Way back in the day, Linksys brought out the WRT54G – it was (and still is) an all-time classic router. Its bright blue bulky plastic shell is perhaps what people still refer to as the epitome of what a router should look like.
It even ended up being the original for open source router firmware. That’s where DD-WRT gets its name from (WRT – which actually stands for Wireless RouTer).
(all dual core)?
4x 1Gbps LAN Ports
The WRT54G(L) remained popular for many years. But back in 2014, Linksys brought that classic router design back into view again with the WRT1900AC router.
Of course, the WRT1900AC was infinitely more powerful than the aging 54G. In fact being a Wireless AC router, it was a whole 2 generations of wireless standards ahead of it (Wireless N got skipped out!).
Thankfully, the WRT1900AC wasn’t a one-off return. Linksys have released 2 follow-ups to the WRT1900AC, the WRT1900ACS and more recently, the WRT3200ACM. And have thus fanned the flame of decent router designs. Kudos to Linksys!
Linksys WRT1900AC vs WRT1900ACS vs WRT3200ACM Router Comparison
You’re probably here to see a comparison of these new Linksys WRT routers.
Well first off, let’s have a look to see the features that they all have in common. Then we’ll go through the features the newer routers have acquired.
WRT Router Features In Common:
Open Source Ready
The Linksys ‘WRT’ routers are all Open Source ready. So, you can download the relevant firmware from either DD-WRT, OpenWRT or Tomato. DD-WRT tends to be the most popular as it is has a menu system which is intuitive, while also offering plenty of configurable variables.
Please make absolutely sure you first check that you download the correct firmware version for the exact model of router. Otherwise you could end up running into difficulties, perhaps even ‘bricking’ your router. Something you really want to avoid!
All three routers come with the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi menu out of the box. This is geared towards the average consumer, and may have enough for you to play around with and keep you content. It’s a fairly standard menu which is relatively intuitive to understand and configure.
Our guess though, is that you’re after one of these WRT routers probably because you want to install DD-WRT (or equivalent) on it. Letting you drill deep down into the router’s heart and tweak every last drop out of it!
Dual Band Wireless AC
All 3 routers use the 802.11ac standard. Each router has a combined data rate of 1.9Gbps over 2.4GHz & 5GHz. So you’re looking at 1.3Gbps over 5GHz, and 600Mbps over the 2.4. Of course, these are theoretical speeds. You should be seeing speeds in the several megabits per second should you have a good signal and quality AC client.
The exception is the WRT3200ACM, which in fact has 3.2Gbps overall – on its 2 bands (dual band). Other 3.2Gbps routers on the market are tri band. It’s easy to make the mistake that it has 3 bands.
Also note, that at this current time, there are no clients that can take full advantage of the 2.6Gbps 5GHz radio. So the WRT3200ACM router might run as fast as its predecessors, for the time being at least.
4 Adjustable High Gain Antennas
All 3 routers have 4 high gain antennas that can be directed to suit the dimensions of your home.
They can be detached and replaced with antennas of your choosing. We touch on this again a little later.
1x USB 3.0 & 1x USB/eSATA Port
There’s two storage ports on board. Use the USB 3.0 port for the fastest transfer speeds. You can also use the USB 2.0 port for more USB storage. The USB 2.0 port doubles-up as a eSATA port – if that’s the direction you want to go.
4x 1Gbps LAN & 1x 1Gbps WAN Port
The obligatory four LAN and a single WAN port decorate the rear of the unit. All 1Gbps. No surprises there.
Pretty standard for all .11ac routers. Beamforming improves coverage and speeds at the further distances away from your router.
Linksys WRT1900AC Features
As we’ve already stated, this is the first of the ‘new WRT54G’ routers. It has all the above features, so there isn’t really a whole lot more to say that we haven’t said above.
So let us move onto the ACS, and see what else extra it has…
Linksys WRT1900ACS Extra Features
CPU & RAM Upgrade
The WRT1900ACS wasn’t given a facelift. It looks exactly the same as the AC. Linksys however did make some changes inside. The CPU was upgraded to a 1.6GHz dual core, and the RAM doubles to 512MB.
OpenVPN Out Of The Box
The only way to get OpenVPN on the original was to install open source firmware. Of course, you can still do this on the ACS, but Linksys have now added it as a feature on the shipped Smart Wi-Fi operating system.
With OpenVPN, you can securely connect to the router from the anywhere on the internet. It’s good for grabbing something from home that you may have forgotten.
Linksys WRT3200ACM Extra Features
Ok, so now onto the newest of the bunch, the ACM. What’s it got that the 1900ACS hasn’t?
Another CPU Upgrade!
This time we have a 1.8GHz processor. RAM stays at 512MB.
3.2Gbps Cumulative Wi-Fi
Using 160MHz wide channels, the ACM is capable of up to 2.6Gbps wireless speeds (theoretical – yes, it’s a word we use a heck of a lot, we know). As already mentioned, it’s too early to take advantage of this feature. In due course we will see more compatibility, which in turn will see faster wireless speeds.
With MU-MIMO compatible clients, you can increase wifi speeds for multiple users, even if they are communicating at the same time.
DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) automatically moves the 5GHz frequency to another channel should an outdoor radar signal be detected on that frequency.
By having this technology, the WRT3200ACM is able to use extra channels in the 5GHz band.
Which Linksys WRT Router Is The Best?
Of course, as each WRT version is released with evermore impressive technical specifications, prices drop quite considerably. So it’s going to be up to you to decide which one to go for.
The original WRT1900AC, although starting to age, still has the goods for most users out there. It checks the boxes… Wireless AC, dual band, USB 3.0 and pretty good coverage with those 4 adjustable antennas.
Note that if you want to boost that coverage, for any of these routers, you can swap them out for the Linksys WRT004ANT antennas. They are significantly bigger than the antennas that ship with all 3 routers. Combine this with a tweak of the transmit power in DD-WRT, and you gain a lot more control over your coverage. You can grab the Linksys antennas here.
If you shop around, you may find the ACS isn’t much different in price to the AC. If this is the case, you might consider paying the extra few dollars for the extra horse power you’re getting.
The WRT3200ACM? Well, prices will undoubtedly drop, but at time of writing, paying the extra cash for features that can’t really be utilized (for now at least), might be a bridge too far for some.
If you have any of these WRT routers, or thinking about getting one, post a comment below!?