Zit Seng's Blog

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Cisco Linksys E3200 Wi-Fi Router

I bought the Cisco Linksys E3200 High Performance Dual-Band N Router recently, and it now serves as the primary wireless access point for my wireless network. Like its many other E-series siblings, the E3200 has a minimalist yet stylish look. It’s impressive specifications and performance puts it squarely among the top-end of the wireless-N broadband router product category.

This Linksys E3200 replaces my previous Linksys WRT610N which, unfortunately, didn’t last very long. It somehow got stuck in a reboot loop. No, I wasn’t trying to replace its firmware. It just suddenly stopped working one day. I thought I would be able to make do with the D-Link box provided by my ISP when I fixed up fibre broadband for my home, but it turns out the D-Link router was pretty disappointing.

Choosing a wireless broadband router is getting quite difficult nowadays, particularly if you’re someone concerned about technical features and real-world performance. There’s too many of them around, and not enough detailed information. Product packaging often have very little useful information, and the reviews are usually not sufficiently in-depth. You basically have got to get one, try it out, and decide if it works for you or not.

After my disappointment with the D-Link, I decided to go back to a safe brand. Yup. Linksys. While the WRT610N didn’t last all that long, my older WRT54G is, shockingly, still operational, despite the antenna having broken off because the rubber joint had disintegrated with age. Yes, I think Linksys would be a safe choice.

The E3200 is the 2nd in line of the non-“App Enabled” wireless broadband router. It is simultaneous dual-band wireless-N, meaning it operates at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz at the same time. It’s something pretty much taken for granted nowadays, although this was a big trap during the time of the WRT610N.

As mentioned above, the Linksys E3200 is very minimalistic in design. Minimalist is in-style. No fancy antenna array. No visible antenna, in fact. Not only is the whole box flat and somewhat featureless, there are not even any visible LED indicators from the front, sides, or top! I suppose they figured no one really wants to see the lights anyway. The wireless router should just hide somewhere and do its work. (The LED lights are all hidden behind where various cables are plugged in.)

The software on the E3200 follows the same GUI management style as the older Linksys routers. One of the big thing now with the E-series and EA-series routers is the Cisco Connect software that makes it even simpler than ever to manage the router. You can probably read about it elsewhere if you want to know about it, because I can’t tell you much. I preferred to stick with the usual web interface, and ditched the Cisco Connect route. However, if you’re familiar with how Apple’s Airports are configured, well, Cisco Connect is sort of like that.

One of the thing I loved about the Linksys software is a peculiar routing issue that it can handle for me nicely. I have a SSH and IMAP server on my internal LAN. I want to access it when I’m outside. Easy, that’s what NAT does, and dynamic DNS helps me find my wireless router on the Internet. The challenge is, what happens when I’m connected to the internal LAN? Unless I do some messy DNS tricks, I would still be accessing the servers using the same public IP address of the wireless router. The E3200 (as did all my previous Linksys) would cleverly still realize the “outbound” connection is really to itself and continue to apply the NAT to send the traffic back to the internal server.

For me, that means I can connect to my internal servers in exactly the same way whether I’m inside or outside the network. This is one of those little things that never seem to get mentioned in any review.

There are also other useful things, at least to me, like IPv6 and 6rd support. (Yeah, maybe it doesn’t really matter so much if your ISP can’t provide IPv6 connectivity.)

The E3200 may not be the top-end in the Linksys product range, but it is more an sufficient for most home use. It has a gigabit ethernet WAN port, and 4x gigabit ethernet LAN ports. On the wireless front, it has 2 x 3 internal antennas, and works on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands simultaneously to handle 802.11a/b/g/n connections.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the E3200.

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