on February 20, 2012
Needed a replacement for my 6yr old router that crapped out on me. Did some research online, CNET.com is a great place, and read reviews on amazon and ended up with the Cisco by Linksys Factory Refurbished E3200 wireless router. I'm very happy with my purchase. You can't beat the price of the factory refurbished router ($73 and free super saver shipping). It took me right at 5 minutes to open the package, plug it in and use the provided CD to get my wireless internet going. I was surprised by this as usually when people say this in a review it is usually a guesstimation and ends up taking 10-15 minutes or even longer but it literally took me 5 minutes to get this router set up. The CD is self explanatory, just put it in your computer and run it. I'm running MAC OS X 10.6.8 and had no software compatibility issues. It's easy to add more devices to the router and manage other simple settings in Cisco Connect (the program on the CD that ends up on your computer). And it's pretty cool that it has a guest network too where friends that come over can log in to the guest network that is separate from the main network. The speed is great, my internet download and upload speeds when in the same room as the router are very close to what my provider advertises; advertised up to 12Mbps and 1Mbps, I've gotten up to 11.55 and 0.98 and it doesn't fluctuate much. There's a speed test in Cisco Connect or you can go online to find one. When in the next floor down (the basement) it's about one Mbps and .2 less than it is upstairs. Great middle of the road product for average internet users who don't need to go with the E4200. Definitely will recommend to all my friends.
The Linksys E3200 is, without a doubt, an impressive product. It's one VERY easy to set router that appears to operate reliably and even comes with a couple of notable bells and whistles. However, some of the 'high performance' claims proved to be slightly exaggerated and I wasn't impressed by the quality of user support.
My experience with Cisco's refurbished equipment is that it's practically indistinguishable from 'new' except for less warranty coverage and support. Our E3200 performed flawlessly under heavy stress (supporting over 2 dozen devices) for one year already.
SETUP (5 of 5)
One question most of us ask ourselves before proceeding to set something as intimidating as a new router is 'will I be able to make it work for me?' The good news is that in this case the answer should be 'probably or most likely yes.' For a basic setup, you simply plug in the router, run the Cisco Connect app provided on a CD on a computer equipped with a Wi-Fi adapter and... you are connected.
Cisco Connect is a well-organized app that will help you add devices to the network - and once the router is app and running most devices will add themselves once you provide the password - allow for limited 'guest' access on a separate network, set parental controls, test your Internet connection speed and directly manage your router if you need to split your network for better performance, configure DNS and DHCP, advanced wireless settings, security, manage the attached disk if you have one, set access policies and so forth.
It gets as sophisticated as you need it to be and the good news is that both Cisco Connect and the router's Web interface are are well organized and are backed by a very well written and quite detailed manual. I will post the link to the downloadable PDF as a comment to this review.
My basic setup completed in a couple of minutes and it took a couple of minutes more to register individual devices: laptops, desktops, printers, portable gaming devices, home servers, Internet radio. Anything that has a wired connection (4 10/100/1000 Mpbs ports are available) does not need any setup. The more sophisticated tasks, such as reserving IP addresses for printers and a media hub and 'splitting' the traffic into 2 separately named networks mapping into the router's 2 frequency bands (2.4 MHz and 5 MHz) were equally easy and well covered by the manual.
It's important that Cisco Connect is installed on one of your computers if not on all because the first thing it does when you start it is checking the router's status and attempting to fix whatever problems if it detects any. To get 'the latest' I installed it from Cisco's site and I didn't experience any issues during or after the install completed.
PERFORMANCE AND RANGE (4 of 5)
Depending on your clients, the router can provide as much as 2 x 300 Gbps - this was a major improvement over the 802.11g router it's replacing. This is a lot considering that the best I am getting from my ISP is 15 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream but today's home networks have a lot of internal traffic if you use NAS devices, media servers or home servers that are set to run backups.
While the router supports 802.11 a/b/g/n the manual warns that best performance can be achieved when all clients support 802.11n and that one single 802.11a client can slow the entire network if present.
In practice I got consistent 150 Mbps on the 5 GHz band while in the same room at about 30 ft. from the router (except for a few minutes each day when the 5 GHz signal drops for no apparent reason - see the posted screenshots). With one floor in-between, 90 Mbps was possible but the 5 GHz band wasn't as reliable or I could get a steady stream of 54 Mbps, sometimes better on the 2.4 GHz band. With 2 floors in between (router in the basement and my computer on the second floor and at the other end of the house, some 70-80 ft. away) the 5 MHz band became practically unusable (I will post some inSSIDer shots) and the 2.4 GHz band would get me 6-24 Mbps, still okay for Web browsing. The computers on the second floor right above the router get a steady 50-70 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band.
