Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router Reviewed

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Is that should or should not matter? I'm just trying to clarify if you are pointing out a potential problem.

It could be a problem with a MU-MIMO client thinking that the WRT1900ac saying it does, but actually doesn't...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
But Production/commercially available MU-MIMO clients are a bit thin on the ground right now - so no way to tell without getting into a vendor's lab to verify...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
But Production/commercially available MU-MIMO clients are a bit thin on the ground right now - so no way to tell without getting into a vendor's lab to verify...

I would check it myself, but our local Lab has shutdown, and everything moved to Austin...
 

RMerlin

Asuswrt-Merlin dev
And if we're going to get all excited about MU-MIMO routers, how about some discussion about MU-MIMO clients and how there aren't any.

The router guys (and Qualcomm) are pushing this so hard that they are having to send MU-MIMO laptops along with the routers for reviewers.

Considering how problematic it seems for everyone to implement MU-MIMO so far, it doesn't inspire confidence in its reliability, or the potential compatibility issues it might bring with it.

At this point I'd chalk MU-MIMO as an engineer's dream - nice on paper, but not that simple to get working reliably in real-life, in the current jungle of wireless SOC providers.

Seems to me that SoC providers are trying too hard to work around the existing limitations of 802.11, coming with all kind of tricky hacks and patches that introduce a fair amount of interoperability issues. Turbo/NitroQAM, beamforming, MU-MIMO, Airtime Fairness... Sounds like band-aids on top of a sucky technology (802.11 wireless).
 

ddarko

Regular Contributor
Well, if anyone is itching to get their hands on the EA8500 today, Best Buy's site shows that it is in stock at their stores as of Saturday, May 9. Pretty much every Best Buy near my location shows in stock.
 

TonyH

Very Senior Member
Well, if anyone is itching to get their hands on the EA8500 today, Best Buy's site shows that it is in stock at their stores as of Saturday, May 9. Pretty much every Best Buy near my location shows in stock.

I noticed Linksys.ca store is shipping too. 279.00CAD pus shipping and tax. Best Buy.ca does not have it. Wish I could have some thing to play against it, is there any yet?
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
Well, if anyone is itching to get their hands on the EA8500 today, Best Buy's site shows that it is in stock at their stores as of Saturday, May 9. Pretty much every Best Buy near my location shows in stock.
Why would you buy this? There are no MU-MIMO clients.
 

ddarko

Regular Contributor
I'm not going to buy it. I got burned after being one of the first to get the Asus RT-AC87 which continues to be a huge pain for me even with the latest firmware. I am curious whether the Qualcomm solution is more stable than Quantenna but I'm off the early adopter wagon. I'll leave it to others to play and report on the shiny new things.
 

TonyH

Very Senior Member
I'm not going to buy it. I got burned after being one of the first to get the Asus RT-AC87 which continues to be a huge pain for me even with the latest firmware. I am curious whether the Qualcomm solution is more stable than Quantenna but I'm off the early adopter wagon. I'll leave it to others to play and report on the shiny new things.
Hi,
You have itch hands when you see latest model on the shelf?, LOL! Just lay back and let others take the bullet.
I am always one generation or two behind, cost less, less headaches.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
I'm not going to buy it. I got burned after being one of the first to get the Asus RT-AC87 which continues to be a huge pain for me even with the latest firmware. I am curious whether the Qualcomm solution is more stable than Quantenna but I'm off the early adopter wagon. I'll leave it to others to play and report on the shiny new things.

That's why they call it the bleeding edge ;)

The first generation of Quantenna chipsets are a good effort, no doubt, but there are key architectural differences, and it's pretty much a clean sheet design.

I suspect that the QC-Atheros solution will have a better implementation compared to Quantenna - partially due to more time in the oven, and that they also have client chipsets, so they can leverage into concurrent development.

QC-Atheros brings in years of experience with WiFi, along with a solid ARM core background - Qualcomm has been working with ARM for over 15 years now (starting with their 2G MSM chipsets). Bringing that in, along with their ARM architectural background - SnapDragon, then Krait... they have the design/qa background to really make things work well - Qualcomm-Atheros is probably the strongest ARM developer out there - I would put Apple probably in the same bucket with with Qualcomm, and we all know that Samsung does a file/save as - nVidia is pretty close behind them, along with Marvell...

