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Linksys WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router: Faster than anything we've tested

Michael Brown | April 17, 2014
When Linksys first showed me a WRT1900AC prototype last year, I thought to myself, wow: I hope its performance lives up to its audacious looks. The good news is that it does--for the most part. In fact, it's the fastest router I've ever tested. The bad news is that its $280 MSRP marks it as the most expensive router I've ever tested (Linksys launched the router with a $250 sale price).

A row of LEDs is arrayed across the router's broad face, with small white text labels and symbols printed beneath them to report the status of power, Internet access, the 2.4- and 5GHz radios, eSATA and USB connections, switch ports, and WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup).

Around back you'll find a WPS button, a four-port gigabit switch, a WAN port, one USB 3.0 and one eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port (another first), a power switch, and a reset button. The WRT1900AC uses an in-line power supply that's nearly as big as the one for my laptop, but it delivers welcome respite from outlet-hogging wall warts.

Installation and setup

In the interest of security, Linksys has moved away from assigning its routers easy-to-remember passphrases at the factory. Instead of passwords like "dynamickangeroo800," you'll find preset passwords such as "dt0n0nhvt0." You can reset this, the admin password, and the SSIDs to anything you like during setup, of course, and Linksys provides space on a CD jacket for you to jot down this information. (You don't need the CD to perform the installation; it's just a convenient way for Linksys to provide the router's user manual in case you need it before you get online).

The guest networks — there's one available on each frequency band — do retain easy-to-remember passwords (the one for my eval unit was "pineapple21"), and the same password is used for both guest networks). Guests can access the Internet, but they can't access the rest of your network. You can limit the number of guests from as few as five to as many as 50.

Linksys encourages you to go online and use its Smart Wi-Fi webpage to configure the router, and this is useful for beginners since it steps you through the entire process and ensures that you set up complex passwords for your wireless networks and for administrative access to the router. Experts can easily skip this and configure the router the old-fashioned way, although both methods provide the same sets of options. Complimentary telephone tech support is available to any buyer for the first 90 days, but anyone should be able to get the WRT1900AC up and running within a matter of minutes.

In terms of security, the WRT1900AC supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and all the consumer-level security protocols that go with it (WPA2 Personal et al), but it also supports WPA2-Enterprise with a separate RADIUS server. 

Wireless performance

I compared the Linksys WRT1900AC's performance to that of the outstanding Asus RT-AC68U with the help of an AVADirect gaming laptop. The laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5-3210M processor and it has 4GB of DDR3/1600 memory. I use the JPERF benchmarking utility to measure TCP throughput between a server hardwired to the router and a client connected its wireless networks. I placed the client in three different locations inside a single-story, 2800-square-foot ranch-style home (you can see its floor plan below).

 

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