power supply, Ethernet cable, and a quick-start guide.

Linksys EA7500 - Unboxed
Linksys EA7500 – Unboxed

In a category dominated by over-flashy, stealth-bomber inspired kit, the EA7500 is a fairly unobtrusive router that has obviously had some consideration to its design. The only indicator that is visible from the front is the Linksys illuminated logo that indicates the unit is powered on. Apart from that, the sides and top of the unit are free from embellishment, with all the action happening on the back.

Linksys EA7500 - Back
Linksys EA7500 – Back

Here you will find two USB ports (one USB 3.0 and a second USB 2.0 port), a WPS button, reset button, Gigabit Ethernet internet port and four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, as well as the power connector and power switch. Distributed amongst these are the three connectors for the included antennas.

Linksys EA7500 - Front
Linksys EA7500 – Front

Overall the device is solidly built with an aesthetic that is unlikely to evoke a strong reaction (positive or negative) from most people. The piano black section on the top is prone to scratches, but it is unlikely that you are going to be regularly handling it.

Linksys EA7500
Linksys EA7500

Inside the Linksys EA7500 you will find a Qualcomm IPQ 1.4GHz Dual Core Processor, backed up by 128 MB Flash and 256 MB DDR RAM, which supports 3×3 802.11AC Wave 2 with MU-MIMO. This gives speeds of up to 600 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz channels and 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz channels. In combination, that’s your AC1900 speed taken care of.

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