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Synology Router RT1900ac review

Alan Lu
12 Mar 2016
Synology Router RT1900ac
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
115
inc VAT

An easy to set up router with lots of advanced features, but performance is patchy

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Specifications

Modem: None, Wi-Fi standard: 802.11ac, Stated speed: 1300Mbit/s, USB ports: 1x USB3, Wall mountable: Yes

Synology is best known for its excellent range of NAS devices, so it was a surprise to see it launch a router. The company isn’t renowned for eye-grabbing design, but in an age of ever flashier-looking routers, Synology’s simply-named RT1900ac sticks with a plain black plastic casing.

The only touch of aesthetic originality, and a very mild one at that, is the pair of fixed feet at the back, which raise the router up by a few centimetres. There’s no version with a built-in ADSL modem, so ADSL and cable customers alike will have to plug their existing modem into the WAN port.

Bafflingly, there’s a button alongside the WPS button for turning off the Wi-Fi without turning off the router itself. Bear in mind that, like most routers, the RT1900ac generates a fair amount of heat, so you’ll want to keep in a well-ventilated area.

As expected for a Synology product, the RT1900ac is very easy to set up. Once physically plugged into your home network, a visit to router.synology.com in your browser on a networked PC will guide through a simple web-based setup wizard. It wisely prompts you to protect it with a unique username and administrator password, unlike many routers which don’t prompt you to change the defaults. It also prompts you to choose a SSID and password, so your wireless network will be protected from the start.

Synology Router RT1900ac web interface

^ Synology's simple web interface is a pleasure to use

Like Synology’s NAS devices, the RT1900ac is very straightforward to customise, as its web administration interface resembles a PC’s with icons, a taskbar and a desktop. You can even create shortcuts for frequently-used settings on the desktop. All the features you’d expect are present, including port forwarding, IPv6 support, a DMZ, the ability to set up a guest network and MAC address filtering.

There’s support for a huge range of Dynamic DNS services, including Synology’s own, which is free. Anxious mums and dads will appreciate the parental controls, which are extensive and surprisingly easy to set up - you can make whitelists and blacklists, and schedule what times of day each device can access the internet.

An alternative to the web interface is the app for iOS and Android. It doesn’t have anywhere close to the full range of features available in the web interface, but it works well for quickly changing parental controls or checking the various security settings.

As expected from a NAS maker, you can plug in a USB disk or SD card and share files amongst all your networked computers - effectively creating a NAS on the cheap. It works exactly like a Synology NAS, which also means you get a range of extra features you can add from Synology’s app store. Whether you want to stream media, host a blog or run a VPN server, there’s probably an app for it. The USB port can also be used to share a printer amongst all your networked computers, or use a 3G or 4G dongle as a fall-back connection.

All of this would be for naught though if the RT1900ac’s range and performance aren’t up to scratch. Sadly, this is where Synology’s router comes up a little short. When used with our laptop and its built-in 802.11n Intel adapter, it managed 45.8Mbit/s at 10m and 33.7Mbit/s at 25m. These 2.4GHz scores are good. On the 5GHz band, it initially did very well with 149.1Mbit/s at 10m. But it then fell to a disappointing but still usable 42.8Mbit/s at 25m.

Synology doesn’t produce its own 802.11ac adapter, so I used Tenda’s W900U USB adapter to test 802.11ac speeds instead. At 10m it managed 146.8Mbit/s and 111Mbit/s at 25m. Although somewhat disappointing for an 802.11ac router, the decrease in performance when moving from 10m to 25m was at least relatively small. Only moving to 35m away, with several large metal cupboards in the way, I lost the signal entirely.

I'm looking forward to Synology’s future routers purely because of the slick, easy to use interface and abundance of advanced features. The app support and ability to turn it into a basic NAS is incredibly useful if you’ve never had one before, and if you have an old USB hard disk or SD card lying around it’s significantly cheaper than buying a dedicated NAS device.

Unless these factors are absolutely paramount, however, the RT1900ac’s somewhat inconsistent performance at long range could be a problem for anyone looking to create a large wireless network. At £118, I’d rather have the similarly priced TP-Link Archer C9. Its interface isn’t anywhere as slick, but it has far superior performance.

HARDWARE
ModemNone
Wi-Fi standard802.11ac
Bands2.4GHz, 5GHz
Stated speed1300Mbit/s
SecurityWPAS-PSK, WPA2-AES
Upgradable antennaYes
WAN ports1
LAN ports4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s
USB ports1x USB3
Wall mountableYes
Dimensions206x160x66
SOFTWARE
Guest networks2
Media serverDLNA
USB servicesPrint sharing, NAS
DDNS servicesSynology, ChangeIP.com, No-IP.com, DYDNS
BUYING INFORMATION
Price including VAT118
WarrantyTwo years RTB
Supplierwww.span.com
Detailswww.synology.com
Part codeRT1900ac