I would like to note that, while the router broadcasting on 2 bands does have its advantages the 5 GHz signal works best when you have line of sight to the router or one thin wall/floor in between. It's not as good at passing through walls as the 2.4 GHz signal. It is possible to maximize performance by using a combination of wired plus 2 segregated bands but some testing and good planning is needed.
RELIABILITY (4.5 of 5)
The E3200 has been remarkably stable so far if I don't consider the random signal loss on the 5 GHz frequency on the second floor. It's fair to state that, when the default settings are kept, the router will automatically switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and between the available channels on each band to maximize performance and minimize interference. Since I don't have neighbors, I can't say how the router would perform in a more crowded environment.
Due to a number of violent storms, we lost power for seconds at a time several times in the past few days. Whenever that happened, the router came back on its own and I was able to resume work without having to reestablish a VPN connection or the chat session on WebEx with a Cisco support rep.
EXTRA FEATURES (4.5 of 5)
The E3200 is chuck-full of advanced features including strong security and encryption and the ability to optimize it for gaming (not tested yet) and, of course, the most visible being the USB port through which you can share files off an attached disk with control over access level on the local network and over the Internet.
On my features wish list... I wish it was possible to actually control the signal strength because the 5 GHz band is clearly underpowered. Also, while it is possible to remotely reboot the router, it would have been nice if a physical 'off' switch was available.
This may not be the best n-router out there - Cisco does sell a higher model for a few dollars more - but I suspect it's all the way there at the top. I can't see how you can go wrong with this one. At the 'refurbished' price it can't be beat.
>> Brush your teeth, it's the law! <<
on April 7, 2012
Bought the router for home use in my mixed (PC and Mac) environment. Product ships with no physical manual (which is very typical nowadays), just the router, power adapter, network cable and a CD. CD has a large "RUN ME FIRST" label on it.
Trying to be dutiful about following directions, I popped the CD into my MacBook Pro, which is running the latest version of OS X (10.7.3, Lion). I was pleased to see it supported the Mac OS, but was dismayed that it said my OS X was "outdated" and suggested upgrading to 10.5 or 10.6. Fortunately I was able to go online (hooking back up the old router of course) and download a newer version of the Cisco Connect program which actually supports Lion. Lion has been out since last July (and of course was in testing long before then) - is it too much to expect the router to ship with a version of the software that supports it?
Once I got past that (and went through the process of updating the firmware - my router shipped with 1.0, current firmware is 1.0.3) the router worked fine for basic tasks. However, a few things to note if you're looking at this router:
- If you are hoping to use the included USB port to hook up a printer, please note that at this time this is a Windows ONLY option - the option to hook up a USB printer is not included with the Mac version of the Cisco Connect software, and there is (to my knowledge) no way to manually make this work. It also doesn't work with Windows Server 2003 - the Cisco Connect software doesn't support that OS at all.
- By default, the setup makes the password for administering your router and the password to connect to your wi-fi the same. If you're like most people, you probably don't want these to be one and the same - not much point to adding parental lockdowns on the router if you are just going to give your teenager the administrator password is there? And if you run the Cisco Connect software after changing this in the web administrator, it helpfully "fixes" this for you by setting them to being the same again. Same story if you have turned off SSID broadcasting - it assumes that this clearly is a mistake and "fixes" it for you.
- For you hackers out there - yes, DD-WRT does support this router, however, at the time of the writing of this review, it does NOT support the 5GHz radio, so you have to choose between having all the coolness that is DD-WRT and having dual-band support. This is an issue with having the drivers for the 5GHz radio, which evidently were/are hard to get a hold of.
on October 26, 2012
I'll start by saying there is no such thing as a perfect router but I still give this one 5 out of 5 because the bottom line is that I'm extremely happy with this product.
I'm sort of a power user. We have 15 devices connected to the Internet in our house. We use Netflix, we stream Amazon movies, we download stuff, use Youtube - the whole 9 yards.
I got this router after I suspected that the router provided by my Internet carrier is causing problems. I had frequent disconnects on some devices and overall internet rates were lower than expected. And I have a 40MB service!
