Category Archives: Linksys

Hands on: Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN review

Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN

Our Early Verdict

To build a VPN service with a customisable router appears to be a no-brainer as they both target the same audience and in this particular case, the WRT 1200AC and ExpressVPN make a great pair.

Like pretty much every other piece of computing hardware, routers have reached a maturation peak with very little disruptive innovation now happening.

Some vendors are trying new things to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition, often by offering fine-tuned, bespoke services.

 Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN

Certainly, it came as a surprise when one VPN provider, ExpressVPN, offered to send us the Linksys WRT 1200AC router with its services baked in by way of a customised firmware.

Note that in our case, the router was already preconfigured, but owners of the WRT 1200AC or the WRT 1900AC/S (the only two Linksys routers that support the native ExpressVPN option) will be able to install this particular firmware.

A couple of points here: changing the firmware of your router is not for the faint hearted and there’s a small chance that you could brick (break) your device during the process.

Doing so with a third-party firmware will invalidate your warranty although you can always go back to the original Linksys firmware.

ExpressVPN told us that, while this is the case, Linksys has done a good job to make this device a lot more reliable than anything else on the market.

Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN

Speaking of the WRT 1200AC, this is a relatively mature device that was launched well over a year ago; although the one that was sent to us is the v2 incarnation.

You can nab it for as little as £102 (around $125, AU$165) including delivery from online retailer Ballicom

Those who have used the now legendary WRT 54xx series will recognise the device’s blue-black colour scheme. The WRT 1200AC is the heir to that line with some pretty bold lines and a futuristic design.

There are plenty of holes in its enclosure, a sign that the hardware inside may well get warm under near-constant use. As expected, it sits comfortably on four big plastic feet and carries two detachable antennas at the back.

As with the vast majority of routers on the market, there are plenty of status lights up front (11 in all), a lot of ports at the back, and all the admin details about the router are on its base.

Overall, the 1200AC has a very solid feel to it with an air of nostalgia; it won’t wobble or fall off a flat surface thanks to a low centre of gravity.

The original router had 256MB of RAM while the new version 2 we evaluated doubles that to 512MB. There’s still a Marvel 88F6820 ARM system-on-chip at its heart, a dual-core model clocked at 1.3GHz. It has a theoretical maximum transfer rate of 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 900Mbps on 5GHz; you can of course use both at the same time, depending on your devices.

Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN

Note that the WRT 1200AC incorporates beam forming technology which means that it can focus its wireless signals on devices connected to it.

At the back of the router you’ll find a switch, a reset button, a power connector, one USB 3.0 port, one eSATA/USB 2.0 connector and four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

You must have an ExpressVPN subscription for the VPN to work, something that can cost you as little as $99.99 (around £80, AU$135) for a year. You’ll need to enter your 23-digit activation code to use the router, and the VPN service will work on all the devices connected to it.

You will not need a subscription to use the router if you do not plan to use the VPN service, but presumably if you’re buying this product, you’re doing so for the bundled VPN. Still, if you change your mind down the line, the hardware will still work without the subscription.

Linksys also encourages you to register for its free Smart Wi-Fi service which allows you to monitor and manage your router using a mobile app from anywhere in the world. Very useful if you want to reset or troubleshoot when you’re not physically near the device.

The router’s user interface is well laid-out with some clear options that even include a speed test feature, one which connects with the popular Speednet service. You can configure the modem to run on OpenWRT or DD-WRT, two popular alternative router operating systems.

Linksys WRT 1200AC with ExpressVPN

This, however, would require you to get rid of the ExpressVPN firmware (which is itself a customised version of OpenWRT).

While ExpressVPN usually enforces a limit of three simultaneous connections per account, that limit doesn’t hold for this router, and as we mentioned earlier, you can connect as many devices as your broadband can support, a real boon for households with loads of devices.

It’s worth noting that the only type of split tunnelling support is VPN (single location) or No VPN. Individual devices cannot have individual servers.

Users can select which devices they want to connect through the VPN, and which devices they do not want to be protected.

