Year End 2012 - Reviews & Rankings (Part 2)

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Buffalo was first to market with both an 802.11ac draft 2.0  router and an 802.11ac draft 2.0 media bridge to go with it. But the firmware available today is unchanged from when Buffalo originally shipped the product, and that affects the performance. On the upside, the $160 WZR-D1800H supports three spatial streams on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

Buffalo WZR-D1800H

Buffalo WZR-D1800H

Buffalo built only one USB 2.0 port into this model, so it can support either network-attached USB storage or a shared USB printer, but not both at the same time. I couldn't measure its NAS performance because its firmware supports only FAT32 or XFS drives; high-capacity drives such as my 500MB Western Digital My Passport come formatted to use NTFS.

The router came set to run on a single 20MHz channel on the 2.4GHz frequency, but it had no problem bonding two channels to provide 40MHz of bandwith when I reconfigured its firmware. It was set for channel bonding on the 5GHz frequency band by default, delivering 80MHz of bandwidth in that spectrum.

Whether the client was in the same room or in the kitchen, the WZR-D1800H had subpar results, with only the Belkin AC 1200 DB being slower at both locations.

In my home theater coffee-table benchmark, Buffalo’s router finished last, offering less than half the throughput of top rivals. And with the bridge inside the equipment cabinet, it performed only a little better than the Belkin model.

Results improved considerably on my exterior-patio test, though the Buffalo presented no threat to the top two routers at this location, the Asusand the Netgear. When I went to the picnic table 75 feet away, the WZR-D1800H slipped to last place, with a TCP throughput of 48.5 mbps.

If you don’t mind its lack of support for NTFS hard drives, the Buffalo WZR-D1800H is a better value than Belkin’s router. Both have street prices of around $160, as does Buffalo’s AirStation AC1300 bridge. So if your budget is limited, the Buffalo router is the better option.

D-Link DIR-865L

D-Link has introduced a raft of routers and other products that let you manage your network and devices through a PC, smartphone, or tablet. One such model, the $190 D-Link DIR-865L, is a user-friendly dualband router. It delivers maximum theoretical throughput of 450 mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1.3 gbps on the 5GHz band.

D-Link doesn’t sell an 802.11ac bridge right now, so it suggests that users who want an 802.11ac network buy two DIR-865L routers and configure one as a bridge.

D-Link DIR-865L

D-Link DIR-865L

The DIR-865L has one USB 2.0 port. Sharing a USB hard drive through it was disconcerting: The router seemed to believe that I would only ever want to access an attached drive using a Web browser and D-Link’s HTML front end, rather than mapping the drive to my Windows computer directly.

The router came with its 2.4GHz radio configured to deliver 20MHz of bandwidth (channel bonding disabled), and its 5GHz radio set for 80MHz of wireless bandwidth (channel bonding enabled in 802.11ac mode). D-Link gives no mechanism for forcing the router to channel-bond.

It posted a mediocre third-place finish on most locations, including at close range (9 feet away). When I moved to my kitchen, it was much faster than my 5GHz 802.11n reference router, but considerably slower than the Asus and Netgear routers.

Its results on my home theater test were about on a par with those of the Asus and Netgear. After putting the bridge into my equipment cabinet, I saw the DIR-865L's TCP throughput drop by just 29 mbps: Its bit rate of 161 mbps was good enough for second place in this test.

Its performance really surprised me on the picnic-table test. Under these conditions, my reference 5GHz 802.11n router had TCP throughput of 30.2 mbps, but the D-Link model reached 152 mbps— the best performance of the five 802.11ac routers I tested.

The D-Link DIR-865L lacks many of the advanced features its competitors offer, and it isn't as fast as the best of them. Those factors make it difficult to justify this model's near-$200 price tag.

Netgear R6300

Netgear's $200 R6300 is an excellent router. A concurrent dual-band model, it offers three spatial streams on the 2.4GHz band with maximum theoretical throughput of 450 mbps, and another three spatial streams with maximum theoretical throughput of 1.3 gbps on the 5GHz band.

Netgear isn't making a media bridge; instead, the company recommends that consumers buy two R6300 routers and configure one as a wireless bridge. The R6300 comes with two USB 2.0 ports to support sharing a network-attached USB storage device and a USB printer at once. In my tests it turned in solid results on the storage front.

Netgear R6300

Netgear R6300

The R6300 took first or second place on most tests. Its TCP throughput was 473 mbps when the client was 9 feet away, and 432 mbps when I moved to the kitchen.

With the client on my home theater’s coffee table, the R6300 did a bit better than the Asus and D-Link routers, earning first place. When I put the bridge into the entertainment cabinet, however, it took a much bigger hit in TCP throughput than those other two routers did, dropping to 129 mbps.

The R6300’s performance bounced back when I moved to the patio, producing wireless throughput of 435 mbps and again taking first place. TCP throughput dropped to 122 mbps on the picnic-table test; that data-transfer rate was good enough for only a third-place finish on this measure, but achieving such high throughput at so distant a range is still pretty amazing. Most 802.11n routers operating on the 5GHz frequency band can't reach the client at all here (the Asus RT-N66U being a notable exception).

Netgear's R6300 isn’t quite as fast as the Asus router in most benchmarks, and it doesn't offer as many features as the Asus does. The performance gaps, however, are not huge. The one area where Netgear has a leg up on Asus is in apps: Install Netgear's Genie app on your smartphone, and you can use it to monitor and manage your network. Asus was preparing to launch its AiCloud service as I was wrapping up these reviews, however, so Netgear's advantage may be short-lived. And Netgear will never be able to overcome the RT-AC66U's removable, upgradable antennas.

 Early 802.11AC Routers outperform 802.11N AT Various distances

Early 802.11AC Routers outperform 802.11N AT Various distances

Five Draft-802.11ac Routers Compared





Asus RT-AC66U





·         Extremely fast at 5GHz

·         Lots of server options

·         External antennas


  • Not the fastest at 2.4GHz
  • Low-quality stand roduced this roundup.

Belkin AC 1200 DB






  • Maintains 2.4GHz channel bonding
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • DLNA certified


  • Two spatial streams
  • Slow USB file transfers
  • Last-place finish on most benchmarks


Buffalo WZR-D1800H






  • Strong close-range performance at 2.4GHz
  • DLNA certified
  • Vertical or horizontal orientation
  • No guest network
  • Only one USB port
  • Doesn’t support USB drives in NTFS format


D-Link DIR-865L





  • Cloud integration
  • Better-than-average throughput at 2.4GHz
  • DLNA certified


  • Relatively few features
  • Only one USB port
  • Slow in writing large files to a USB drive


Netgear R6300



Very good


  • Quite fast at 2.4GHz
  • Very good NAS performance
  • DLNA certified


  • Bulky industrial design
  • No VPN pass-through
  • Lacks an ¡Tunes server


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