Linksys WRT1900AC Wireless AC Router

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Product: Linksys WRT1900AC Wireless AC Router
Provided By: Linksys
Price: ~$249.99 Online at time of publication

 

Introduction:

When it comes to wired networking, nothing has changed much for years in terms of performance for the mainstream consumer. While 10GbE is now starting to make the rounds, it is still far too expensive and no practical for home or even small business users. Wireless networking on the other hand has gradually been getting faster and gone are the days of the 802.11b+ networks. These days many laptops, tablets and even high-end wireless phones have 802.11ac networking capability baked in. 802.11ac is currently the fastest commercially available wireless network and they achieve this by combining both 802.11n's 2.4GHz band with a 5GHz band and then streaming on both simultaneously. The speed of the connection really depends on the amount of antennae inside the client and host devices so speeds can range from 533Mbps rated all the way to the current flagship at 1300Mpbs.

The WRT1900AC router from Linksys claims that it offers up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 802.11ac band for a total of the blister 1900Mbps. According to the marketing speak, the wireless performance of this router should exceed the wired performance as we are limited to 1000Mbps over the wire and at least 1300Mbps over the air thanks to the 5GHz band. As we continue on through this review, we'll take a quick look through the setup and they show the actual performance in the real world. Before we being all of that however, let's take a look at this beast.

Box

 

First Look:

We first saw a mock-up of the WRT1900AC in Las Vegas at CES earlier this year and it was huge. It was about the size of a car and it market the entrance to the Linksys booth. Thankfully the actual sample we received is a little bit smaller - but only a little bit. In truth, this is the biggest router I've ever seen and it dwarfs many other 802.11ac routers on the market. In fact, it is almost the size of a laptop and with the integrated fan, I'm a bit concerned that it will make more noise than I want or need.

Bundle

 

The bundle includes a total of four antennae, a power adapter and cord as well as a quick start guide. There are no other extras such as network cables or an NFC-enabled card for quick connection. That part of the router package is fairly standard.

With the router bare, it's pretty nondescript looking and the style of the router is certainly reminiscent of the old WRT-Series routers from days gone by. I do like the traditional look to it and I was a big fan of the WRT-Series a few years back.

WRT-1900AC Front


 

The back of the router is a little more interesting as it has a few upgrades over my old trust WRT54G. From left to right we find an antennae connector, followed closely by a WPS button. Moving right we find four 10/100/1000 Duplex Ethernet ports and immediately to the right of that is the WAN port. Moving on to storage we find a USB 3.0 port as well as a port that does double duty as an additional USB 3.0 port as well as an eSATA port. Next to those is a reset button, followed by the power connector, switch and lastly the other rear antennae connector.

Rear

 

On the next page we'll cover the features and specifications of the router from Linksys before we carry on through setup and performance testing.


 

Features:

Performance Perfected
Engineered to deliver best-in-class networking performance, the Linksys WRT1900AC Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router delivers an unmatched user experience and ultimate Wi-Fi coverage for your home. We've upgraded the iconic Linksys blue-and-black design and outfitted the router with the latest Wireless-AC platform along with the industry's first four antenna configuration with a powerful 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM to provide exceptional signal strength and range to simultaneously support multiple users. We also added a unique dual eSATA/USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port to the Linksys WRT1900AC to conveniently connect an array of devices and experience lightning-fast transfer speeds.
The WRT1900AC features exclusive SMART Wi-Fi software to monitor and control your network anywhere and anytime. It's our first router to offer the Network Map smart tool, providing an intuitive at-a-glance view of your entire network. For advanced users who want to customize their firmware, the WRT1900AC stays true to its lineage by offering an Open WRT compatible firmware with Open Source ready capabilities that allow advanced users to expand the capabilities of the Router.

 

Four High-Performance Antennas for Maximum Coverage and Reliability
To provide strong, reliable Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home, the WRT1900AC is the first router in the market to feature four external adjustable antennas that ensures your Wi-Fi signal is always at maximum strength, keeping everyone simultaneously gaming, downloading and streaming without lag. The antennas also enhance 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz simultaneous dual wireless bands performance for a strong, reliable Wi-Fi signal that eliminates dead zones even in multistory homes. The antennas can be detached for future upgrades.
Leveraging the Wireless-AC standard, the WRT1900AC delivers innovative Beamforming technology enabling the router to strengthen the wireless signal to specific devices, rather than simply sending out Wi-Fi in a general direction. Now you can experience faster network speeds, better wireless range, reduced interference from other devices, and stronger Wi-Fi connections.

Profile

 

Fastest Dual-Core ARM Processor to Surf, Stream and Game Simultaneously
With a professional-grade, 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM CPU the WRT1900AC is one of the most powerful Wireless-AC routers in its class capable of moving data at unprecedented rates in even the busiest of networks. Pushing wired and wireless speeds to their ultimate capabilities, the Linksys WRT1900AC router can easily support multiple users at once--whether they're streaming music, watching HD videos, or playing online games. 

