Poor Wi-Fi in the bedroom? Get a mesh router system — these multiple wireless nodes will solve the issue in a jiffy. But if you wish to expand the network, you'll have to buy the same brand, perhaps even the same series of mesh routers. Because there was no mesh Wi-Fi standard in the early days, every vendor had its own proprietary system. But there's one now. Created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, EasyMesh is a standard that lets mesh routers of different brands (including D-Link, Linksys and Netgear) work together in the same network. One such EasyMesh certified router is the Linksys Dual-Band AX3200 WiFi 6 Router (E8450).
- Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (AX3200)
- 5 Gigabit ports (4 LAN and 1 WAN) and 1 USB 2.0 port
- Coverage of up to 2,500 sq feet (232 sq metre)
- Supports WPA3 encryption
To test its mesh functionality, Linksys sent me a pair of E8450 units. They are identical and look more like a typical router than a mesh router. With its lack of external antennas, upright design and blinking front LEDs, the E8450 reminds me of a cable modem. Like a standard router, it also has four Gigabit ports, compared to the two ports you'd typically find on a mesh router. The E8450 even has a separate WAN port as well as a USB 2.0 port. Now, it's nice to get a USB port as a mesh router often lacks one, but I was expecting at least a USB 3.0 port.
Unfortunately, setting up the E8450 is as retro as its old-school design. It does not support the Linksys mobile app. Perhaps setting up via the app, which requires a Linksys account, would affect its interoperability with EasyMesh routers from other vendors. As a result, I had to connect to the router's default Wi-Fi network using a computer, before opening its IP address (192.168.1.1) in a browser. It's something that I haven't done in years. In any case, it took me slightly longer than usual (15 minutes) to set up the E8450. Adding the second E8450 as a child node in a mesh network was easy enough. Basically, I had to press the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button when prompted. Overall, novices may find the setup process more intimidating than usual.
The E8450's menu-style browser interface is not as intuitive as the app. For instance, I had to click on Configuration > Wi-Fi > Basic Wireless Settings > EasyMesh information to view the list of client devices connected to each EasyMesh node. More importantly, features like parental controls seem limited. For a client device, I could either cut off its access to the internet entirely or specify eight URLs to block. Performance was decent enough. It produced an average download speed of 640Mbps between two laptops in the living room where the router is located. To test the mesh network, I moved a laptop to a distant bedroom. The speed subsequently dipped to 130Mbps, which is within expectations.
But I was far from impressed by the E8450's ability to manage network traffic congestion. For instance, a Zoom meeting on a laptop became unstable when I started downloading a game at a snappy 50MB/s on another PC. There were also intermittent connection issues. Some PCs were unable to connect to the Wi-Fi network. They could only get onto the network after a reset of the Wi-Fi adapter. That said, I did not encounter any Wi-Fi issues for smart home appliances like the TV or security cameras. At S$164 (on Shopee, Lazada and Amazon), the Linksys E8450 Dual-Band AX3200 WiFi 6 Router is relatively inexpensive. But its old-school interface and middling performance make it hard to recommend for anyone but experienced techies who aren't averse to troubleshooting when problems arise.
Note: Review unit provided by Linksys.
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