Linksys WRT1900AC Router Review
Despite being launched years ago, Linksysí WRT54G is still considered one of the best wireless routers available on the market. While most of this appeal is due to very capable third party firmware, the WRT54G set a high water mark that was only recently surpassed by some of the latest AC-band products. In order to keep up with the competition Linksys is now launching a spiritual successor to their storied router. Called the WRT1900AC, it brings high performance, a user friendly design and a broad feature set to a market thatís already filled with alternatives.
Just a little over a year ago Belkin purchased the languishing Linksys networking division from Cisco and promised to not only revitalize a once great brand but to take an hands-off approach to managing their latest acquisition. Just as before the purchase, there would be Belkin branded consumer networking appliances, and there would be Linksys designed and branded products. This segmentation would allow both teams to work on their own initiatives while also building off each othersí strengths. The first byproduct of this partnership is the WRT1900AC.
With an online average asking price of nearly $280 Canadian, the WRT1900AC certainly isnít priced with the average consumer in mind, but this is perfectly acceptable since it isnít a 'mainstream' model. Those derivatives will follow on shortly. Rather, this is a halo product meant for networking enthusiasts, one that makes a statement above all else.
To accomplish their goals, Linksys arenít taking the typical route of their competitors by utilizing Broadcomís BCM4708 and BCM4709-based controllers. Instead, Marvell components have been used. By doing this Linksys can give consumers exactly what they asked for: out of the box compatibility with open source firmware such as DD-WRT. This makes the WRT1900AC one of the first 'hackable' AC1900 routers available on the market today, in theory. However, the reality is that neither Belkin or Linksys have opened their full set of source codes to the development community quite yet so if you're expecting a truly open source device, prepare to wait a while.
Besides firmware customization the other area that Linksys has focused on improving is their reliability. One of the largest reasons consumer grade routers 'die' is heat buildup. Passive cooling is usually good enough, but if you want to really keep high performance components from overheating, active cooling is the only way to go. However, with a fan, noise becomes a major consideration and as such the WRT1900AC active cooling abilities are tied to a trio of finely tuned temperature sensors which control fan speeds.
Also making a return is an LED-equipped front panel that is useful and not just an afterthought. Mix in four antennas instead of the typical three, eSATAp as well as the usual USB 3.0 port, and on paper the WRT1900AC may just do exactly what Belkin and Linksys want it to: resurrect a brand that many enthusiasts had written off, and give ASUS, Netgear, D-Link, and others some true competition once again.
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