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Networking

This new Linksys router prepares you for a future that may never come

Belkin's announced its latest router in its WRT family, the Linksys WRT3200ACM MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router. This is a powerful router that costs $280, but you might want to wait a bit before getting it -- if at all.

The Linksys WRT3200ACM MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router is the latest router in Belkin's WRT series, and not surprisingly, it looks exactly like the previous models. On the inside, however, it's an entirely different beast. The new router now has a powerful 1.8Ghz dual-core processor, 256MB of Flash and 512MB of system memory -- that's compared to the 1.6Ghz, 128MB Flash and 512MB RAM of its predecessor.

It also supports the latest Tri-band 160 technology, which means that on paper, it's twice as fast (up t0 2,600Mbps) as normal routers at close range. Here's the problem though: you will not see this level of performance in real life. This is because there are no Tri-band 160 clients (laptops, phones, etc.) currently on the market -- and there won't likely be any anytime soon.

The truth is, there aren't currently any laptops or phones that support Wi-Fi speeds faster than 877Mbs, because that's already really fast. And like all powerful routers, the WRT3200ACM is only as fast as the clients connected to it. That means, when working as intended, the WRT3200ACM will not improve your network speed over previous WRT models, or even most AC1900 routers, for that matter.

And speaking of intent, I'm sure Linksys didn't plan for the WRT3200ACM to be as buggy as it was in my testing, but here we are. To be sure, most routers are pretty buggy when first released (especially Linksys WRT ones) and only smooth out once the firmware is updated weeks or months after launch.

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In terms of raw speed, I was unimpressed. When connected to dual-band 80Mhz clients (again, there are no Tri-band 160 clients on the market) the router delivered a sustained speed topping out at around 550Mbps, about average compared with other high-end routers. Range was also about average, maxing out at about 150 feet after going through a few walls. Wi-Fi range depends heavily on the environment, the more walls, for example, the shorter the range gets, so your mileage may vary.

All things considered, like most high-end routers, the WRT3200ACM solves Wi-Fi problems that most users don't have. Namely, the ever-increasing boosting of speed and power on the router side. On the other hand, it doesn't really provide anything that would clearly improve your life in the real world like, say, exceptional range for a large home.

Obviously, it doesn't hurt to have a powerful router, but with the WRT3200ACM, you definitely should wait until after one or two rounds of firmware updates before getting it. At $280, it's a bit too expensive for a buggy router. You can also opt for the previous models, the WRT1900AC or WRT1900ACS. These ave been out for a while now, and have stable firmware and lower costs. And if you're looking for the best routers to date, check out this list.

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