While we may have only recently ran a review on the Linksys WRT 1900ACS it is slightly older than Linksys current higher tier line up, so it was inevitable it would be very quickly superseded by newer hardware, particularly when compared to the likes of the MU-MIMO capable EA9500 which we reviewed some months ago, as such Linksys announcement of the WRT 3200ACM an upgraded WRT router supporting MU-MIMO and Tri-Stream 160, the first device to hit market with this feature, should have surprised no one.
Its what’s inside that counts
As ever Linksys have been kind enough to provide us with a unit to test and offer our thoughts on. Since for the most part the packaging and body of the unit goes relatively unchanged from the WRT 1900ACS I’ll skip talking in depth about what’s in the box or how the unit looks. Indeed, even the physical ports are identical to the previous unit, as in fact is most of the stock OS from what I can see. As such, I would recommend giving the 1900ACS review a quick look in to see more detailed thoughts about these areas, I also covered Linksys Router Firmware in my EA9500 review too, if this is something you want more depth on.
Physically the router has a nice, aggressive look to it, in a colour scheme any who have encountered any of the venerable WRT range should be familiar with. It features 4 GigE LAN ports, a GigE WAN port USB 3 and a USB2/e-SATA port as well as removable antenna.
The stock OS for the most part remains the same as Linksys’ standard Router OS which means set up and initial configuration is about as trivial as it can be made to be, and much like the previous WRT features VPN capabilities. Though it must be said there is one subtle change, which is required to enable the secret sauce of one of the WRT 3200ACM’s headline features, Tri-Stream 160. Hidden away in the Wi-Fi options are settings to change the Network Mode, Channel, and Channel Width, all normal features on pretty much any router, however a specific set of combinations need to be set to actually allow the router to run in 160Mhz mode. Firstly, you need to set the 5Ghz network to 802.11ac only, something I tend to do at home as a rule to ensure that my AC capable devices don’t have to have degraded performance due to A or N devices connecting to the 5Ghz network. Next up you need to disable the Auto selection on the Channel since 160Mhz network will only work on channels 36 through to 128, finally then and only then does the 160Mhz Channel Width option stop being greyed out, meaning you can save it to config – you can select it before changing any of the other options, but it will remain greyed out until the channel and network mode are set up correctly.
The real differences become apparent when we look at the internals. FCC short-term confidentiality doesn’t expire until the end of the month and time being what it is, this isn’t something we can really hang around for, so unfortunately we have two choices, open up the thing and take a look or go off what Linksys have advertised and what I can find through various other sources, I’m initially reluctant to tear this thing down so I’ll resort to my various source initially, but will update when we have the FCC docs in hand. First up is the CPU, the OpenWRT wiki has proven useful for confirming my suspicions. Essentially, this looks to be the same dual core Marvell Armada CPU used in the 1900ACS (The Marvell Armada 385 88F6820 to be exact) though in this instance it has a slight overclock applied, bumping it to 1.8Ghz from the 19000ACS’ 1.6GHz. Beyond this, there are other internal adjustments, more NAND Flash, 256Mb over the 1900s 128 and some changes to the switch controller, with a move to the Marvell 88E6352. Naturally the Wi-Fi modules will have seen changes also; however, I can find little about the specifics of these currently.
On the subject of OpenWRT, it seems the commitment to the community is still very much at the forefront of the device, with a build already being available for use, based around the current ‘Chaos Calmer’ build of the Open Source Router OS with work constantly being done to improve support in the long term.