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

chadster766

Very Senior Member
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.
I won't have this unit for a few more days so I don't know all its features yet. Does it have Band Steering? I'm wondering if Band Steering is occurring during the file transfer.
 

mediatrek

Regular Contributor
I won't have this unit for a few more days so I don't know all its features yet. Does it have Band Steering? I'm wondering if Band Steering is occurring during the file transfer.

The EA8500 does support band steering. However, both my Win 8.1 laptop w/ Intel 7260-AC and my Nexus 5 are set to connect to the 5G band by default with no need to push the devices down to 2.4G band. I have done tracert on the few cloud server services I am pulling the files from and there are a few time out request hops along the way that appear to be the cause.
 
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thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
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.
The ARMOR Z1 is only MU-MIMO ready. So it uses a QCA CPU and maybe 2.4 GHz radio, but Quantenna 5 GHz. Can't imagine why they would even bother shipping it.
 

mediatrek

Regular Contributor
The ARMOR Z1 is only MU-MIMO ready. So it uses a QCA CPU and maybe 2.4 GHz radio, but Quantenna 5 GHz. Can't imagine why they would even bother shipping it.
Bummer on the Quantenna 5G solution. Two weeks ago when I noticed the ARMOR Z1 on the Zyxel USA site (product page has since been removed), I emailed Zyxel America sales and was told a) it was a QCA product and b) that marketing had jumped the gun and the product page would be removed from the site.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
Bummer on the Quantenna 5G solution. Two weeks ago when I noticed the ARMOR Z1 on the Zyxel USA site (product page has since been removed), I emailed Zyxel America sales and was told a) it was a QCA product and b) that marketing had jumped the gun and the product page would be removed from the site.
Nope. It's there
http://www.zyxel.com/products_services/armor_z1.shtml?t=p

and has been announced today.
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wire...zyxel-announces-last-generation-4x4-ac-router
 

zakoh

Occasional Visitor
Maybe I got it all wrong, but I gotta say that the more I learn about MU-MIMO, the more disappointed I become. The biggest disappointment is from the fact that apparently it works only for downlink transfer. Personally, I was hoping that MU-MIMO would speed up machine to machine data transfers. Something along the lines, if you have two clients with 2x2 AC hardware that have about 200Mbit data link to the router each. The way things work now, without MU-MIMO, since the router has to take turns to talk to each client, then realistically a file will transfer from machine to machine at 100Mbit speed. But apparently, MU-MIMO does not do anything to improve this situation, since apparently all four streams will not be available to MU-MIMO transfers, and the technology works only for downlink transfers anyways. So if I have two 2x2 MU-MIMO clients, then I would have to buy a six stream MU-MIMO router to possibly take any advantage of MU-MIMO at all (that is only for downlink transfers). Much over-hyped technology that doesn't do good for most home network installs IMHO.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Well first...

With current SU-MIMO 802.11ac clients, it shouldn't matter - performance should be about the same...

It's the MU-MIMO results that I'm trying to digest - sometimes better/many times, perhaps the same - depends on the mix of clients.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
zakoh: MU isn't as useless as you think. The M2M transfer scenario would work as long as the AP pulls data from the client. I test with TCP/IP and even with the need for ACKs from STA to AP, there was still throughput gain.

There can still be total throughput gain when you exceed the #streams-1 MU rule of thumb. That's just the optimum. I asked for a fourth laptop to see what happens, but could't get one. I'm working on getting my own laptops as soon as they are available.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Saw something in the review that was interesting in the 2.4GHz advanced settings screen, and the selections used..

1) HT-Duplicate Mode - aka MSC32, this is one of the first consumer grade AP's I've seen with this feature, perhaps it's been there on other devices, but this caught my eye.. it's wide channel only mode, but it can help in a noisy environment - perhaps disable this switch on the 2.4GHz testing for WideChannel bandwidth - same would apply in 5GHz if present

2) Space Time Block Codes - this can help out a lot - most consumer AP's either do this, or they don't, normally they don't have an explicit switch to turn it on/off - again, in the screen shot, looks like the default is off, I would turn it on.

3) Wireless Multimedia Power Save - here it's set to true, that's pretty cool for testing devices, esp. handhelds, to see if they actually do support this - most consumer AP's don't have this feature, but some do...

4) Protected Management Frames - set to off, but again, not something I would expect from a consumer AP, as this is client driver/software dependent, and exposing this feature can result in more customer care calls - so again, interesting to see..

I would really be interested in getting a couple of wcap traces of this device to dig thru the packets...

very interesting indeed...

EA8500-wireless_settings.png
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
The 3-RoomA and 3-RoomB tests are also interesting - again, wirecaps should show something interesting here - if all the clients are actually in MU-mode, or if the outlying clients are getting better bandwidth because of the QCA scheduling enhancements needed to make MU work - in other words, same bandwidth, but better time allowed for the far-side clients...

And those far-side clients might actually be falling over to HT-Duplicate vs. trying to maintain MCS 2 or lower - the of the upsides of MCS32, while very low rate, is that it has incredible diversity gain, as both channels tranmit the same frames (MCS32 is essentially 11g/11a - 1/2 rate coding, 48 subcarriers, just transmitted on two channels vs. 1 narrow channel).

If this is the case, then QC-Atheros has done a very nice job with the scheduler in their AP chipset, and one that can actually help SU-MIMO clients as well...
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
One more thing - with the QCA9980 - is it certain that this is a 4-strream chipset - QCA, and I agree with them, state that 4*4;3 (four tx/rx radios, three streams) is optimal for MU, and this same configuration on the WRT1900ac (Marvell) is also 4*4:3, which is a significant contributor to it's range...

That extra radio in SU mode, along with 3 streams, it contribute much RF gain for SU clients, even those that are 1 or 2 stream... mostly due to diversity.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
sfx: Yes, it might be fun to play with the settings. But our standard procedure is to set router to defaults and change only channel, set WPA2/AES encryption and bw mode if needed for each band.

Your question about the QCA9980 can only be answered by QCA. I'll point them to this thread.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
One more thing - with the QCA9980 - is it certain that this is a 4-strream chipset - QCA, and I agree with them, state that 4*4;3 (four tx/rx radios, three streams) is optimal for MU, and this same configuration on the WRT1900ac (Marvell) is also 4*4:3, which is a significant contributor to it's range...

That extra radio in SU mode, along with 3 streams, it contribute much RF gain for SU clients, even those that are 1 or 2 stream... mostly due to diversity.
QCA says
QCA9980 is a 4x4 radio with 4SS in SU & 3SS in MU. Agree with the comments that additional stream in SU case provides better RF gain (both in Tx & Rx), and TxBF gain (within regulatory limits).
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Thanks for reaching out to QCA - 4SS in SU is a big deal...

Actually, this whole chipset seems like a really huge investment on QCA's part... and from the first commercial product, at least from a HW perspective, it's a good down payment on the 2nd Wave.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
They're spinning builds pretty fast on this unit...

Firmware version: 1.1.3 (Build 166845)
Release date: May 7, 2015

- Further improve wireless performance
- Update radio chip configuration


Firmware version: 1.1.3 (Build 166747)
Release date: Apr 21, 2015

- Improve MU-MIMO and 2.4GHz performance
- Various bug fixes


Firmware version: 1.1.3 (Build 166556)
Release date: Apr 7, 2015
 

snbdora

Regular Contributor
Any technical details or insights of this so called Qualcomm® VIVE™ with MU | EFX ?
Didn't see it in the review about it.
 

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