Linksys MAX-STREAM EA9500 Router Review
EA9500 Router Interface
Much like the setup and installation is refined and fairly painless affair so too is navigating the new Smart Wi-fi user interface. When you first open up your web browser and navigate to the EA9500’s landing page you will be greeted with an interface that is best described as combination website / desktop. Much like a website there is a quick navigation vertical bar along the left side and the rest of the page is taken up with large “apps”. This double list of options gives you two ways to properly navigate the User Interface.
The application icons are not only moveable but are entirely configurable as well. The basic layout of options covers most of the more popular options and selecting any one of them acts much like navigating to one of the sub-menus in the navigation bar, and running one of the “wizards”. If a given option is not needed, you can remove it, and if you mistakenly remove one you can easily restore it via the subsection. To do the latter all you need navigate to the given subsection and click on “Add App to Main Menu”.
With that said not every option can be pinned to the start screen and there were two very curious options that were obvious by their absence. For example, you cannot add in the connectivity / administration section as there is no App’ for it to pin. The Troubleshooting subsection can’t be added either.
If this new application navigation is not to your liking the menu list to the left can be used. For all intents and purposes this is a classical navigation option with the topmost menu being the Network Map section. When selected, the right portion of the screen changes to this subsection and a new network map section opens. In the Network Map section you can quickly and easily add a new device to the network.
The next section is aptly named Guest Access and as the name suggests this is where to configure short term, and / or limited networks separate from the main 2.4 and 5.0GHz networks. As an added bonus there can be more 50 guests per guest network.
The parental control tab is a fairly basic implementation of basic firewall designs. It allows users to block access to a few sites, or completely block Internet access during specific periods.
The Media Prioritization page is Linksys’s way of implementing Quality of Service (QoS). If there’s an absolute need to prioritize access for a certain application or game on a congested network this section is critical. While better than previous iterations Media Prioritization still feels a touch clunky and the interface will take time to work with. To use it, simply create a rule and then drag it to the list. When done you can reorder these rules any way you wish.
External storage section is fairly self-explanatory since it allows for the configuration of any storage devices connected to the router. In a nut shell if you want to turn your expensive router into a basic NAS, FTP, or media server, this is where you will be spending some time. As with the EA7500 the options are fairly basic but you can get decent control over any USB device attached to the router.
The oddly named Connectivity section is where you will find the basic router options, administration options, LAN, and even Internet connection settings. Once again Linksys has all the basics more than adequately covered and most consumers will be more than satisfied with what the EA9500 has to offer.
The troubleshooting section is one of the better and more fully featured sections we have seen in a long while. Not only can you view the logs but you can even export them to another browser window. This in combination with a good set of troubleshooting tools really does make tracking down the occasional gremlin a lot easier. We honestly wish that all the other sections were as well thought-out and implemented as the Troubleshooting section.
The Wireless section deals exclusively with configuration and viewing of any wireless network you have created. While not spectacular in its abilities, the included MAC address filtering and WPS options are more than adequate for all but the true networking enthusiast. Though to be honest, having WPS in this section and not the Network map is certainly odd, but every manufacture’s UI has their own design quirks – and this just happens to be one of Linksys’.
The last area is the Security section and as the name suggests it allows you to modify any of the various security related features this router has available. While some of these features do overlap with other sections, being able to quickly view and then modify them all in one location is certainly a time saver.