The WRT1900AC is totally different from previous high-end routers by Linksys: It's the most powerful router on the market, and it delivers.
Unlike the Linksys EA6900 that flunked at launch, the WRT1900AC proves itself right out of the box to be one of the fastest Wi-Fi routers on the market, exhibiting exceptional range. When hosting a storage device, it also provides network storage performance equal to that of many high-end dedicated NAS servers.
The router has a few minor shortcomings, however, including its high price tag of somewhere between $250 and $300 (around AU$280 and up in Australia), and the lack of customizations for its Wi-Fi networks. The Web interface, while organized, is also a little unintuitive, especially for first time users.
But if you're willing to pay the premium, the new Linksys WRT1900AC is worth the wait and will be an excellent router for any home, especially for advanced users who want to take advantage of its custom firmware and other nerdy features. (If you're looking for more affordable alternatives, check out CNET's list of best home routers.)
Retro design, powerful hardware
The new WRT1900AC arrives with a completely new design compared with routers released by Linksys over the last few years. Indeed, this model harkens back to the "classic" decade-old, blue-and-black Linksys design. It's reminiscent of the earlier WRT series (such as the WRT54Gs), albeit much larger than those models. It's wall-mountable, but it retains the stackable design of previous Linksys gear (the company will soon release a switch that will be able to sit on top).
Of course, the new WRT router now comes with much more powerful components than its ancient predecessors. In fact, it's the most powerful home router on the market to date, running a 1.2Ghz ARM-based dual-core processor, and containing 128MB of flash storage as well as 256MB of DDR3 RAM. This powerful hardware is even more significant considering that Linksys says the router will also support third-party firmware. OpenWRT is pledging to release compatible firmware sometime this month, and DD-WRT and Tomato might have theirs by June.
Despite that the device features four antennas (rather than the three you'll find in other high-end routers), it's a three-stream router, not a four-stream (4 x 4) model. As an AC1900 router, the WRT1900AC will deliver speeds of up to 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. (Read more about Wi-Fi standards.)
On its back, the router has four gigabit LAN ports and one gigabit WAN (Internet) port. It also comes with one USB 3.0 port and another port that can work as either a USB 2.0 or an eSATA connection. This is the first router I've seen that supports eSATA. You can use these ports to host up to two external storage devices at a time.
| ||Top Wi-Fi speed||CPU|| Peripheral ports ||Dimensions||Weight|
|Asus RT-N68U||1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz)||Dual-core 800MHz|| 1 USB 3.0 / 1 USB 2.0 ||8.7 x 6.3 x 3.3 inches||1.4 pounds|
|Linksys EA6900||1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz)||Dual-core 800MHz|| |
1 USB 3.0 / 1 USB 2.0
|10.1 x 7.3 x 1.6 inches||1.2 pounds|
| Linksys WRT1900AC || |
1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz)
|Dual-core 1.2GHz|| |
1 USB 3.0 / 1 USB 2.0/eSATA
9.68 x 7.63 x 2.04 inches
| 2.11 pounds |
|Netgear R7000||1.3Gbps (5GHz) / 600Mbps (2.4GHz)||Dual-core 1,000MHz|| |
1 USB 3.0 / 1 USB 2.0
|11.2 x 7.3 x 2.0 inches||1.65 pounds|
On the front, the WRT1900AC comes with an array of fancy LED lights that show the status of the router. I find these lights very helpful, but if you don't like them, you can turn all of them off (except for the power light) via the router's Web interface.
Easy to set up, flexible network management
If you just want to use the new router right out of the box, there's default settings printed on its underside that allow you to use it as soon as you have plugged it into power and connected its WAN port into an Internet source, such as a broadband modem. But with the WRT1900AC, you'll want to do more than that.
The router allows you to access its Web interface, hence the ability to manage your home network, both locally and, as an option, over the Internet. For the latter, you'll need a free Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account.
Locally, you can always access the router by pointing the browser from a connecter computer to the router's IP address, the default is 192.168.1.1, and the default password to log in is admin. If you opt to use the remote management from anywhere in the world, you can log in by going to linksyssmartwifi.com and logging in via your Smart Wi-Fi account. In both cases, the Web interface is exactly the same. Those with a Smart Wi-Fi account can also access a sizable collection of mobile apps, including the free Linksys Smart Wi-Fi mobile app (Android and iOS) to manage the router's settings and features, again via the Internet
In my trial, the remote management feature worked well, both when I used it with a browser and via the mobile app. Unless you're extremely concerned about your privacy, the a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account adds a lot of value to the WRT1900AC.