BUFFALO Airstation AC1300
The 802.11ac Standard’s Biggest Problem
– Backwards Compatibility
A pure 802.11ac router will broadcast on the 5GHz band, meaning that the older b and g specifications which function only on the 2.4GHz band – aren’t compatible.
802.11n devices maintain backward compatibility, but there are still plenty of pieces of legacy equipment in use that don’t even support that standard.
This fact is what allows routers like the Buffalo
AirStation AC1300/N900 find their niche
BUFFALO is offering a high-end 802.11ac router with a second 2.4GHz radio, allowing for full-speed 802.11ac broadcasting simultaneously with an 802.11n/g/b network.
In theory, there should be no performance cost whatsoever incurred as a result of this compatibility mode.
Furthermore, being available for under $160 means that – while this is certainly not a cheap router
It’s much more accessible than most of the competition that boast similar features.
In practice? Well, let’s find out
BUFFALO AirStation AC1300 Review / N900 – Hardware
Let’s start by talking about speed.
The AC1300, in 802.11ac mode, provides an incredibly fast connection; it’s very easy to get upwards of 150Mbps in real-world usage.
The best word to describe this would be “excessive”; you’ll be capable of doing heavy local network tasks with speeds comparable to those of a wired connection.
As for sharing an Internet connection?
You’re covered, period
Barring a handful of proof-of-concept fiber networks that have yet to see deployment on a large scale, you can’t actually get a home Internet line that boasts high enough bandwidth for this router to be a bottleneck.
Most ISPs’ services tend to top out at 50Mbps
if you’re using a device that properly supports the 802.11ac specification, it’s going to do just fine.
Range is another matter. Broadcasting on the 5GHz band, the AC1300 will produce results that are reasonable, if not exceptional.
The 2.4GHz broadcasting, though, is disappointingly weak; you’re going to need to be fairly close to the router to get a usable signal, and even then the speeds won’t blow you away.
This is strictly a compatibility mode, really; this router is designed for the 5GHz-only 802.11ac specification, and the mediocre performance in 2.4GHz mode reflects that.
There are two separate radios here, broadcasting two separate networks – and it’s obvious which one was the engineering focus.
Wired speeds are fantastic, as with most reasonably high-end routers in this day and age.
The unit does tend to run a bit hot, but it stays cooler in the upright position; do note, however, that the included vertical stand is not particularly stable on its own.
The hardware itself is quite nice, but – unusually for BUFFALO – the AC1300 uses a proprietary firmware, and there are no third-party alternatives available for this model.
Making it a largely academic concern; the important thing is that it has enough power to do its job and do it reliably.
BUFFALO AirStation AC1300 Review / N900 – Software
Speaking of that proprietary firmware – it’s not perfect…
…but it’s certainly not bad. You’ve got plenty of the features that you’d expect from a router at this price point, like sharing of USB devices and an integrated BitTorrent client.
You’ve also got a handful of things that are of more interest to more technically able users; for instance, you can set the router up as a VPN tunnel endpoint.
The biggest problem, as such, is that it’s not entirely clear who BUFFALO’s target market was with this firmware.
You have things like a simplified port forwarding solution, and you don’t show a lot of the advanced settings pertaining to things like broadcasting power.
– but you also have a somewhat obtuse layout and some truly lacking documentation.
It’s too weak for a power user and too complex for a novice; it’s good at what it does.
It’s just that what it does happens to occupy an awkward middle ground.
The BUFFALO AirStation AC1300 Review / N900 does have its firmware issues, and the 2.4GHz radio could be better.
Still, it provides fantastic 802.11ac networking capabilities for its price point, and
– in spite of its issues – the separate 2.4GHz broadcasting allows that compatibility mode to be used without placing any sort of handicap on the 802.11ac network.
The firmware problems mean that it can’t be recommended to everyone…
…but if you’re both technically adept enough to deal with the interface’s clumsiness and you don’t need too many advanced features, this router can give you some stellar wireless speeds.
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