When one looks beyond the ARM cores, digging into the Radio and Baseband domain, hands down, QC-Atheros has probably the deepest well of experience and know-how.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
I can't just help but thinking - if one has a 3-stream desktop client that does AC1300, MU-MIMO isn't going to help one bit... actually, with the overhead, it'll hurt... I think people are going to be underwhelmed when they see the per/user bandwidth in an MU-MIMO deployment.

MU-MIMO's main benefit is capacity, not speed - Either you combine the streams and get max bandwidth for a single user, or one dedicates a stream each, 350Mbps, and burst things out to multiple clients in the same time... And mobility is going to be a real challenge with sounding and ranging - for MU-MIMO to work, all three streams need to be aligned and transmitted - any error in sounding/ranging will cause, at least for the client that is moving, the frame to be lost...

One of the key precepts of MU-MIMO is beamforming, and in WiFi land, one either can do multiple MIMO streams, or TxBF, MU-MIMO/MU-Beamforming takes this one step further, you get all the speed in the channel, but each stream is addressed to a client - this is an enhancement from from 11n TxBF, which only did SU-TxBF or SU-MIMO (but not both at the same time) - in 11n... TxBF in a 3*3 radio limits the bandwidth to a single 11n stream...

sfx
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Seems to me that SoC providers are trying too hard to work around the existing limitations of 802.11, coming with all kind of tricky hacks and patches that introduce a fair amount of interoperability issues. Turbo/NitroQAM, beamforming, MU-MIMO, Airtime Fairness... Sounds like band-aids on top of a sucky technology (802.11 wireless).

Keep in mind that WiFi was designed to be fast and cheap... 802.11 has been like that all along.

Are there better ways to do it, and get great performance - yes... 3GPP (LTE)/3GPP2 (UMB), along with IEEE 802.16/802.20 all outperform WiFi when one starts really hitting the radio interface - much of this has to do with MAC scheduling... and that legacy really holds WiFi/802.11 back.

But 802.11 is good enough, it's fast enough, and it's more than cheap enough - so it's wildly successful...

MU-MIMO, improves capacity, Beamforming improves Tx/Rx, AirTime Fairness puts some scheduling into the air interface to minimize the clown-car/bumper car effects in a high density deployment - going into higher order QAM constellations, perhaps less-so, as the noise floor will eat them up.

Some may see these as "bug fixes", but I see them as genuine enhancements, and a lot of hard work has been done there to make it happen without impacting the 802.11 legacy..

Can we do wireless better - of course we can, we do it now... Case in point - LTE a couple of years back, and not as a test user, but on early deployment of LTE in the 700MHz band - 5MHz channels in FDD mode, I was getting 85Mbps on both ATT and Verizon here in San Diego...

Again, note, that's a 5MHz channel, 85Mbps.. do the math... spectral efficiency is in favor of WiFi slightly, but MAC scheduling really makes the differences.. LTE is around 4bits/hertz, 11ac is around 5bit/hertz per stream...

But to get on a small, low cost network, well, we'd have to ripout Wifi and start all over again... which won't happens as again, WiFi is good/fast/cheap enough...

Side note - One of the platforms I worked on - HC-SDMA (iBurst), it was one of the most efficient Wireless protocols ever- we were around 7-7.5bits/hz.. and we were doing active Tx beamforming back in the first half of the 2000's... To get better than that, one has to go on the wires with DSL or DOCSIS...

(oh, and FWIW, V.92 modems, they're one of the most efficient, period - 15bits/hz), but we're also looking at a 4KHz carrier :D

sfx
 

mediatrek

Regular Contributor
I have wanted a 100% QCA 802.11ac router solution with beamforming, and the first one to market is this Linksys. Sadly QCA’s first gen 802.11ac solutions did not support beamforming :( I recall reading an interview sometime ago where a QCA VP of Product Management said they have spent 7 years developing MU-MIMO techniques, so one would think we will be getting something good from them compared to some others. This is my first Linksys router I have picked up in almost a decade. So far my first quick impressions are:
  • The EA8500 runs MUCH cooler than the Broadcom-based Netgear R8000 I have been using.
  • Firmware update right out of the box to v1.1.3.166845. No release notes provided (boooo).
  • Two of the four external antennas make a rattling noise inside them when moved about during the unpacking and install process.
  • The Linksys Network Map is buggy showing (some) devices long disconnected from the network. Only way to clear them out is a router reboot.
  • 5G band signal is on par with the Netgear R8000, but much more stable than my Netgear R7500 (client devices used in making this observation are a Win 8.1 laptop w/ Intel 7260-AC and Nexus 5).
  • 2.4G stronger and maintains better at distance compared to the R8000, however the R7500 has a slight edge over the EA8500 (client devices used in making this observation are a Win 8.1 laptop w/ Intel 7260-AC and Nexus 5).
  • My D-Link DCS-2132L(revB) network camera (has a Ralink 1x1 2.4G) does not like this router. I have the camera recording to my ReadyNAS312 24/7 and since yesterday it has dropped and missed a total of 7 hours of recordings. I have never had these issues with any router b4 with this camera. I have switch to the R7500 overnight and so far, no recordings dropped to the ReadyNAS.

