Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

Summary: Cisco's flagship consumer SOHO wireless router, the E3000, has a tragic flaw: Overheat.

TOPICS: Cisco, Networking

Cisco's flagship consumer SOHO wireless router, the E3000, has a tragic flaw: Overheat.

I work a lot from home for a large technology delivery organization. As such, my house is probably one of the most wired households in Northern New Jersey. I'm in the minority of customers which makes use of all of the bandwidth from my Optimum Online Ultra connection, Cablevision's 100Mbps broadband service which advertises itself as the fastest consumer broadband you can buy in the United States. And well, it is.

Why the heck do I need all this broadband? Well, I've got a lot of devices with constant Internet connections from a whole bunch of appliances and hard-wired computers, not to mention I'm now downloading a ton of stuff all the time for work and other research purposes.

We have also two smartphones, two laptops and an iPad connected via Wi-Fi, the DirecTV Whole-Home HD DVR service which requires an Internet connection and a high-speed 5Ghz wireless-N bridge if I want to make the most out of the On-Demand, two HD-capable Rokus, an HD Slingbox and two VOIP lines for both me and my wife which get used constantly. And I'm not counting all the test equipment that comes in and out of my home lab that needs to talk to the Internet as well.

I'm not bragging. This is how I make my living and how I choose to live. Unfortunately it also means that I've become absolutely dependent on my home broadband connection. And when it goes down, Jason gets angry. Very. Very. Angry.

Around 11PM last night, all of my connections dropped. So I did the usual thing, I rebooted the cable modem and the router. Still doesn't come back.

Okay, maybe my Linux workstation is acting flaky. So I rebooted my PC and cycled the Ethernet interface. No DHCP gets assigned. Not good.

I then hear the dreaded words coming from my wife hollering from upstairs. "Jay, did we lose our Internet connection?"

Page 2: [I got a fever burnin' inside of me...]  »

Um, yeah. So to verify that the broadband itself wasn't down, I pulled out my backup router and connected it to the cable modem. Everything comes back up. Okay, at least I can work tomorrow if I need to, but not everything is going to work swimmingly.

See, the problem is, when you have all this bandwidth, and if you expect to use it, then you actually need a SOHO router that can handle a 100Mbps connection. There aren't many on the market that are rated for this type of WAN activity, and also have integrated 2.4Ghz as well as 5Ghz wireless.

Given those parameters, you can basically narrow your choice down to two models -- Netgear's high-end WNDR3700, which I have and use currently as an access point to cover my upstairs equipment, and also Cisco's E3000. There's a few other Gigabit wireless-N routers on the market, such as the DDR-WRT-based Buffalo Nfiniti, but these are the two major ones that I know of which have dual transceivers for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. [EDIT: Apparently, there's also a D-Link, the DGL-4500, which is dual-band and gigabit capable.]

I needed to buy another router having re-purposed the WNDR3700, so this time around I decided to go with the Cisco. I've had this router running for about 30 days, having to reboot it occasionally in order to reset my broadband. This is typical and to be expected.

What you don't expect, however, is for your router to overheat and to cease functioning in a temperature controlled, well-ventilated basement during the beginning of November.

There's a problem with the E3000, and it's obvious to anyone who uses it -- the bottom of the unit gets very, very hot. And when that happens, the internal Ethernet switch stops working, and your LAN and WAN connections drop.

I stayed up until about 4AM diagnosing this problem, and I'm not happy, and neither should anyone else who owns a Cisco Linksys product. If you read the various fora and support boards out there, as well as a number of long-term reviews of this router, this is a known problem with the E3000 and several of the new "Pancake" form factor Cisco Linksys routers.

What's going on with the Linksys product line now that Cisco has taken over? I don't know, but it's clear to me that with ever-demanding bandwidth needs in the home, their SOHO products need to be designed and manufactured to stay on constantly and run reliably. I'd ask Cisco's consumer people just what the hell exactly is going on, but it appears they abandoned their Twitter account in June of 2009. There's no @DigitalCribs account which was supposed to have replaced their old one. Sorry Cisco, that's a FAIL.

