The Linksys WRT1900AC is the long-awaited successor to the original and widely popular Linksys WRT54GL. This original model gained widespread success for a number of reasons: it was fast, easy to use and could be flashed for use with custom firmware. Its versatility made it a popular choice among open-source programmers and enthusiasts seeking more control over the way their wireless routers operate.
With the WRT1900AC, Linksys has taken the features that made its predecessor so popular and incorporated them into a modern and exceedingly powerful wireless router. Linksys’ new flagship router satisfies this goal with exceptional throughput, features and custom firmware potential.
Because of its powerful internals, the WRT1900AC is a relatively large and heavy router. While it’s still wall-mountable, its size makes placement awkward and overheating worries mean you can’t tuck it away in a cabinet. Unlike other wireless routers we reviewed, WRT1900AC features a built-in fan with vents that must remain unobstructed.
On the backside of this dual-band router are four gigabit LAN ports, a gigabit WAN port, a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0/eSATA port. In addition to these ports, there is also a WPS button, a reset button and a power switch.
Unlike the previous iteration of Linksys’ premium wireless router, the WRT1900AC is a dual-band device that supports the new 802.11ac standard. As a dual-band router, the WRT1900AC allows for connections at both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
On the older 2.4GHz band, this router is rated for impressive speeds of up to 600 Mbps. Older devices that do not support 5GHz bands can still connect and access the internet at speeds as good as or better than dedicated 2.4GHz routers. Since 2.4GHz bands have a larger range than 5GHz bands, this is also useful for maintaining internet access across larger areas.
Due to the widespread use of the 2.4GHz band in everything from cordless phones to microwaves, the 5GHz band often offers cleaner, less congested access to the network. Additionally, the 5GHz band is compatible with beamforming and the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.
Beamforming allows your router to concentrate its signal in the direction of a connected device for a stronger signal. But perhaps the biggest difference is that while using the 802.11ac standard, your router can communicate with your connected devices simultaneously, making for a fast connection in households with increasing numbers of wireless devices.
The Linksys WRT1900AC not only excels in regards to performance, but also delivers the security features you should expect from a premium wireless router. Most notably, it includes Wi-Fi protected setup, WPA2 encryption, a Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall and parental controls.
Wi-Fi protected setup is access via a small blue WPS button located on the back of the router. To securely connect a device, you simply press this button on your router and the corresponding WPS button on the device you wish to connect.
WPA2 encryption is the latest method for encrypting information sent over a wireless network. It is also the most secure. Information is carried over a wireless network in packets. With WPA2, a hacker may intercept a packet, but they won’t be able to access its contents without an encryption key which, unlike in WEP encryption, is very difficult to decipher.
In order to keep malicious packets from being sent to your wireless network, the WRT1900AC features an SPI firewall. This firewall inspects each incoming packet for legitimacy. Packets from existing connections will be allowed to pass through, while packets from unknown or questionable origins will be rejected.
Although it doesn’t have the most comprehensive parental controls, the WRT1900AC allows you to restrict which sites are accessible to specific devices, and during which times these devices may access the internet. It’s not a foolproof method but it will certainly help you customize the levels of internet access in your household.
In our testing, the WRT1900AC was easy to set up and use. It comes with a preconfigured network and requires only that you plug in the power and connect the router to your modem using an Ethernet cable.
The preconfigured network information is located on a sticker on the underside of the router. You’ll use this information to connect your computer to the network. Once connected, a browser client will walk you through to set up the network with custom network names and passwords.
Configuring network settings is easy to navigate thanks to an intuitive web interface. At the touch of a button you can easily see all connected devices, manage firewalls, port-forwarding, parental controls and more. If you create a Linksys account, you can access all of this remotely from anywhere in the world.
The Linksys WRT1900AC has one-year limited warranty that protects you against defects in workmanship or materials. The Linksys website is home to an impressive amount of helpful information. There’s comprehensive FAQs section, forms, downloads and videos, as well as a live-chat option to speak with a Linksys representative.
Because of its size and cost, the Linksys WRT1900AC isn’t the best wireless router for everyone, especially if you’re on a budget. It is an advanced wireless router with best-in-class throughput and a wide variety of helpful features. Like its predecessor, it appeals to open-source programmers and networking enthusiasts who need a router than can be used with custom firmware for ultimate control.