We continue our series on Wi-Fi routers with a look at the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router (Model # EA7500). This may be the perfect combination of form, function and price for the average user.
Apple Tech Talk Scorecard
|Easy Set-up||CD Documentation is confusing|
|Rich Feature Set||Slower speed test results than competing routers.|
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router – Unboxing
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router is a simultaneous dual-band Gigabit router providing 600Mbps (N) + 1,300 Mbps (AC), for a total of 1,900 Mbps, hence the name AC1900.
In the box is the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router, a power supply, an Ethernet cable, three external antennas, a Quick Start Guide and a CD containing documentation. We should mention that the manual on the CD is over 700 pages and in just about every language you can imagine. There is actually only about 20 pages of information which is repeated over and over and we never did find the English version. The on-line version at the Linksys web site was the same. While it might make sense to have a combined document on the web, we think each language version should be a separate file on the CD to make it more useful.
Measuring 10.12 x 7.24 x 2.2 inches and weighing 20.74 oz., this router is not as large as some of the units we previously looked at (check out our reviews here), but still needs a fair amount of space on your shelf. There are also two slots on the bottom to allow for wall mounting. The case is covered in holes and slots to provide ample ventilation for the unit but they actually compliment the overall design nicely.
The router supports all of the common 802.11 network standards including a/b/g/n and the current ac, on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands simultaneously. Linksys recommends this router for a medium sized household for up to 12 devices.
The rear panel of the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router has all of the ports and connections you would expect, including one Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit LAN ports, one USB 3.0 port for an external hard drive, one USB 2.0 port for a shared printer, a WPS button, a recessed Reset button, a power connection port and a toggle switch to turn power on and off. There are also connections for the three included external antennas.
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router is powered by a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor and supports up to 128-bit encryption. As expected, it supports 64/128-bit WEP, WPA2-Personal and WPA2-Enterprise security. The router can operate as a Wireless Router, an Access Point, a Wired Bridge or a Wireless Bridge.
It supports attached storage in the FAT, NTFS and HFS+ file formats and is certified for Mac OS X 10.X or higher and requires Safari 5 or higher, Firefox 8 or higher or Google Chrome.
Perhaps the biggest design difference between the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 and some of the other routers we have been reviewing is the use and placement of LED indicators on the router. In our review of the D-Link AC3200 Router (read our review here), we listed about six (6) LEDs that were on the top of the router. In the first part of our review of the Netgear Nighthawk X8 router (read our review here), we listed about eleven (11) LEDs, again on the top cover.
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 takes a different approach. On the top of the router is a large Linksys logo which lights up in a bright white color when the router is powered on. The only other indicators are a pair of LEDs (one yellow, one green) on each side of the WAN and LAN connections on the back of the router, to designate that there is a valid connection and data traffic to and from the port.
While some people may like the “light show” that the top mounted LEDs provide, we rather like the approach that Linksys uses. Beyond it being a cleaner, more professional approach, reminiscent of data center rack components, we do question the need for all of the other indicators. Granted, looking at a series of lights to tell if one of the bands has dropped off the network would be easier than firing up a web browser, but really, how often does that happen? Like many things, this is a matter of personal taste and we aren’t saying that one is better or worse than the other but rather just pointing out the differences. In addition, we don’t think whether a router has indicator lights on the top or the back should be the deciding factor on which router to buy.
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router – Set-up
We found the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router set-up to be extremely easy and, similar to other routers we have reviewed, and is handled from a browser using the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Setup.
Similar to our other router tests, our goal was to substitute the existing Airport Extreme Base Station with the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router with a minimum of reconfiguration of other existing devices on the network.
Overall, we found the set-up and configuration extremely easy and was completed as a wireless device. No need to dig out an extra Ethernet cable to get this up and running but keep in mind that if you are replacing an existing router, you need to select the SSID and use the password provided in the Quick Start Guide, for your Mac to communicate with the router. The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 mostly configured itself, finding our Cisco cable model and prompting us when to power down the modem so the router could get its IP address. We followed the steps provided in our browser, changing the SSID and password at the appropriate time and had the network up and running in about 10 minutes.
As part of the set-up process you are also prompted to create a Linksys Smart Wi-Fi account. This allows you to access your router remotely through the use of the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi app, available as a free download from the App Store and we recommend that you take the time to complete that set-up too.
