Router provides convenience, performance, and simplicity.
I’ve had the pleasure of testing a great router by Linksys these past few days. The Linksys AC5400 Max-Stream Triband Wifi router. I’ve owned no less than three 5Ghz capable routers in the past few years. My experience has been coverage is so poor on this band that anything more than a few dozen feet from the router is honestly useless. I’m happy to say that this Linksys delivers where my others have failed.
On my previous routers, it’s been almost a necessity to install 3rd party router software (DD-WRT) to get the most out of them. I’m happy to report that the included “Smart Wi-Fi” software included on this model met or exceeded all my expectations.
When I first opened the box for the AC5400, my first words where “this thing is huge.” Clocking in at 10″ by 11″ by 1.5″, this router is almost cable-box big. Coming attached are no less than 8 antennas. I did have to stifle laughter at its sheer scope and seeming ridiculousness. However, I shut my mouth after using it. Inside you will find a quick start guide and a documentation CD. I recommend following the simple install instructions and using the web to get answers to any questions you might end up having. You will find the router well packed and protected in its packaging, and its antennae easy to position and generally well built. The unit features a power switch, 2 USB ports (one USB 3.0), 8 gigabit Ethernet ports, and one WAN port for your modem or gateway.
For setup, I went the route of just removing my old router and putting in the new one. Once the router started I was greeted with a setup page once I connected with one of my computers on the wired network and attempted to hit any website with Google Chrome. A nice touch that really speeds and simplifies setup. Following the easy wizard, I had the router on the Internet in a matter of a few minutes. I went through the setup of creating a “Linksys Smart Wi-Fi” account which promised to allow me to connect and configure the router using a smartphone app.
The setup process will walk you through setting up WPA2 security and setting your SSID’s. I had no problems whatsoever in getting this going. Once finished I was able to set my port forwards and my other “advanced” settings without trouble. I feel this is a router meant for novices and power users alike.
Beyond the setup, the included router firmware allowed me all the options I need from setting port forwards, reserved DHCP addresses for my media server, and allowing connectivity remotely through its compatible Smart Wi-Fi app on the Google Play store. I was even able to remotely and quickly enable a guest Wi-Fi account for visiting friends while I was at work by just entering my Linksys account information I created during setup. It was a snappy, simple, and flawless experience, which sums up pretty much my entire experience with this router.
In a word: fantastic. I was able to get wonderful coverage at 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz anywhere in my 1600 square foot home, and really anywhere in my yard. Before hand, my 5Ghz coverage barely even registered outside, and the edges of my yard nearly no coverage at 2.4Ghz. Many times when mowing I would end up just using my data plan while listening to music because of the weak signal, now this isn’t a problem at all. My yard extends about 60 feet behind my house for reference. Using an Internet connection speed test app, I was able to get my FULL bandwidth (currently 60Mbps) over Wi-Fi, which was extremely surprising and very refreshing since my cheaper router barely clocked in at 30Mbps when nearly on top of the router. Streaming, latency, file transfers and time to connect on Wi-Fi are all much improved from my 2-year-old Netgear router. Overall I’m extremely satisfied with the performance of this unit.
The included USB ports can be used to connect a USB mass storage devices like a thumb drive or external hard drive. I tried a Samsung EVO solid state disk drive with a USB 3.0 interface and an off the shelf USB 3.0 thumb drive as a test. Using a computer connected to the gigabit Ethernet port, I was able to get sustained 40MB (megabyte) per second transfer rates on the internal network. Respectable, but not a fast as my Linux based media server which with the same drive can deliver around 100MB/s. I think this is still more than adequate for file sharing with family and friends on your home network. The router also supports DLNA which will let your smart TV, PlayStation, or computer to stream video off of the device. I had a good experience with this. The software makes it a snap to do simple open sharing with the devices on your internal network, but you can also take it to the next level and add user accounts and dedicated folders that only certain people can access.
As for hosting your own file storage “cloud” with the device, it offers only minimalist features. You can (if you enable the username and password access features) serve your files as an FTP server that you can access from the Internet. I would have preferred apps like OwnCloud which is a Box like server package you can run yourself, secure FTP, or SSH File Transfer Protocol, but the offering is adequate and performs well if you can stomach your passwords going over the clear on the Internet. If you do use this feature, I recommend using a password that isn’t your router or Linksys password and not storing your most private files using this service. I also recommend apps like FolderSync on Google Play that will let you automatically sync your files including your recently taken photos automatically to the FTP server that you can then retrieve on your computer from the local network sharing feature.
If you are going to use the FTP service, I also recommend you take advantage of the Dynamic DNS features so you will have a nice URL to refer to your router no matter where you are. The router supports automatically updating the provider when you IP address gets changed by your Internet service provider. For mine, this only happens infrequently, but for many this is a must-have feature to enable you to find your network when you are away. It supports a couple of dynamic DNS providers including no-ip.com and makes it a snap to set up. I wish it supported FreeDNS which is my dynamic DNS provider of choice, but the offerings that are compatible are adequate.
I also LOVE the fact it has 8 wired gigabit ports. I’m using most of them as I prefer my Rokus, PCs, media server, and printer is connected to the wire, as this offers the best performance for files and media transfers.
Having nothing but bad or confusing experiences with routers and included software so much that I need to install custom software (DD-WRT) on them, I wasn’t expecting much from this router, but I was blown away at the convenience, performance, and simplicity of the Linksys AC5400. In general, this is a fantastic router that I would recommend to my tech friends, gamer friends, and my not-so-tech-savvy family members alike. The simple and final word is: you won’t be disappointed.
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