By February 22, 2012

Refurbished Cisco E2500 Dual Band Wireless Router Review

My Internet service in Minnesota sucks. Charter, my provider, was unable to deliver their advertised speeds and my service is frequently disrupted. I wrote about my experience last May.

When we moved in December I hoped that a new location and new equipment would make a difference. I specifically requested a new cable modem / router from them. I had to reset the old router often, either to regain my connection to the Internet or to allow mobile devices to connect to the wireless network.

Unfortunately, things still sucked. Access was sporadic and often slow. I was also very disappointed in the performance of the built-in wireless access point. Everything was super slow when our laptops, mobile phones, or tablets finally connected to the router.

At one point I started connecting to a neighbor’s house as I couldn’t tolerate the frequent drops from Charter’s shitty Netgear CG3000-D. The nearest home is about fifty yards away, so that tells you how poor Charter’s gear is.

I’d had enough. I resolved to buy two wireless routers, one for the upstairs two levels of the house, and one for the bottom two floors.

I knew I wanted two wireless access points, so my primary requirement was that they be inexpensive. There are lots of wireless routers in the under $50 price range, but then they ran afoul of my second requirement: dual simultaneous bands. Lower-end routers either transmit in G or N, but not both at the same time.

I didn’t have a ton of N equipment, but as the days march on I figured I would.

The last thing I wanted was a somewhat reputable name. I had D-Link and Linksys routers in the past. Cisco bought Linksys, and was marketing products under a shared moniker.

So, the next price range was under $100. That meant I was looking at about $150 – $200 for my project. I wasn’t 100% sure it would be successful, and spending that kind of scratch made me nervous.

I chose refurbished Cisco E2500 models due to their price and because they allowed for G and N network use at the same time.

Here’s my review, with some advice on setting up a big ass wireless network in your home.


The black, flat-topped box on top is the Cisco E2500 wireless router.

Features and specifications

The E2500 transmits both on the G and N bands. They have four Ethernet ports on the back for wired connections, along with one uplink port.

The unit is about the size of an 8″ kitchen plate. It’s relatively flat, and has a tapered nose. The design kind of pisses me off, as the weight of attached CAT5/CAT6 cables pulls the light-weight nose skyward. I mitigated this issue by pushing the E2500 farther onto a shelf and a desktop than I would with a normal, boxy-shaped router.

The E2500 offers firewall, NAT, and DHCP — none of which I use because they both feed into my Charter router. If you’re looking for a single wireless router for your home, the E2500 may have enough features for you. Since I’m using them as access points I just cared if they put out a good signal.

It’s important to note that even though the Web-based admin tool states otherwise, the E2500 does not support a wireless bridged mode. In fact, enabling this mode crashed my router and made me do a factory reset.

Installation

Okay, the physical installation was dead simple. Plug the wireless router into a power socket and then snap in an Internet cable. Here’s the tough part: installing the routers on a pre-existing network.

The challenge is that the routers come set from the factory to work on a 192.168.1.x network. The Charter router is set up to run on 192.168.0.x. This meant that I had to connect to the E2500 router and reconfigure it to work on my existing network address space.

  1. I hooked my laptop up to an E2500 via an Ethernet cable, and then connected to the E2500 via its Web administration site. Ignore the request to enter the setup CD and the warnings about configuring the wireless router directly.
  2. Here’s what you need to do on the Basic Setup page:

  3. Here’s what you need to do on the Advanced Routing page:

  4. Set one router to use Channel 6 in the 2.4GHz channel. Set the other router to use Channel 11.
  5. I then gave the wireless access points the same exact name with the same exact WPA2 passwords.
  6. Repeat for the other router, except change the channel as indicated above.

Performance

One thing that really surprised me is that a single E2500 covered the upper, ground, and first underground floor on its own. A single cheap wireless router outperformed the one from Charter. After enabling the second router, I eliminated dead spots in the house. I also have coverage in the basement and garage, as well as on the side deck and all the way down our 90′ driveway. I’ll find out how the coverage is outside once the weather warms up.

Conclusion

I am extremely happy with the refurbished Cisco E2500 routers. I feel like they give great performance for the price, and recommend them to anyone.

Strongly Recommended

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3 Comments on "Refurbished Cisco E2500 Dual Band Wireless Router Review"

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  1. Daniel Koster says:

    Have you considered using an open source firmware? (Like DD-wrt or Tomato)

    I had the problem of a weak wireless signal in half the house and didn’t really want to mess with running enough CAT5 to setup a second wireless AP. But one day at CompUSA I saw a bunch of refurbished E1000’s for $20, so I figured why not try it. I installed DD-wrt and configured the unit as a wireless repeater/bridge, and now the whole house has coverage, including the Blu-Ray player that I didn’t even realize had a Netflix client built in.

  2. DrFaulken says:

    Hi there! I used to run DD-WRT on my old Linksys router, so I did investigate open source firmwares for my E2500.

    Tomato isn’t available for the E2500, which is a shame.

    The E2500 won’t run DD-WRT, either, although there is some work being done on it (supposedly).

    I gave up on DD-WRT after this post, which suggests that the radio in the E2500 may not be able to run in wireless bridged mode, even if the firmware is hacked:

    http://www.dd-wrt.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=656165

    The stock firmware is ugly and not very intuitive, but it got my job done.

    Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Brice says:

    The main problem with consumer grade wireless APs is lack of cooling. I find that adding addition space under my access point to promote cooler operation greatly increases the life of the access point. Those radios run hot!

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