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

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The Good The Linksys WRT1200AC Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router delivers excellent performance, especially as a network storage server. The router has an intuitive Web interface and lets you manage your home network remotely.

The Bad The router is very expensive for one that supports only midtier Wi-Fi specifications. Its network storage feature doesn't work with Apple's Time Machine backup.

The Bottom Line The WRT1200AC is just way too expensive for a second-tier 802.11ac router.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Setup 7.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Support 7.0

Review Sections

A router that performs well isn't always a great deal. Case in point, the new Linksys WRT1200AC.

It testing, the router proved to be a fast and reliable Wi-Fi option and a powerful network storage server when hosting an external hard drive. But its Wi-Fi performance wasn't significantly better than that of other AC1200 routers, such as the Netgear R6100, that cost about half of its price of $180 (£120 or AU$220 converted). Even if you opted for a higher-tier and clearly better-performing router, such as the AC1750 Asus RT-AC66U or the AC1900 D-Link DIR-880L , you'd still only have to pay around $150.

Don't get me wrong, the WRT1200AC is a solid performer and one of the best AC1200 routers on the market. On top of that it sports a retro design that makes it convenient to stack it on top of other, similar WRT network accessories. However, all in all, it just doesn't have enough to justify its hugely inflated price.

For the money you would spend on the WRT1200AC, there are many better deals on this list of best 802.11ac routers.

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The WRT1200AC stacked on top of the WRT1900AC. The two routers are almost identical. Dong Ngo/CNET

Retro design

Like the recently released WRT1900AC, the WRT1200AC features Linksys' good old "classic" stackable design that dates back to the original WRT series (such as the WRT54Gs ). In fact, the two routers share the same shape, size, color and even number of peripheral ports. Other than the number of antennas (the WRT1200AC has two and the WRT1900AC has four), you can't tell them apart visually.

This design means the routers mix well with similar stackable products such as the WRT Switch or the Storage Bay that Linksys says it will soon release. If you want to conserve space, you'll appreciate that aspect of the design. Personally I like this design a lot because it makes the router feel very solid and, in my testing of the WRT1900AC, proved to be one of the most practical designs for Wi-Fi routers.

Note that the antennas are detachable and you can use the WRT1200AC with third-party high-gain antennas to improve Wi-Fi range. Linksys also sells WRT high-gain antennas of its own.

linksys-wrt-network-storage-bay.jpg
The Linksys Storage Bay for WRT routers. Belkin

Powerful hardware, midrange Wi-Fi specs

Powered by an ARM-based dual-core processor that runs at 1.3GHz (as opposed to the 1.2GHz processor of the WRT1900AC), 128MB flash memory storage and 256MB DDR3 RAM, the WRT1200AC is one of the most souped-up home routers. It features four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port. The router also has one USB 3.0 port and another port that can work as either a USB 2.0 or an eSATA. All of these network and peripheral ports are located on the back of the router.

On the front, the WRT1200AC has an array of fancy-looking white LEDs that show the status of all the ports mentioned above. Interestingly, you can turn these lights off via the router's Web interface, a nice design touch in case you want to use the router in a bedroom and don't want to be bothered by flashing lights.

Despite the top-notch main processor, the WRT1200AC uses only the midtier Wi-Fi standard. It supports the dual-stream (2 x 2) instead of the faster 3 x 3 Wi-Fi setup and hence has a top theoretical speed of just 867Mbps, instead of the 1,300Mbps the 3 x 3 setup provides, on the 5GHz band. On the 2.4GHz band, its top speed is only 400Mbps, instead of 600Mbps. (Read more about Wi-Fi standards.) Adding these up, the router has the total bandwidth of around 1,200Mbps, hence the AC1200 designation.

Note that the WRT1200AC is compatible with all existing Wi-Fi clients on the market, regardless of standard, but the actual speed of each wireless connection will be that of the slower party.

The router has a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0/SATA port. Josh Miller/CNET

Easy to set up, helpful features

As with the WRT1900AC, you can just use the WRT1200AC right out of the box, and its default settings are printed on its underside. If you want to customize the Wi-Fi networks' names and other features of the router, you can do that via the router's Web interface.

Locally, you can access the interface by pointing the browser from a connected computer to the router's IP address: by default it's 192.168.1.1, and the default password to log in is admin.

The router's interface is the same used for previous Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers and includes some cool features. There's an interactive Network Map that shows the connected devices and allows you to interact with each just by clicking on its icon. You can also do a quick Internet speed test right from within the interface.

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The WRT1200AC has a well-designed, responsive Web interface. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Other big features include Media Prioritization, which allows you to drag and drop connected clients between the High and Normal priority lists, and the Parental Control feature that allows you to block certain connected clients' access to the Internet or to certain Web sites. The router also features two Guest networks (one for each band) that you can quickly turn on or off via a click. You can also change the names and passwords of the guest networks and set the number of guest clients to up to 50. Guests clients will be able to access the Internet via the router but not local resources such as files or printer, and they can't see one another either.

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