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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).

The Linksys router was particularly impressive when it came to reading a single 10GB file (copying the file from the hard drive attached to the router to the hard drive in a desktop PC hardwired to the router). It performed this task at a whopping 80 megabytes per second (MBps), compared to the Asus RT-AC68U's 19.5MBps performance. It wrote that file back to the portable hard drive at 46.1MBps, 87-percent faster than the Asus managed.

The WRT1900AC was merely more than twice as fast as the Asus RT-AC68U when it came to reading a 10GB collection of small files from the portable hard drive: 47.2MBps compared to 20.7MBps for the Asus. And it was nearly twice as fast writing that collection back to the portable hard drive: 41.5MBps compared to the Asus's 21.1MBps. That's quick.

Limited firmware feature set

And now for the downside. Oh come on, you knew there had to another downside besides the price tag. One of the reasons the WRT1900AC is so easy to set up is because it has so few features to configure. The user interface is well laid out, but this first iteration of its firmware is very much a bare-bones affair. On the bright side, Linksys plans to offer an OpenWRT software developer's kit very soon — perhaps as early as the end of this month.

The open nature of the original WRT54G — and the availability of open-source firmware such as DD-WRT and Tomato — played outsized roles in that router's success. Should those communities embrace the exponentially more powerful WRT1900AC, this could become one of the best routers ever. Linksys says it is"engaged with DD-WRT and expect a firmware to be available," but the company also says it doesn't "have a time frame — it'll be up to them [the DD-WRT community]".

The WRT1900AC has a DLNA media server, but it lacks an iTunes server. You can connect a USB or eSATA storage device (and as pointed out in the performance section, you get wicked-fast network-attached storage), but you'll need to install a third-party app if you want to access attached storage from the cloud.

Mac users, meanwhile, will be disappointed to find there's no support for Time Machine backups. Linksys says it's considering adding these and other features, but the company couldn't provide a timeline.

You do get smb and ftp servers, and there's support for VPN pass-through, but OpenVPN is not supported. There's also no BitTorrent client for unsupervised torrent streaming. And its Quality of Service (QoS) settings are limited to dragging an icon representing your various network clients into a "high priority" box, or choosing applications (iTunes, Skype, Vonage, etc.) and online games from drop-down lists to give their traffic priority handling.

 

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