 

Most Advanced Wired Connections
For blazing-fast performance, we equipped the WRT1900AC with four Gigabit Ethernet ports--which are 10 times faster than Fast Ethernet to provide the fastest wired speeds. Using the USB 3.0 port, you can add external storage or other devices to share content across your network. For those with an external SATA storage device, the WRT1900AC is outfitted with a unique eSATA port for added convenience and optimal data transfer rates; it can also serve as a USB 2.0 port.

 

Smart Wi-Fi
Monitor and Control Your Network--Anywhere, Anytime With the industry-leading SMART Wi-Fi software you can monitor and control a home network from anywhere, anytime using a PC or mobile device. You can set parental controls to restrict Internet access during certain times of the day and create secure Wi-Fi passwords for your guests. You can also monitor activity on your home network, add new devices, and check upload and download speeds. In addition, Linksys SMART Wi-Fi allows you to prioritize which devices on your network receive the most bandwidth to reduce lag times and buffering when you're streaming HD media or gaming. Your Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account also gives you access to apps that provide additional ways to control and interact with your home Wi-Fi network.
WRT1900AC is the first Linksys router to incorporate the Network Map tool in SMART Wi-Fi when using your SMART Wi-Fi account. Network Map provides a visual overview of your network allowing you to see all devices on your network, their online status and signal strength, and also measure how much bandwidth they're using at any time. It also allows you to create personalized identifiable names so that you can identify your connected devices.

 

Open Source Ready
While the Linksys WRT1900AC provides an outstanding experience via SMART Wi-Fi immediately out of the box, advanced users can further modify the router, which will have Open Source firmware available. Developed for use with OpenWRT, an open source, Linux-based operating system, the router offers an additional layer of customization to suit an individual's needs.

 

Advanced Security to Stay Safely Connected
To keep unauthorized users from accessing your data, the WRT1900AC offers Wi-Fi Protected Setup along with WPA2 encryption and an SPI firewall for maximum network security. Parental controls enable you to restrict Internet access for children.

 

Specifications:

  • Model: Linksys WRT1900AC
  • Technology: Wireless-N & AC
  • Bands: 2.4 & 5 GHz
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM-based
  • Antennas: External antennas 4x
  • Ports: 4 x Gigabit LAN, 1 x Gigabit WAN, 1 x USB 3.0 + 1x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • Power Adapter: 100-240V -50-60- Hz
  • Storage File System Support: FAT,NTFS,and HFS+
  • LEDS: Power, Internet, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, LAN (10/100 Mbps or 1 Gbps), USB 3.0, USB 2.0, eSATA, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
  • VPN Support: PPTP IPSec pass-through
  • Media Specifications: UPnP Server
  • Memory: 128MB Flash, 256MB DDR3 RAM
  • Warranty: 1 year hardware limited warranty
  • OS compatibility:Windows, Mac
  • Wireless: 802.11b: up to 11 Mbps, 802.11a/g: up to 54 Mbps, 802.11n (2.4 GHz): up to 600 Mbps, 802.11ac (5 GHz): up to 1.3 Gbps, Simultaneous Dual-Band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Next-Generation Wireless-AC Technology For Powerful Networking.
  • IPv6 support: Native IPv6 and 6rd support

 

On the following page we'll take a quick look at the router web interface, set it up and then jump into testing.


Web Interface & Setup:

The interface of the Linksys WRT1900AC is a bit different than the heavy text-based interface that made the WRT-Series popular. In many ways, the interface of the WRT1900AC is almost identical to the older EA6500. I used to preach text-based interfaces for everyone, but while I do like the layout of the stock DD-WRT firmware, there is something to be said about the fresh, clean and functional interface on these new Linksys routers. I really like some of the features and the fact that you can put widgets on your homescreen - as well as get rid of things that you don't use.

If the router were underpowered, the graphical dragging and dropping features would lag a bit and if you have heavy router use at that time, network performance could also suffer. The WRT1900AC has a dual-core 1.2GHz processor - more than many entry-level consumer NAS devices and the router is not doing any parity checking. Needless to say, the interface on this router is buttery smooth.

Home

As with pretty much every router these days, you can choose manual setup with a custom password or pass phrase or you can use WPS.  One thing that Linksys adds to this Smart Wi-Fi router is the ability to use Apps to connect to the network as well as by using a "Guest Login" that will load up a web page on your device that you can enter a password to access the internet. With this router, Linksys dropped the NFC card, but that feature was more of a gimmick than a useful feature really.

