Cisco announced an updated line of Linksys wireless 802/11/b/g/n routers for the home market, including a Linux model. The E2100L Advanced Wireless-N Router with Linux OS offers four 10/100 Ethernet ports, a USB port, a UPnP AV Media Server, and like the other E-Series WiFi routers, provides new, more customizable Cisco Connect software.
The $120 Linksys E2100L Advanced Wireless-N Router with Linux OS is one of four new E-Series routers for the home market, all of which are said to offer 802.11b/g/n WiFi bandwidth at up to 300Mbps. The four E-Series routers also debut the Cisco Connect software, which makes it easier for users to customize and control wireless network settings, claims Cisco.
Cisco Connect auto-assigns the WPA security passkey and SSID for easier installation, says the company. Other features are said to include adding devices, setting device-specific parental controls, and providing visitors with password-protected Internet access on a separate guest network. According to Cisco, the software provides easier access to customizing advanced settings and changing the network SSID and password than did the previous Linksys software. Meanwhile, advanced users can still opt for changing settings through the default IP address (192.168.1.1).
The sole Linux model, the Linksys E2100L, offers greater customization flexibility compared to the other E-Series routers, says Cisco. The E2100L appears to be identical to Cisco's first Linksys home router equipped with 802.11n, the Linux-based Linksys by Cisco Wireless-N Broadband Router with Storage Link (WRT160NL), announced last June. It's difficult to say exactly how similar the products are, as Cisco has not released detailed technical specs, as it did with the WRT160NL. It appears, however, that the only meaningful difference from the WRT160NL, which was said to offer a 400MHz processor, 32MB DDRAM, and 8MB flash, may be the new Cisco Connect software.
The Linksys E2100L router establishes an 802.11n WiFi hotpot, but like the WRT160NL, is limited to four fast Ethernet (10/100Mbps) ports rather than the gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000Mbps) offered with the new, identically priced Linksys E2000 Advanced Wireless-N Router. The Linux model also lacks the E2000's selectable 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands, operating only over 2.4GHz.
On the other hand, the E2100L supplies two key features not offered by the E2000: a USB port for connecting storage devices, and a UPnP AV Media Server, which can stream entertainment content to an Xbox 360, PS3, or another UPnP-compatible device, says the company.
The earlier WRT160NL's USB port was referred to as a "Storage Link" port, a name not used with the new model. In either case, however, it appears to be no different than any other USB 2.0 host port.
As with the WRT160NL, the E2100L is equipped with two detachable antennas, says Cisco. Security features provided by the E2100L are said to include WPA/WPA2 Personal, WPA /WPA2 Enterprise, and SPI firewall protection. (For more technical details on the similar WRT160NL model, please see our earlier coverage here.)
The remaining two new E-Series models include the $80 Linksys E1000 Wireless-N Router, which offers four 10/100 Ethernet ports, and on the high end, the $180 Linksys E3000 High-Performance Wireless-N Router, says Cisco. The latter is said to offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz operation, four gigabit Ethernet ports, and a UPnP AV media server. In addition, the company introduced a $70 USB-connected Linksys AE1000 Wireless-N Adapter.
In December, Cisco followed up on the WRT160NL by announcing a similarly styled Linux-based WiFi router, touted as the first 802.11n dual-band clustering access point for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The Cisco AP 541N Wireless Access Point is equipped with dual-band 802.11n, a single gigabit Ethernet port, "robust" security, voice roaming, and clustering technology, says Cisco.
The 802.11n standard boasts as much as twice the range of 802.11g. It also offers better service quality and far greater bandwidth: from the typical maximum of 300Mbps to a theoretical 600Mbps.
Stated Jonathan Kaplan, SVP and GM of Cisco Consumer Products, "Linksys pioneered the first home router 10 years ago, and 50 million units later is the world's leading provider of home wireless routers. The new E-Series caters to Linksys' core technology-minded consumer base, with a simplified product line-up that is ideal for today's sophisticated home network user."
The Linksys E2100L Advanced Wireless-N Router with Linux OS is available now for $120, says Cisco. All the E-series routers are available immediately at Amazon, Staples, and Linksys.com, and can soon be found at Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and other leading retailers, says the company.
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