The GUI that Belkin/Linksys has presented is one that looks very polished an on the surface has a pretty robust offering of features. Besides the normal selections of general connectivity, Wi-Fi radio channel, DHCP options, UPnP, etc., Belkin/Linksys ships their upper-end routers with a setup and management software tool called “Smart Wi-Fi”. This program gives the user access to their connected devices from a browser or mobile device to configure and make changes to their network. Users are able to access their networks remotely via an iOS or Android device. You can check your connection status, give guest access or use parental control for a child (or an adult that acts like a child) to limit certain sites or social networks. For the WRT1900AC, Linksys introduced a new feature to their Smart Wi-Fi tool called Network Map which is a visual topology map that shows all of the devices that are connected to the network. Users can manage each device with a sub-menu that pops up when you click a particular client. Using Network Map gives the user a bit more flexibility when making adjustments in general (selecting wireless bands, filtering devices, etc.) The first look at the Linksys WRT1900AC’s GUI didn’t inspire a lot of confidence with us. Most times we get a new router, we are able to either use the Setup Wizard or configure the router manually. There is no difference here except that we were surprised by the relatively few options in the configuration menu. Sure the WRT1900AC has a bunch of options that many other flagship routers have – guest network, multiple security levels, but the GUI we were looking at (Version 220.127.116.11917) didn’t have a section for port forwarding, VPN, nor did it have a robust area for general information like number of active clients, restricted site listing, or even an easy way to upgrade the firmware.
For those wondering if the WRT1900AC is compatible to open source firmware, Linksys has stated that this router is “OpenWRT Ready”, but the OpenWRT Community is indicating that your mileage may vary with success. Nevertheless, there are many users who look to be using on open source firmware like Tomato, DD-WRT and OpenWRT successfully with this router. Using the Smart Wi-Fi configuration wizard, we were able to set up our network relatively quickly. For power users looking for the ultimate control of their device, Belkin/Linksys has confirmed to us that the WRT1900AC supports Open Source firmware like DD-WRT, Open WRT, and Tomato. Linksys has already made available hardware and SDKs/APIs to OpenWRT developers so Open Source developers can begin creating custom firmware. Let’s take a look at how the WRT1900AC does in terms of wireless speed performance.