Editor's note: This review was delayed for a few months due to a bug that would put the router in an infinite boot loop in certain settings, effectively rendering it useless. This bug has now been fixed via a new firmware version.
Buffalo's AirStation Extreme AC 1750 Gigabit Dual Band DD-WRT Router (model WZR-1750DHPD) is unlike any other AC1750 router I've reviewed. It's the first 802.11ac router that uses the well-known third-party open source firmware from DD-WRT, instead of stock firmware from Buffalo.
To most home users, this is not significant, but to savvy users and networking enthusiasts, the new router means they won't need to tinker with the hardware before they can take the full control of their network, which is the power of DD-WRT.
In my testing, the new WZR-1750DHPD registered excellent performance, especially on the 5GHz band and very stable Wi-Fi signal. For this reason, despite the fact that it doesn't have the longest range, it's still well worth the current price of just $150, which converts to £85/AU$160. If you're a fan of DD-WRT or just want to make sure you can customize your home network to the extreme, the WZR-1750DHPD is an excellent choice. For more options on great 802.11ac routers, check out this list.
Common hardware design
On the outside, the new router looks very much like the WZR-D1800H, which was the very first 802.11ac router on the market two years ago. It's a square box that comes with two flexible detachable stands to keep it raised vertically or horizontally. On the back it has four LAN ports and one WAN (Internet) port -- all of them are Gigabit. There's also a USB 3.0 port and another USB 2.0 port. You can use these ports for most USB devices, such as printers or portable drives.
On the front, there's one LED light, which takes the shape of the word "Buffalo" and glows white to show everything is in order or red when something needs attention, and three other smaller LEDs to show the status of the Internet, the Wi-Fi network, and the wired network. There's also the button label AOSS. Normally, when running stock firmware, this button helps to quickly connect Buffalo Wi-Fi devices to the router's Wi-Fi network. Since the router runs DD-WRT, this is a programmable button. By default, however, it doesn't do anything.
Hardware-wise, the WZR-1750DHPD is a true dual-band router that supports three-stream (3-by-3) 802.11ac on the 5GHz frequency band and three-stream 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band. This means it can offer up to 1300Mbps and 450Mbps on each respective band, making it an AC1750 router. The router supports all existing Wi-Fi clients on the market, but you do need compatible client to get the top Wi-Fi speed.
Easy to setup
Out of the box, the new router can be used right away. This is because it comes with two default Wi-Fi networks printed on its under side. Using this information you can plug the router's WAN port into an Internet source, such as a modem, and you're good to go.
If you want to customize this network or any other features of the router, you'll need to access its Web interface. Information on how to do this is printed on a little label stuck inside the router itself. Basically, you just need to point a browser on a connected computer to the router's default IP address (which is 192.168.11.1) and log in with the default credentials which are admin and password.
After that, you'll be greeted with the router's interface. And this time around, unlike other Buffalo routers I've reviewed, it's that of the DD-WRT firmware.
DD-WRT is a game changer
DD-WRT is a well-known Linux-based open source firmware for wireless routers and access points. The firmware unlocks operational modes, such as using a router as a wireless extender, client bridge, or access point, and offers a comprehensive set of controls. Examples of these include the ability to modify wireless radio power, define advance access controls, choose from a greater DDNS service support list, create a Wi-Fi hotspot, setup VLANs for the router's wired ports, define advanced USB port functionality, manage enhanced QoS controls, and much more.
Running DD-WRT on a router is very similar to running Linux on a computer, instead of Windows or Mac OS. However, since different networking vendors have different stock firmware for their routers, DD-WRT also helps unify the experience of managing your home network. In other words, DD-WRT gives you a consistent experience on different supported routers, regardless of their vendors.
That said, what the WZR-1750DHPD has to offer is very much what DD-WRT has to offer and is limited only by the hardware power of the router itself. And running a 800MHz processor, the Buffalo is actually on the higher-end among many DD-WRT-compatible routers.