If you have cable modem or ADSL router with older 802.11g wireless, the Cisco Linksys E3000 is a stylish way to upgrade to wireless N.

It’s a dual-band design, able to work on both the familiar 2.4GHz and rarer 5GHz band, at the same time. This contrasts with less capable units that operate on one band at a time.

The Cisco Linksys E3000 is a low profile unit, with no visible antennae, standing only 35mm high. In its dark blue and black livery, with swooping jet car curves, it’s a smart yet discreet design.

From the back you can access the ethernet port input for connection to a cable or ADSL modem, along with four additional ethernet ports for wired connection to other devices. All are gigabit speed network ports. Also on the back of the Cisco Linksys E3000 is a USB 2.0 port, to which you can connect external storage.

Cisco makes it easy for users to connect and setup the Cisco Linksys E3000. You’re pushed towards using the CD to configure the router, for Windows and Mac platforms or configure yourself from 192.168.1.1.

Automated setup is quite slick, and we had a working wireless network within minutes, connecting the Cisco Linksys E3000 to our ADSL2+ modem. The software offers to create an Easy Setup Key, to install onto a USB thumbdrive.

Both wireless radios are on together by default, with a third SSID for Guest access. This is secured by a password, not encrypted by the usual WEP or WPA. Guests logon through a webpage, and enter a password created by the router.

Confusingly, the router sets itself up with 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks having the same name. So when browsing for networks, we couldn’t see which radio band we were using until we’d joined.

Like other wireless N makers, Cisco promises you can ‘connect your computers, gaming consoles, Internet-enabled HDTVs and Blu-Ray players, and other wireless devices at up to 300 Mbps of transfer speeds’. And like every other wireless N router we’ve tried, this is quite, quite far from the truth.

No matter how we tweaked settings for wireless, we couldn’t see a nominal Transmit Rate (TR) higher than 145. In our tests, at 1m and 10m ranges, the maximum we saw was 80Mbps. At 10m distant, the fastest throughput was 44Mbps, using 5GHz and just 40Mbps at 2.4GHz.

As a wired gigabit ethernet router, the Cisco Linksys E3000 worked well, and we saw transfer speeds up to 840Mbps.

OUR VERDICT

If you need to add 802.11n wireless to an existing home network, the E3000 is up to the job. But you may find the promised high performance eludes this unit, despite its positioning as a high-end device. We didn’t see three-figure megabit-per-second speeds, let alone 300Mbps.