Ruin The assorted ramblings of Brendan Tobolaski

Linksys WRT1900ACS

I recently moved into a large residence and my Time Capsule was having some coverage issues. The edges of my residence had very weak wifi signal with somewhat frequent dropouts. Iʼve also been playing with a Raspberry Pi recently (headless, of course). With the time capsule, there’s no way to see your connected devices. There is also a complete lack of visibility into the operation of a Time Capsule. You canʼt see the amount of network traffic or see what the deviceʼs load looks like. All of these things led me to pick out a new router.

I initially considered using a Ubiquiti Edge Router and Access point but, I wanted AC networking and Ubiquiti’s AC offerings are pretty spendy. I also like to have a web interface to check on the current networking conditions. Given that the software was my primary motivation for moving away from the Time Capsule, I decided to pick that out first. In the past, Iʼve had great experiences with openwrt and so I decided to pick out a router that could run it. After a great deal of searching, I decided upon the Linksys WRT1900ACS.

The WRT1900ACS has pretty impressive hardware specs. It has a dual-core 1.6 GHz processor but, it has a paltry 512mb of ram. While that is probably plenty for what it is meant to do, it seems quite small for a device that you’re spending over $200 on. It has a simultaneous dual-band AC radio. The 2.4 GHz band runs at up to 600 Mbs and the 5GHz band runs at up to 1300 Mbs.

Iʼm not a huge fan of its appearance. While I do get a bit of nostalgia when I look at it (the design is similar to the first wifi router that my family ever owned), it sticks out a bit more than I think that it should. I am thankful that it isnʼt this bad. It is a bit larger than I expected. It is by far the largest router I’ve ever owned. I donʼt find it to be too big of a deal but, its a bit hard to hide. I’m not really sure how much the external antennae help but, it has four of them.

All of the Linksys WRT1900AC* models are marketed as &ldquoOpen Source Ready”. Given the model number, that makes sense. It was a bit of stretch when these models were originally released as not many details nor support was given to the open source projects. Things seem to have improved here as the larger open source projects have added support for these models. Flashing OpenWRT onto this router is very simple. The web interface does complain that the build isn’t recognized, it will flash it for you just fine.

That being said, it has a forced setup process. Prior to this, I canʼt remember ever needing to run through a setup process in order to make the wired portion of a router work. Until you complete the setup steps, the router refuses to route traffic to its wan port. Its obnoxious. Iʼm really glad that I didn’t buy this for stock firmware. Iʼm sure that it is full of these user hostile choices.

I didnʼt know this at the time when I purchased it but, OpenWRT support for the ACS model was a bit experimental. While I found that it worked pretty well in use, it did reboot at least once per day. I never really noticed the reboots as it is incredibly fast to reboot. Openwrtʼs luci interface also looked quite dated. It was still reminiscent of the design of early Linksys routers. I always found it to be quite functional but also very displeasing. Luckily, both of these things have changed with the recent 15.05.1 patch release. Since I installed 15.05.1, the router has been incredibly stable, exactly what youʼd want from your router. It also features a much-improved design. It feels a bit generic as its now using what appears to be the default bootstrap theme. While I do feel that its a bit plain, I really appreciate how much better it looks.

Iʼm very pleased by this router. It has greatly increased the wifi coverage at my residence. I no longer have any dead zones and the connection is always quite fast. I really like openwrt as well. It is a fantastic firmware for a router. It has given me all of the visibility that I missed on the time capsule. Its a great piece of hardware with support from a great open source software project. I highly recommend this setup to anyone that is willing to dig in enough to reflash their router.