My Linksys WRT1900ACS Review
I don’t usually do product reviews, mostly because unlike many reviewers I actually have to pay out of pocket for my stuff so I generally only have stuff to review when I need new stuff. Such is the case with my recent purchase of the Linksys WRT1900ACS router, and I am reviewing it because honestly it’s worth a review (and a good look).
First off, let me say that I have been doing the computer thing for a very, very long time (back before dial up modems, really). I have seen stuff come and go, and I know Linksys as a brand has been through a lot, now on it’s third ownership and finally coming back from a very dull period as part of the giant Cisco networking company. It’s weird to say, considering that Cisco powers so much of the internet infrastructure, but honestly Linksys products were pretty lack luster and rarely got very good reviews. They were solid, but not seeming to hit it with the fans. For those of us who have been around, we can remember LInksys being one of the leaders in home IP networking when it was still a bit of a mystery for most people.
Enter Belkin. They took over Linksys in 2013 and they have seem to have turned a corner with the company and it’s products. Possibly the best thing they have done is return Linksys back to it’s blue plastic roots, putting their routers and other products back into familiar looking black and blue boxes we loved from the original Linksys. The reviews have gotten better as well, each generation of product seems to outdo the last.
I have had an Asus router RT-AC56U that I have been using for about 3 years now. I generally have loved Asus motherboards and have run them almost exclusively for about 15 years, so trying out their routers was a bit of a no brainer. I liked the idea that the router could also handle some network storage and do video streaming. Well, that’s what they said. The truth is that the AC56U was pretty much not as good as I hoped, and had a long line of firmware upgrades that seemingly randomly broke and fixed things. The range wasn’t all that good (no external antennas), and the video streaming was finicky, apparently only supporting part of the DLNA standard, and my Samsung “smart” TV (another story) only supporting a different standard. The TV would lose network connection regularly, and the router honestly could never keep accurate track of what was and was not attached to it. I often fixed things by assigning fixed IP addresses to avoid some of the problems.
Anyway, I worked with that router for quite a long time, through two different fiber suppliers 1 gig internet connections (yeah, spoiled) and found the speeds pretty good, but wi-fi connections tapped out round 600 meg a second, give or take. I had fixed the streaming issue by adding a WD My Cloud Ultra EX2 to my network and upgrading my TV, so I was pretty much tolerating the networking and getting along with it okay. However, recently the router started doing weird things with connection speeds and generally making things just weird, and after much testing and moving wires around I came to the conclusion that the router was on it’s way out. Successive firmware updates didn’t fix it, so I went searching for a replacement.
Enter the Linksys WRT1900ACS. This router hit all of the high points as far as I was concerned. I got it for around $160 in US dollars, which is a pretty good price considering Amazon is pushing it at the time I write this around $199. The specs read great to me, including high enough speeds for wi-fi networking that I would seem some performance gains. I was surprised I guess to see how much I gained. MY desktop (which connects via an Asus AC86 PCI-E card) gets a solid connection of 1300Mbps. I get almost 500Mbps on speedtest.net for my Samsung S7 phone. Everything on the network moves with a sense of speed that is palpable, especially after the Asus router which was likely playing around for a while without me totally noticing it.
The unit itself looks great, has 4 small antennas (I am waiting for delivery of the large antenna upgrade that should improve range even more). The blue and black stackable classic linksys look is great, and the indication lights on the front are both clear and not overly bright. I installed the unit up and away in a corner and it’s already “forgotten” with the other clutter in the area. It’s effectively invisible, unless you really want to put it on show.
Range on the WiFi has shown to be pretty good, particularly on 5G. I live in a armored concrete condo building, new build, and signals generally drop off really quickly if you get any walls between you and a router. The Linksys has shown some power, putting a 5G signal into an area that I use to have to depend on a network extender on 2G to handle. This is impressive as the high density condo project (multiple 35 story towers cheek and jowl) means that I often have more than 3 dozen SSIDs showing up on a network survey, more if I get closer to a window. Punching a signal through that mess is pretty good showing. I am hoping that the bigger antennas boost this even a little more to kill off any remaining weak spots in the coverage.
The bad sides of this router is mostly on the interface to set up and maintain it. It defaults to a DSL setup and the wizard really doesn’t want to hear about anything else. You have to go back and set it up if you are on cable or a direct connection. The information about the connection (such as the WAN IP address) isn’t readily displayed anywhere, and the status indicator doesn’t really give you much reason why your connection is or isn’t working at a given time. Even the reboot router function is tucked away on the bottom of a sub-page somewhere, it’s hard to find to the point where it was faster just to go flip the power switch.
I will also say that on the first time around, I sort of messed up the setup (trying to give the Wifi networks two different names. Resetting to factory defaults and trying again helped.
One warning: This router defaults to enabling a guest network. Thankfully that network is still password protected, but it seems like a bit of an odd default.
The best part of this router is that this router and many other Linksys products can be re-programmed with third party (open source) firmware such as DD-WRT. That means if you don’t like what comes with the router, you can always trying something else.
I haven’t tried the network attached storage options yet, nor have I tried the streaming (that’s coming up). But after a couple of weeks with the router as a router, I can tell you that this is a top notch product with few big problems. At this point, the biggest issue I have had is that my ISP seems to assign IPv4 and IPv6 addresses from different DHCP servers with different duration, and the loss of the IPv6 does not seem to trigger the router to reconnect and get a new IP block all the time. Otherwise, it’s clear sailing and I can say at least for now, you should try it out.
Want one? Get an the Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Open Source WiFi Wireless Router (WRT1900ACS)