Okay, true: most people don’t think a lot about their routers….typically, it’s just something that sits in the corner beside where the Internet connection enters the house, and it occasionally blinks.
But for power users, the router has a whole pile of functionality that can be unlocked, to optimize the connected experience. For the most part, that requires a trip to the computer, either to “surf the box” or to fire up dedicated router-configuration software. Both of these can be a bit intimidating, even to the intermediate-level user, so often people leave their router set with default settings, and simply reboot it if something seems to be a bit wonky with the net.
Cisco’s newest batch of Linksys routers are designed to make the whole experience a bit easier by making them “App Enabled”, allowing you to interact directly with your router from an app on your Android or iOS device. So instead of having to try to get to the router’s web config pages from a tablet’s web browser (or having to run to the basement computer to do it there) you simply open up an Android app and your configuration options are right there in one handy interface.
There are several models in the Linksys lineup that are App Enabled, but I got my hands on the brand new AC1750 HD Video Pro (also known as the EA6500). The router comes with four built-in gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports (for connection to hard drives or printers). It has dual-band wireless (2.4 and 5.0 GHz) for better performance, and comes tuned to deliver between 300 and 450 Mbps of data transfer to compatible devices, or three times standard 802.11n. And of course, it can be controlled from an Android app.
There are a few reasons why you might want to tweak your router settings at a moment’s notice.
First, you may want to adjust the parental control settings on your router to limit your kids’ Internet access when it’s time for them to be doing homework instead. So you’d fire up the Cisco Connect Cloud app, tap on the device you want to limit, and then you can block it from the net altogether. Or, if they need the net for research, simply limit access to specific sites (like social media sites, for example). Then, when the homework is done, you can remove the restrictions.
Another key reason to tweak the settings would be to prioritize traffic in the house – if everyone is trying to connect to the net at the same time, someone who’s trying to watch streaming video may have a bad experience while others engage in online activities that don’t necessarily require a steady flow of data. Again, fire up the app, and re-set the media prioritization of each device. That way you can set your media player (such as a Boxee Box or AppleTV) to receive a more steady flow of data, while a computer upstairs that’s not streaming video will have to wait a tiny bit longer for data.
If you want, you can also sign up for a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account, and enter that information into your router. Then, even when you’re not at home you can fire up your Android apps, log into the cloud account, and optimize the network right from wherever you are. (So, if you need to adjust a parental control setting but you’re halfway across the country, you still can.)
Cisco also has an Android app called Connect Express that gives you a more basic view of the router, with an interface that’s a bit more reminiscent of what you’d see on the router itself. It’s nowhere near as pretty but it gives you a lot more granular information more quickly, like IP and MAC addresses, and the ability to upgrade the router’s firmware.
Right now there are a few more apps available on the iOS side of the fence (including some third-party apps), but this is still a pretty good start, giving Android users a lot of configuration power right from a pocket device.