Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
a fast and powerful beast . . . albeit, not currently open source friendly
on 29 August 2014
review for Linksys WRT1900AC
pro: hefty processor and memory for a router. Upgradeable antennas, Gigabit ports for LAN, intuitive User Interface, Nas functionality with usb3/esata port.
cons: expensive, *not* as open source as it is being sold as!
bottom line: As a wifi/lan router its a very fast, powerful beast. Hopefully with firmware updates this will continue to evolve and improve. For open source router, you’re probably better off looking to other routers.
Linksys or rather Belkin who now own them have gone for a very retro look with the WRT1900AC, looking more like the very old WRT54G this is a chunky monster. Packing in a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, four removable solid antennas, eSata and USB 3 ports. the AC 1900 is compatible with 802.11a, 802.11ac, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n and works dual band on 2.4Ghz and 5GHz bands. Although it has four antennas it uses the best three out of its four signals to transmit and receive data. Linksys recommend all four antennas straight up for single storey installation and front up and back two angled for multi storied (although looking through the forums no one is sure what the optimum position is if you hang it against a wall - i guess its best kept horizontal?).
I found a lot of my older devices could only see the 2.4GHz band but my newer peripherals do connect happily to the 5Ghz band. My unit got a little hot, but nowhere near as hot as my older wifi routers. The antennas are removable, but at the time of writing, Aug 2014, I couldn't find the a seller for the publicised upcoming upgrade kit with the bigger antennas, which were meant to have been out by now. Having said that, its currently sitting side by side next to a cheaper N router with three giant 9dbi 2.4Ghz antennas. the 1900 powers ahead, working with better coverage (on 2.4Ghz - the 5Ghz has stronger short broadcast but degrades rapidly the further away you get, whilst the 2.4Ghz has smaller broadcast strength but extends a lot further). With the current firmware there is no advanced functions like transmit boost function or AC only mode for the 5ghz etc, however I was still very pleasantly surprised with its performance, and I can get 5Ghz in most rooms of our bungalow. I’m starting to drool thinking how much better coverage I might get with bigger antennas (means I might be able to retire one of my wifi routers used as a repeater).
I found setting up the router very simple, even though I always tend to configure my home lans differently to the normal default settings, it was easy to get up and running fairly quickly. Going through the menus I saw there was a more updated firmware and updating the box was very easy, few clicks and reboots later, your back up and running, just follow usual procedures when updating wifi devices e.g. upgrade via LAN, make sure you don’t power device off whilst flashing etc.
You can use the 1900AC as a LAN switch / wifi AP behind another router, or connect your cable modem directly to this and manage everything from here. I tried both ways, first sitting behind a 13 year old (!) 1st gen Netgear VPN Firewall switch and then directly to the cable modem - the 1900AC does almost everything and more than the old firewall switch so now I use the 1900AC exclusively. So far it has been running very well.
With the 1900AC you can either log on locally to the router via its ip, or via the cloud which has the same interface but syncs the settings to your home router. With the cloud offering you have the benefit of forgotten password etc although managing it remotely is not something I’m used to (being paranoid I used to block these type functions in the past, something I may do again if I don't see any other benefits).
The admin gui interface is refreshingly modern - all of my older devices are very pre html 4 looking - if you have managed older devices you’ll know what i mean! I liked the Network map, which shows all your devices in a map and allows you to rename them to more meaningful names. So much easier managing the devices when you can rename each one to something more relevant. Supporting both IP4 and 6, with all the usual functions such as port forwarding etc (which works well). I found the dynamic dns list a bit short - only a few providers, but then nothing stopping you using a client on a workstation for the ones it doesn't natively update.
You can also run guest wifi on both 2.4 and 5Ghz, which show up as open wifi (but then your guests have to log in via browser to use the internet). There is also mobile apps for your phone to connect to your router - I tried the android one and found it was very basic, supporting a small subset of the admin gui, although I liked the guest options - allows you to text the password for guest wifi - useful if you're paranoid and like to cycle passwords to random ones. The guest wifi is also walled off, so your guests can enjoy internet but not access the rest of the LAN. In the old days I had to set up separate VLANs for this, oh yes the 1900AC also supports VPN passthrough, DMZ and Vlans too.
There are a few more features such as parental control, filtering sites etc - personally I find these type of devices are far too simplistic - you get far greater level of control having a dedicated hardware box, or even running a separate proxy - for example in the old days I used to run Kerio Firewall as a web proxy server - this used to give a much greater level of control, and detail of logging per user and per site if necessary, as well as whitelists and blacklists etc. Of course this would be overkill for many users, and the basic features on the AC1900 its not too bad as routers go.
They also offer optional 'apps' - widgets to give extra functionality that you add on through the admin interface. At the time of writing there is only a few, and it is not clear if the 1900AC is supported by them (the help pages only mention compatability with the linksys EA series of routers of which the WRT1900AC is at the top end). At the current point in time, they look like unnecessary add ons? But I suppose at least the possibility is there to catch a gem if someone releases a good app?
So with all the glowing feature points why drop a star? The unit is advertised as providing support for opensource/OpenWRT, adding back in the missing/advanced features. Power users will be disappointed - I was hoping to dip into OpenWRT as well, unfortunately there are problems with the closed source Marvel wifi drivers so at the time of writing, you can only use the LAN functions with the open source version. . . . which is well, . . . ridiculous!!! More disappointing, if you follow the OpenWRT forums, some of the devs have started returning their 1900AC for refunds?!! . . . draw what conclusions of that what you will . . .
The AC1900 is a little on the expensive side. Two other AC routers I compared these with at the time of writing is the Netgear Nighthawk and the Asus AC6XU series, both considerably cheaper than the Linksys, so might be worth comparing these and other AC routers like them. The 1900AC is considerably more hefty hardware wise, and is a fast and powerful beast. Hopefully with firmware updates this will continue to evolve and improve. For open source though, sadly you’re better off looking to other routers.