Connecting the router to our existing Virgin Media Superhub 2ac directly (without switching on the router mode) worked, with the WRT 1200AC consistently providing a better browsing experience than Virgin Media’s bundled router.

Early verdict

There are two parts to this verdict. The first pertains to the router itself which is a decent model that delivers a strong showing in terms of transfer rate and stability.

The user interface and the free mobile app are a welcome change from what you usually get with the router bundled with your broadband line. Sure, it doesn’t have features like MU-MIMO or triple band but then again, it is a £102 (around $125, AU$165) router and one of the cheaper AC1200 models.

And secondly, as for the ExpressVPN option, it is unfortunately a flawed one as it invalidates the hardware’s warranty (as confirmed by Linksys). If you’re happy to take this risk, there’s one incentive and that’s the fact that everything is done transparently.

Experienced users can always install VPN clients on their own devices and swap between providers as they see fit, either because features have evolved or they feel they could get better value-for-money elsewhere.

Linksys WRT AC3200 Three Stream 160Mhz Technology

Linksys WRT AC3200 dual band router

Recently,Linksys introduces new wireless two band router WRT AC3200 with three stream 160 technology delivering speeds up to 2600Mbps @5GHz band and up to 600Mbps @2.4GHz band. This product is the fastest two band router with open-source firmware DD-WRT and OpenWrt.

What this product does

The first generation of wireless three band routers (wireless AC3200 routers such as Linksys EA9200 router or TP-link Archer AC3200) deliver total bandwidth of up to 3200Mbps and most people perception when they notice AC3200 router would be this model of three band router. People might be familiar with wireless AC3100 router as the two band AC router such as Asus RT-AC88 AC3100 router.

3x stream 160

Now when you notice that Linksys WRT-AC3200 router is the first generation of three band AC3200 router is wrong. WRT-AC3200 is a two band router with new three stream 160 technology delivering speeds of up to 2600Mbps @5GHz band and up to 600Mbps @2.4GHz band.

The first AC flagship in DD-WRT Open source firmware i.e. Linksys WRT 1900AC and Linksys WRT 1900ACS which both use the same three stream of 80MHz delivering speed up to 3x433Mbps (1300Mbps) @5GHz band, the latest Linksys WRT-AC3200 uses new three stream 160Mhz delivering speed up to 3x867Mbps (2.6Gbps). Three stream 160 technology provides bandwidth twice as much as traditional three stream 80Mhz technology.

Fastest router @5GHz

With speed of 2600Mbps @5GHz band, Linksys WRT AC3200 router will be the fastest router @5GHz band so far. You can mention that wireless AC5400 routers such as Linksys EA9500 AC5400 router, or TP-link Archer C5400 deliver speed of 2166Mbps @5GHz band. And even Talon AD7200 delivers speed of 1700Mbps @5GHz band, however Talon introduces new 60GHz band with speed of 4600Mbps if the client is at line of sight with the router, no obstacles.

In a nutshell, Linksys WRT AC3200 router is the fastest router @5GHz band so far.

linksys wrt ac3200

Linksys WRT AC3200 dual band router

Highlights

  • Dual band wireless router with three stream 160 technology
  • MU-MIMO for fast connection to multiple devices concurrently
  • 4x dual band external antennas
  • DD-WRT and OpenWRT open source firmware for flexible customizable
  • Smart-Wifi app for easy network management via your mobile devices
  • Powered by high performance 1.8GHz dual core processor with 256MB flash and 512MB RAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet ports for 4x LAN and 1x WAN ports
  • 1x USB 3.0 port and 1x combo USB 2.0 / eSATA

 

Will this product be successful in the market and make users change their mind to choose this fastest router instead of wireless AC3200 or AC5400 three band routers? We’ll see.

Comparison

Lots of most popular wireless router with high customer rating in the market including Netgear Nighthawk X6 in AC3200 network segment and Asus RT-AC5300 router you may compare with Linksys WRT AC3200 router.

Take a look at the following spec comparison tables. Table 1 shows you spec comparison between Linksys WRT AC3200 and Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3200 router. while table 2 shows you spec comparison between Linksys WRT AC3200 and Asus RT-AC5300 router.

