Top positive review
191 people found this helpful
Good router; you simply have to know how to configure it to sidestep some bugs.
on September 18, 2011
I see quite a few negative reviews here from frustrated customers, but the truth is that this isn't a bad router. I've set these up for plenty of users and they've had no issues. You just need to know what's inside and how to configure it, and as an electrical engineer who specializes in wireless, I can tell you about this.
This router -- unlike most Linksys routers -- uses an Atheros SoC (system-on-chip). (Most Linksys routers use Broadcom chips.) This means that it has some quirks that are peculiar to Atheros. For example, most Atheros-based devices are well known to have what's called the "stuck beacon" problem in their internal software. The problem is not due to overheating, as is speculated in some of the reviews here, but it can be triggered by heavy network loading or noise on the airwaves. Without going into too much technical detail, this is a problem that happens when the router gets busy or encounters noise and misses its chance to send a "beacon" signal advertising its existence. If it doesn't get to send the beacon by the time it's due to send another, it sends out an invalid beacon that doesn't conform to the Wi-Fi standard. This can cause everything on the wireless network to disconnect abruptly.
Atheros should have fixed this problem long ago, but for some reason its developers do not seem to want to admit to the problem. And because Atheros insists upon providing the low-level code that runs the chips only in canned binary form (they call it a "hardware abstraction layer," or HAL) to most equipment manufacturers, and the code is difficult to understand and modify even if you have it, the majority of equipment makers who use Atheros chipsets have been unable to fix this bug themselves.
My advice for trouble-free operation is as follows. First, don't use the included setup disk, despite the stickers that say "Run CD First." All it will do is put annoying software that you don't want or need on your computer. Instead, configure the router via its internal Web interface. Update to the latest firmware and then set the beacon interval to a large value (1000 milliseconds or more) so that the chances of the "stuck beacon" bug cropping up are virtually nil. Also, set the router to use only ordinary 802.11b and 802.11g (Mixed B-G) rather than the nonstandard 802.11 "pre-n" that it implements. You won't see a slowdown (802.11g is faster than any Web site) and you won't see other odd problems. It also helps to set the router to use WPA encryption (only slightly less secure than WPA2) and use a long, non-guessable password. When you select WPA, the firmware will turn off some "features" that might be troublesome and you'll have a nice, stable network. Yes, it'll be 802.11b/g, but it'll be solid as a rock and very compatible. With these settings, it will work just fine with a MacBook, an iPad or a Kindle and will not trigger the WEP 802.1x authentication bug in Windows XP.
If you really thirst after true 802.11n, get an E-1000 or E-1200. But you won't see any meaningful difference in speed or range in normal use.
By the way, there are a few Linksys models you really SHOULD avoid: those based on Ralink chipsets, such as the WRT100 and WRT110. These now-discontinued models are hopelessly defective and will give you nothing but grief. Ralink chips aren't inherently bad, but Linksys products based on them have been uniformly awful.