Thursday, December 09, 2010

Review: Linksys E2100L Wireless-N Router

Linksys has a long standing as one of the best networking brands on the market. I know I've used their routers for years any absolutely love them. It wasn't until recently that I upgraded from my old WRT-54G with the hacked DD-WRT Firmware to something new. Of course when I was shopping around the first place I looked was at the new Linksys models.

As timing would have it they asked us if we'd like to review one of their new E-Series routers. So we jumped for the chance and made a tough call and went with the new Linksys E2100L. More on that decision later!

These days Linksys is owned by Cisco, which is of course one of the best know names in networking. Recently the company introduced several new products under the Cisco/Linksys name one of which is the new Valet line of wireless routers for home users. Along side the home based Valet line Cisco Systems also detailed a new line of routers for business and tech savvy users. These new routers have Cisco in their name but Linksys as their model number.

This new series is know as the Linksys E-series which includes four new Wireless-N routers: Linksys E1000, Linksys E2000, Linksys E2100L, and Linksys E3000.

The E1000 is the budget router for people with lighter networking needs. The E2000 is a midrange wireless router with support for Gigabit Ethernet and selectable dual-band, letting it to in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. The Linksys E2100L is a slightly more advanced model powered by Linux that allows for more customization and flexibility in network control and optimization. It doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet or dual-band wireless, but it has a USB port and a built-in UPnP AV Media Server that is capable of streaming digital content from attached USB drives to an Xbox 360, PS3, or other compatible devices.

The top of the line is the Linksys E3000, which supports all the features available in Cisco consumer-grade wireless routers, including simultaneous dual-band, Gigabit Ethernet, built-in UPnP AV media server, USB port to host network storage, and more.

Today we are focusing on the Linksys E2100L which after much deliberation we selected as providing the best band for your geek buck. Why you may ask? We'll we figured most of our readers would want the option of having the USB port for file sharing and the being the geeks we are we wanted the added customization of the Linux based OS. Now I know the Linksys E3000 offers dual band as well as Gigabit Ethernet but we figured most shoppers would want to save some of their hard earned cash and not splurge on the E3000.

Linksys E2100L Specifications
  • Model: Linksys E2100L
  • Technology: Wireless-N
  • Standards: IEEE 802.3/3u, IEEE 802.11b/g, IEEE802.11n Draft
  • Bands: 2.4 GHz
  • Security: WPA/WPA2 Personal SPI firewall protection
  • Antennas: 2 Detachable
  • Ethernet ports x speed: 4 x 10/100
  • USB port: Yes for centralized file sharing with NAS devices
  • OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac


Right out of the box Linksys routers are amongst the easiest you'll find to setup and the E2100L. You can either run the Cisco Connect software or do it the old fashioned way and log direct into the interface and adjust your settings as needed.

Considering we opted for the E2100L because of the Linux Based OS we opted to forgo using the Cisco Connect software and manual adjust all of our settings. For users of older Linksys models most of the UI will look familiar and is easy to navigate. We had most of our settings changed and our router secured and up and running in just a few mins. Setting up the built-in media server and adding an external drive was a bit different and took a few attempts with a few different devices but once it was running things went smoothly.

Wireless Coverage

With all wireless routers range is one of the biggest areas of concern. After all if you can't get a wireless signal its pretty pointless to have the router. Being that the E2100L is a Draft N router and has dual external antennas it should have decent range. During my testing I was only able to use Wireless-G devices (at the time we didn't have any draft n devices setup).

For the most part coverage was fine, when I say fine I mean I had a decent signal. The downside to that is that it was no better than my older router. To be honest that disappointed me a bit. I didn't expect much of a gain but I did figure it being a newer router it might offer a little better coverage.

Built-in Media Server

Cisco says the built-in USB port can be used for connecting to an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or other USB storage device, allowing you to share your files at home or over the Internet. We however had a few issues setting it up with our flash drives. I couldn't diagnose the issue any further than the devices simply not working. Testing with other devices, more specifically our external hard drive went rather smoothly and setup was quick and easy.

The E2100L also includes a built-in UPnP AV media server that streams music, video, and photos from your storage device to an Xbox 360, PS3, or other UPnP AV-compatible device. We only used the device on a local machine that was wired but we did test the media server functions and we can say streaming locally was very smooth. We found no playback issues and no file transfer issues what so ever.


Being a Linksys fan from the start I might sound a bit bias here but I'll say I honestly think the new E-Series routers are some of the best I've used. Price wise they are a bit expensive, I believe they are now down to $70-80 whcih would make it a great deal, the E2100L was priced at $120 when we first spotted them, but the features are pretty hard to beat.

Having the addition of the built-in USB port was one feature that really drew me to the E2100L. Is that something worth paying more for. Well for me at the original price it certainly wouldn't be. Its nice to have but I could setup a networked NAS or a share from my PC and be content. At the lower prices I've seen lately I would say yes it is definitely a feature that would draw me to this router.

For the average user going with something slightly cheaper like the Cisco Valet series will likely be a better option. For the geeks out there that want something packed with features and aren't really concerned with cost I'd say the E3000 is a better bet. You'd add dual band and Gigabyte Ethernet both of which would nice to have. For the Linux/DD-WRT users out there that are drawn to the E2100L for it's Linux use, honestly I'd say you are better off finding something with all the features you want (possibly the E3000) and flashing the device.

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