Linksys E4200 (V1) and an RMA experience

E4200

Two things I noticed about this router (E4200V1):

  1. It gets quite warm under load
  2. When my PC crashes due to overclocking, it usually takes out the router along with it (all clients lose connectivity)

Specifically my combination consisted of the 82579V Intel chipset on my P8Z77-V with a E4200V1.

I came home one day to find my PC offline, and my room having a funky smell described to me by my wife as “man-smell”.  After hunting around, I noticed the E4200 laying on my carpet feeling as if it was going to smolder and start making my carpet go up in flames. Immediately I unplugged it, and blasted it with a few bursts from my compressed gas duster.

After plugging the router back in and turning on my PC, I notice that it did not have a link.  Moving from Port 1 (no link) to ports 2 through 4 resulted in no link unless the connection was forced to 10Mbit/Half -duplex.  It was strange but the connection was stable enough to check e-mail and load up a few pages until the connection conked out for a few seconds and then come back.  Wi-fi on my various laptops/phones/tablets worked flawlessly.  My T61P could not get port 1 to work, and ports 2 through 4 would negotiate at 100M.

Some research concluded that the gigabit LAN ports are prone to failure.  This would explain the huge number of refurb V1s available at a fraction of the price of a regular retail model.  Reviews of the E4200 were largely negative due to premature failure, although the performance was reported to be quite good when it was working.  I took my chances, and even purchased it on my credit card that doubles the warranty (from 1 to 2 years).   It was the best router available at the time, and it even supported Tomato firmware.

Good thing it failed when it did, as apparently the extended warranty is only valid if the purchase was made 100% by the credit card.  Gift cards, trade-ins and in-store credits all seem to invalidate this option, as per the fine print in the booklet that accompanied the card.  My device had another three months of warranty remaining.

Cisco support is honestly quite end-user unfriendly.  First, you MUST have a technical support case number before an RMA is requested.  Second, it’s impossible (to me, at least) to find an e-mail address or online form to submit for a support case.  Third, when I was able to reach a support person on the phone, they wanted to do perform basic troubleshooting even though I clearly stated port 1 does not work even after a firmware update/settings reset.  The technician claimed he would speak with a second-level support person and that I would receive a call within 48 hours.

That was Monday.  Friday rolls around, no call.  Calling back and reciting my long case number, I was finally able to get an RMA assigned.  I opted for returning my device first, as an advanced RMA would cost me $25+tax for having them express-ship my replacement.  There was no option for ground.

The RMA form is quite nice as you can specify you want the exact same product in return, though it indicates it may cause a delay if they do not have the same parts in stock.  I opted to have them replace it with whatever they had on hand.  I expected an E4200V2, seeing as it is the only E4200 sold in stores now.

Cisco was nice enough to send a survey to see how my customer service experience was — I gave a fairly harsh review, but I believe it is deserved.  It is a far cry from the RMA service of other companies such as Western Digital, or even ASUS.

A couple days later, a box arrives with a brand-new shrink-wrapped EA4500.  This is a re-badged E4200V2.

I contemplated for a while, but ultimately opted to sell the replacement and order an ASUS RT-N66U — a device very similar to the E4200V1, Broadcom chipset meaning Tomato support.  Unfortunately for me, shortly after I received a shipping notification I found out that the new gigabit wireless RT-AC66U will be available within one week. DOH!

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