Review of an Old Issue with a New Router (Linksys EA7500 v2)
3 years ago, I wrote a post entitled “A Layman’s Trial on D-Link Dir-868L” (https://community.starhub.com/t5/Tech-News/A-Layman-s-Trial-on-D-Link-DIR-868L/ba-p/71905), covering the coverage/performance issues in a typical Singapore household.
Since then, my home network had undergone some changes. The fibre speed has been upgraded from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps, and now to 1000 Mbps, and of course the Cable TV has been replaced by Fibre TV. What remains unchanged is my Wi-Fi network: it is still running on a pair of D-Link Dir-868L routers, one of which is configured as a wireless repeater, serving the remote part of my apartment (covering the master bedroom and the attached bathroom).
These 868L are real workhorses, and have been serving me 24/7 without fail. The fact that Starhub is still offering this router in their broadband packages speaks well for this product.
I am neither a game player nor video fan. With the 1 Gbps speed and the advance in terminal devices (smartphones and tablets), the performance issue seems to have disappeared in thin air. In fact, other than the network printers and the cleaning robot which are still connected with the 2.4GHz band, and my main desktop and smart TV on wired connections, all other mobile devices are connected with the 5GHz AC band. Coverage, while remains an issue, has also been softened.
Lately, I was asked if I like to take a look at a new MU-MIMO router. Wow, I said. It is time to get myself excited again, not just to learn some new things, but also to review an old issue of Coverage/Performance!
What is MU-MIMO?
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multi-Input/Multi-Output. This is in contrast with the traditional SU-MIMO (Single User, Multi-Input/Multi-Output). Briefly, SU-MIMO serves many users in a sequential manner, one at a time. MU-MIMO provides dedicated streams to MU-MIMO compatible clients simultaneously. It works for the 5GHz AC band and for downlink connections only. The following references will offer more details on the subject:
Linksys EA7500-AH v2
The full name of this router is “MAX-STREAM AC1900+ MU-MIMO GIGABIT ROUTER”. This v2 is a refreshed model of an earlier one launched in mid-2016. Do note that the firmware for these two models are not compatible, so be sure to get the right firmware for the version you have. The latest firmware for v2 is 126.96.36.199171 dated 14 June 2017.
A summary of the main differences between v1 and v2 can be seen in the table below:
Out of the box comes a Documentation CD. The User Guide (total 793 pages) therein contains little details other than a very brief description of the setting up procedure using the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi application, in multiple languages. However, after some search, details can be found under the Support Toolbox in Linksys’ EA7500 support web pages (http://www.linksys.com/sg/support-product?pid=01t34000004DpTyAAK).
The setting up is easy. You would need to sign up an account with Linksys Smart Wi-Fi (http://linksyssmartwifi.com) in order to manage your router remotely. You may sign in directly into your router (default is “192.168.1.1”) if you are connected (wired or wireless) with the router. Do note that the set of Smart Wi-Fi User Name/Password and direct router admin password (default is “admin”) are different.
The APP is pretty neat and informative. Details of use can be found in the Support Toolbox mentioned earlier.
My Trial Plan
I set out with the following plan and objectives:
I must say that the actual set up was a breeze. During the first two days of exploring and experimenting, I only need to reset the router once and re-do the setting up from scratch, as somehow I caused the router to hang. All devices except one get connected without having to make any adjustment on the respective devices. Only my Fuji Xerox network printer needs to be reconfigured to obtain the Wi-Fi connection. All my mobile devices perform well, with connection speeds comparable with those before the switch. The coverage is also comparable with the old faithful D-Link, and I reason that it is because I simply place the Linksys at the existing location without any attempt to optimise its position.
All these give me the great confidence to proceed with the wireless repeater experiment. Within minutes of turning on, the D-Link repeater was connected with the Linksys router, and I am back in business in the most remote corner of my apartment, with comparable performance.
The bottom line: I succeed in replacing the D-Link Dir-868L with the Linksys EA7500 v2, maintaining full connectivity with all my devices (including the wireless repeater)!
What about MU-MIMO?
Oops! As a layman, I don’t seem to have the means to verify this. My only MU-MIMO device in hand is a Samsung Galaxy S7 mobile phone. Linksys says that the MU-MIMO functionality is enabled by default. I could not find any indication in the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi APP which tells the user about this.
One feature under the APP is that of “Device Prioritisation”, which may not be related to MU-MIMO.
Perhaps other users/reviewers would be able to provide more clues on this new subject of MU-MIMO.
So once again, I am back from cloud nine! Yes, the new Linksys at least gives me comparable if not better coverage/performance than my D-Link. How well the MU-MIMO functionality could help in a household like mine remain unanswered. But I am certain that if you are a heavy gamer, and doing a lot of video streaming, MU-MIMO would have a lot to offer.