I've always defined an 802.11ac router as an N900 router with support for the 802.11ac standard on its 5Ghz frequency band. That's not entirely correct anymore, though. Case in point: the Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router.
This is the first 802.11ac-capable router I've seen that only supports the N600 (or dual-stream) setup of the Wireless-N standard. It's also the first that comes with a dual-stream 802.11ac setup, which caps at 900Mbps (as opposed to 1.3Gbps for the three-stream setup). (For more on the basics of networking, check out this post.)
Other than these specifications, the new Belkin router is almost the same as the company's N900 router, the Advance N900 DB, in terms of design and features.
In my testing, similar to other recent routers, the Belkin's performance on the 5Ghz band is much better than that on its 2.4Ghz band. Compared with other 802.11ac routers I've reviewed (all of them are three-stream), however, it was, as expected, the slowest. To make up for this, at the street price of just around $160, the new Belkin is also the most affordable among those that are 802.11ac-capable.
All things considered, though, since there aren't any 802.11ac hardware clients on the market right now, I think you're better off either opting for one of the N600 routers on this top-five list for much less, or spending the same amount on a solid N900 router.
The Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router looks exactly the same as the Belkin Advance N900 DB or the Belkin N750 DB: a sleek, UFO-shaped chassis with hidden-antenna design. The router is designed to work vertically on a small base and can topple relatively easily since this base is narrow and the whole package is light. The router offers no other option in terms of placement.
On the back the new router comes with four gigabit LAN ports for wired clients and one WAN port to connect to an Internet source, such as a cable modem. There are also two USB 2.0 ports, and like other Belkin routers, they took a long time (about more than a minute) to recognize a connected hard drive or printer.
The 1200 DB comes configured with two wireless networks, one on each band; their names and encryption keys are printed on the bottom of the base and on a label attached to the router. The label also has the information for the router's guest network (available only on the 2.4Ghz band). This information is different for each unit, is the default value if you reset the router, and is all you need to get your wireless network up and running, after plugging the router in to power and Internet sources (such as a DSL modem). To make the initial setup even easier, the router comes with a CAT5e cable already plugged into its WAN port.
The router comes with a CD that contains Belkin Router Monitor. Once installed, the software offers step-by-step setup instructions, including the very basics, such as hooking up the router to a power source and devices. For more advanced settings, such as changing the name of the wireless network, the software helps launch the router's Web interface and navigates directly to a particular section. You can also skip this software and get directly to the router's interface by pointing a Web browser from a connected computer to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.2.1. By default the log-in password is left blank. The interface also lets you manage the router's other features.
The Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router is a true dual-band router. The first difference it has compared with the two immediately previous models from Belkin is that it now supports 802.11ac on its 5Ghz frequency band but doesn't support three-stream setup of 802.11n at all. This effectively makes it an N600 router with support for 802.11ac.
The other major difference is that the new router offers an advanced parental control feature and IntelliStream, a customized QoS (quality of service) feature similar to HD Fuel, found on the D-Link DIR-857. Other than that it has exactly the same features as previous models.