The 802.11ac-enabled Linksys Smart EA6400 is supposed to be a second tier to the top-notch Linksys EA6500 that came out last year. In reality, the new router is superior to its big brother in most ways, despite the lesser hardware configuration.
Compared with other 802.11ac routers on the market, however, it's unfortunately quite far behind in terms of Wi-Fi data rates and range.
To make up for this, the Linksys EA6400 offers an easy-to-use Web interface and the option for users to manage their home network via the Internet. At the current cost of $170, it still is a decent investment for those living in a small home or apartment. For better options in terms of pricing and performance, check out those on this list.
Elegant and practical design
Similar to the EA6500, the new Linksys EA6400 comes in an elegant UFO shape that's flat and has a glossy, smooth-finish top. You can use it either on a surface or mounted on a wall.
The router has no external antennas, making it very compact and convenient to use. On the back it has four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, and one USB 3.0. The USB port is a step up from the EA6500, which has two ports; both are USB 2.0. You can use this port to host either a printer or an external storage device.
Also on the back, there's a little button for the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature and a recessed reset button. The former initiates a two-minute window when WPS-enabled clients can automatically connect to the router's Wi-Fi networks, and the latter brings the router back to its default manufacturer settings.
Very easy to set up
The Linksys EA6400 is very easy to set up. In fact, all you have to do is plug the router's WAN port into an Internet source (such as a modem), as well as a power source and you're done. This is because, by default, the router comes preset with a setup Wi-Fi network and a password, the information for which you can find printed on the router's underside. While there's only one set of information, the router actually comes with two Wi-Fi networks, one for each of its wireless bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz), but both share the same name and password.
For most users, this is all you need to have a secure Wi-Fi network. If you want to customize the settings, such as changing the Wi-Fi network's name and password, or using the router's other features, then you need to use its Web interface.
Robust, cloud-enabled Web interface
To get to the router's Web interface from a connected device, just point a browser to linksyssmartwifi.com, or to its default IP address, which is 192.168.1.1. The router's default log-in password is admin.
At the log-in page, you also have the option of creating a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account and add the router to that account (just by typing in the router's log-in password). If you choose to do so, from then on, you'll be able to access the router's Web interface even when you're not using a computer in the same network that's hosted by the router. In other words, once your account is created, you can just go to linksyssmartwifi.com from any Internet-ready computer and manage your home network when you're out and about. On top of that you can also use a sizable collection of mobile apps to manage the router's settings and features, again, via the Internet.
This cloud-based remote access is available for all routers in the EA series and was started when Linksys was still part of Cisco. It used to be mandatory, as it was the only way to manage the router. Now it's just an option; you can use the router without its cloud-based features. Personally, though, I find no reason not to use them, unless you're paranoid about your privacy; using these features means that Linksys can potentially be aware of your Internet traffic.
Locally or via the Internet, the interface is the same: well organized and responsive. You can use it to manage all of the router's settings and features.
The Linksys EA6400 is a true dual-band router that supports all existing Wi-Fi clients on the market. If you have 802.11ac clients, you can enjoy the Wi-Fi speed up to 1.3Gbps. For other Wi-Fi clients, the cap speed is only 300Mbps. This is because the router supports the three-stream set of 802.11ac but just the dual-stream setup of 802.11n. All other 802.11ac routers I've reviewed so far, including the EA6500, support the three-stream setup all the way. Note that, the actual sustained speed of a 802.11ac connection is much lower than 1.3Gbps, and the difference between a dual-stream setup and a three-stream one is generally not significant.
The router's USB 3.0 port can be used to host a printer or an external hard drive of any capacity. In my trials, this worked fine with drives larger than 2TB, formatted in the NTFS (Windows). You can connect a new drive or a drive with existing content to the router and sharing that content with other network devices, either via regular file-sharing protocol or streaming. The router supports UPnP and DNLA streaming standards. In my testing, this generally worked well. You can share data to everyone or use more advanced method in which you can create accounts with access restriction.