Zit Seng's Blog

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Linksys WRT1200AC Review

Wireless broadband routers are quite commonplace in most homes these days. While most brands will position their flagships to compete on performance and features, sometimes we just need a simple router that will get the job done on a small budget. This is what Belkin’s Linksys WRT1200AC, a downsized sibling of the WRT1900AC, aims to be.

Linksys WRT1200AC

The Linksys WRT1200AC launched in Singapore in late May. It looks very similar to the WRT1900AC, which is a somewhat classic Linksys design. The most obvious difference between the two is the number of antennas. The WRT1200AC has two antennas with 2×2 MIMO, whereas the WRT1900AC has three antennas with 3×3 MIMO. The front face of the WRT1200AC is concave, instead of the convex case on the WRT1900AC.

All the ports and buttons of the WRT1200AC are on the back. From left, there’s the WPS button, 4x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, USB 3.0 port, USB/eSATA port, reset button, 12 VDC power input, and the power switch.

Linksys WRT1200AC

The WRT1200AC is dual band, so it supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, which support up to 1200 Mbps speed. The router is powered by a 1.3 GHz dual-core ARM processor, interestingly a little faster than the 1.2 GHz processor on the WRT1900AC.

Setting up the WRT1200AC is simple. Linksys uses their Smart Wi-Fi branded firmware. You can start by using the wired ports, or connect wirelessly using the default, but unique, SSID and WPA2 password printed under the router. The SSID and WPA2 password is also printed on an information leaflet. Then, just point your browser linksyssmartwifi.com. The web-based configuration is friendly and easy to figure out.

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi

Before I could continue with the WRT1200AC setup, the firmware pointed out that a newer version was available, and asked me to upgrade. I did just that. Always better to do now than later. The upgrade process was easy and painless, only requiring a couple of minutes to complete. It’s good to see that good security sense prevails in this router. Incidentally, the firmware also suggests a good, random, admin password at the end of the guided setup.

Even if you don’t want to configure or change anything, you can click through the setup and have a working and reasonably secure Wi-Fi going right-away. Of course, it’s best to change the SSID and WPA2 password to something of your own choosing.

Linksys Smart Wi-Fi copy

The two Wi-Fi bands can be individually configured. Additionally, you can configure guest networks on each of the two bands independently too. The Guest Wi-Fi is unencrypted, but requires a password to be entered on a captive webpage before full network access is granted.

As you’d expect, the WRT1200AC has features for parental controls, firewall settings, port forwarding, and even an internal OpenVPN server. The OpenVPN setup generates profiles that you can conveniently import into an OpenVPN client installation on your computer, which you can then use to securely connect back to the WRT1200AC, and the network behind it, from anywhere in the world.

The USB and eSATA ports allow you to connect an external storage device to the WRT1200AC. You can then share its contents via Windows Share (SMB), FTP, or a DNLA-compatible media server. The web interface offers some basic administrative functions to manage the storage and content sharing. The WRT1200AC doesn’t include more advanced storage features like support for Apple’s Time Machine.

In some casual speed tests, the WRT1200AC proves to be capable of supporting Wi-Fi speeds in the region of 150 Mbps at reasonably short range, under 5 m. This should more than fast enough for most users.

A big feature of the WRT1200AC, particularly for router hackers, is that it supports third party open source firmware like OpenWRT. If you are adventurous enough, you might want to check out the OpenWRT images available.

The WRT1200AC’s pricing was announced to be S$329 at launch. However, I observe that it is currently selling at about S$182 at shops in Sim Lim Square. I would have to say that the launch price was far too expensive for a mid-tier Wi-Fi broadband router, but the current street price is definitely more palatable.

Conclusion

The Linksys WRT1200AC is a capable mid-tier Wi-Fi broadband router suited for most casual wireless networking needs of home users. Hackers may love it for the OpenWRT support.

Pros:

  • Dual-band Wi-Fi with great performance
  • Easy to use web interface

Cons:

  • Basic network storage support

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