Review: Razer Sila
This is weird because I’m going to review a product I don’t even own… yet. I’m considering a Razer Sila for my office just to try it out and I took to posting some suggestions on Facebook I thought would be worthy to expand upon here.
First, this post isn’t to bash the Sila. I’m sure it’s a solid piece of equipment (why I’m considering a purchase). And I’m happy to see Razer enter this arena. There’s really only a few enthusiast router companies, and Razer belongs here.
Second, I’m a router nut and have loved doing networking for over twenty years. I remember daisy-chaining coax NICs on Windows NT4 in the 90s (is my age showing?). I’m not necessarily loyal to any brand, but I have had favorites over the years. I loved Linksys until they sold to Cisco, and I’ve tried everything since from Netgear and Asus to everything in between. Asus is currently my favorite enthusiast router for a number of reasons, although I anticipate touching on the failings of Asus as well. I’ve not been happy with my Netgear equipment lately (save my modems… I switched from Motorola and haven’t looked back).
Anyway, lets start with the Razer Sila specs:
|At a glance||
There are a lot of sales pitch buzz words in there but, remembering this is a router for enthusiasts, I’m sorry “gamers”, we can touch on a few key things:
- Razer FasTrack is just a preconfigured list of game settings. Yeah, my Asus AC5300 has that. Who cares.
- So your wi-fi channels can be used separately or combined. Any router made in the last five years does this.
- iOS/Android app… really? Not important and could care less. Can I still configure the thing in a browser? That’s what’s important.
- Wireless specs are exactly the same as any other high end, multi-band router.
- Encryption… the same as everyone else.
- Again, QoS, DFS, MIMO & Beamforming, isolated guest network, etc… all included with anyone else nowadays.
- Mesh networking… nice touch, but not really important yet and Mesh isn’t really adopting like the industry had hoped (also included on routers of the competition). If you don’t know what Mesh is or you’re confused by it, you’re not alone. Think hot spots/wireless extenders for morons, but better. Much like networking, you still can’t beat a hard line.
- Yeah, every router has these interfaces, but I do like the Razer green USB port.
- Lastly, the $250 price tag. It’s pretty competitive against the Asus AC5300 at $280 on Amazon.
Yes, it’s pretty much the exact same router as the Asus AC5300 with internal antennas, a phone app, a larger list of game settings, a pretty box and 1 less LAN port. For an enthusiast gaming company, I’m underwhelmed and hoped for more cutting edge features.
Which brings me to some suggestions I’d like to see from the Sila in the future, and maybe from enthusiast routers in general.
- Alternative firmware. One of the things that made Linksys so lucrative in the past was the Tomato and DD-WRT support that unleashed a plethora of settings that allowed me to fine tune my router however I see fit. Asus right now has Merlin, who kinda send him the firmware to fiddle with, and it’s a use at your own risk kind of a deal. I think Asus has figured out his tinkering is helping to sell routers, because frankly I won’t buy an Asus router unless there’s Merlin support. And other brands of router have their alternatives as well. It would be smart of Razer to do something similar with their firmware, if not open source it altogether. I know that’s tough to swallow, but again, this alternative/cult support is what you want to help sell routers.
- LAN ports. I don’t know why the hell companies making so-called “gaming routers” haven’t figured out we want 8+ LAN ports glued to the ass of the thing. If we’re doing a LAN party, we put a hard line into that sucker. And frankly, in just my house I have 9 hardlined devices into my router and switch; two printers (color and b&w), three desktops, the big screen TV, XBOX, Plex server and security system. And with all the mobile devices in my family of six it’s a circus of over 25 wireless devices every day. Not everything’s wireless folks, and it ain’t gonna be for a very long time, even with wireless AX on the horizon. And lets start seeing 10GB LAN ports on EVERY adapter. Even Netgear’s new Nighthawk sports one.
- Speaking of wireless AX, WTF!!! You release a new router without it? You nuts? Even Asus just dropped their AX88U, which isn’t a “gaming router”, but the tech is there. At least put the support in it. Or better yet, wait to release the product six months. Seriously, the Sila is already dated without it and enthusiasts/gamers who buy a router every 4-5 years are just gonna wait. 2019 is the year for new routers. AX is here baby!
- As for the USB ports, USB C has been a here a while now and I’d say darn near half my external hard drives are USB C. I’d kinda like to use them without the adapter cable at this point. Lets maybe swap out that USB 2 port for USB C. Lets not get stupid though, keep that green USB 3.1 port.