Turns out I was right. The ISP (Internet Service Provided) router was just crappy. The minute I put the Cisco into 'production' - no more disconnects and connections are fast and stable. So there you go! It's been up for a few days now - no issues whatsoever. Also, it runs a lot cooler than the other one.
Now to the details:
* the CD installation didn't work for me. I had to manually configure the device but I think this is because I'm replacing and existing router and connecting to it rather than connecting to a modem. So I had to disable the wireless on the old router, connect the new one to the old one and and define wireless on the new one (Cisco). It took 10 minutes and everything was up and running. I'm pretty sure that this scenario can't be covered by an automatic installation process because Cisco can't configure the old router...
* There's a great feature of a guest wireless network. It is 2.4GHZ only but that's really not an issue. If you have a 'guest' that needs the full spectrum you can always give them the password to your wireless network, the way you would do with routers that don't have guest networks. but it's a really cool feature for me, we have many people over and it's nice that we don't have to provide our password and that we can have better security
* the router is physically small and i think the back panel is a little cramped. It can use an additional 1/2 inch width... for example, pressing the WPS button is a bit tricky if you have your ethernet cables all attached. Also, plugging in a USB drive is tricky too.
* there are no 'front facing' lights. Cisco must have taken the approach of making this router simple and "friendly" rather than "geeky" i.e. no tons of blinking lights etc. (there's even a feature to turn off the back panel lights) but for me, I like to see a few lights so I can know in a glance that everything is "green". I like to see the internet activity in the background, it makes me feel that everything is OK... :) I would definitely like this router to look a bit more 'techy' with a few lights in the front and an easier access WPS button.
* drive sharing is a great feature! It's not the fastest but works well. Definitely a plus and one of the main reasons I went for this model instead of the E2500.
* there are 4 gig ports. Now this is really not a must but it's a nice bonus. If you have a wired network and would like it to be 1 gig instead of 100 meg, you can always attach a simple 1gig switch to your router. I used to do this before i went all wireless.
* If you don't mind paying a bit more, I would go for the Cisco 4200/4500. It scored better on some sites that i've seen in terms of performance (smallnetbuilder is one) and looks like and upgrade but I personally didn't see a reason to spend more. I'm ok with N600, I don't think N750 or more is really required and I'm not sure you can even really get to these rates in practice. I do recommend to get a router that has USB sharing, this is a very useful feature.
* I obviously went for a refurbished one. Saved around 40% and you can never tell it's not a new device. I got the router, CD and cables and this is all i need. I prefer not to get papers - save the environment! You can always get the manual online if you need.
* there's a nice feature of quality of service. Basically you can define traffic priorities by app, device etc. For example, I gave Skype a higher priority to ensure good call quality and it actually works fine!
on June 12, 2012
After getting this router fully configured, the 5GHz band was not funcional. I can see my neighbors 5GHz band, but not mine. I tried all sorts of different settings, restored factory settings, updated drivers (my wifi adapter is an Intel 4965AGN; its capable of 5ghz), rebooted EVERYTHING, and even chatted with Linksys to get the 5GHz band up and running to no resolution. Now I have to PAY to ship it back for RMA, which is probably going to be $10. What a rip, had I known, I would have gone with another router. Lesson learned.
on November 23, 2012
... Emphasis on "used to be".
The feature set and price point on this unit look good on paper, especially given the price and the name. True, Cisco has taken some serious flak regarding the "big brother" nature of their device setup of late (lots of potential for privacy invasion in their license agreement) but that's easily fixed with a third-party firmware (DD-WRT works perfectly if you don't need the 5Ghz radio).
Mine worked as I'd expect a product with the Cisco logo on it would... For 5 days. Starting today, however, the connection became intermittent. After a power-cycle, the "Internet" port would no longer link up with my cable modem. I tried different cables and connecting it to different devices; no joy. Plugged my old router back in and I was up and running again in 30 seconds.
Cisco live-chat support is what you'd expect; tailored to the lowest common denominator. I tried the usual keywords to bypass the tier-1 level and had no luck. After an hour repeating all of my earlier troubleshooting steps, the live-chat rep shunted me off to a web link to process the RMA request (warning me to wait 30 minutes before submitting the request). Why he/she couldn't do it themselves and why I had to wait completely baffles me. Also, the Linksys (Cisco) rep tried to push me off to Amazon, recommending that I call Amazon for support. Right. Makes perfect sense to call the reseller instead of the manufacturer for help.
