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

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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.

WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router review

Don't buy the WRT1900AC if you're looking for lots of bells and whistles. Its firmware is pretty basic, and its parental controls are particularly anemic. 

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.

Parental controls are even more basic, although that feature is much less important in my book. You can block specified network clients from accessing the Internet (your choices are “never,” “always,” or according to day/time calendar), or you can block named network clients from accessing specified sites (good luck knowing every site on the web you don’t want your kids to visit). If you consider parental controls a critical feature in the router you buy, take a look at the Skydog Wi-Fi router).

Final thoughts

It could be said that criticizing such a hot-rod router for not having all the latest bells and whistles in firmware is like calling out a drag racer for not having air conditioning. I’m just saying that the WRT1900AC has the horsepower to support those other features without compromising its speed. Linksys might add more features as time goes on, or third-party developer might Smart Wi-Fi apps, but you shouldn’t buy one assuming those events will come to pass.

For many users, speed trumps features you might never need anyway. I use a Sonos system for listening to music, for instance, so I couldn't care less if my router has an iTunes server. I crave speed, and the WRT1900AC delivers that in spades. And its performance with network-attached storage blows the doors off the competition.

If speed is your most important consideration when shopping for a router, the WRT1900AC is the router to buy. If features are more important, and you’re willing to give up a little speed to get them, consider the Asus RT-AC68U or Netgear’s R7000 Nighthawk. The WRT1900AC isn't the most feature-laden router you can buy, but it is the fastest.

This story, "Linksys WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router review: Faster than anything we’ve tested" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
  • It's expensive and its firmware is a few features short of the competition's, but the Linksys WRT1900AC is the fastest 802.11ac router you can buy today (today being April 16, 2014).

    Pros

    • The fastest Wi-Fi router you can buy
    • Extremely fast file transfers to and from an attached storage device
    • eSATA, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports

    Cons

    • Limited feature set in firmware
    • Comparatively slow 2.4GHz Wi-Fi performance
    • Expensive
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