Linksys AC2600 MU-MiMo Gigabit Router
Easy to set up; performance
Some minor errors in Network Map
Linksys has long been one of the most well-known and popular brands in the consumer and SMB router market. In 2003, after 35 years of independence from its foundation, it was acquired by Cisco. Ten years later it was bought by Belkin and is now part of Belkin’s family of consumer and SMB products.
The Linksys AC2600 MIMO Gigabit Router is a premium router designed for maximum performance – and it’s priced accordingly. However, the first thing that stood out for us was the appearance. Many routers are designed to be hidden away. But the AC2600 screams to be noticed with its space age shape and four antennae.
Setting up the router was reasonably easy. The instructions are clear and the wireless functions are locked down out of the box. The documentation includes a unique password for the router, so there’s little chance for an opportunistic hacker to access your network during the initial configuration.
Once we were set up, the browser-based configuration program made it clear a lot of thought has gone into the AC2600. Despite being an advanced and complex piece of networking equipment – the first router we used back in the late 1990s was far less functional and cost around $10,000 – the Smart Wi-Fi application laid everything out clearly with very little technical jargon.
In particular, we really liked the Network map, which presented all of the devices connected to the network, either via Gigabit Ethernet or over the 802.11ac wireless network, on a simple diagram. Clicking on each device’s icon gave us options for applying Parental Controls or reserving a network address for the device. This is useful if you need a device to keep the same TCP/IP address. For example, this is useful if you have a NAS or web server that you need to access from outside the local network.
In addition to the four Ethernet ports, the AC2600 includes USB and eSATA ports for sharing storage. However, you won’t be able to use that storage for Time Machine backups.
The MU-MiMo part of the AC2600’s name stands for Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output. And this is where modern households will see the real benefit of this router. What we found was wireless performance, especially on the 5GHz radio, was outstanding.
The ability to prioritise certain traffic isn’t new – we’ve had Quality of Service (QoS) on routers for some time. However, it’s typically been very difficult to use and required entering network addresses and understanding applications and specific network protocols. Linksys’ approach lets you select devices from a list and simply drag and drop them into a priority ranking. For example, we placed our Apple TV at the top of the list. Then we had the computer we work from next with the kids’ laptops and iPads down the list. That list could be a mix of devices, online games and applications. So, we could put Skype above the Apple TV.
The only time we would need to understand our ports or protocols would be if we add anything to the lists already provided by Linksys.
Linksys has also done its homework with a well-designed mobile app for the AC2600. The Smart Wi-Fi app – a free download from the App Store – gives you full control of the router even when you’re not at home. That includes seeing who’s connected as well as being able to turn on Parental Control and prioritisation if you need to ensure the kids are doing their homework while you’re out.
One thing we did notice was the Device Information on the Network Map wasn’t always perfect. For example, the MacBook Pro we had on was identified as running Windows 7, and the Make and Model of our Smart TV was incorrect.
The bottom line. If you’re looking for a high-end, high-performance router that’s easy to use, then the Linksys AC2600 MU-MiMo Gigabit Router will fit the bill.