Although a number of 802.11ac routers are now available, few mobile devices currently support the new, faster wireless standard. This situation may not last long though, given a torrent of new laptop designs expected in the coming months. Many should include 802.11ac wireless capability.?? Router manufacturers have been waiting for this. Western Digital, traditionally known for its storage products, is keen to make inroads into the home networking world, and while not quick off the mark, now has an 802.11ac router model, the WD My Net AC1300. See all: Wi-Fi and Networking reviews.
The AC1300 covers the full spectrum of current wireless networking standards. In addition to 802.11ac, it of course supports 11b, g and n, as well as 11a for some very niche applications. Visit: Western Digital My Net AC Bridge review.
While the flat design of the AC1300 is unremarkable – and do not the use of internal, invisible antennae – its user interface deserves a mention. Take a look at: Group test: what's the best wireless router?
The processor chews through setup pages in lightning speed. Indeed, unlike many supposedly high-end routers, which take a second or two to display each screen of options, with the AC1300 it’s almost instantaneous.
A central dashboard provides key information such as internet connectivity status, information about wireless networks, attached storage and access to its limited set of parental controls.
Big icons at the top lead to pages for common router tasks, everything else lumped together in an advanced settings menu.
On first setting up the device, two wireless networks are created and secured with WPA2 security, with an easy-to-remember password, such as 54TrimBass.??In this menu are further wireless controls, along with the usual functions such as port forwarding, de-militarised zone (DMZ) settings and Western Digital’s proprietary FasTrack quality-of-service (QoS) engine. Although some other routers offer a slightly more comprehensive set of extra functions, the AC1300 has more than enough for most users.
The typical set of four gigabit ethernet LAN ports (plus one WAN port) are joined by two USB 2.0 ports for USB printers or adding storage. You can share storage devices on a home network, via DLNA, as iTunes servers and via FTP.
We measured some low transfer speeds from a connected USB 2.0 drive, averaging 5.8 MB/sec. Although not the worst router USB storage performance we’ve ever seen, like nearly all wireless routers it lags far behind the speeds possible from a standard computer’s USB 2.0 port.
Testing 802.11ac performance is tricky, since so almost no available laptops currently support it. We used WD’s matching My Net AC Bridge, paired wirelessly to the AC1300, with a computer connected either end running ZPerf network-testing software.
At one metre range, we measured an average data throughput of 470 Mbit/sec, in excess of any 802.11n performance we’ve seen, but not even half of the theoretical 1300 Mb/s speed of 802.11ac. This is partly due to the immaturity of this first generation of 802.11ac Broadcom chipsets. As with 802.11n, we hope later models to offer faster speeds. But for now, when compared to 11n at least, it’s still an impressive result.
It’s at greater ranges that 802.11ac showed an advantage over previous standards. At 10 metre range, performance remained high. We measured an impressive average of 425 Mbit/sec. This shows one potential advantage of 802.11ac - not just better speeds but maintaining them at longer distances. That’s a particularly major gripe of 5GHz band 802.11n wireless networking. Beyond a few metres and faced with any wall obstructions, 5GHz network connectivity can disappear completely.
But the older 11n wireless standard performed well too on this model. At 1 metre, the My Net AC1300 managed 178 Mbit/sec on 2.4 GHz, and 290 Mbit/sec on the 5 GHz wireless band.
At distance this dropped off noticeably less than we’re used to, with the AC1300 still managing 220 Mbit/sec at 10 metre on 5 GHz. Although at this distance on the 2.4 GHz network, we noticed a sharp performance decline, recording only 118 Mbit/sec.