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Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router review: Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router

Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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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.

Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router
6.4

Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router

The Good

The <b>Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router</b> offers 802.11ac plus all the benefits of an N600 router.

The Bad

The Belkin AC 1200 router supports only a dual-stream setup of both N and AC Wi-Fi standards, and doesn't have anything special to show.

The Bottom Line

Despite the novelty of 802.11ac support, the Belkin AC 1200 is a mundane, though decent, Wi-Fi 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.

Design
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.

Features

The new Belkin's Web interface is similar to that of previous Belkin routers: well-organized and rather oversimplified.
The new Belkin's Web interface is similar to that of previous Belkin routers: well-organized and rather oversimplified. Dong Ngo/CNET

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.

I didn't find these new features impressive, however. The Parent Control features offers a quick way to set the Web filtering between four preset levels. Unfortunately it doesn't offer the option to customize each level or control what clients in the network will be affected. This means, once a level is set, all computers in the local network will have the same level of filtering. In other words, if you want to make your Internet connection safe for young kids, it'll be almost useless for all adult users connected to the same network.

Similarly, the IntelliStream feature is designed to "prioritize high-bandwidth and low-latency services such as voice, video, and games for the best possible online experience." You can just turn it on and it will prioritize the traffic based on how fast the connection to the Internet is. In my testing, however, the router failed to test how fast my connection was. In the end, I had to manually enter the upload and download speeds; after that, I didn't see any difference between having this feature enabled or disabled.

The rest of the router's supposedly special features, which it shares with previous models, are just nifty-sounding gimmicks, such as Self-Healing or Video Mover. The former allows users to set the router to automatically restart itself daily or weekly, and the latter is basically a media-streaming feature available when there's external storage plugged into the router's USB ports. Both of these are limited, however; for example, you can't make the router restart only when there's no Internet activity (so you won't be disconnected during a gaming section, for example), and you can't customize the streaming feature at all, other than turning it on or off.

Other than that, the 1200 DB offers the standard features found on almost all wireless routers, including virtual server, which enables a computer to be set up for a particular service such as being an FTP or HTTP server; MAC address filtering, DYDNS, and so on.

Performance
As an N600 router, the Belkin AC 1200 DB's performance was decent in my testing, with the 5Ghz band offering much better performance than the 2.4Ghz band. In the close range (15 feet) throughput test, the router scored 116Mbps on the 5Ghz band, but just 36Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, these numbers fell to 79Mbps and 9.6Mbps on the 5Ghz band and 2.4Ghz band, respectively.

It's important to note that my office, where the routers are tested, is saturated with lots of Wi-Fi devices; that might interfere with the performance of the reviewed devices, especially on the 2.4Ghz band. Still, in this environment, the router passed the 24-hour stress test on both bands, during which time it didn't disconnect once.

As an 802.11ac router, the new Belkin was the first I've seen that supports a dual-stream 802.11ac standard (all others support the three-stream setup), so it was hard for me to say how well it performed. It wasn't slow, but, as expected, it was the slowest among all the 802.11ac routers I've tested. The router scored 163Mbps at close range and just 57Mbps at 100 feet. It's interesting that in long range the router's 802.11ac performance was lower than that of its Wireless-N. Note that this might be because of the media bridge I used for the test, the only media bridge currently available, the WLI-H4-D130 from Buffalo.

When coupled with an external USB drive, the router's network storage performance was about the same as that of the Belkin Advance N900 and wasn't fast enough to really provide a viable network storage solution.

5Ghz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-857
172.4 
214.6 
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6 
208.2 
Belkin N900 DB
138.2 
189.6 
Cisco Linksys E4200 v.2
122.2 
185.6 
Asus RT-N66U
155.3 
181.8 
Netgear R6300
144.8 
178.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB (with 802.11ac clients)
57 
162.6 
Netgear WNDR4500
92.7 
152.8 
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6 
147.6 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
79 
116.1 
Trendnet TEW-692GR
105.8 
116.1 

2.4Ghz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Trendnet TEW-692GR
31.3 
77.8 
Netgear WNDR4000
23.9 
67.8 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Netgear R6300
41.6 
51.2 
Belkin N750 DB
26.6 
50 
D-Link DIR-857
29.6 
47.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 
Asus RT-AC66U
15.2 
36.8 
D-Link DIR-865L
22.1 
36 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
9.6 
33.5 

Conclusion
Supporting the dual-stream setup of both 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards, the Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router, though it offers decent performance, holds no greater appeal over any existing solid N600 or N900 routers on the market right now.

Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router
6.4

Belkin AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 6Performance 6Support 7