Note: This article was first published on Dec 28, 2016.
For readers who demand the very best in wireless connectivity, AC5300-class routers are what you want because they offer both speed and bandwidth. In case, you don't already know, the two are somewhat related, but not entirely the same.
On the speed front, because of their support of 4x4 streams and NitroQAM technology, they are able to offer maximum transfer speeds of up to 2,167Mbps on their 5GHz networks. For sheer speed, only AC3100-class routers can match up to the AC5300-class routers.
On the bandwidth front, AC5300-class routers broadcast three distinct networks (one more than the AC3100-class routers), allowing them to accommodate more wireless devices. To recap, AC5300 routers broadcast a single 2.4GHz network and two 5GHz networks. The single 2.4GHz network supports speeds of up to 1,000Mbps while the two 5GHz networks manage 2,167Mbps each - add them all up and you get 5,334Mbps.
In addition, these AC5300-class routers also support MU-MIMO technology. MU-MIMO or Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output is a technology that enables a router to transmit data to compatible multiple devices simultaneously. This is great for users who have many connected devices that are being used concurrently. Presently, non MU-MIMO routers can only transmit data to a single client device at any one time, which explains why performance deteriorates rapidly when multiple devices are connected to a router. You can read more about MU-MIMO technology in our review of the Linksys EA8500 router, the first router to officially support MU-MIMO out of the box.
As a result, AC5300-class routers are the ideal routers for household who demand the utmost in speed and bandwidth.
We've already reviewed two earlier AC5300-class routers that debuted in 2015 from ASUS and Netgear. For this shootout, we pit three newer models that launched in 2016 from Linksys, D-Link and TP-Link.
We begin this shootout with the Linksys EA9500 router, which was reviewed earlier this year in July. You can find out more about the router in our original review here, so we will only go through the router’s key highlights now.
The EA9500 is Linksys’ new flagship router and the first thing that strikes you about it is its sheer size. It is over 30cm wide, 7cm thick, and weighs a hefty 1.7kg. It is also full of antennas. There are eight of them and they are non-removable to provide the router with a fixed antenna gain, allowing the router to better calculate and maintain beamforming signals.
The back of the EA9500 router is even more interesting as it has not the usual four, but eight Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports! This is a much welcomed feature, considering the amount of connected devices we have today. Our only gripe is that these LAN ports do not support port aggregation. There's also a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port for connecting to printers and external storage devices for print and file sharing.
Inside, the EA9500 router is powered by Broadcom’s 5G XStream platform, which consists of a 1.4GHz dual-core Broadcom BCM4709 processor and three BCM4366 radios. This is what allows the EA9500 router to attain its AC5300 rating.
On the setup and software side of things, the EA9500 router gets Linksys’ excellent Smart Wi-Fi user interface and software stack. It is one of the most straightforward and user-friendly router setup interface to use, and offers features like traffic monitoring, networking mapping, parental control, and more.
Check out our original review of the Linksys EA9500 router to learn more about this router.