The AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H was by far the most challenging router to test I've yet encountered. Again, the router supports both Wireless-N and the new 5G Wi-Fi standards, as does the wireless media bridge. The problem is, neither device comes with a setting to ensure that they use the new 802.11ac connection. When they are connected, you just have to trust that they will automatically communicate using 802.11ac, and not the slower 802.11n.
The good news is the media bridge comes with software called Ethernet Converter Manager that displays the status of the wireless connection. Using this, I was able to rest assured that I was testing the router using 802.11ac.
The real reason I wasn't sure at first and needed to resort to the software was that during the initial tests the connection, though quite fast, wasn't noticeably faster than that of other Wireless-N devices I've reviewed. After a little bit of tweaking, by changing the channel to higher than the default 143MHz, I was able to get consistent connection speeds of around 29MBps (or 233Mbps) at the close range of 15 feet. This was the fastest wireless speed I've seen and well ahead of even the fastest Wireless-N router (which capped at around 21MBps in my testing). However, it was in no way close to the promised 1.3GBps (abpit 160MBps).
When I increased the distance to 100 feet, the router's 802.11ac connection now registered about 18MBps (about 140Mbps), again, very fast yet even further below the 802.11ac cap. That said, the WZR-D1800H was indeed so far the fastest router I've seen when used with a 801.11ac client. Since it's the first 802.11ac router on the market so far, we'll have to wait for the near future to compare it with its peers.
One thing was pretty clear, however: the new 802.11ac standard, while faster, is very similar to Wireless-N, in terms of how different the actual real-world speed is from the ceiling theoretical speed. This gap remains very large. And again, since the WLI-H4-D1300 media bridge was the only 802.11ac client on the market at the time of testing, it's unclear if the 802.11ac performance I experienced was that of the router or of the media bridge itself.
I also tested the WZR-D1800H as a regular N900 router and it did very well on the 5GHz band. When used with 450Mbps clients, it scored about 22MBps at 15 feet and 15MBps at 100 feet. When used with regular 300Mbps clients, the router scored around 16MBps and 11MBps for close range and long range, respectively.
It was quite a different story with the 2.4GHz band, however. Regardless of what type of client I used (450Mbps or 300Mbps), the router offered just about 5MBps for the 15-foot range test and .9MBps for the 100-foot range test. These fall among the slowest data rates I've seen from Wireless-N routers.
It's important to note, however, that I tested the router at CNET's offices where there are many other Wi-Fi networks that might interfere with the AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H's signal. The 2.4GHz band is known to suffer significantly more from interference than the 5GHz band.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
The WZR-D1800H comes with a three-year warranty, which is very good for a router. On Buffalo's Web site there's a section dedicated to the router, where you can find all you need to know about the device and learn more about the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.
The Buffalo AirStation AC1300 WZR-D1800H router is an exciting product that offers a taste of the new 5G Wi-Fi standard. Unfortunately, when coupled with the only 802.11ac client on the market at the time of this review, it didn't show the type of performance that 5G Wi-Fi promises. That, plus its lackluster performance on the 2.4GHz band, its limited support for external hard drives, and especially the current dearth of available 5G Wi-Fi adapters, means that for now, this router is not clearly better than a solid N900 Wireless-N router that costs the same. Early adopters with mostly 5GHz wireless clients, however, shouldn't be disappointed if they decide to invest in the Buffalo.