Linksys LAPAC1750 review

An elegant and affordable wireless management solution that’s perfect for businesses on a budget

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£178
  • Good speeds; Smooth setup and operation; Highly scalable;

For many small businesses, a managed wireless network can seem out of reach: the need for dedicated hardware controllers or cloud-based portals simply pushes the price too high. Linksys has set out to change that, with the company now offering clustering across its entire range of business wireless APs at no extra cost.

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In other words, you can buy multiple APs and enjoy centralised configuration management and deployment, with a single status view for all of them. Up to 16 Linksys APs can be joined into one cluster, the only requirement being that, as usual, they must all be the same model. We tried out a triplet of LAPAC1750 business APs dual-band 802.11ac access points with 3x3 MIMO internal aerials, offering speeds of up to 1,300Mbits/sec on the 5GHz radio and 450Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz radio.

Clustering is enabled via a simple firmware upgrade, which can be carried out from each AP's web interface. Once this was done, each AP exposed a new Cluster option in the Configuration view. One AP must be designated as the master, and given a location and a meaningful cluster name. It's worth jotting down these details as they need to be entered when configuring the other APs as slaves. With this done, we could see all members from the Cluster Details page, along with their MAC and IP addresses.

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No further setup is required. As soon as each slave was added to the cluster, it immediately inherited all its wireless settings from the master, replacing any pre-existing SSIDs and security schemes. You can still access each slave's individual web interface, and view cluster members and connected clients, while standard wireless features are controlled from the master AP.

Configuration changes propagate very quickly across the cluster: for each radio we were able to create up to eight SSIDs, each with its own encryption scheme, and saw them appear in all the slaves' interfaces in under 15 seconds. SSIDs can be enabled or disabled with a single mouse click, while client isolation stops users on the same SSID from seeing each other.

Plenty of other wireless features can also be centrally controlled. These include a handy scheduler for turning radios on and off at set times, such as weekends; upstream and downstream rate limits; quality of service; and captive portals for guest access. There's also a rogue-AP detection function, which lists all other APs in the vicinity of your cluster. Those you know about can be added to a trusted list, so if a new one pops up unexpectedly, it will be easy to spot.

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To test wireless performance, we used a Dell Precision Tower 5810 Windows 10 workstation equipped with a Netgear AC1200 adapter. Using the free TamoSoft Throughput Test tool, we measured raw wireless speeds between the workstation and a Windows server on the LAN, and recorded an average throughput of 66.6MB/sec for a close-range connection, dropping slightly to 62MB/sec at 15m. Real-world speeds were also good: copying a 2GB test file between the workstation and server averaged 55MB/sec.

In order to provide a degree of fault tolerance, you can designate one AP as a backup master, which would take over if the master fails. We tested this by adding a third AP to the cluster as a slave and ticked the relevant box for it. We then disconnected the master AP: within ten seconds, the backup AP took over. On our workstation, we measured a pause of 12 seconds before Windows silently reconnected to the next AP in the cluster and carried on. When the master AP was back up again, it rejoined the cluster and reclaimed all management duties in 30 seconds.

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The Linksys LAPAC1750 is one of the best-value AC1750 access points around, and its clustering capabilities performed perfectly during testing. In addition, it's elegant from design to implementation. Small organisations that want a scalable, business-grade wireless network management solution need look no further.

This review originally appeared in PC Pro issue 265

Verdict

The Linksys LAPAC1750 is one of the best-value AC1750 access points around. It’s elegant from design to implementation, and small organisations that want a scalable, business-grade wireless network management solution need look no further.

Dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ac access point 3x3 MIMO (5GHz) Gigabit PoE/PoE+ port Kensington lock Ceiling/wall-mounting plates 246 x 239 x 44mm (WDH) Lifetime warranty

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