Much like the EA6500, Linksys takes their USB storage on this device pretty seriously.  They include two USB ports (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 / eSATA) with the USB 2.0 port doing double duty as eSATA as well. This way you have the ability to have two drives that are as fast as an internal drive in a machine - and hooked up to your network. With the processing power available in this device, it is more than a capable fileserver and the performance is very good. It certainly won't replace a NAS product if you need the security of RAID, but it's really going to be more than enough for most people.

The WRT1900AC includes a network map that shows what connection each device is using (wired, wireless 2.4GHz, wireless 5GHz) and it goes beyond that and shows how much bandwidth each device is using. This is a pretty nifty feature that was previously available with open-source firmware on Linksys devices and is now becoming more mainstream as they cater to high-end users with their high-end products.

Network Map

Network Map

Internet Usage

Internet Usage

The router has all of the typical Wi-Fi setup configurations as most routers and this is pretty straightforward. As for port forwarding and such, this too is also pretty standard. There are many more images of the interface that we didn't include in the review to save pages of information that is pretty basic. Make sure to check out the gallery here for all of the images. On the last page we'll take a look at the performance of the router and see how it performs.


Testing:

As far as performance goes, we fired up iperf to do a little benchmarking on this router. Iperf results show bandwidth that the network is actually capable of. In the real world, you don't often see wired transfer rates approaching 1000mpbs because hard drives are barely fast enough to read and write at this speed. Also, CPU overhead can become an issue when transferring this much data. We use iperf with confidence as it shows how good the network hardware actually is and if it can perform anywhere close to its rated specs. We will be testing wired performance, then wireless performance compared with a bunch of routers.

Gigabit Wired Performance

 

For reference we compared this router to Trendnet's TEW-672GR, TEW-691GR, TEW-812DRU routers as well as D-Link's DGL-4500 and DGL-655 units. Also compared are the Linksys' WRT610N, E4200 and EA6500 routers and finally one unit from Rosewill; the T600N. Many of the wireless adapters have changed over the years but we have always been using the current equivalents throughout these tests to keep everything as close to realistic as possible.  As you can see, the results of the Linksys WRT1900AC are in orange at the top and when it comes to wired performance it's in the middle of the pack.  It tops out at 933Mbps (out of 1000Mbps), coming in behind a couple of Trendnet products, a couple of Linksys products and the D-Link Gamerlounge DGL-4500.  Wireless performance favors 802.11ac products and this router actually edges out every other router we've tested. The closest competition is the Trendnet TEW-812DRU, but the winner is clearly the WRT1900AC.

Wireless Performance

 

We ran through several instances of iperf and each instance transferred data for five minutes. The results were averaged and are displayed above. When it comes to wired performance, the Linksys WRT1900AC does alright, but isn't ground breaking.  On the wireless side of things, it does better when connecting to speedy 802.11ac. Linksys has upped the stakes and performance when it comes to wireless performance. It's the fastest wireless router we've seen - but not by much. it will be interesting to see how performance increases as the 802.11ac standard matures.

 

Final Thoughts:

Overall the performance and package of the WRT1900AC is very good. Linksys has put their best foot forward in order to try and regain the affection of home and office users worldwide. Their moto with this product is, "Performance, Perfected" and they come very close on a lot of things. The wired performance is great and it comes close to the fastest we've seen. In terms of wireless connectivity the results between this router and my laptop are the best I've seen or experienced. There really isn't much to complain about when it comes to performance.

The interface is very clean, functional and everything is where it should be. I've used some products in the past that hid features that you need more often in really obscure corners inside the interface and it was difficult to manage and setup. The WRT1900AC is actually a pleasure to use. Setup is simple and with the Smart WiFi system, you can change your router settings from an App on your mobile device as well as make changes through their portal - if you create an account.

This router doesn't come with a lot of extras, but when you have everything you need, extra stuff is just redundant. Overall, I'm very impressed with the range, performance, presentation and ease of use of this product. I do appreciate the nice clean LEDs on the front to the USB2.0/eSATA & USB 3.0 ports on the back. They really haven't missed anything that we hope for or expect from a high-end router.

Pros:

  • Clean and slick interface
  • Great wireless performance and great range
  • Dual-Band wireless with separate configuration
  • Secure Guest network
  • Flagship wireless product
  • Fast processor for smooth file serving

 

Cons:

  • Not so cheap

 

alt

 

While I think this product is fantastic and easily deserves a Gold Award here as it makes our Editor's Choice list, the reality is that many customers are more than happy with a $50 router. If you are watching your pennies and want decent performance for a bargain price, this router is not for you. If you demand the fastest performance and don't care how much you have to spend to get it, this router delivers great performance no matter how many users are connected, what you're doing, how many files you are sharing and more. You do get what you pay for in terms of performance and the Linksys is worth the money.

I'd like to thank Linksys for sending this router our way for a review. If you have any question or comments, please feel free to post in our forum at the link below.