Linksys WRT1200AC Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router review: Fast and reliable but grossly overpriced

Remote management as an option

Like previous Smart Wi-Fi routers, the WRT1200AC has a remote management feature that allows you to monitor your home network remotely via the Internet. This features requires a free account with linksyssmartwifi.com.

To associate the router with this account, all you have to do is to go linksyssmartwifi.com website from any local computer that's connected to the router. The first time you do this, you will be prompted to enter the router's admin password, then log in to the Smart Wi-Fi account, and you're done. From then on, linksyssmartwifi.com becomes the portal where you can log in and manage your home network, no matter where you are in the world, as though you were still at home.

The router's remote Web interface is essentially the same as the one you use locally. (The only difference is the Internet Speed Test function is not available when you log in remotely.) The Linksys Smart Wi-Fi portal is also available via mobile app (Android and iOS) and offers access to a number of settings and features of the router. You do need a browser to have full access, however.

In my trials, the remote management feature worked well, both when I used it with a browser and via the mobile app. Using a vendor-assisted remote feature like this affects your privacy since essentially the vendor can know all about online activities. If that's not of a concern, however, I find this feature very helpful.

No Time Machine support

The router's USB ports can be used to connect to external storage devices of any capacity. You can use external hard drives formatted in HFS+, FAT32 or NTFS, and in my tests the router recognized the plugged-in external hard drive almost immediately.

After that you can you can share its contents with other network devices, either via regular file-sharing protocol or through streaming. The router supports UPnP and DNLA streaming standards, allowing the content stored on the connected drive to be played back by most network media streamers and game consoles. There's no support for Time Machine backup, however, which is a major drawback for Mac users.

By default, all clients in your home network can access all the content stored on a connected drive, but you can also turn on sharing restriction by creating user accounts.

Solid performance

Since the WRT1200AC is a dual-stream router, I didn't expect top Wi-Fi performance from it, but on the 5GHz band, the router was impressive nonetheless. It registered a sustained speed of 523Mbps at the close range of 15 feet. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, it averaged 247Mbps. These speeds are above average for 802.11ac routers I've reviewed, including three-stream routers.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wi-Fi performance

Linksys WRT1900AC
520.67
340.7
T-Mobile CellSpot
570.6
340
Asus RT-AC68U
521.4
336
Linksys E8350
511.1
304.6
Netgear R7000
432.1
295.4
Asus RT-AC3200
513.7
289
Asus RT-AC87U
504.4
278.6
Linksys WRT1200AC
522.6
246.8
Linksys EA9200
577.8
242.7
Netgear R7500
381.7
242.4
Netgear R8000
482.2
241.6
D-Link DIR-868L
271
221
D-Link DIR-880L
525.6
212.8
Asus RT-AC66U
339.2
178.5
Amp Wireless RTA15
205.5
165.5
D-Link DIR-890L/R
601.7
160.9

Legend:

Close range
Long range

Note:

Data rate of Wi-Fi routers measured in megabits per second; longer bars indicate better performance

On the 2.4GHz band, the router didn't do as well, averaging just 57Mbps and 42Mbps for close and long range, respectively. Though disappointing, this was quite normal, however, since the legacy 2.4GHz is generally not the forte of 802.11ac routers. Also at these speeds, clients can still access the Internet comfortably.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wi-Fi performance

T-Mobile CellSpot
249.56
214.34
Asus RT-AC3200
235.7
66.4
Linksys EA9200
226.2
40.9
Asus RT-AC68U
225
211.4
Netgear R7500
188.8
119.3
Asus RT-AC87U
170.7
56
Linksys WRT1900AC
168.3
50.34
D-Link DIR-880L
160.8
89.5
Linksys E8350
139.4
68.3
Netgear R8000
134.4
57.6
D-Link DIR-890L/R
121.8
34.4
Netgear R7000
117.4
63.2
Amp Wireless RTA15
74.6
35.2
D-Link DIR-868L
63.3
55.6
Linksys WRT1200AC
57
41.6
Asus RT-AC66U
36.8
15.2

Legend:

Close range
Long range

Note:

Data rate of Wi-Fi routers measured in megabits per second; longer bars indicate better performance

The WRT1200AC clearly has less range than other higher-end routers. In my trial, I was able to get a stable signal from it from as far as 160 feet away for the 2.4GHz band and just about 140 feet for the 5GHz band. Further out, it was difficult to hold a steady connection, even though its signals were still detectable. While these numbers are in fact quite good for a dual-stream router, some three-stream and quad-stream routers I've reviewed have a range as far as 300 feet.

On the other hand, the WRT1200AC's Wi-Fi signal stability was stellar. I used it for a week nonstop with multiple clients of different Wi-Fi standards and it didn't disconnect even once.

Note that I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are walls and many Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of a Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference, especially on the 2.4GHz band. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

CNET Labs router network storage performance

Linksys WRT1900AC
75.9
105.24
Linksys WRT1200AC
70.9
88.88
Netgear R8000
42.6
71.76
Asus RT-AC68U
41.2
53.86
Netgear R7000
38.6
60.1
Linksys E8350
37.8
85.47
D-Link DIR-890L/R
35.5
65.23
Netgear R7500
33.9
65.86
Asus RT-AC3200
27.5
28.79
D-Link DIR-880L
27.4
44
Asus RT-AC87U
27.2
32.31
Apple Time Capsule
25.8
28.67
Linksys EA9200
25.6
48.57
Asus RT-AC66U
16.7
9.6
D-Link DIR-868L
12.5
12.81

Legend:

Write
Read

Note:

Data rate of router when coupled with an external hard drive via a Gigabit connection; measured in megabytes per second

The WRT1200AC's NAS performance was also outstanding. When coupled with a portable drive connected to its USB 3.0 port, and via a Gigabit connection, the router registered a sustained speed of 71MBps for writing and 89MBps for reading. These were on par with the speeds of many dedicated NAS servers. As you can see on the chart, the WRT1200AC was second only to its older brother the WRT1900AC in this test. This means either of the Linksys new WRT routers would make an excellent home network storage option if you don't want to invest in a dedicated NAS server.

Conclusion

Like the WRT1900AC, the new WRT1200AC is another reliable Wi-Fi router from Linksys. Unfortunately, Linksys decided to charge way to much for it. At $180 it's actually more expensive than the refurbished version of the much better WRT1900AC.

And even though the WRT1200AC might have the best performance among AC1200 routers, it's not faster than some higher-tier routers that cost less, like the Asus RT-AC66U, the D-Link DIR-880L and the Trendnet TEW-818DRU. Even the once notoriously expensive Apple AirPort Extreme which is also faster than the WRT1200AC, can currently be found for only a couple dollars more at $185.

As far as Wi-Fi is concerned, there's no good reason to get the WRT1200AC. However, if you're enticed by its great storage performance, remember that this feature doesn't support Time Machine backup, which greatly reduces its usefulness to Mac users. With all of that in mind, the Linksys WRT1200AC might be a good and reliable performer, but it's far from being a great deal.

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