Buffalo WZR-D1800H 802.11ac Router review
802.11n dual band, 4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard is designed to provide high-bandwidth wireless communications for home and office networks. The old 802.11n standard might be useable for a lot of families at the moment, but as tablets, smartphones and smart TVs come to dominate our lives and living rooms, its limitations will become apparent. If you’ve already tried streaming Full HD video from your NAS device to your games console while your family has been surfing the internet or gaming online, you may already have encountered the limits of 802.11n's bandwidth.
The 802.11ac standard is backwards compatible with existing 802.11n technology, but it uses the 5GHz band exclusively to deliver higher speeds, along with a higher channel bandwidth of 80MHz. This means you’ll be able to use your existing technology now and adopt 802.11ac devices as they become available. Buffalo's router will also broadcast 802.11n signals on the 2.4GHz band, so you'll still be able to connect all your 2.4GHz devices (such as most smartphones and tablets).
The Buffalo WZR-D1800H is the first 802.11ac router we’ve used. On the surface, it’s a regular Wi-Fi router with four Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB port to which you can connect storage or a printer, and a single WAN port to which you can connect a modem for internet access. It also broadcasts on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands simultaneously, so everyone can use it, not just those with special equipment.
802.11ac Wi-Fi adaptors are still to be released, so we tested the WZR-D1800H in conjunction with the Buffalo WLI-H4-D1300 Gigabit Dual Band Media Bridge (£110 from www.ebuyer.com), which is designed to connect to the router wirelessly and provide your home cinema system, smart TV and games consoles with high-speed internet and network access via its four Gigabit Ethernet ports. Setting up the two devices so that they can communicate with each other is straightforward. You either press the WPS button on each device so that they can configure themselves automatically, or you can select the wireless network to connect to using the supplied utility.
With a laptop connected to the WLI-HF-D1300 media bridge and a PC connected to the WZR-D1800H router, we measured the phenomenally fast data transfer rate of 209.7Mbit/s at both one metre and 10 metres. When we used a laptop with a Fast Ethernet port rather than Gigabit, we achieved data transfer speeds of 91Mbit/s, so you'll definitely need the faster Gigabit network standard to make the most of 802.11ac. This is the fastest wireless transfer speed we’ve ever seen - Buffalo's new router dramatically demonstrates the potential of the new 802.11ac standard.
One benefit of 802.11ac is increased performance at greater distances. Our tests proved this to be the case; even at 25 metres we saw a huge transfer rate of 104.8Mbit/s. At that distance, we’re used to seeing speeds of 25Mbit/s, even from the best 802.11n routers running on the 5GHz band.
When we used our Centrino 2 laptop's built-in Wi-Fi adaptor to connect to the WZR-D1800H on the 5GHz band, we still saw excellent data transfer rates of 87Mbit/s and 97Mbit/s at one and 10 metres respectively. When we ran our test at a distance of 25 metres the performance dropped off dramatically to 11.9Mbit/s.
Sadly, the router's performance on the 2.4GHz band was lacklustre; we only saw data rates of 23.7Mbit/s at 10 metres and 17.2Mbit/s when connected to the WZR-D1800H router with our Centrino laptop. When we used the WLI-H4-D1300 Media Bridge we got a vastly improved rate of 83.9Mbit/s at 10 metres and the slightly better rate of 27.6Mbit/s at 25 metres, showing that the WZR-D1800H and the WLI-H4-D1300H is still a high-performance pair, even on the 2.4GHz band.