Gigabit WiFi: 802.11ac product sampler

A round-up of current products that implement the 802.11ac “Gigabit Wi-Fi” draft standard

802.11ac

802.11ac uses a bunch of new techniques to drive Wi-Fi rates into the 433Mbps to 1,300Mbps (or 1.3Gbps) range. The maximum rate uses three spatial streams and 80-MHz channels. The draft is still being finalized (though no serious changes are expected); the Wi-Fi Alliance won’t start certifying interoperability until early 2013; and plug-in 11ac adapters are few (many implementations and reviews use an 11ac bridge or a second 11ac router configured as a bridge).

Here’s an overview of many of the products available as of December 2012.

One caution: Often these products have a model name and number, and a separate product number, which is completely different. Some reviewers use the latter, but the vendor’s product page may carry the former.

Related: Resources for 802.11ac 'Gigabit' Wi-Fi 

11ac will be faster, but how much faster really?

Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router

The Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router is one of the best-reviewed 11ac routers on the market. Asus promises a physical layer data rate of “up to” 1.3Gbps (but throughput, as with Wi-Fi in general, is much lower). Supports an array of security/encryption features, including WPA-Enterprise and WPA2-Enterprise. Four Gibabit Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports.

Pricing: on the expensive side at $190-$212

CNET liked the “great performance” and “lots of features for homes and businesses.”

Belkin

Belkin’s sleek-looking AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router tops out with a 867Mbps data rate. It has an integrated four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and two USB ports. It supports WPA2 security/encryption. List priced at $200, it’s currently selling in a range of $140-$160. PC Mag praised its “very good performance” and “easy set up.”

Buffalo AirStation 1750 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router

Buffalo opts for a very no-nonsense design for its AirStation 1750 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router, also known as the WZR-D1800H in some reviews. The 11ac maximum physical layer data rate is 1.3Gbps. The device is a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch with one USB 2.0 port and maximum security level is WPA2-PSK. Laptop Mag likes the “jaw-dropping speeds” but not so much the “confusing” set-up process.

Cisco Linksys EA6500 HD Video Pro AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router

The Cisco Linksys EA6500 HD Video Pro AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router wins the prize for Most Cumbersome (and Redundant) Product Name. But it promises the maximum 1.3Gbps data rate. It has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB ports, IPv6 support. And it also boasts “SimpleTap, a near-field communication (NFC) feature that lets you join NFC-based mobile devices to the network just by tapping them with a plastic card (after you install a Cisco app on the device). Widely available at $200. PC World said it’s “easy for inexperienced users to set up” and real-world performance “was fairly comparable to that of our current favorite router, the Asus RT-AC66U.”

Cisco Linksys WUMC710 Wireless-AC Wi-Fi 5GHz Universal Media Connector Bridge

Looking like a skinny toaster, the Cisco Linksys WUMC710 Wireless-AC Wi-Fi 5GHz Universal Media Connector Bridge is a companion product to the EA6500 router: you cable client devices into the bridge and link it via 11ac to the router. Single band (5 GHz only), four GigE ports, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, up to 1.3Gbps via 3 x 3 configuration. PC World says it’s way simpler, and cheaper, than buying a second router and resetting it as a bridge, and the performance was, again, comparable to and sometimes better than PCW’s top-rated Asus RT-AC66U.

Priced as low as $140 online but usually about $150. Cisco offers a package – router plus bridge – for $350, a $30 savings over buying them separately.

Review, by PC Mag

D-Link’s Cloud Router 5700, Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Router

D-Link’s Cloud Router 5700, Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Router (DIR-865L) offers many of the same technical specs as its rivals: 1.3Gbps data rate, four GigE ports, WPA/WPA2 security, one USB 2.0 port. The slab-like device is packaged with access to the vendor’s “mydlink” -- which unfortunately sounds just like it reads – cloud services, including remote network management and file access, blocking unwanted device connections, and setting up automatic e-mail alerts.

Pricing online ranges from the occasional low of about $176 to a high of $230. Laptop Mag says it’s the fastest 11ac router they’ve tested to date (October, 2012), with throughput of 464Mbps. Setup process is “old school.”

D-Link’s Wireless AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter

D-Link’s Wireless AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter (DWA-182) is one of the very few USB adapters for 11ac now on the market. Supports WPA or WPA2 security, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup. Pricing online ranges from $69 to $90. PC Mag rated it only “fair.” It has an “easy install” but the reviewer saw “no real performance gains over [a] 802.11n adapter.”

Netgear’s R6300 WiFi Router

Netgear’s R6300 WiFi Router is rated at up to 1.3Gbps for 11ac connectivity, and incorporates a four-port GigE switch; WiFi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2—PSK); double firewall protection (SPI and NAT firewall); and denial-of-service attack prevention.

Pricing online is typically around $200, but can reach $260. CNET says it has “superb [11ac] performance” and “comes with a nice mobile-app-enabled Web interface that's easy to use.” The performance in the 2.4-GHz band for 11n clients could be better.

Netgear A6200 WiFi Adapter

The Netgear A6200 WiFi Adapter offers a top 11ac data rate of 867Mbps. The antenna is designed so you can swivel it to improve the RF signal. It supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or what Netgear calls “Push ‘N’ Connect” – you plug the adapter in, push a button on it, then the corresponding button on the Netgear 11ac router. Online prices typically are $69, but dipping to $60 and rising to $91. Amazon currently rates it at 3.7 of five stars, based on 22 reviews as of Dec. 19; 11 users gave it five stars. One said his throughput ranged from 526Mbps to a “consistent 866.5 Mbps in most locations” in his house.

Western Digital’s My Net AC1300 router

Western Digital’s My Net AC1300 router also is rated at 1.3Gbps, and has four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB Ports; IPv6 support; WPA/WPA2; Wi-Fi Protected Setup; and a stateful packet inspection firewall. WD’s FastTrack QoS feature offers preconfigured traffic priority settings that you turn off and on for different types of Internet traffic; you can set up 19 QoS rules to refine this even more. Online prices range from $179-$235; most under $200. The companion My Net AC Bridge retails for $129-$180. CNET says the set up process is “very easy,” 11ac performance is “average” for these products, and FastTrack QoS is a “top feature.”