Linksys MAX-STREAM EA9500 Router Review
Testing wireless devices is not as easy as you might think. Yes, you can simply connect to it and push a bunch of files across the network while timing the transfer, but this only tells half the story and does not explain why speeds can vary. To obtain a clearer picture of how good – or bad – a networking device is, more is needed in the form of a multi-step testing approach.
The first step consists of accurately measuring signal strength. A good strong signal is a prerequisite of high performance wireless networking. If a device can barely send or receive a signal, the transfer rates will be very low as both devices will opt for a slower connection speed to compensate.
To test signal strength, we use inSSIDer, a program which can graph the signal strength of all wireless signals being received by the computer’s wireless NIC.
The second step consists of synthetic bandwidth testing to show the potential performance of a given wireless configuration. For this test, we have chosen the LAN Speed Test utility. This free program can measure both transmission and reception performance, and do so in an easy to use and highly repeatable way. For clarity’s sake, we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.
The last step is real-world testing. In this test, we have taken 10GB worth of small and large files and transferred them from one wireless connected computer to a second computer connected via wired Ethernet. This test was done via the MS RichCopy utility. For clarity’s sake, we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.
If the device supports wired transmission, wired Ethernet to wired Ethernet real-world performance will also be included using the same 10GB of data used for the wireless test.
If a given wireless device is labeled as “entertainment” or marketed as being entertainment centric, a secondary real-world test will be included in the form of using the device for wireless HD media streaming. This test will be a pass/fail affair.
To test all sections, we have further created four unique and distinct scenarios in which all testing will be done. The first test is labeled “Zone A” and it consists of a twelve foot ‘line of sight’ distance between the router and the wireless NIC with no walls or obstructions between the two. This replicates having the router in one end of a small room and the wireless device at the other. It is unlikely to be encountered all that often but it will test a best case scenario performance of the device being tested.
The second test consists of an eighteen-foot separation with a single interior non-load bearing wall separating a wireless device and the router. We have labeled this “Zone B” as it is much more common and is still a very optimal setup for a wireless home networking. This test replicates you having your wireless device in an adjoining room to the router.
The third test is labeled “Zone C” and consists of having the router in the corner of the basement with the wireless device trying to connect in the second story room at the extreme diagonal end from the routers location. This is still a fairly common occurrence in home networks with numerous walls, floors, pipes, wires, etc. and even other electronic devices in the intervening distance. This is not an optimal configuration but a very common one none the less. This will test the abilities of both the router and wireless NIC to connect and communicate with each other.
The fourth test is labeled “Zone D” and is an extreme test. While the router is still in the basement we have paced off 400 feet from it outside the testing facility. This replaces those times a person is outdoors and wishes to use his home network to connect to the Internet or other devices connected to the home network. With fewer walls but much greater distances this test is extremely demanding and many will not be able to successfully complete it. Thus it will separate the truly good from the merely adequate devices.
For all tests, four runs will be completed and only the averages of all four will be shown.
When possible both 5Ghz as well as 2.4GHz Bands will be used for all tests with each getting their own separate results.
All tests, unless otherwise noted, is carried out via a “clear” network in order to maximize repeatability and minimize factors outside of our control.
For information purposes here is the theoretical maximum each network connection is capable of:
10Mbits/s = 1,250 KBytes/s
100Mbit/s = 12,500 KBytes/s
150Mbit/s = 18,750 KBytes/s
300Mbit/s = 37,500 KBytes/s
450Mbit/s = 56,250 KBytes/s
1000Mbit/s = 125,000 KBytes/s
1300Mbit/s = 162,500 KBytes/s
1734Mbit/s = 216,750 KBytes/s
2334Mbit/s = 291,750 KBytes/s
2400Mbit/s = 300,000 KBytes/s
2600Mbit/s = 325,000 KBytes/s
3200Mbit/s = 400,000 KBytes/s
5400Mbit/s = 675,000 Kbytes/s
Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3333
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel 1.2TB NVMe 750
Power Supply: Corsair RMi1000
Special Thanks to Corsair for providing the Ram and PSU used in this review