I suppose this is what happens when you try to expand downward in the market by absorbing a company known for issues like these. Remember folks, this is a Linksys product with the Cisco badge on it.
I'll update this review with the results from the replacement unit.
The replacement arrived within the promised 5 business days and it appears to work normally*. Of course, return shipping of their defective product is on me, so be sure to add an additional $12 to the price to ship the unit back to their Riverside, CA RMA facility.
* The unit works normally, however there is a bug in the 22.214.171.124 firmware: when using Airplay, the unit crashes. That's right: no Airplay. The workaround on the Apple forums is to disable WMM on the router. However, this also disables the N-wireless features, making this router as slow as a G-only router. Another workaround on the Cisco forums recommends disabling CTF; this prevents the router from crashing but music comes out of it in 0.1 second bursts and then dead air for the rest of the 0.9 seconds. Ahh, music to my ears. Apparently, there's already a firmware update for the E4200 that fixes this incompatibility. Evidently, the E3200 is either not getting this fix or Linksys (Cisco) software engineering team is already out for Christmas because the E4200 fix was released in October.
I have to say, I'm wholly dissatisfied with this product.
Okay, replacement router has been working fine for a while now (above caveat regarding Airplay still applies). What really irks me is that I still have to keep my old non-simultaneous-dual-band router running to serve the 5Ghz spectrum while the Linksys/Cisco serves the 2.4 GHz spectrum. My apartment building is full of 2.4GHz devices so the only way to reliably stream to/from my AppleTV is to use the 5Ghz band. However, half of my devices only have 2.4GHz radios. So, I have a dual-band router that is only useful as a single-band router... Why didn't I just pay $30 for a cheapo single-bad 2.4GHz router?
Bumped review up to 3 stars since not everybody will be affected by the Airplay issue.
on September 14, 2015
I've been using this router for a few years now and it has served me well. After loading some custom firmware on the router, the capability of the unit increased significantly.
I would recommend this unit to anyone living in a 2000 sqft house or smaller.
on December 31, 2013
So I bought the E3200 and installed DD-WRT on it. Worked great (of course the 5MHZ radio doesn't work as it uses proprietary firmware.) So here I am bee-bopping along with this "upgraded" refurbished router, I mean I have it hanging on my wall with a portable hard drive attached to it and life is great. Then one day about a year later my internet quits working. What, I know the bill was paid? Are they doing construction somewhere and cut the line? Wait are there solar flares today? It couldn't be the router Linksys has always made a reliable product, I mean they get outdated before they get broken. But alas the mighty Casey has struck out. I am out the bucks and performance on this guys, no, no I haven't setup a memorial fund yet as it is still to hard to come to terms and even though I bought the E4200 (refurbished he he he) I still don't feel like I have really replaced the E3200.
on December 12, 2012
I've been searching for a good 802.11n router for quite some time. I have tried lots of routers and there has always been something wrong with them. Unfortunately, this one is one of them.
The router was easy to set up. I configured it manually, not with the automated tools. Just plugged it into the power and into my computer over ethernet and went to the configuration page (192.168.1.1). Has plenty of features, such as Dynamic DNS and DHCP reservation (for when you want a laptop or other device to always have the same IP address at home for port forwarding, but don't want to set a static IP for when you're using it outside of home). The router handles my 40mbps internet connection great and allows me to download at full speed over Wi-Fi on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
Seemed like a great router for the first week of use, and then of course something has to go wrong. The 5GHz radio will randomly cease to function, while 2.4GHz and the rest of the router continue to function normally. The 5GHz channel just disappears from the list of Wi-Fi networks available. Rebooting the router fixes the problem and sometimes it will come back on its own. I thought I had found a decent router for once, but I was wrong.
I'm currently using a TP-Link WDR-4300 for the past 3 weeks and so far it has had zero issues. Fingers crossed.
on December 5, 2013
Pros: Simple design, easy-to-use UI
Cons: Not the greatest connectivity, wi-fi signals spotty
I don't understand why to this day we still cannot have reliable, home wireless routers. For a reputable company such as Cisco, I would expect their networking products to be above average. I still run into issues with wi-fi signals being too weak or completely dropped. My home isn't that big so it is surprising to me that the signal isn't very good. If I'm more than 15 ft away from the router, the signal strength drops dramatically.
I've tried different configurations and placements, but haven't been able to get a consistent, strong signal from this router.