Linksys AC 900 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router EA6200
The Linksys AC900 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a much more accessible product than the more standard $200+ 802.11ac wireless routers.
That’s a niche in its own right, really; it’s not cheap, but it’s affordable enough to be a serious option for a good part of the market, and the speed and range benefits conferred by the 802.11ac standards are, in themselves, a big selling point for this router.
The question remains, though – how does the AC900 fare outside of this aspect? If you want something more from your router than “is 802.11ac-compliant”, is this one worthy of your consideration?
Linksys AC900 – Hardware
The current model being sold as the AC900 class – the EA6200, if you go by the designation on the board itself – is a pretty impressive piece of gear.
It’s equipped with a Broadcom BCM47081A0 running at 800MHz, 128MB each of RAM and Flash storage, and a pair of powerful radios for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
It also features four gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB 3.0 port on the back; looking at it purely from a hardware perspective, this is really impressive for its position in the market.
You’re getting a lot for your money. There’s not currently a stable build of DD-WRT for this device, but it’s new; you can get it running if you tinker a bit, and it shouldn’t be long in any event.
Actual wireless performance is excellent
You can manage more than enough speed for the most resource-intensive local networking tasks; Internet browsing is a joke, since the weak link there is always going to be your wired Internet connection.
Range is more than sufficient for the vast majority of homes or offices; all of these are traits shared by most 802.11ac routers, yes, but most of those routers aren’t this attainable for the mass market.
At current retail prices in the neighborhood of $130, the EA6200 is by no means cheap, but it’s certainly much more feasible than the machines to which it compares.
Wired performance is fine. The gigabit Ethenet ports tend to provide you with about that bitrate, and – while having just one can be an annoyance – the USB 3.0 port is a big leap up compared to the typical USB 2.0 ports on most wireless routers; it makes using the NAS or media server functionality a lot more practical than it is on the bulk of the competition.
The case itself and the cooling solution it contains are sufficient to manage the relatively powerful hardware; the result is a wireless router that’s as stable as it is capable.
Linksys AC900 – Software
Hardware is only half the picture, of course; the firmware that ships with a router is an important part of the overall package. Let’s start by going over basic functionality; put simply, “it works”.
You have a suite of network configuration and security tools that’s about on par with most of what’s on the market; it’s not really worth writing home about, but everything that you’re likely to need is in place and works as advertised. The control panel is laid out sensibly enough, to boot.
More interesting, though…
… are the features billed as Linksys Smart Wi-Fi. Basically, this is a service that allows you to tie your router to an online account that makes various apps and utilities available; you can use these tools to administer your router from any Internet-connected device.
Beyond simple access to administration tools, there are also apps that actually add functionality like simplified content filtering to the router; these are surprisingly useful. It’s not as robust as, say, DD-WRT remote access, but it’s also not nearly as hard to configure. You get most of the benefits of that more advanced functionality without putting any work into things yourself.
The Linksys AC900 is quite impressive, actually. It’s affordable enough, performs better than you’d expect, and the heavily-marketed Smart Wi-Fi features genuinely bring something substantial to the table.
As wireless routers go, this is definitely one of the better ones in its price range; it’s a solid 802.11ac device at a price range where it’s without much competition.
It’s not the best router on the market, mind you; on the software side, it’s just about “good”, and the hardware isn’t the very top of the line. Still, it fills a niche that doesn’t have a lot of competition, and it’s pretty good at that.