Review: Linksys WRT1900AC Router & WRT SE4008 Gigabit Switch

I’ve had a 4th generation Apple Airport Extreme router and a gigabit switch since 2011 and I wanted to upgrade as I wanted to give myself 802.11ac wireless speeds on my network. Thus the timing happened to be perfect for Linksys to hook me in a serious way:

IMG_0494

First up is the Linksys WRT1900AC router. It looks like the original WRT series routers from back in the early 2000s. For someone like me who’s been around for a while, I can really relate to the look as I owned a WRT series router and recall seeing them everywhere. Thus I really really think that going back to this look will work for Linksys. You’ll note that there’s a lot of ventilation holes on it. That’s important as routers tend to get very warm and you need to have adequate ventilation to make sure that the router either doesn’t fail outright or intermittently. It’s also very heavy which is a sign that it’s well built.

IMG_0497The second item is the WRT SE4008 8 port gigabit switch. It looks like the WRT1900AC and it has one added feature.

IMG_0496You can stack the switch and router so that it takes up less space. Very cool! Note that the WRT1900AC is on top to ensure maximum ventilation. I should also note that you can’t reverse the way you stack them.

Now the WRT1900AC is a dual-band router with a 4×4 transmit/receive antenna configuration on each band. The 2.4GHz band supports up to a theoretical 600Mbps and the 5GHz band supports up to 1300Mbps. You get four gigabit ports and a very unique feature:

IMG_0495

You get an eSATA port on the right and a USB 2.0/3.0 port for connecting to printers and USB storage devices. More on that in a bit.

Setting up the router was extremely trivial:

  1. Power on the router
  2. Connect the cable from your modem to the WAN port
  3. Wait for the router’s LED to turn from a flashing orange to a solid white
  4. Connect to the pre-configured SSID (the SSID name and password are printed in the setup guide) or connect an Ethernet cable from a laptop to one of the router’s LAN ports;
  5. Open a web browser to complete final settings. You have to type in linksyssmartwifi.com as the URL. When I did this, I was directed to the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Setup Page. From this site, a wizard walks you through configuration and you have the option to skip setup and configure manually.
  6. Declare victory and have a beer.

This makes the setup of this router achievable by anyone. Now if you want to set things up manually, you’ll need the router default password which is not printed in the documentation that comes with the router. A quick Google search confirmed that the default password and user name is admin. Just set up the router the way you want and you’re live on the Internet.

After I set up the router, I noticed two things that really set the WRT1900AC apart from any other router that I have seen recently. The first is the range this router has. I was picking up the 5GHz band in areas of my condo that never got any 5GHz service previously. That’s very impressive given that I have a few concrete walls for the router to deal with along the way. The second thing that I noticed is the speed. Even though my Macs are 802.11n, I could clearly see that I could copy between them wirelessly faster than my Apple Airport Extreme router. That’s a welcome speed boost. Clearly, this router fully leverages the 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM CPU that Linksys put inside this router.

There’s some other cool features:

  • On the front of the router, the WRT1900AC comes with an array of cool looking LED lights that show the status of the router. I find these lights very helpful, but if you don’t like them, you can turn all of them off with the exception of the power light via the router’s Web interface. One thing that I would say is that the lights on this router don’t light up the entire room unlike some routers which will make a room glow in the dark.
  • You can manage the router locally or remotely through the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi cloud service. It is easy to use via your smartphone and changes take effect instantly. One addition that is present on this router is the the Network Map which has a lot of great features including:
    • You can view connected devices by connection types (wireless or wired) or device types (computers, mobile devices, printers, and unknown).
    • You can quickly add or edit a connected client to a IP reservation/blocking pool, give it a name, or view more information about the client.
    • You can check the bandwidth usage of any one device.
  • You can optimize the router for whatever you do. For example, you can tweak the settings to provide better performance for any device on your network simply by moving it into a “high priority” group.
  • It has full parental controls that enable you to restrict Internet access based on time or by website.
  • You can connect a hard drive to it to use it as network storage. The drives can be formatted in HFS+, FAT32, or NTFS. By default, all clients in your home network can access all the content stored on a connected drive, but you can also turn on secure sharing by user accounts. It supports FTP and SAMBA as well as DLNA and UPnP. You can also access a storage device attached to the router from the Internet using Linksys Smart Wi-Fi and a third-party DDNS service. Performance is very good from a storage standpoint and you’ll get the best performance from using the eSATA port. But having both as an option gives you some flexibility in terms of the storage devices that you can use.
  • While I do have a network printer, I tested the ability to connect a printer without networking capability to the USB port to share with those on your network. It works the same way as it does in the Linksys EA6900 AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router that I reviewed recently. Though this time I was able to get it working on my Macs and it does work well enough. Despite my success, I still have difficulty fully recommending this functionality as it doesn’t support standard network printing protocols like IPPLPD or HP JetDirect.
  • If you don’t like the Linksys firmware, you can update the firmware using the popular Open WRT firmware. If this sounds familiar, the original WRT routers had this ability and many users leveraged this ability to give the WRT routers a lot of additional capabilities.

Now over to the Linksys WRT SE4008 8 port gigabit switch. This is a simple unmanaged switch that shares the look of the WRT1900AC router and it’s stackable as I mentioned earlier. Like the WRT1900AC, you can turn off all the lights except the power light if you need to. It has a few cool features:

  • It has Quality of Service (QoS) prioritizes network traffic for smooth streaming and online gaming.
  • To conserve energy it automatically enters into power-saving mode when connected devices are turned off or not in use.

You simply plug it in to power and connect it to your router and you’re good to go. Performance was pretty good doing things like copying large files from computer to computer on the switch.

Downsides? When it comes to the WRT1900AC, it’s the price. It’s $250 which is expensive by home router standards. But in my opinion, it’s totally worth it given the performance and features that you get for your money. The Linksys WRT SE4008 8 port gigabit switch is $69.99. At that price point, it is a great addition to the WRT1900AC if you need to expand beyond the four ports that the WRT1900AC provides. If you want the best performance from your router, you need to get the WRT1900AC from Linksys. It’s the quickest router that I have seen lately. If you then need a gigabit switch to go with it, the WRT SE4008 will complement the WRT1900AC nicely.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the newly acquired performance of my network.

🙂

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One Response to “Review: Linksys WRT1900AC Router & WRT SE4008 Gigabit Switch”

  1. […] looks like an all black WRT1900AC or WRT1900ACS. That means that it will fit into your decor without standing out like a sore thumb. […]

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