Synology’s Syn-fully Awesome RT1900ac Router

Despite the fact that some (many—okay, most) people tell me I’m an idiot, I’m not. As proof, I can point to a variety of complicated tasks that I’ve managed to complete without requiring an inordinate amount of outside help. I’ve built a chicken coop; installed and programmed a Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting control system; raised three children; assembled two bicycles at 3 AM one Christmas morning; and founded a multi-billion dollar non-profit foundation dedicated to making it easy and understandable to install and use a high-speed wireless router in your home. Yeah, well, that last one? Not so much. In fact, if there’s anything in this world that makes me feel like more of an idiot than I really am, it’s dealing with wireless routers. And that’s why I’ve been smitten of late with Synology’s newest introduction, the Synology Router RT1900ac.

Synology is best known for the company’s wide-ranging selection of network-attached storage (NAS) devices. What’s a NAS device? For the purposes of home entertainment, a NAS device is a hard drive-containing box that’s connected to your home networking that makes the digital files stored in it available to other network computers or devices. Described in such a mundane way, a NAS device for your home may not sound all that appealing; so let me rephrase it. A NAS from Synology, for example, can do many things and do them all in the same device. You can create a private cloud so your files don’t have to be stored on some third-party, distant server; and a NAS can store surveillance video from IP cameras on your network, so video of you and your family don’t have to be sent who-knows-where (and looked at by who-knows. It can provide scheduled, automated, local file backups, as well as become a file server for other network-connected computers and devices. Most interesting from a home entertainment standpoint is the ability for a Synology NAS to become a multimedia server that makes it super-easy to access your collection of music, video, and digital photos.

Without a doubt, Synology is one of the go-to companies when it comes to NAS devices. Aside from the reliability of the hardware, the most compelling feature of every Synology NAS is the company’s DiskStation Manager, which is a web-based operating system that provides a desktop-like user interface for managing the various functions and parameters of the NAS. For someone like me who is more interested in the functionality of the NAS rather than how it functions, Synology’s DiskStation Manager UI is a true blessing. You still have to think about what you’re doing when setting it up, but at least you get to think (for the most part) like a human being rather than a computer.

So what does all of this have to do with the new Synology Router RT1900ac? Routers are notoriously unwieldy and difficult to set up and administer. Other companies have designed routers specifically to address this problem for new or non-technical users who want to set up a home network on their own. Securifi’s Almond series of routers, for example, include built-in touchscreens to facilitate easy setup. In Synology’s case, the company has taken what’s best about its NAS devices—the DiskStation Manager UI—and redesigned it for use with the RT1900ac. The result is the Synology Router Manager (SRM).

The SRM makes the initial set up of the router a breeze. You can even use Synology’s DS Router app (iOS and Android) to bring the router to life from a mobile device; and, then, once the RT1900ac is up and running, you can continue to monitor and manage your network using the DS Router app. Of course, you can also set up the router from your computer or laptop by entering "router.synology.com" in your browser’s address bar. As with Synology’s DiskStation Manager, SRM allows you to use QuickConnect and DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name Service) to access your RT1900ac from anywhere in the world where there’s internet access.

SRM includes some management tools that, despite being quite advanced, are still relatively easy-to-use. Now that my kids are mostly grown, SRM’s parental controls aren’t that important; but they could be for those with younger children at home. SRM allows you to set a schedule—by device—that limits the times during each day when the internet is accessible. SRM has a built-in database of “dangerous or inappropriate websites”, too, so you can easily limit your children’s access to certain areas of the internet.