Wifi technology

All the three routers represent different wifi technologies. Linksys WRT AC3200 router is designed with the three stream 160Mhz technology to produce the fastest wifi speed @5GHz band. Nighthawk X6 represents three band router with three stream 80Mhz technology. While Asus RT-AC5300 router represents three band routers with four stream technology and Broadcom NitroQAMTM technology to boost the speeds.

The other features are general something like number of LAN gigabit ports, USB ports, Beamforming and still more.

Table 1 Linksys WRT AC3200 Vs Nighthawk X6

Linksys WRT AC3200 Nighthawk X6
Wifi technology AC3200 dual band3 stream 160Mhz technology AC3200 three band3 stream 80Mhz technology
# bands Dual band2.4GHz band; 5GHz band Three band2.4GHz band; 5GHz band-1; 5GHz-band-2
Speeds 2600Mbps @5GHz600Mbps @2.4GHz 2x 1300Mbps @ 5GHz band-1 and band-2600Mbps @2.4GHz
MU-MIMO Yes No
Beamforming Yes Yes
Open source DD-WRTOpen WRT N/A
Ethernet Ports 1x Gigabit WAN port4x Gigabit LAN ports 1x Gigabit WAN port4x Gigabit LAN ports
USB Ports 1x USB 3.0 port1x USB 2.0 / eSATA combo 1x USB 3.0 port1x USB 2.0 port
Processor 1.8GHz dual core processor256MB Flash and 512MB of RAM Memory 1GHz dual core processor
Price (Oct 2016 in Amazon) $279.99 $254.90

 

Table 1 Linksys WRT AC3200 Vs Asus RT-AC5300

Linksys WRT AC3200 Asus RT-AC5300
Wifi technology AC3200 dual band3 stream 160Mhz technology AC5300 three band4×4 Broadcom NitroQAMTM technology
# bands Dual band2.4GHz band; 5GHz band Three band2.4GHz band; 5GHz band-1; 5GHz-band-2
Speeds 2600Mbps @5GHz600Mbps @2.4GHz 2x 2167Mbps @ 5GHz band-1 and band-21000Mbps @2.4GHz
MU-MIMO Yes Yes, with Smart Connect technology
Beamforming Yes Yes
Open source DD-WRTOpen WRT N/A
Ethernet Ports 1x Gigabit WAN port4x Gigabit LAN ports 1x Gigabit WAN port4x Gigabit LAN ports
USB Ports 1x USB 3.0 port1x USB 2.0 / eSATA combo 1x USB 3.0 port1x USB 2.0 port
Processor 1.8GHz dual core processor256MB Flash and 512MB of RAM Memory 1.4GHz dual core processor128MB Flash and 512MB of RAM Memory
Price (Oct 2016 in Amazon) $279.99 $369.90

 

Summary

Linksys WRT AC3200 is the fastest dual band router with three stream 160MHz technology to deliver the fastest 2600Mbps speed @5GHz band. This router is designed with open source DD-WRT firmware.

Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 AC2200 : the best range extender products introduced by Netgear

Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 AC2200 dual band wifi range extender is of the best range extender products introduced by Netgear in high end network class with Multi User MIMO technology.

 

What this product does

Never been this fast before a wireless range extender offered by Netgear  with wall-plug design, one of top 10 best wifi range extender in the market today. Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 AC2200 wireless range extender is the fastest wifi extender introduced by Netgear with wall-plug design. Even the desktop model of high speed Nighthawk EX7000 is still based on wireless AC1900 technology.

MU-MIMO

The best thing is that it comes with MU-MIMO technology you can pair it with high end wireless AC routers with MU-MIMO ready for delivering multiple data streams in one go to multiple wifi clients, assuring no lag HD video streaming and online gaming by multiple users simultaneously.It’s a dual band wireless range extender delivering speeds of up to 2200Mbps total bandwidth at both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz band.

