Linksys MAX-STREAM EA7500 Router Review

Author: AkG
Date: March 24, 2016
Product Name: MAX-STREAM EA7500
Part Number: EA7500
Warranty: 3 Years
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A Closer Look at the Linksys EA7500

As the EA7500 is part of the mass market ‘EA’ lineup and not the modder-oriented ‘WRT’ series it is not all that surprising to see that its overall appearance is nearly the same as the EA9200. In fact, on just a quick glance you would not be able to tell the EA7500 apart from the EA4500, or even the EA9200. In other words, all use a similar looking black and silver enclosure whose overall styling has not changed all that much through the generations.

With that being said this enclosure has been upgraded improved though it is debatable whether or not some of these improvements are for the better or not. The most noticeable improvement over the EA9200’s chassis is that cooling potential has been vastly improved. While it still is a passively cooled model the EA7500’s chassis is covered in cooling holes – almost as if set upon by angry gophers. This will increase cooling potential and should allow its higher performance internals to avoid overheating – a concern well founded based upon the ASRock G10’s issues.

Another interesting factor is the EA7500 can be mounted horizontal and vertical orientated capable, instead of vertical only mounting like the EA9200. However, this model does not ship with a vertical stand and instead its default configuration is horizontal. To convert it to vertical consumers will have to mount it to a wall and use the two integrated screw holders. This still makes the EA7500 the more flexible of the two models.

Unfortunately, one major feature missing from this model, and endemic of the entire EA series, is a lack of a front I/O LED panel. I tend to prefer LED panels as they allow for instant diagnosis of many issues and generally make troubleshooting much easier.

Linksys has also done away with all the buttons on the router’s sides. Instead it takes a page from the EA4500 and places the WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) button on the back while also deleting any physical ability to turn on/off the wireless network. Linksys expects users to log into the web-based user interface and disable the networks there. On the positive side this makes it much less more difficult to accidentally turn off the wireless networks.

Also on the positive side, this model makes use of three external antenna array instead of internal-only arrays ASRock placed on their G10.

The downside to placing all the various ports, and buttons on the back is it makes for a rather crowded rear I/O panel. From right to left is the lone USB 3.0 port, then the single USB 2.0 port (each of which has its own status LED), a small WPS button and a small recessed reset button, the single Gigabit WAN port followed by the four wired 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports. As with previous Linksys routers the four 'LAN' ports are color coded blue and the lone WAN port is yellow.

Next to these ports is the AC adapter input, followed by the dedicated power switch. Then on top of all these are the three external antenna headers. Needless to say this is a cramped and crowded IO panel that only gets worse when all five Ethernet ports are in use. We also still don’t see any high speed USB 3.1 compatibility which is a serious disappointment on any device being launched in 2016.

Much like the exterior design is different from previous Linksys EA models, so too have the internals been upgraded. The design is extremely clean with a neat and tidy layout that allows all the hot running components to reside on the ‘top’ side. This is something that the EA9200 certainly cannot boast. Of course the EA7500 does rely upon different chipsets and has fewer antennas than the EA9200, but this layout is still impressive.

Since the EA9200 and EA7500 use different chipsets from competing 802.11AC ‘second generation’ standards, a fairer comparison is between the EA7500 and ASRock G10. Both models make use of the new Qualcomm ‘Atheros’ IPQ8064 SoC. This multi core, 1.4 GHz controller acts as the brains of the unit and is an extremely potent choice. It is made up of two Krait 300 processors each of which runs at 1.4GHz, and makes use of two (each at 730MHz) network accelerator engines to help boost overall network performance. However, unlike the G10 the with EA7500 Linksys has included a small heatsink to help keep this SoC cool and avoid overheating.

Also unlike the G10 which uses a single chipset to control both the 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz networks, Linksys has opted for a more conservative dual chipset approach. Specifically, the 2.4GHz network is controlled by a Qualcomm ‘Atheros’ QCA9983 controller and the 5.0GHz network is controller via a Qualcomm ‘Atheros’ QCA9982 controller. Both of these chipsets boast Wave 2 802.11AC capabilities.

Interestingly enough, unlike the 9980 neither the 9982 nor the 9983 are 4x4 capable chipsets, and instead are 3x3. This combination allows the EA7500 to max out at 1300Mbps on the sole 5Ghz 802.11AC network and 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz 802.11N. However, this limitation is why the EA7500 is considered ‘AC1900’ compatible rather than ‘AC2600’ like the ASRock G10.

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