Review: Linksys WRT1900AC Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

Review: Linksys WRT1900AC Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
Linksys WRT1900AC Gigabit Wi-Fi Router.

Even today, I still remember the blue-and-black design of the Linksys WRT54G. Released in 2002, this model was extremely popular and spawned numerous variants that cemented Linksys' leading position in the home-networking business.

Nostalgia probably factored in the design of Linksys' latest model, which, at first glance, looks like an upsized WRT54G.

Besides appearance, the WRT1900AC has little in common with its predecessor. It supports the latest 802.11ac wireless standard and boasts the maximum possible speeds. It has class-leading hardware, including a 1.2GHz dual-core processor that is currently the fastest in a home router.

This chip is the reason for the router's snappy and responsive interface. The processor ensures quick file transfers from external storage devices connected to its USB 3.0. It also has an eSATA/USB port, the first I have seen on a home router.

While top 802.11ac routers come with three antennas, the Linksys has four. The extra one is said to improve the router's wireless coverage and does not actually increase transfer speeds.

In my small apartment, it was difficult to assess the impact of the extra antenna. But I did get a signal strength of four bars on a laptop in the bedroom, when the router was in the living room. This compares favourably with the two bars I got when using an older Linksys router.

Multiple routers can be stacked one on top of the other, but this reduces the effectiveness of their cooling vents. Hence, the need for a cooling fan, which is thankfully quiet. The router felt slightly warm during my test, but it never got hot.

The Web-based interface is clean and attractive. The highlight is the new Network Map feature, which gives a visual overview of the network and its connected devices. You can directly select a connected device and tweak its network settings, such as parental controls.

A companion Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app (iOS and Android) lets you remotely control your network over the Internet.

Unlike other high-end routers, the Linksys has fewer advanced settings. For instance you cannot set it to work only in 802.11ac mode. The good news is that it supports OpenWRT, which means that these advanced features can be added by third-party developers as firmware updates in the near future.

You can use the Linksys instead of the bundled router from your fibre service provider, as its firmware supports SingTel, StarHub and M1 fibre broadband services.

Performance was good with an average download speed of 306Mbps, slightly slower than the Asus' flagship RT-AC68U. At $399, the WRT1900AC is the most expensive home router in the market.

The powerful hardware on this Linksys router comes with a hefty price tag.

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