- I LOVE the design! BUT, can we maybe add attachable rackmount wings to it? And maybe move the logo from the top to the front, and lets get blinky lights in the front that can be enabled/disabled because with my modem out of sight I like seeing en error light when it’s down and seeing which LAN ports I’m not using. Oh, and Chroma that shit up… including the logo!
- Security. WPA3. It’s out. It’s ready (unlike AX, which is technically just a draft). What the hell is the problem. Nobody else has it right now, but that’s not an excuse. Make it happen.
- Antennas, and this may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s an idea I’ve had for a very long time that I think would make the product work better and would make Razer (possibly other router companies as well) a bit more money.
- Lets modularize the antennas (antennae? whatever).
- If you don’t have one in your desktop computer, maybe look on Newegg or Amazon at PCI wireless card, and most of them have a wired antenna. Why can’t we do this with multiple antennas on a router? So the router comes with attachable antennas, but you have to buy the wire (do I hear “Razer Wire” anybody) if you want to wire the antennas through your home, much like a video surveillance system.
- Over-the-air Digital TV antennas are pointed in the direction you want to pickup a signal. Your router antennas are no different in your home. Pretty much every router company had already tried the internal antenna thing, and there’s a reason internal antennas are only sold on cheap ass routers, because they’re shit. You need the ability to aim and adjust your antennas for the best signal appropriate in your home. If you need further proof of this, walk in a hospital or any other business with a Cisco setup and you’ll see all the satellites on the ceilings with internal antennas, this is because they are in fact antennas, wire to the router. This is how we should treat our homes (yes, I get there’s where mesh is supposed to come into play, but if you understand Mesh you damn well it’s completely unnecessary… it’s like renaming FTP to be called the cloud… oh wait, that happened).
- On a final note, one of the things that concerns me is the fact that although the design and input for the device is heavily influenced by Razer, the Sila is NOT made by Razer. Razer contracted Design Labs, a company damn near nobody has heard of, unless you’re NOT a gamer or router enthusiast, because Design Labs has only ever made ONE cheap ass, piece of shit router, called the Portal. Lets face it, the Design Labs Portal mesh wifi router isn’t anything special (unless you read Amazon reviews – the Portal is AWESOME!!!… for me to poop on!), and nothing I’d even suggest to even my worst of friends for their home network. The Sila is Design Labs’ first entry into the high end router arena, and only their second router to date, so it’s not like Razer’s bringing an extensive amount of experience into the router field, although a fresh pair of eyes is sometimes nice to see, but again, the Portal is shit (unless you’re a paid Amazon reviewer, which is painfully obvious given the number of video reviews on the product – because nobody does video reviews on Amazon unless they’re paid to do it… oops, I let out the secret), so maybe I take back that fresh pair of eyes thing. My guess is if this whole router thing works out Razer will buy Design Labs as their “router division”, which is a very good thing and enthusiasts and gamers alike need another competitor in this market where there are only a handful at best. And it may already be a done deal because on Amazon the Portal is already being sold by Razer, not Design Labs. The other problem I see here is the fact the Sila isn’t much of an upgrade from the Portal… in fact it’s damn near the same product in a different box. So I’m not sure I understand all the fuss Razer’s making about the Sila, because Razer’s done enough small, quiet releases of their products in the past, they should have known the Sila should have also been one of them. This isn’t me being negative, I’m just left scratching my head. How does adding a couple more features into a sexy black box make it a “gaming router” (saying that in my shitty Yoda voice)? Maybe it’s just the Razer logo on top. Obviously, if it doesn’t work out, I see the Sila being a no-hit wonder with Razer dumping off support to their less than stellar third party and sweeping this potential mess under the rug. But I do hope this works out.
In conclusion, I see the Sila as a solid first entry into the higher end router market for Razer, albeit a gamble because the device takes no risks using hardware already commonly used throughout the industry, so don’t buy into any of the marketing bullshit that it’s the “fastest gaming router“, because it’s not (it has nothing on the Asus or Netgear – like not even close). The Razer name slapped on the device is surely going to sell some units to Razer fans (not necessarily router OR gamer fans, which is an important note), which I’m sure Razer is counting on. The lack of anything unique is what stands out. With CES in January and then the onslaught of new tech to follow, flooding the router waters in 2019, this current iteration of the Sila won’t even be talked about in less than six months time… The Sila should have been released nearly two years ago if it was ever to be competitive in the current market. Now if Razer is to be serious in this market and they come to CES in January with an announcement of a new Sila (yes, this will piss off those first gen buyers), preparing to join the floodwaters in 2019 with everyone else releasing AX, WPA3, USB C, etc., then I wouldn’t nearly be as concerned. I guess time will tell where Razer wants to be in this market.