Closer Look at the WRT1900AC
Closer Look at the WRT1900AC
Like every router that we have reviewed in the past, the WRT1900AC's accessory list doesnít include all that much but it is more than adequate. With that being said, thereís a well done installation booklet, an external power adapter, four large external antennas, and an installation CD so all the basic bases have been covered.
As you can see the WRT1900AC looks nothing like Linksys routers from the last generation; in fact its blue and black color scheme is very reminiscent of older Linksys routers. Obviously Linksys is making a statement with this chassis and they want to world to know that this is not a Cisco of Belkin rebadge.
Much like old Linksys WRT routers from a bygone era the WRT1900AC is a squat, long boxy affair rather than the 'sexy' Linksys models of yesteryear. In either case this low slung router does have a rather large footprint, but thankfully it does have an ace or two up its sleeve. Firstly this unique Ėand some may say ugly- design makes the WRT1900AC stackable and it can be more easily mounted to a wall in a vertical orientation.
The added flexibility of easy high wall mounts is further simplified through Linksysí inclusion of a printable screw template so you wonít be aimlessly measuring mounting holes prior to installation. Itís a brilliant idea and one which the competition should copy.
Continuing this trend of completely erasing Cisco's fingerprints from Linksys routers, the front of the WRT1900AC not only has status LEDs but an actual old school LED bar that with just a simple glace allows consumers to troubleshoot basic connectivity issues. From left to right these are: Power On, Internet connectivity, 2.4GHz and 5GHz band indicators and an eSATAp LED which glows a solid white when a portable eSATA device is connected and blinks when it is active. Rounding things out is a pair of USB LEDs (one for each port) and four Ethernet LEDs. We just wish more companies would include such a compressive cluster on their routers.
Considering the fact that 802.11AC networking components do run hotter than previous generations, Linksys has not only included a plethora of ventilation slits on the top and bottom, just by looking down upon the WRT1900AC you can glimpse an honest to goodness 40mm fan for active cooling. This too not only breaks from previous generationsí zero noise philosophy, but should help keep the WRT1900AC from overheating long after most other 802.11AC routers have shutdown or lost connectivity. Thereís no need for concern over noise pollution either since throughout our intensive long-term tests, the fan didnít noticeably spin up.
In keeping with most wireless routers, the I/O panel is located on the 'back' - or top depending on the orientation of the WRT1900AC - and is very similar to most routers we have looked at in the past. From left to right the layout is as follows: the WPS setup button, the four wired 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports (blue), a single color coded (yellow) WAN port, the lone USB 3.0 port, the eSATAp port, a small reset button, the power input port, and on the extreme right a simple power switch.
While this does sound like a lot of input options for one area the WRT1900ACís large size it easy to populate all the various ports.
While the overall color scheme, active cooling, and even the return of front LED cluster do help the WRT1900AC stand out from most 802.11AC routers, its quartet of antennas are quite unique. While this could lead consumers to think that this was a 2x2 router with antennas dedicated to both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz networks it is indeed a 3x3 model. The extra antenna does however require a bit of explaining.
At its heart the WRT1900AC could be 4x4 or at the very least 4x3 capable router, but since there arenít any 4x4 network adapters available in the consumer sphere, Linksys decided such a feature would have been rather useless. Instead of being the 'first' 4x4 router, Linksys has taken a unique approach to decreasing connectivity issues and boosting signal strength. Put simply the WRT1900AC self-optimizes and uses the 'best' three antennas at any time for transmitting and receiving packets. How much this will help in all but extreme scenarios remains to be seen, but the extra antenna certainly cannot hurt.
Further helping the WRT1900AC improve signal reception is the layout of these four antennas. Not only are they quite large, they are also spread out on three sides of the unit. Compared to most routers the WRT1900AC's different antenna array layout should promote better signal reception, decreases cross-talk and generally increases the size of the reception abilities.
The internals take a radically different approach to most other 802.11AC routers as well. First up is the aforementioned fan which we saw from the outside alongside an absolutely immense heatsink. There are some hotter running components in there but with a setup like this, any overheat concerns become non-starters.
As with most routers the WRT1900AC makes use of a 128GB NAND IC, and a single 256MB RAM module. However, instead of the typical Broadcom controllers this is an entirely Marvell affair. There is a Marvell ARMv7 based MV78230 'Armada XP' SoC which runs at a whopping 1.2GHz which should help it outperform the competition's 1GHz offerings. Of course speed is relative and it is possible that the typical Broadcom BCM4708/4709 is 'faster' even at a slower clock rate.
To ensure compatibility with future 3rd party firmware, this router also makes use of a Marvell 88W8864 chip for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums.
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