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Cisco soars into the cloud

The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi EA4500 router makes managing your entire home network a snap



The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi EA4500 is a high-performance router from Cisco that can add cloud storage or a printer server to your home network.

The fast W-Fi connection speed - up to 450Mbps - between compatible device and a built-in DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) server makes the EA4500 ideal for a large house with several rooms where you need to stream multimedia files like video and music to players in each room.

Once you connect a USB hard drive to the EA4500, you can use a DLNA-compatible tablet computer, a smart phone or even a Smart TV to stream your files and photos at a fast and fluid speed.

All the notebook and desktop computers on your home network can share the files and folders from the EA4500 storage. The router provides an IP address that you to type into the other computers.

And you can set an FTP server for the networked drive so that you can access the files and folders from another computer via the Internet when you're away from home.

The EA4500 uses Wireless N technology broadcasting simultaneously via 2.4GHz and 5GHz at up to 450Mbps, so it has a combined speed of 900Mbps.

Unlike other Wi-Fi routers, this one uses internal antennas - six in all - three for transmitting data and the others for receiving data to minimise bandwidth bottleneck when connected to several devices at the same time.

Best of all, the EA4500 has four Gigabit LAN ports to connected to a computer, using a LAN capable and achieve the connection speed of one gigabit, unlike the 100Mbit speed of older LAN connection types.

The unit is much larger than other routers, allowing it better ventilation. It's 22.5x2.5x16cm.

The EA4500 is easy to set up. You simply connect its Internet LAN port to your existing ADSL modem or modem/router and then run the set-up application from the provided CD.

If you're using a modem/router with DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), which generates and distributes network IP automatically, the EA4500 will receive an IP from it and generate a new set of IPs and distribute the Internet connection from the modem/router.

But to avoid confusion about different LAN networks, you should disable the DHCP of your modem/router and use only its modem function, which is called "bridging".

I used the technique with my TP-Link TD-W8920G modem/router, which has only 54Mbit Wireless G connection. After I bridged the TD-W8920G to the EA4500, the connection wizard couldn't identify the Internet connection, so I skipped that to set up the wireless router process.

I was prompted for the SSID or wireless network name and security password as well as an administration password for controlling the router. I used the same SSID name and password as my existing router so that my notebooks, smart phones and iPad wouldn't have to be reconfigured.

Once the set-up was complete, the wizard saved a configuration file to my desktop for checking later.

I used the Cisco Connect Cloud application to log in to the EA4500 to type in the user name and password of my True Internet's ADSL account, and the Internet connection came alive again. The whole process was simple.

The EA4500 has a really strong signal. I tested it with an HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook PC, up on the roof of my two-storey townhouse (equal to the third floor). The Ultrabook reported a good signal - quite impressive considering that the EA4500 hides its antennas inside its case.

To use the Cisco Connect Could utility you must register for a free account, and when you connect to your Cloud account for the first time you need to key in your router's admin password. Once that's done you can connect from anywhere in the world to monitor or manage your home network.

Cisco also provides an application for Android-OS smart phones to monitor your home network. I downloaded the Cloud on my Motorola Razr Maxx.

The Connect Cloud has a few built-in applications for controlling your home network. Parental Controls manages Internet-access time for your child and can block websites. Guest Access manages a network your guests can use separate, away from your personal resources.

And Connect Cloud will prioritise which devices get the most bandwidth, for less lag time and buffering. You can, for example, give your Smart TV the most bandwidth so you can watch YouTube high-definition clips without disruption.

What I love most about the EA4500 is that you can plug your printer into the USB port and use the Device List function to add a USB printer. The Cloud will direct you to the Cisco VUSB application on the computer to access the networked printer. The VUSB will then recognise the printer and ask you to install the printer's driver from its CD.

However the EA4500 has just one USB port, so you need to choose between using it as a media server or a printing server.

The EA4500 retails for Bt6,150.

Key specs

_ Technology: Wireless-N

_ Bands simultaneous: 2.4GHz and 5GHz

_ 2.4GHz Band: Up to 450Mbps

_ 5GHz Band: Up to 450Mbps

_ Transmit/receive: 3x3

_ Antennas: Six internal

_ USB port: Shared storage, virtual USB and media server

_ Ports x speed: Four x gigabit

_ IPv6 Support: Native IPv6 and 6rd support

_ OS compatibility: Windows, Mac

_ Dimensions: 22.5x2.5x16cm

_ Weight: 0.36kg


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