The intermediate solution for me appears to be to keep the router placed on a cool surface, and I'm even considering one of those special laptop cooling pads to try to diffuse the heat building up on the bottom of the unit. But to the rest of you considering a current Cisco SOHO networking product, take heed of my story and look elsewhere. Until I see evidence they've increased the reliability of these products, I'm going back to Netgear.

And with that, I leave you with one of my favorite songs from the 70's/80's band Foreigner, which pretty much summarizes my experience from last night. Cisco, perhaps you should consider adopting this as Linksys's corporate anthem.

Is your SOHO router "Hot Blooded?" Talk Back and Let Me Know.

[poll id="24"]

Topics: Cisco, Networking


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Get some wood dowels (4) and put the router on top

    with an offset of about 2" clearance from the underside.<br><br>My e3000 works great especially since I flashed it with dd-wrt (Sept 2010 build)

    I haven't needed to power cycle my router since I replaced a Linksys WRT54GL with the e3000 and this router handles both home use and web server traffic (self-managed website) well. What I have read on the overheating issue is a simple solution and will help.

    I do agree with another poster's opinion below that the new pancake design while unique keeps you from being able to stack routers as you could with the former LinkSys line.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    I don't have this router and doubt I ever will. I have been unhappy with all of the cisco offerings since changing the form factor from the old LinkSys form factor to their own. They don't stack anylonger, they don't dissipate heat well, and honestly, their service is much poorer than when it was LinkSys. For such a respected brand, especially at the enterprise level, they should be ashamed!

    Now Linksys had great and very reliable hardware! In fact, I'm still using my first linksys router/switch from 10 years ago or so. It's the BFSR41 or something like that. It's in my basement, supplies a link to my upstairs rooms, and just keeps on ticking! It's a timex, it's never going to stop!
    • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

      @mgrubb@... I had a WRT54G V3, which is the revision that had some slight alterations from Cisco. While running the Linksys firmware, it would run warm and quit about once a month; upgrading it to DD-WRT solved both issues. It's nearly 5 years old now, and I ended up selling it because of an upgrade to Wireless N.

      First Wireless N router was an e3000, and it was a giant piece of easy cheese. The first one refused to run more than an hour before quitting, and the second one only gained stability while running on a laptop cooling pad. Being that I'm a firm believer that a soho router is something that should be seen but not heard, I ended up buying a refurbished Apple Time Capsule with a 1TB hard drive. It's definitely a beast, supporting network transfer rates that run about as fast as my slowest hard drive (a WD 160GB device) over gigabit and 5 GHz WiFi-N transfers that run faster than 100 mbit ethernet on a regular basis. If I'm doing large amounts of data transfer between computers, from a computer to a USB hard drive attached to the TC, or streaming to my AppleTV, it stays perfectly cool; it only runs warm when I'm abusing it's internal hard drive with Time Machine, but when I upgrade to either a 3 or 4 TB WD Green drive, I'm sure that issue will go away (everyone knows that Seagate drives tend to run warm).

      If you don't need a 4 port switch on a router Jason, I'd tell you that either an Airport or Time Capsule may be the way to go.
  • Why use consumer grade equipment?

    Just fork over the money for a Cisco 881 (maybe 881W for you) and enjoy the easy set up of Cisco Configuration Professional (or use the CLI if you are so inclined) and just forget about the router. I bought one of these bad boys (881) and have a D-LINk 3200AP connected to it and havent powercycled any of my equipment in several months. If you are passing that much traffic, it's time to upgrade from consumer trash to real SMB equipment. I spent around $1000 on my network, but it's been well worth it.
    • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

      @JT82 To push a 100Mbps WAN connection I'd need the 892. That's not a small chunk of change. I'll consider it, but it's not inspiring confidence if they can't even build their consumer equipment decently anymore.
      • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

        @jperlow Wait, why would you need to go up to the 892? The 881W has a 10/100 WAN port - long as you are at 100Mbps..that's all you need?
      • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

        @jt82 just because it has 100mbps WAN port doesnt mean that it can push traffic at 100mbps. There are plenty of UTM appliances that have a max throughput of 60Mbps or less even though the port itself is a 10/100. You need a gigabit rated port to push 100megabits of traffic on a UTM device, with a very fast CPU to handle the UTM on at the packet level.
    • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

      @JT82 While the 881 has a 10/100Mbit WAN port, it only supports about 50Mbit throughput. You can never go by just the port have to go by the throughput.