Once set up, the browser acts as your portal to manage the router and your network including such features as security settings, port forwarding, turning on Guest Networks, setting Parental Controls and defining Quality of Service for the various devices that are connected to your network. Most of the settings that can be controlled from the desktop are also available on the iOS app.
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 Router – Test Results
In looking at the router’s Device List, we saw most of the devices that were previously connected to the Airport Extreme, including our iPhone and iPad devices that immediately connected to the router without any action from us.
What was missing were the three Airport Express (g) routers we use to stream music across the network. We did a quick reboot of those devices but the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 was unable to see them. Perhaps a complete factory reset and a reconfiguration of the Express units would have resolved that issue but we weren’t inclined to do that. This was the first time we ran into this problem in testing other routers.
Our Brother ADS-1500W document scanner (read our review here) and our HP OfficeJet 6700 Printer both connected immediately and worked without issue. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the Brother HL-2270DW Laser Printer. Although the router saw the printer on the network and listed it as a connected device, we were not able to get any of the print jobs to complete. Issuing a print command from any application sent the job to the Print Que but after a short pause,would report back that the printer was not available. We tried resetting the print services on our Macs, uninstalling and reinstalling the printer, restarting the Macs, printer and Linksys router but nothing seemed to work. It was also not limited to a particular Mac as none of the computers on the network were able to print to the Brother printer although the printer was listed in all of the System Preferences Printer lists.
In fairness to the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900, this is not the first time we experienced this problem. In our review of the Netgear Nighthawk X8 router (read our test results here), we had the same issue with the same Brother printer. Perhaps a complete reset of the Brother printer and re-joining it to the network would have resolved this but we elected not to do that since we ultimately would be going back to our Airport Extreme router. Of interest is that when we did put the Airport Extreme back into the network, the Brother HL-2270DW immediately started printing again without any further action from us.
We also connected our Drobo 5D (see our review here), and it was immediately recognized. Similar to some of the other routers we’ve reviewed, the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 can act as a DLNA server and can also expose the attached hard drive to the Internet. As we have said before, this does not take the place of a full NAS server (like the Netgear RN202 reviewed here), but can be a nice solution if your remote needs are basic access.
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 router is a MU-MIMO device meaning it can support multiple users (MU) and multiple input (MI) and multiple output (MO) simultaneously. The technical benefits of the MU-MIMO protocol is beyond what we can cover here and indeed, books have been written about it. We’ll just say that as the newest router technology, MU-MIMO provides improved performance and manages the competing resources that usually exist on even the most basic home networks.
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 also has the ability to run the Ookla Speed Test (www.speedtest.net). We compared the speeds of the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 against our Airport Extreme 802.11ac Base Station with some interesting results.
Our ISP promises 100Mbps download speeds so we were a bit surprised that the best we could do on the Linksys Max-Steam AC1900 was 59.44 Mbps. That said, the upload speed of 31.39 is one of the fastest we have seen of any router to date.
For reference, here are the speeds from our Airport Extreme taken just a few minutes after the AC1900 test.
As you can see, the download speeds are almost three times faster than the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 but the upload speeds are nearly one third the speed of the AC1900.
Wi-Fi speed tests can be misleading and we don’t recommend they be your sole indicator of performance. In spite of what appears to be poor download speeds as compared to the Airport Extreme Base Station, we did not see a marked difference in performance. Web pages were very responsive and data moving across the network, both to the Drobo 5D attached to the router, and between a MacBook Pro and MacBook Air on the network was quick. Media streamed to our LG TV did not suffer any buffering interruptions.
The Bottom Line
The Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 router seems to be a perfect fit for the small to medium size home. While not the fastest router on the market, it does offer the important functions like MU-MIMO technology. The Linksys Smart W-Fi web interface is well designed and even users who don’t have a lot of experience with setting up a router, should be able to set up and manage the Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 with minimal trouble. All-in-all, we were very impressed with this unit and think it presents a perfect balance of form, function and price.
The Linksys Max-Steam AC1900 router has a MSRP of $219.99 but can often be found at a discount from Amazon.
We would like to thank the good folks at Linksys for providing a Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 router for our review.
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