updated 01:11 pm EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
New Belkin router brings maximum speed to homes, offices
The proliferation of 802.11ac routers has begun in earnest. After an initial deployment by Apple, the second wave of refined devices has begun to hit the market. Linksys' new high-end home and small business Wi-Fi router, the WRT1900AC, has arrived. Where does it sit in the range of available devices?
The specs of the router on paper are good. The new WRT has been equipped with a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and 128MB flash memory, plus eSATA and USB ports for storage and other peripheral connections. Linksys claims the router is capable of speeds up to 1,300Mbps on 5Ghz, and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band, with an 802.11ac connection.
Ethernet connectivity is provided by four downstream and one upstream Gigabit Ethernet ports. Software features include DLNA media streaming, an FTP server, parental controls, graphical network mapping and management, capability expansion through an app store, and a built-in speed test for broadband speed evaluation.
Setup was simple. A "wizard" walks the user through the configuration, but advanced users can skip this entirely with a manual setup should they so choose. We used the router on both a TCP/IP and PPPoE configuration from the ISP, with no issues in setup. The wizard identified both connections, and prompted us accordingly for information to use the service.
User management is a breeze as well. Devices can be put under parental controls, with either a blacklist or whitelist functionality, as well as time limits, or time of day limits. Logging is robust and include external attacks, but are disabled by default. DCHP tables are readily available, as well as a network map, filterable by frequency or by wired connection.
Specific devices can be put in a "DMZ" allowing unfettered, and unprotected, Internet access. Also, quality of service (QoS) can be implemented, giving certain types of traffic higher priority over others. The router is fully uPnP compatible, but manual static routing can be done as well -- a feature that has fallen out of vogue in some 802.11ac routers we've used.
Various methods can be used to allow the WRT1900AC to function as a repeater or extender, but this is overkill for this router. If you need a range extension, one of the dedicated devices optimized for it (and cheaper than this router) are best used.
We've run a first round of speed tests on the router, and we are seeing rates very close to Linksys' advertised maximums, with results a bit lower on the Mac Book Pro, but not a lot. Tech support does concur with the finding that there is a small issue with connectivity speeds with the new MacBook Pro, but certainly not enough to generate much concern. External 802.11ac adapters pulled down 1,185Mbps, with the MacBook Pro hitting 1,095Mbps in both Windows and OS X. Clearly, the speed hit is enough to note, but not giant.
So far, we like the router. The entire experience has been very smooth, which is more than we can say for some other ac-class routers we've tried. Despite the burly dual-core processor, heat hasn't been an issue, even with punishing the router with 50 wired and wireless devices. We're still torturing the device for our full review -- look for that in the coming weeks.