Universal extender

You can pair with high speed Nighthawk X4S AC2600, pair with high end Nighthawk X8 AC5400 router and even pair it with other wireless routers from other vendor such as high end Asus RT-AC5400 router or any other best dual band routers because it’s a universal range extender.

High end smart-phone devices today come with built-in wireless AC adapter such as Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S, Sony Xperia X and still more. Adding wireless range extender to your existing wireless AC network to go further to the dead zones will take advantage of your high end mobile devices to roam within the household with solid wifi signal.

You may also pair it with high speed USB adapters based on high speed AC technology, see also top 5 wireless AC USB adapters.

Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 wireless AC2200 range extender is one of best range extender with wall-plug design available on the market today.

nighthawk-x4-range-extender

Netgear EX7300 range extender

Main features

  • Based on dual band AC2200 speeds of up to 450Mbps @2.4GHz band and up to 1733Mbps@5GHz band
  • High power amplifiers of internal antenna array
  • Ready with MU-MIMO technology
  • Comes with Beamforming technology
  • Netgear FastLane technology
  • Range extender mode or wireless Access point mode

The best thing with FastLane technolog is to allow you use both 2.4 and 5GHz band to establish a single high speed connection for 4K video streaming and online gaming.

Click here to learn more EX7000 spec details

Nighthawk EX7300 Vs Linksys RE7000

There are lots of wall-plug model wireless range extender available on the market today from various vendors including Linksys RE7000, TP-link RE450 and still more. Linksys RE7000 is one of Linksys flagship product in high speed range extender, one of best range extender in AC1900 segment with wall-plug design.

Table 1 shows you specs and features comparison table between Netgear Nighthawk X4 and Linksys RE7000 range extender. You can see that not many significant differences between the two products.

linksys-re7000

Linksys RE7000 AC1900 range extender

Speeds

Speeds must be different since each of the product based on different network segment. Speeds in 5GHz band with AC-based devices are the same, up to 1733Mbps technically. While @2.4GHz band Nighthawk X4 is faster.

In additions of both MU-MIMO and Beamforming technologies, both products are ready for solid and high speed connection with most high end wireless AC routers which are ready with those two technologies. See also touch screen model extender – TP-link RE590T touch screen range extender.

Operation modes

Both products offer dual operation modes you can configure either to work as range extender or wireless AP mode. However, with Nighthawk X4 you need to manually switch the modes by sliding the mode switch while with Linksys you just connect the Ethernet port to the wired network the system will work as the wireless AP automatically.

Take a look at the following spec comparison table to see how they are different.

Table 1. Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 Vs Linksys RE7000

Netgear Nighthawk X4 Linksys RE7000
Wifi segment AC2200 dual band 2.2Gbps AC1900 dual band
Speeds 450 Mbps @2.4GHz band

1733Mbps @5GHz band

300 Mbps @2.4GHz band

1733Mbps @5GHz band

Antennas High power amplifiers and internal antenna array Internal antennas
Beamforming Yes Yes
MU-MIMO Yes Yes
Ethernet Port 1x Gigabit Ethernet 1x Gigabit Ethernet
Range Coverage 930 sqm. / 10,000 sqf. 930 sqm. / 10,000 sqf.
USB Port N/A N/A
WPS Yes Yes
Operating modes Range extender or WAP with manual switch mode Range extender or WAP modes automatically
Power On-Off button Yes N/A
Spot finder N/A Yes
Price $161.99 $130

To learn more details about spec and manufacturer’s description to help you make up your mind which one is the best range extender to meet your need, click the following links.

  • Click here for Netgear EX7300 Nighthawk X4 range extender
  • Click here for Linksys RE7000 range extender

Both products can work as WAP, however for businesses when requirement for large number of AP devices exist you may consider business class AP products. See also business class Ubiquiti vs Linksys vs TP-link Wireless AC AP.

 

Summary

Netgear EX7300 is one of best wifi range extender with wall-plug model, dual band range extender wit MU-MIMO and Beamforming technology. EX7300 is slightly faster speed @2.4GHz band compared with Linksys RE7000. However both products offer nearly similar features and specs.