Much more useful for me is SRM’s Application Layer QoS (Quality of Service) that lets you see how much bandwidth is being consumed—by device or by application. Not everyone suffers from living under a data cap imposed by their ISP. I do, though, and I’ve been plagued by a mysterious data “leech” that sucks up 500 MB or more per day. With that kind of drain, I often run up against my 15 GB/month data cap well before the end of the month. (Hello, dialup speeds…) With the SRM in the RT1900ac, I have the ability to find and throttle-back the culprit(s) by monitoring usage on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

One of the beautiful features of Synology’s DiskStation Manager, is the ability to install add-on software packages that expand the NAS’s capabilities. Some of those add-on packages include iTunes Server, Download Station (for downloads of files from multiple file-sharing sites), and Video Station (for organizing your video collection and streaming those files to your computer, AirPlay devices, and iOS/Android devices). The RT1900ac’s SRM also offers the ability to add software packages, including a version of the aforementioned Download Station, the Media Server (for browsing and streaming content on Synology NAS devices), and VPN Server (for turning the RT1900ac into a Virtual Private Network server). The RT1900ac includes two USB ports (2.0 and 3.0) and an SD (SDXC) card slot for connecting USB storage devices, and stored files are then accessible from anywhere.

The Synology Router RT1900ac has tons more features, and there simply isn’t room to go through them all. For instance, the RT1900ac has three antennas and supports the latest version of the 802.11ac wireless standard. It uses both 2.4 and 5 GHz for combined data transfer speeds of up to 1900 Mbps. Synology says that, as a result of the bandwidth prioritization and network traffic controls built into the SRM, you should be able to “enjoy buffer-free playback when streaming 4K movies from your favorite online video service, or play home videos stored on external storage directly on a DLNA-compatible TV or media player.” There’s also smart Beamforming technology for up to six wireless devices to reduce latency, conserve power consumption, and improve wireless range.

I’ve only had my sample of the Synology Router RT1900ac for a short time, but I’m already highly impressed by it. You’d think that the ability to see bandwidth usage by device (or application) would be a common feature found on most routers. In my experience, however, it’s not. That right there makes the RT1900ac a winner in my book.

But it’s really the Synology Router Manager (SRM) user interface that makes the RT1900ac so compelling and well worth the $150 price tag. It provides a non-intimidating, very friendly method of setting up what is the often-overlooked and usually underperforming backbone of your home network. As with DiskStation Manager, Synology will likely regularly update SRM and provide those updates at no charge. (DiskStation Manager is currently at version 5.2 with 6.0 in beta.) So, as good as it is now, SRM should only get better over time. In addition to the operating system itself, it’s likely additional software packages will become available (usually at no charge, as is the case with DSM), which will expand the capabilities of the RT1900ac even more.

There is certainly no lack of good choices when it comes to wireless routers, and most have their own particular story and take on what’s important for a home network. Although I haven’t spent a whole lot of time going over the RT1900ac’s technical specs, it’s an excellent router from a hardware standpoint—and, so far, has performed as well as the $250 Asus router I normally use. But I like working with the RT1900ac so much more than any other router I’ve encountered out so far, and that’s why I chose to highlight Synology’s approach with SRM in the RT1900ac.

Synology has already won a couple of awards for the RT1900ac, and I have to agree that the company has hit a solid home run with this new device in what is, for Synology, an entirely new category of product. Since the RT1900ac has been available in Europe for a while before it’s recent release in the US market, early bugs have seemingly been squashed; and I have yet to say, “Let me reboot the router…” to my daughter after I installed the RT1900ac.

Now that I think about it, that itself may be the best feature of the Synology Router RT1900ac.

As usual, Synology has done a fantastic job. If you have more than a couple of devices on your home network—especially if any of them handle music or video streaming—and you don’t wake up every morning thinking about Ping and Traceroute tools, you should definitely check out the Synology RT1900ac. It’s easy-to-set up, easy-to-use, and easy-to-forget. And in the case of most home networks, being able to forget about your router is a wonderful thing.

COMMENTS
allanmarcus's picture

Yikes! 15 GB/month? I think my house uses that much in 1/2 a day!

a1991mit's picture

i like router very much bcz dongal data cost is high thanks for great blog i am sharing it on www.fb.com

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