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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Has different modes
Can serve as a Wi-Fi extender
Good parental controls
Too much branding
The Linksys WRT1900ACS has an impressive feature set that makes up for its unattractive design and lack of MU-MIMO technology.
An open-source router that can also serve as a wireless extender, the Linksys WRT1900ACS is a moderately priced option. It’s a few years old, so it’s not Wi-Fi 6 or even MU-MIMO capable, but it offers a unique set of features that make it a contender among its newer competitors. I tested the Linksys WRT1900ACS in the real world along with other Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers to see if its combination of design, performance, and features equal a worthwhile investment.
WRT1900ACS’s old school design isn’t for everyone. It’s eye-catching and colorful, so not for those who want a router that’ll blend into the background. The bright blue and black color scheme gives the router a bit of a juvenile, almost toy-like appearance. The Linksys name is boldly printed on the top of the router, and it’s also in small print on the front face and on each of the four antennas.
The bright blue and black color scheme gives the router a bit of a juvenile, almost toy-like appearance.
On the plus side, the router isn’t too large, as it measures less than 10 inches wide and less than eight inches in depth. It has four removable antennas you can swivel in multiple directions. All of the ports—a gigabit WAN port, four gigabit LAN ports, a USB 3.0, and a USB 2.0—are ideally positioned on the back of the router along with the button controls. The indicator lights sit along the front face, but the labels for each light are very small and hard to read from any distance.
The setup process is quick and easy. One small detail I really appreciated about the WRT1900ACS is that the company printed the temporary network ID and password in the user guide, so I didn’t have to strain my eyes trying to read the tiny print on the router’s label. You can set up your network in the Linksys app, or you can use the web portal.
This is an AC1900 dual-band 802.11ac router, so Wi-Fi speeds max out at 1300 Mbps over the 5GHz band. It can reach up to 600 Mbps over the 2.4 GHz band. The WRT1900ACS has beamforming technology, which allows it to concentrate the signal to connected devices.
In my test home, I have a max Wi-Fi speed of 500 Mbps from my ISP. I connected a handful of devices to the Linksys router and tested speeds in different areas of my 1,600 square foot test home. In the same room as the router, Ookla clocked the Wi-Fi speed in at 254 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. When I traveled to the opposite end of the house to a room that often experiences drop-offs, the connection remained stable and the speed measured at 188 Mbps.
When I moved to the 2.4 GHz channel and traveled to the very end of the driveway, the speed dropped significantly to 30 Mbps. Overall, the WRT1900ACS provided ample coverage for the one-level home, and even had a long enough range to travel outdoors and around the property. The signal degraded with distance though, and obstructions like walls and appliances heavily impacted the signal strength.
The WRT1900ACS can operate in different modes in addition to a wireless router mode. It can serve as an access point, a wired bridge, a wireless bridge, or a wireless repeater. This allows you to use a second Linksys to extend your Wi-Fi signal.
Because the WRT1900ACS is open-source ready, you can modify the router and customize it for specific functions or even turn it into a web server.
It can serve as an access point, a wired bridge, a wireless bridge, or a wireless repeater.
The Linksys app is one of the more comprehensive router apps I’ve seen. You can set up a guest network, manage and prioritize devices, and set up parental controls (that are actually useful). The parental controls let you pause the internet on your child’s devices, schedule a pause for a later time, and block specific websites. You can also perform a few advanced functions in the app, like port forwarding and enabling Wi-Fi MAC filters.
On the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi site, you can control almost every aspect of your network from security to troubleshooting and diagnostics.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS retails for $200, which sounds high. But, it provides so much in the way of features and customization, that the price is an excellent value.
The TP-Link Archer C9 (view on Amazon) is one of our favorite budget routers, and you can find it on sale for around $120–significantly less than the Linksys WRT1900ACS. While both routers have an AC1900 Wi-Fi speed, the Linksys offers a number of benefits over the Archer C9, including the ability to serve as a repeater or bridge and open-source programming.
An open-source router that‘s more than meets the eye.
The Linksys WRT1900ACS may not be the prettiest router, but its customization features make an excellent option.