Linksys has declared war on latency with its new WRT32X gaming router. The bane of online gamers, high latency results in the lag that they experience while playing online games, especially those hosted on servers in far-flung locations.
The WRT32X integrates Killer Networking technology from Rivet Networks. When it detects computers equipped with the Killer chipset in the home network, the router automatically optimises gaming network traffic for these devices, leading to lower latency.
While you could also prioritise network traffic in other routers via the Quality of Service (QoS) settings, the WRT32X saves you the hassle.
Compatible devices include gaming laptops from popular brands like Alienware, Gigabyte, MSI and Razer. Unfortunately, game consoles are not supported, though you can still manually prioritise them.
In line with its laser focus on gaming, the WRT32X lacks mainstream router features, such as parental controls or wireless bridge functionality. It does have guest networks, as well as enthusiast features like static IP and port forwarding.
A mobile app to control the router was also apparently deemed extraneous - you'll have to use its Web browser interface instead. This interface has been built from the ground up and specially for the WRT32X. It is very responsive - changes are applied almost instantly.
The router itself reboots faster than the standard models I have tested, presumably because of its lean firmware and a speedy 1.8GHz dual-core processor.
To test the Killer gaming prioritisation feature, Linksys loaned me a Razer Blade gaming laptop with the supported Killer networking hardware. There is no need for any set up as the Killer Control Centre software on the Razer laptop automatically detected the Killer hardware on the WRT32X.
When the Razer Blade is connected to the WRT32X, a router option becomes available in the laptop's Killer Control Centre - you can conveniently log in to the router interface from within the app.
To test the WRT32X, I tried to overwork my Internet connection by streaming a 4K video from Netflix on my television set and played a 1080p YouTube video on a tablet. On another computer, I also started downloading a game from Steam (at a rate of around 30MB/s) as well as multiple files via BitTorrent (at around 10MB/s).
PRICE: $449 (available from Dec 1)
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1,000 Gigabit WAN, 4 x 10/100/1,000 Gigabit LAN
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
Despite all this traffic, the Team Fortress 2 game that was running on the Killer-enabled Razer Blade laptop chugged along smoothly without any lag. The latency hovered at around 80 to 90 milliseconds (ms). More importantly, it had remained unchanged from before I had started to overload my Internet connection. In short, my gaming experience was not affected by the streaming and downloads happening at the same time.
In comparison, the latency doubled when I tried the same scenario using my own home router. In this case, the game was still playable without any noticeable lag. But the doubling of latency could be a problem for online games hosted in overseas servers where the base latency ranges from 100 to 200ms even with the most optimised settings.
As for its general performance with a non-compatible client, the WRT32X performed similarly to other top routers with an average download speed of 535Mbps.
Verdict: The Linksys WRT32X makes a difference for online gamers by automatically prioritising gaming traffic for Killer-enabled clients. But those without a compatible client should give it a miss - it is pricey and lacks some mainstream router features.