Why a Linksys 1200AC and not a 1900AC or 3200ACM?

After posting my experiences with Open Source Software on the Linksys 1200AC router I got some questions around the topic of why I went for this router and not for one of its higher spec cousins such as the 1900AC or the 3200ACM!? The simple answer is that while in theory these routers offer faster over the air speeds, I won’t be able to use any of it in practice anytime soon.

The Linksys 1200AC supports 802.11ac with 2 MIMO streams. That might sound a bit meager these days but I actually can’t use more anyway. All my notebooks have network cards that only support 2 MIMO streams so a router that supports 3 or 4 streams won’t do me much good anyway. In addition, all my notebooks only support 802.11n for the moment anyway so even the 1200AC is overkill. Yes, I will get new notebooks at some point that will support 802.11ac but even these will likely ‘only’ have 2 MIMO antennas. Even high end Thinkpad models do not go beyond. The X260 and the X270 for example include an Intel 8260 / 8265 M.2 card which supports 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO according to Lenovo’s product descriptions on their website.

Yes, but the 3200AC supports Multi-User MIMO, so that must be worth something? In theory yes, but not in practice. The reason for that is that the router will only schedule two devices simultaneously, e.g. for 2×2 MIMO each, if BOTH devices support Multi-User MIMO and have to transmit data simultaneously. For details see here and here. Again, I don’t have multi-user capable devices and even if I had them in the near to mid future, which is again doubtful as only the latest Thinkpad model currently on the market supports MU-MIMO, there are few times when more than one device receives tons of data simultaneously. In other words there is close to zero benefit in this for me as well.

I concede that having 4 antennas at the router might improve transmission speeds if the router makes use of diversity with the antennas it can’t use for MIMO and a newer Wifi modem might also have a positive impact. But my expectation would be that this is not much and in all likelihood not enough to justify twice the price of the 1200AC model.