Linksys WRT1900ACS Review
Design factored into my interest in the Linksys WRT1900ACS. It resembles the very first router I owned, the venerable BEFSR41…it sold for about $250 (which was a lot of money in 2000) and delivered a Base 10 WAN port and a four port 10/100 fast ethernet switch no WiFi..not much compared to todays models but state of the art at the time.
Now to the WRT1900ACS which is an upgrade to the year old WRT1900AC offers a faster 1.6GHz dual core processor..up from 1.2 GHz and double the DDR3 system memory at 512MB. In design terms it is identical to the retro look of the previous model except it does away with the internal fan making it a much quieter unit.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS is a three-stream (3×3) 802.11ac (AC1900) router. This means on paper it can deliver a top speed of up to 1,300 megabits per second on the 5GHz band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Sure, there are higher tier AC2600 or AC3200 routers on the market but, the AC1900 level is currently the sweet spot of Wi-Fi. This is because the fastest clients — laptops, tablets or smartphones support the 3×3 setup at most so getting a higher-tier router than AC1900 will not generaly return significantly better real-world performance. My experience comparing this router to three AC3200 routers bears this out. In fact the WRT1900ACS delivered better speed at a longer distance. Perhaps this is due to the unique four antennas arrangement in which the router determines which three antennas will deliver the optimal range and performance and then dynamically switches among them.
The back of the router is pretty standard stuff..a power switch, power port, reset button, INTERNET port and 4 LAN ports all Gigabit speeds and a WPA button. I like the idea of including a power switch..too many routers don’t requiring fiddling with the power cable for a reset.
Setup of this retro looking router couldn’t have been simpler..first screw on the antennae and connect the INTERNET port to my cable modem. Then I followed the 5 step installation in the Quick Start Guide and was up and running in less than 3 minutes. Linksys offers the opportunity of giving individual names for the 2.4 and 5 GHZ streams but I prefer giving both streams the same name and that option is offered in the setup process.
You will notice that the interface is the venerable Linksys Smart WiFi app. Although it is getting a bit long in the tooth I find this interface comfortable and intuitive to work with and provides control over all the features I need as well as remote access with iOS and Android apps. Linksys is promising a makeover in the Spring.
This is certainly a router for enthusiasts offering a solid list of features. It supports OpenVPN, allowing remote users to connect securely. Another major improvement is the high level of customization available. For example, you can set the Wi-Fi networks to work in the mixed mode, N-only, A-only or AC-only. You can also pick the channel width you want instead of having to use the Auto setting. This flexibility is great news for enthusiasts.
A big feature is the Media Prioritization, which allows you to drag and drop connected clients between the High priority and Normal priority lists. Devices on the High priority list will have priority access to the Internet while the others will have to wait. There’s a simple and effective Parental Control feature that allows you to block certain connected clients’ access to the Internet or just to certain websites. You can also schedule the time when the blocking is in effect. The WRT1900ACS supports one guest network (only on the 2.4GHz band) and allows you to customize this network’s name, password and the amount of guest users (up to 50).
I found the Linksys WRT1900ACS a breeze to set up and was impressed with its performance. I have connected as many as 22 devices with no noticeable change in performance and it is by far the most stable router I have tested in recent years. In over a month of continuous use all my devices have remained reliably connected and there have been no losses of connectivity to the internet.
Speed seems to be noticeably better than average and coverage is impressively solid everywhere inside my 2 storey 3000 square foot home and in the basement as well. The Linksys WRT1900ACS delivers my full available internet bandwidth of 60/10Mbps to every room in my house but sadly like every other router, it fails the test of fire by delivering only marginal speed to my front porch 50 feet away down one floor through two interior walls as well as a brick exterior wall.
Inside the house, bandwidth is pretty impressive; I tested by transferring video files and got around 550Mbps in the same room and about 350Mbps to other rooms in the house on the 5GHz band performance on the 2.4GHz band is considerably less impressive. That bandwidth allows me to send two Netflix streams and one HD video from a computer hard drive to the three Apple TVs (The basement Apple TV is on the 2.4GHz band) with no problems. This test has resulted in buffering delays with other routers.
Network storage performance was also impressive..using the same file transfer test as above using the USB3 port on the router I got read and write speeds in the order of 85Mbps which matches some NAS servers I have seen and certainly better than other routers I have tested. Sadly while the router works with drives formatted with Apple file systems but it does not work with Time Machine which is a bit of a bummer for Apple users like me. Linksys should make an effort to fix this shortcoming.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS now fully supports open source DD-WRT firmware for those looking to add specific capabilities available only in open source firmware. I haven’t got around to trying this yet but Linksys folks tell me that this support means if you brick your router while installing DD-WRT firmware you will be covered by the warranty. That is good news for enthusiasts.
I am really happy to see the Linksys brand regaining its former glory after struggling under the ownership of enterprise networking giant Cisco for a decade. Since it’s sale to Belkin two years ago there has been a noticeable improvement in the product line.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS is a terrific router but one that comes at a high price. I expect it to launch in Canada later in January at a MSRP of around $280 which is a $50 premium over other 1900 AC routers. Based on my experience I think it is worth the premium for the stability alone not to mention the great performance.
If you have a fast broadband connection with a download speed of 60Mbps or better, the Linksys WRT1900ACS is the router to buy. Its long range and fast Wi-Fi speed will deliver Internet to places in your house that other routers might struggle to reach.