Fiber broadband has brought higher Internet speeds to homes but if the basic WiFi routers that send the data to the PCs and laptops do not keep up, its benefits would be limited. The WiFi router is the most important link and one should only go for a device that has good range and coverage, and also delivers good speeds.
Linksys, a long established name in WiFi routers, has a device WRT1900AC, that is probably the best WiFi router in the market, for now. (Asus' RT-67U, rated the world's fastest WiFi router will be launched August 20). It is a dual-band gigabit router with a muscular dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU and can achieve download speeds of up to 1300 Mbps on the 5GHz band and up to 600 Mbps on the 2.5GHz band. The powerful CPU is largely responsible for this router's strong performance.
The WRT1900AC has four antennas instead of the usual three , which gives it a more extensive network range and coverage. WiFi router coverage are usually restricted by the walls and other concrete barriers in houses and apartments and it would be a boon if WiFi coverage can be extended. To this end, the Linksys router has implicit and explicit beamforming. What this means is that the device precisely adjusts, steers and monitors the direction and shape of the WiFi signals for better performance. Where the client device supports explicit beamforming, speed and coverage would be even better.
The Linksys router is easy to set up, with a pre-assigned ID and password. Of course, users can change them but it takes away the hassle of going through a setup process. Plug in the router and type in the password located at the bottom of the set and it is ready to go. The big question is: Does the router's powerful CPU and extra antenna make for faster surfing and better WiFi coverage. Benchmark tests may well trot out numbers to make its case but the proof of the pudding is in the eating - actual web browsing, downloading over a period of time and moving around the house with a tablet to check out availability of WiFi coverage.
On the first count, download speeds are very good and WiFi signals do not drop off as it tends to do for some other routers. As for extended coverage, I am afraid the additional antenna did not really make that much difference to coverage, which was not much better than my Asus router. Perhaps a range extender, which Linksys is expected to launch soon, will offer better results. However, the overall experience with the WRT 1900AC was good over the couple of weeks I have had it. It is a fast and stable router good for consumer use in these days of high-speed broadband although there are also other more advanced features like Open Source capability that would appeal to the more technically-inclined.
How much: $399