I may end up returning the Linksys EA8500 to Best Buy and wait for the Zyxel ARMOR Z1 NBG6816 (see ftp://ftp2.zyxel.com/NBG6816/datasheet/NBG6816_1.pdf ) which is another 100% QCA 802.11ac Wave 2 solution. The Zyxel unit will have the optional traffic shaping Qualcomm Streamboost engine, which is a plus in my book.
 
Last edited:

chadster766

Very Senior Member
I have wanted a 100% QCA 802.11ac router solution with beamforming, and the first one to market is this Linksys. Sadly QCA’s first gen 802.11ac solutions did not support beamforming :( I recall reading an interview sometime ago where a QCA VP of Product Management said they have spent 7 years developing MU-MIMO techniques, so one would think we will be getting something good from them compared to some others. This is my first Linksys router I have picked up in almost a decade. So far my first quick impressions are:
  • The EA8500 runs MUCH cooler than the Broadcom-based Netgear R8000 I have been using.
  • Firmware update right out of the box to v1.1.3.166845. No release notes provided (boooo).
  • Two of the four external antennas make a rattling noise inside them when moved about during the unpacking and install process.
  • The Linksys Network Map is buggy showing (some) devices long disconnected from the network. Only way to clear them out is a router reboot.
  • 5G band signal is on par with the Netgear R8000, but much more stable than my Netgear R7500 (client devices used in making this observation are a Win 8.1 laptop w/ Intel 7260-AC and Nexus 5).
  • 2.4G stronger and maintains better at distance compared to the R8000, however the R7500 has a slight edge over the EA8500 (client devices used in making this observation are a Win 8.1 laptop w/ Intel 7260-AC and Nexus 5).
  • My D-Link DCS-2132L(revB) network camera (has a Ralink 1x1 2.4G) does not like this router. I have the camera recoding to my ReadyNAS312 24/7 and since yesterday it has dropped and missed a total of 7 hours of recordings. I have never had these issues with any router b4 with this camera. I have switch to the R7500 overnight and so far, no recordings dropped to the ReadyNAS.

I may end up returning the Linksys EA8500 to Best Buy and wait for the Zyxel ARMOR Z1 NBG6816 (see ftp://ftp2.zyxel.com/NBG6816/datasheet/NBG6816_1.pdf ) which is another 100% QCA 802.11ac Wave 2 solution. The Zyxel unit will have the optional traffic shaping Qualcomm Streamboost engine, which is a plus in my book.
Before returning it can you test whether the camera works with the EA8500 2.4Ghz set to 20Mhz?
 

mediatrek

Regular Contributor
Before returning it can you test whether the camera works with the EA8500 2.4Ghz set to 20Mhz?

Setting the 2.4G band to 20MHz width was the first thing I tried. That was not it. Luckily I think I have found the issue. On the D-Link DCS-2132L (revB) I had "Enable UPnP port forwarding" enabled with the forwarding port set to 1024. When then using the camera’s port test function, it worked fine. However, after disabling "Enable UPnP port forwarding" there have been no more issues with the camera on my network with the EA8500 at the heart. I have had this setting enabled when using 8+ Netgear routers, a Zyxel, and a few D-link routers. Never an issue till this Linksys.

I am sadly having another issue that I have yet to solve, and have never had even on units in beta phases that I have beta tested for Netgear and D Link. Whenever I am trying to download over the Internet large (50MB+) files (doesn't matter if it is two or five files simultaneously), the downloads stop and I have to manually resume them multiple times over the course of the download process (using IE 11 and Firefox 37.0.2). If I try the same on my Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop, the downloading files just stop and are corrupt. I noticed the MTU on the EA8500 was set to “Auto,” so I set it manually to 1500, as it should be and the issue still occurs. I am not sure why this is occurring. If I transfer multiple large files over my LAN to and from my ReadyNAS 312, there are no drop offs.
 

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