  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    "having to reboot it occasionally in order to reset my broadband. This is typical and to be expected."

    While I see this many times with SOHO routers I can say that my DGL-4500 never has to be rebooted. Great router with the only downside being it doesn't support simultaneous dual-band. If a router has to be rebooted with any regularity I get rid of it and find something that works properly.
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    I bought a mini fridge and placed it in there.

    Nice "inflammatory" image at the top of the story, BTW. ;)
  • Cisco Linksys Support is TERRIBLE!

    For Linksys products now that Cisco has taken it over. I've tried to get a resolution to a problem with a range extender for the past several months, and have been lied to numerous times. They told me they would replace it, but never did, then on subsequent calls they made promises to call me back, and never did.<br><br>In contrast, the other day I called Dell about a problem with my Dell SP2309W 23 inch display, and after a very brief description of the issue, they said they would ship a replacment. The replacement arrived two days later.<br><br>That's what customer support looks like, Cisco. I'll likely never buy another Linksys product....
  • How hot does it get?

    Have you taken its temperature?
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

      @Adrian Kingsley-Hughes I'd need an infrared thermometer to measure it accurately.
      • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

        You can get a perfectly serviceable IR thermometer from Harbor Freight for under 20 bucks, depending on model, sales, coupons, etc. Measure things you never could! Do you know the temperature of the sky? Or your router?
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    I totally agree with some of the other posters here, Cisco really took the Linksys brand down the cheap route after they took over. Honestly I think that may have been by design so that small offices would have to move up to the enterprise class stuff where Cisco makes a lot more money. I bought 3 Linksys products about 18 months ago and ended up returning ALL of them within a week as they all had issues of dropping connections and other various issues. I went with the D-Link DIR-825 and have been rock solid ever since. I had to make the decision to stay away from Linksys products and tell the same to quite a few people that look to me for tech advice. And don't get me wrong, like one of the previous posters I have one of the very old units and it works great and I was a BIG Linksys fan for many years but Cisco doesn't seem to want to provide a quality product into the consumer market now. Actually its sad.
  • Amazing how much crap is out there

    It just amazes me how much crap is made out there. You have to wonder if in any testers notes was the fact that the unit becomes hot and drops connection? I have had notebooks get very hot. My latest is a Macbook Pro 2008. It gets so hot you cannot touch it in places. But of course Apple says its normal. I don't know about anyone else. But I was always told the more heat on solid state equipment the shorter the lifespan.
  • Taiwan one gigabit/sec..check it out!

    Well we use a Linksys router Nultra Rangeplus the WAG160N-EU, yes we live in Belgium, and it's warm, it always standsby, it works sofar quite well, sometimes a reboot when internet is down, but asks those Koreans (Taiwan) with their 1 Gigabit/sec instead of a 100mb/s, what they use...or ask CISCO THEMSELVES...
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    @jperlow, I feel your pain! I have this same router, and also get the "Is the internet down?" calls from my wife. I have noticed that mine gets extremely hot on the bottom, as you mentioned. I have taken to "hanging" it from the cable between the router and my cable modem, and that seems to do the trick. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this problem.

    If you hear anything from Cisco on this, please keep us updated. I'll have to contact them too.
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    Every Linksys wireless AP or router has been a POS. The W-Fi, uPnP, and Web configuration cuts out every few weeks, and sometimes once a week. Terrible, utterly terrible reliability. And they refused to give me an RMA for my damn WRT54G2.

    Poor quality, poor support; I'm not buying any of this Linksys crap again.
  • RE: Cisco: Hot Router? Check it and See

    Mine lasted 2 days Then the wife said our little girl helping her dust the top of the cupboard screamed when she picked it up. The top of the cupboard was extremely hot and although t5here was no permanent damage I had to let it go. I just wonder how long it will be before one sets fire to something