The 'EA' in the Cisco Linksys EA6500 stands for Enabled App, which means this 802.11ac router runs the Cisco Connect Cloud firmware, with apps to access it remotely. The number of available apps is still very limited, but the service is relatively young still. Cisco says that a number of developers are working on it.
When it launched, the Connect Cloud firmware caused a stir as it appeared that Cisco would track your internet use. However this isn't the case and you have a choice of using a version of the firmware without the Connect Cloud functionality. You know which version you have by the colour at the top, light blue is the local firmware, and dark blue is the cloud firmware.
As well as four gigabit ethernet ports, you get two USB 2.0 ports to use the EA6500 as a file or print server.
The router's interface looks good even if you sometimes have to look around a little to find certain features. You can customise things quite a bit, including the information you want on the home screen and other parts. The success of the new interface will depend heavily on the apps that are available. If those don't provide enough additional value, looks alone will not cause people to use the new environment.
If you frequently use QoS (Quality of Service), the EA6500 should appeal. It automatically indexes all devices connected to the router, after which you can drag and drop them into the order you want. Adding applications and online games to the QoS list is equally straightforward.
An interesting extra feature is Simple Tap. Cisco includes a card with an NFC chip with the router. To use it you have to install the Connect Cloud app on your mobile device, and enable it in the router interface. Once you've done that, when you hold the smartphone or tablet with NFC chip against the card, it will automatically connect to the router's wireless network. Oddly, this feature isn't available for the guest network, which is a shame if you have large numbers of visitors.
Cisco has clearly spent a lot of time and effort on the EA6500's interface, and listened to customer feedback. It's full of excellent features and is great for setting QoS rules. Performance is outstanding on 5GHz in combination with both 802.11n- and 802.11ac clients, but on 2.4GHz a few other routers are faster. The EA6500 is an excellent 802.11ac router, but it isn't the cheapest. You can save money by buying a fast 802.11n router instead.