Linksys deploys AC to modem routers, range extenders

100% human

WiFi speeds getting you down? Linksys has this week added 802.11ac to more than just the big flagship router, bringing awesomesauce speeds to more people.

Ever since 802.11ac was unveiled at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, it’s been a hot topic here because of what it brings: faster speeds, greater range, and the ability to send higher resolution videos across a network to a TV.

Obviously, to make 802.11ac work in the home, you need an 802.11ac router, or a modem router, which tends to be the preferred device in Australia if you have an ADSL connection (ADSL/ADSL2/ADSL2+).

We don’t see as many of these as we want, thanks to how many homes overseas rely on fibre as opposed to ADSL, but Linksys is bringing two modem routers to Australia shortly.

As such, in the next few weeks, you can expect to see the XAC1900 and XAC1200 AC modem routers, two devices that are not only compatible with ADSL2 connections, but also with the National Broadband Network.

Both devices are dual band, meaning they work across 2.4 and 5GHz for offering different amounts of performance for devices that demand higher speeds than others, with the XAC1900 providing a 600Mbps and a 1300Mbps network, while the XAC1200 send the connection out at 300 and 867Mbps respectively.

They also both come with Gigabit ports for plugging things in that prefer fast wired speeds, like your TV and gaming consoles, while the USB ports mean you can plug in a hard drive or printer and make these gadgets wireless.

The Linksys XAC1900 modem router

“Today’s consumers expect a strong and stable Wi-Fi signal at home to connect their ever-expanding collection of personal smart devices,” said Daniel Hall, Product Manager for Linksys in Australia and New Zealand.

“The new Linksys range helps them avoid burning through valuable minutes on their mobile data plans and enables them to seamlessly stream from mobile devices to connected TVs or tablets across all areas of the home. AC Wi-Fi technology will future proof the Australian home, ensuring an uncompromised and rich media experience is maintained as new devices are added to the network.”

Both modem routers should be arriving in stores shortly, with the XAC1900 fetching $350, while the XAC1200 will net a recommended retail price of $250.

New flagships like the HTC One (2014) M8 support 802.11ac, as does the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, LG G3, and plenty of others. But not the Apple iPhone 5S.

To make the best use of the new modem routers and range extenders, you’ll need devices compatible with the 802.11ac technology, and for the most part, that means new smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

You’ll find flagships from 2013 barring ones produced by Apple will support the 802.11ac technology, with the rest of them (Apple included here) supporting 802.11n, which is backwards compatible with 802.11ac. As such, the 802.11n technology will work, but at 802.11n speeds and with 802.11n range, not with the higher bandwidth and range of 802.11ac.

That is, unfortunately, to be expected, as while the technology is backwards compatible, the benefits are not, but if you want better speeds and range throughout your home, you will need to upgrade the other devices considerably.

Or, you can try the range extension method, which will let you boost speeds and range throughout your premises by installing a range extender.

In this category, Linksys has surprised us with an AC-compatible range extender, the Linksys RE6500 AC1200 WiFi Range Extender (above), allowing a long or tall home to spread the 802.11ac network throughout the building and not just rely on a signal that gets weaker as you move further away from it.

Helping this along is Single SSID technology, which links up with your existing WiFi network and makes it so that you don’t have to connect to a separate network the way you would with a conventional range extender. In quite a few range extenders, the extension occurs with a different name, such as with “Network name” being the original network and “Network name_EXT” being the range extender, a setup that forces you to connect to the extension network separately if you want to make use of the connection.

The Linksys RE6500 Range Extender also includes support for 802.11n on a 2.4GHz band, with 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports for plugging in wired networking devices, making it ideal for a home theatre setup, and cutting out any extra switches or Ethernet hubs you might have in your living room.

All up, we’re intrigued, especially since range extenders have been pretty much made only for 802.11n in the past year, even though 802.11ac has been out in the marketplace alongside the older 802.11n networks.

A price of $160 isn’t necessarily cheap for what it offers, but if you have a large house and the 802.11ac network isn’t quite going as far as you expected, this could totally fill the gaps, and with audio streaming built in, could also turn the router into a basic music streamer when a speaker is plugged in.

If you don’t have 802.11ac yet, or you’re just looking at extending your current 802.11n network, Linksys will have two N extenders, with the $100 RE4000W (above) running on dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11n technology with two 10/100 Ethernet ports, while the RE3000W will be single band (2.4GHz) and include 1 Ethernet port.

Both can be plugged directly into the wall, taking up no table space and extending the network ID thanks to the same single SSID functionality as the RE6500 802.11ac Range Extender.