The Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 was one of the most talked-about routers when it first came out, partially because of it being a part of Linksys’ WRT series, offering the ability to install any open-source custom firmware on it.
The features are all the same that any other router offers, nothing’s missing but does it justify its price-tag is something you’ll have to decide after we’ve wrapped this Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 review up.
Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 Router
Before getting into the details, let’s get you an eagle’s-eye view of the specs and features being offered, these features can easily build a clear image in your mind what type services you can get by this router. Let’s check!
- 11AC standards.
- Supports MU-MIMO
- RAM: 512MB
- Flash Memory: 256MB
- Tri-stream technology
- 8Ghz Processors
- 4 External antennas.
- Security: WPA2 Personal, WPA2 Enterprise.
- USB 3.0 and 2.0 (Esata ports).
1. Design and External Features
Ever used any other Linksys router? Well, it’s similar to nearly all of them. 2.1X9.6X7.6-inch in size, it’s Blue-Black in color, and the front-side/panel of the router is dedicated to the lights/indicators.
The second-half of the top panel is “grilled” for ventilation and that adds to the aesthetics as well.
All the ports and switches are positioned on the back panel of the router. The 4 antennas are all concentrated at the back-side of the router as well.
So well, nothing too glamorous as far as the outlook is concerned.
2. Installation Process/User Interface
Considering you aren’t a router-geek and this is one of your first routers, how easy or hard installing or using the Linksys WRT AC3200 is another one of the factors that you need to consider before buying it.
Well, it’s easy, a like most other routers these days, you simply need to visit the Linksys installation webpage, or you can use the mobile app. Then follow the on-screen instructions to install it, which isn’t any harder than creating a social media profile or installing a game.
Steps to Login to Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200
The IP Address to login to the router is http://192.168.1.1. Simply enter it onto your URL-bar to land on the login-page for the router.
This would take you to the router’s login-page. Unlike most other routers, the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 doesn’t use a “username-password” combo, rather a password is all that’s required by default.
Simply enter “admin” in the password field. This is the default password for the router. Note that it differs for each router, however stays the same for the routers of same brand and model.
Obviously the password can be changed easily by going to “Connectivity > Basic”. Simply click on “edit” to edit this default password to something more personal and secure.
After the installation, it can be controlled and managed using the Linksys admin panel.
Here’s what the UI looks like:
Anyone with basic computer knowledge can easily make changes and understand the various setting options available with the router.
The Admin panel is all illustrated, labeled and easy to understand. In fact, you can also drag & drop certain elements such as while prioritizing tasks, the Mobile app for the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 makes it extremely easy to control the router remotely as well.
Bottom-line; it’s newbie-friendly.
Now let’s get down to some real features that the Linksys WiFi router has in store for us.
The Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 is a dual-band router, even though its 3200Mbps throughput might provide the impression otherwise of it being a tri-band.
And let’s be honest, it’s 3200Mbps only on paper, in reality, it’s still an AC1900 router coupled with 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band, and in rare, very rare environments only you can get a speed of 2600Mbps.
Well, it doesn’t in any way mean it’s slow or not worth it, it’s still great, it’s just not tri-band, or 3200Mbps in the real-world. (The actual speed and range are discussed in a later section).
Its two bands are 2.4Ghz and the 5Ghz band, each with the throughput of 600Mbps + 1300Mbps respectively.
So how does the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 become a 3200Mbps router? Well, the next section should explain it.
4. Tri-Stream Technology
I just said it’s a dual-band router, then how come it markets a throughput of 3200Mbps?
Well, that’s so because of its tri-stream technology. It’s the technology which helps it double its 5Ghz bandwidth, so instead of getting 2 X 5Ghz bands, you get one 5Ghz band, which can double the bandwidth.
Typically routers operate on the 80Mhz channel, but with tri-stream, the router gets to operate on the 160Mhz channel, now “theoretically” the speed is boosted from 433Mbps to 867Mbps.
There are three of those channels, so 867X3 = 2.6Gbps of speed. But the problem here is, it’s still “one” channel we’re talking about, so if it’s really possible for three clients to share that one channel is uncertain.
Another problem that arises with this is, the tri-stream technology needs a 180Mhz capable adapter and client to function, which at present isn’t that easily available.
Therefore, it’s the same as Netgear X10’s 802.11AD technology, more like a future-ready thing rather than using it in the present.
Anyway, these are what the router is offering from its side, how it actually performs in the real-world? Let’s have a look.
5. Actual Speed
Just in case you’re new to frequency and bands, the 2.4Ghz band has a wider range so that you can get connected even from a longer distance, although the speed is considerably lower as compared to the 5Ghz band.
That is so because nearly all the other commonly used WiFi devices are on the 2.4Ghz frequency, hence adding quite a bit of interference for the connection.
The 5Ghz band, on the other hand is much faster, but with a lower range. So for the purpose of this Linksys WRT3200acm review we tested it with both the frequencies at the same distance to get you a crystal clear picture of its speed.
At 15Ft. And with a clear line of sight, we averaged a speed of 760Mbps on the 5Ghz band, which is actually more than what the Netgear AC3200 offers.
When we doubled the distance (30Ft.), then we managed to average 320Mbps without any obstacles.
As far as the 2.4Ghz bands are concerned, at 15ft. The speed was 87Mbps which I’d say isn’t that impressive, but satisfactory (with a bit of patience).
At 30ft. from the router, with a solid wall in between, it still managed to get me 76Mbps which is lower than what most other routers including the Asus AC3200 got me, but the difference isn’t much.
Bottomline, the Linksys WRT3200acm WiFi router is impressive on the 5Ghz band, although if you’re going to be mostly on the 2.4Ghz band, you might want to look at other alternatives.
The router brings with itself the 802.11AC standards, which also brings in other associated advanced technologies such as MU-MIMO and Beamforming.
You might have noticed the more devices you connect to your WiFi, slower the speed gets, that’s because routers without MU-MIMO transmit data to and fro only one device at a time, and then move on to the other devices.
While MU-MIMO is the abbreviation for Multiple User – Multiple Input Multiple Output. In simple English, it means it can serve all the connected devices at the same time rather than making them queue up.
So because of MU-MIMO, any number of devices can be connected to your router without making any of them suffer, and all the devices can function at their full-speed.
MU-MIMO is also a requirement for Beamforming, which we’ve discussed next.
However, it’s not completely without its limitations. For starters, MU-MIMO is only beneficial is the receiving devices (2 or more) are separated by a fair amount of distance.
MU-MIMO still isn’t completely capable of recognizing “devices” perfectly. So, two or more closely placed devices wouldn’t benefit much from MU-MIMO.
This should be considered because it dictates the practical use of MU-MIMO for you. E.g. in a house, MU-MIMO would probably work much better, than in a closely-packed office environment.
However, having MU-MIMO boosts the speed by nearly 3x so I’d say it’s a good feature to have nonetheless.
I just mentioned the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 having Beamforming. In case you’re not aware of what it is, or why it matters, here’s why.
Generally, routers scatter their signals in all the directions equally and hope that your device is positioned right.
If not, you generally have to adjust your devices for the signal to find it with good enough strength.
Well not with Beamforming. It enables the routers to “see-through” obstacles and determines where exactly your device is located, and that’s where the signals are sent.
So basically you can move around your house, or have your device anywhere you want, and the router would adjust the signal direction for you.
This greatly increases the strength and stability of the connection and a good ally to have on your side.
However, let’s keep this Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 router review practical and honest, eh?
Beamforming only works to its fullest potential if both the router and the receiving device support it. To do this, they both must be 802.11ac compatible, and support MU-MIMO.
Sure, your .11n devices support beamforming as well, but the idea never really succeeded or gained popularity. When beamforming is indeed established in such a scenario, the benefits are negligible.
So, unless you’ve modern devices, there’s little benefit (or disadvantage) which may come your due to the presence, or lack of beamforming.
But then again, most devices after 2015-16 are totally capable of reaping the beamforming benefits so there’s that.
As far as hardware for the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 goes, it does beat quite a few of its competitors in the game.
For starters, it brings with itself the processing power of 1.8Ghz! Which beats even the Netgear X10 (1.7Ghz) which otherwise is a beast.
The 512MB RAM too is more than most routers offer, along with 256MB of flash memory.
What it means for us as users is that, as far as most router tasks go, such as copying or transferring of files, they’ll be seamless, and fast.
In fact, we did a copy/transfer test to get a better picture of it, so we copied a 2GB file with all sorts of file-types, to a wired desktop connection and it gave us 85Mbps of speed, more than I expected.
As for wireless transfers, I attached an external HDD to it and transferred a file, again of 2GB and got a speed of 61Mbps which isn’t much of a downer either.
Another one of the primary selling points for the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 is that it’s a WRT series. Meaning you can install any open-source, custom firmware on it and it would let the firmware sink in without a fuss.
So bottom line, the hardware doesn’t leave much room for complaints with the Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200.
9. USB and Ethernet Ports
The Linksys WRT3200ACM AC3200 has both a 2.0 USB port and a 3.0 port. These can be used to connect external storage devices to the router and stream the files over the network.
The 2.0 port also doubles as an E-SATA port or vice-versa which is a nice addition.
As for Ethernet ports, it’s the same like any other router, with 4 LAN and 1 WAN port. Although the one feature that’s missing is link-aggression, so you can’t combine two LAN ports for double wired speeds such as with the Netgear X10 or Asus AC5300.
But otherwise, it’s all good.
Finally, the last element that matters for the router is its security protocols.
The security protocols supported are WPA-2 Personal and WPA-2 Enterprise, those two are the most advanced security protocols available in the router-industry.
In addition, it also supports SPI firewall, which is the abbreviation for Stateful Packet Inspection, it filters the legitimate data packets from the illegitimate once.
In other words, it scans your network for known patterns, sizes and types of packets/connections used by hackers or are known to be of malicious intent, and it blocks those kind of connections.
And these are just some of the security measures in place, so yeah it’s secure as well.
11. Additional Features
There are some other not major but still significant features that the Linksys router boasts of.
- Guest Accounts: Lets you share your network with your guests, providing them complete and fast internet access but restricting them from accessing network files and other sensitive data.
- Parental Controls: Have kids? Well, the parental control option on the admin panel lets you control a plethora of features, like restricting websites, time-limiting internet access and much more.
- Media Prioritization: It basically falls under the router’s QoS features, this option lets you prioritize certain tasks, for e.g. if you’re gaming you prioritize it so that the other devices connected to your router do not steal your speed.
- Speed Test: The router has an in-built feature which lets users speed-test the router at any given time.
- Device-Specific Usage Reports: It provides detailed, graphical and easy to understand details about the amount of bandwidth used by each specific device on your network. Admins can also filter it to show only “transmitted” or “received” bandwidth.
So it’s definitely feature-rich.
So let’s wrap this up, I’ve provided the features in details, the security protocols, and the actual, real-world scenario and performance of the router.
I believe that’s enough to get you a transparent picture of the router’s true capabilities.
Is it, or is it not worth it? Considering its price, I’d say it is, totally. But then again it also depends on your own needs, requirements, environment, and budget.
For e.g. I’d go with the Netgear X10 or the Asus 5300 if I need a router for gaming or 4K video-streaming. While if file-transfer via the router is a major task for me, the Linksys WRT3200acm Wi-Fi seems a better choice. It also is VPN-ready and allows encrypted traffic (IPSec, L2TP, PPTP etc). to pass through.
Again, which band I’m likely to be using more is another decisive factor, for e.g. it’s good enough on the 5Ghz band, but not nearly as smile-spreading on the 2.4Ghz band.
So bottom line, it’s a good router in itself, if its strong-suits coincide with your major needs, go for it, or else feel free to take a look at its other worthy alternatives
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