The new Linksys Velop is one of the most powerful mesh network routers we’ve tested, but Linksys has something else in mind for hardcore gamers: the WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router. The exterior embodies the iconic industrial design of the Linksys WRT series, but with a roguish all-black color scheme. On the inside, you’ll find a dual-band, 3x3 AC3200 wireless router, with Rivet Networks’ Killer Prioritization Engine running on a 1.8GHz dual-core ARM CPU.
“Our competitors have been marketing their routers as ‘gaming routers,’ but that's really just been marketing,” Linksys product manager Justin Doucette said in a pre-CES briefing. “We wanted to build something that would really speak to gamers.” Looking at the success Rivet Networks has had with gaming PC builders including Alienware, Razer, MSI, and others, Linksys decided to integrate the company’s Killer Prioritization Engine software into its latest high-end router.
Most every router has a quality-of-service (QoS) system designed to ensure that lag-sensitive network traffic such as video and VoIP are assigned the highest priority, so that video streams and phone calls aren’t interrupted. The Killer Prioritization Engine is a QoS system in essence, but it’s highly optimized to recognize additional types of lag-sensitive traffic, including games.
“One of the hardest things to do in a QoS system is to figure out what each stream is,” Rivet Networks chief marketing officer Bob Grim told me ahead of CES. “Is it a game, a video, or what? We do it in two ways. First, we look at it heuristically: What type of network traffic is being sent from the Wi-Fi adapter? Is the host PC running DirectX? We can quickly determine game traffic and make it the highest priority. We identify the streams and as we’re sending data to the router, we’re telling the WRT32X what that traffic is and how it should be prioritized. The router will then honor those instructions.”Secondly, we analyze the data packets traveling over the network, because not all packets are created equally. A Microsoft Windows update packet shouldn’t be treated as just as important as a gaming packet. We’ll never queue a gaming packet, for example, because it’s latency dependent.”
More details on the WRT32X
The WRT32X is a dual-band, MU-MIMO router capable of delivering theoretical throughput of up to 600Mbps on its 2.4GHz 802.11n network and 2600Mbps on its 5GHz 802.11ac network. It has one gigabit WAN port and a four-port gigabit ethernet switch onboard. The WRT32X also has one USB 3.0 port and a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port for sharing storage over the network (with support for drives formatted with FAT, NTFS, or HFS+ file systems). It’s capable of running open-source firmware (e.g., OpenWRT and DD-WRT), but it’s not clear if you’d be able to replace its native operating system and still run Killer’s QoS engine.
Linksys is pricing the WRT32X Wi-Fi Gaming Router at $299.99 and expects to ship it this spring. We’ll have an in-depth hands-on review as soon as we can get our hands on one.