Linksys AC1900 (WRT1900ACS) Review
Pros: Easy to use, above average 5 GHz. throughput
Cons: Pricey, overall mediocre performance
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Linksys WRT1900ACS barely edged out the AC1900 Max Stream, having a substantially better range. However, the Max Stream is slightly easier to use. These both finished right behind the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1750 and the NETGEAR AC1750, though this pair only outperformed the Linksys WRT1900ACS by a single point.
To come to these conclusions, we bought all of the best routers currently available and tested them side-by-side, scoring their performance in five weighted rating metrics. The sections below describe the performance of the Linksys WRT1900ACS and how it stacks up against the rest of the competition.
Earning the most weight of the entire group, our Features metric is most important at 25% of the total score. To score each router, we compiled a list of the most important features and then awarded points to each product for each feature that it possessed. The WRT1900ACS did moderately well in this set of tests, meriting a 5 out of 10 for its performance.
Starting off, we checked it the routers had beamforming and MU-MIMO capabilities — features that dramatically act to speed up your network. Beamforming focuses the signal at your devices, rather than transmitting omnidirectionally and MU-MIMO means that your router can simultaneously interact with multiple devices at once — a great feature if there are multiple internet-connected devices in your network — true for practically every household, given today's connected society. While the WRT1900ACS does have beamforming, it lacks MU-MIMO — hurting its score overall.
This router isn't wall mountable and has to be manually reset, but it does support IPv6 and allows you to dim almost all of the indicator LEDs, with the exception of the power light.
The WRT1900ACS has the average 4 gigabit LAN ports and a pair of USB ports, one 2.0 and one 3.0. You manage this router through either a smartphone app or a browser interface, allowing you to enable features such as the guest network or the VPN.
Ease of Use
For our next set of assessments of each router, worth 20% of the total score, we scored how easy it actually is to operate and install each of these products. In our opinion, you shouldn't need a technical degree to successfully operate or configure one of these products, so the easiest to use routers earned the most points. The WRT1900ACS is one of these, earning a 7 out of 10 for being solidly easy to use.
First, we looked at the unboxing and installation process. Conveniently, this router didn't require any firmware updates out of the box. Unfortunately, the setup process was a bit of a mixed bag, as we found that it tended to freeze or encounter errors and require us to restart the initial configuration, even when using the setup guide.
However, the setup was quite smooth on subsequent tries, with no error screens arising and allowing us to set the network name and password without incident.
The interface for this router is quite user-friendly, with a relatively modern design — much better than that of the NETGEAR routers, but still a bit inferior to those of the TP-Link routers. This makes it very easy to set up and configure the guest network, as well as QoS or parental controls. QoS, or Quality of Service, allows you to prioritize bandwidth by devices or applications, letting you give preference to the family media streaming device over a teen's smartphone. The WRT1900ACS lets you sort by applications or by device.
The parental controls are decent, but you have to manually enter websites to block, rather than restricting by content, but you can block off devices at certain times.
2.4 GHz. Throughput
This metric, also worth 20% of the overall score, evaluated the throughput speed of each product over their 2.4 GHz. network. We used the iPerf3 software on a test laptop to determine speeds, averaging the results of three trials to score the results. We conducted this test with three different distances — 10', 35', and 70' — separating the router and computers. One test at 10' and one at 35' offered an unobstructed review between the router and computer, while the remaining had a handful of walls separating them. The WRT1900ACS did reasonably well, meriting a 5 out of 10 for its performance.
The WRT1900ACS started off with an above average performance in the short distance tests, averaging 53 Mbits/s in both the unobstructed and obstructed tests. This was particularly impressive in the obstructed test, as shown below.
Performance dropped a little in the medium distance tests, with the WRT1900ACS doing about average in the line of sight test with 40 Mbits/s and slightly above in the obstructed test with 48 Mbits/s average speed. This again compared reasonably well with the rest of the group, highlighted below.
Unfortunately, this router finished out with an abysmal showing in the long distance tests, earning one of the lowest scores of the group for its paltry 1.5 Mbit/s average.
5 GHz. Throughput
This metric, also worth 20% of the total score, was tested and scored identically to the previous one, with the exception of swapping the 2.4 GHz. network for the 5 GHz. network. The WRT1900ACS did a little better than the 2.4 GHz. metric, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its performance.
The WRT1900ACS delivered a mediocre showing in the line of sight test with an average of 204 Mbit/s, but did exceptionally well in the obstructed test. The WRT1900ACS earned one of the top scores with 212 Mbit/s, as shown below.
The same pattern continued in the medium distance tests, with the WRT1900ACS doing well in the line of sight and phenomenally in the obstructed test, again claiming one of the top spots.
Again, it finished out with a poor showing in the long distance test, only hitting a paltry 11 Mbit/s average.
For the final aspect of our metric, taking credit for the remaining 15% of the total score, we assessed the effective range of each router. We did this by attempting to stream a video on a laptop at various distances away from the router and noting at what point the video began to experience buffering or interruptions.
The WRT1900ACS did reasonably well, earning a 5 out of 10 for its performance, with the video dropping out about 159' away from the router.
This board isn't a great value, combining poor performance with a high retail price.
All in all, there isn't much of a reason to recommend the board. It did do very well in the obstructed throughput tests, but it is hard to justify its high price and overall subpar performance on that merit alone.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer