The Buffalo WZR-D1800H AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless router is the first 802.11ac (aka 5G Wi-Fi) router on the market and for this reason it was quite a challenge to review it. (5G Wi-Fi is a new standard of Wi-Fi, which I explained more clearly here.)
It's important to note that since there aren't many 802.11ac clients on the market, it was virtually impossible for me to know if the 802.11ac performance described in this review was that of the router or of the WLI-H4-D1300 wireless media bridge that Buffalo Technology also made available for purchase a few days ago, and which I used as a client in the router testing.
For those who don't care about 5G Wi-Fi, the new router also supports the true dual-band 450Mbps (three-stream) configuration of the popular 802.11n standard (aka Wireless-N) on both bands. And in my testing the router's Wireless-N performance was very fast on the 5GHz band. On the 2.4GHz band, however, it could use some improvement.
The WZR-D1800H's price is just around $180, about the same as for the Asus RT-N66U and the Linksys E4200v2. Given that, if you view the AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H as a high-end Wireless-N router with the bonus of support for the latest 5G Wi-Fi standard, it offers great value. As a 802.11ac router, however, for now it isn't as impressive as one might have expected.
Design and ease of use
The AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H has a square profile, like a thick, dark floor tile. It comes with a detachable base that holds it on edge in the intended vertical position. The base isn't large enough to hold the router steady, especially when there are cables plugged into the router's back.
On the back of the router are four Gigabit LAN ports and one WAN port, a USB 2.0 port, and an on/off button. On the front, there's a vertical array of three LED lights indicating the status of the router, the connection to the Internet, and the wireless network. Above the LED lights, the router has an AirStation One-Touch Secure System (AOSS) button for quickly connecting another AOSS-enabled device to the wireless network. AOSS is Buffalo-only technology that works similarly to the more popular Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). When used with non-Buffalo devices, the AOSS button also supports WPS devices.
By default, the router comes with two wireless networks, one on the 2.4GHz band and the other on the 5GHz band. The 2.4GHz network supports all Wireless-N clients and the 5GHz network supports all Wireless-N plus 5G Wi-Fi clients. The default names and passwords for these networks are printed on a small tag on the router's bottom, which is all you need to get your network up and running. On the tag also are instructions on how to access the router's Web interface. Basically, from a connected computer, just point a browser to its default IP address at 192.168.11.1 and log in with the provided information.
From the Web interface you can further customize the wireless networks as well as other features of the router. If you have trouble accessing the Web interface, the router comes with a CD containing Air Navigator software that will quickly launch the interface for you.
The AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H is the first AC1300 / N900 router. This means it combines an N900 Wireless-N router -- a true dual-band router that simultaneously supports 450Mbps Wireless-N speeds on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands -- and support for the new 802.11ac standard on the 5GHz band. The router supports the top tier of 802.11ac, which has a cap speed of 1,300Mbps (or 1.3Gbps). Future 802.11ac routers will be of similar configuration in terms of supported Wi-Fi standards and differentiated only by the tier of 802.11ac they offer, be it 1.3Gbps (three-stream), 900Mbps (dual-stream), or 450Mbps (single-stream).
The WZR-D1800H (as will any future 802.11ac-based router) supports all existing wireless clients, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and so on, that use any previous Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11n/g/a or b. In order to enjoy the new speed of 802.11ac, however, you'll need a client that also supports 802.11ac. At the time of this review, there were no hardware devices with built-in support for 802.11ac. In fact, the only 5G Wi-Fi client I could find for the testing was Buffalo's WLI-H4-D1300 wireless media bridge.
The media bridge also supports the three-stream standard of 802.11ac and can get up to four Ethernet-ready devices connected to the Wi-Fi network using a 803.11ac connection. In my testing it was used with just one device.
The AirStation WZR-D1800H's built-in network storage feature was limited and buggy in my trials. In fact, I wasn't able to really try it out at all. To start with, the router doesn't support hard drives formatted using NTFS, which is the most popular file system. It supports FAT32 but only if the drive is 32GB or less. With higher-capacity hard drives, which means virtually all existing external-USB hard drives currently on the market, you'll have to let the router format the drive into its XFS file system. This means you'll lose everything you have on the drive, and after that the drive can only be used with the router and won't work with your computers.
That is if you can format it successfully, which I wasn't able to do. When I picked the option in the router's Web interface to format the connected external hard drives (I tried a few portable drives with the router), the interface returned a "Page not found" error and the formatting was never completed. While I wasn't able to really try out this feature, the fact that it doesn't support NTFS means it's basically almost useless, since most users would want to just plug a drive into the router and be able to share what they have on it with the rest of the network.
Other than that, the AirStation WZR-D1800H offers a standard set of networking features commonly found in other routers, such as QoS, port forwarding, and VPN pass-through. It does lack guest networking, however, a feature offered by many other routers that makes it possible to create separate wireless networks for guests.