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What are the Best 802.11ac Routers?

By Edited Jan 25, 2015 1 0

What are the Best 802.11ac Routers?
Credit: Opensource

If you just upgraded to a 802.11n wireless network, there is a newer even faster standard out there offering greater Wi-Fi range and reliability and less usage of power. 5G Wi-Fi 802.11ac is the latest evolution of Wi-Fi in the seemingly infinite upgrade cycle we are all on in tech.

Currently, you probably have a 802.11n Wi-Fi connections max out at around 150Mbps in your home. Most home routers will top out at 300Mbps theoretically, but if you have more than one antenna, speeds can go up to 450Mbps. That is fast enough for everything most people need to do at home on the internet.

However, 802.11ac connections are roughly three times faster than the faster theoretical rate of an n standard network at 1.3Gbps respectively. You will not ever get that rate, but it is nice to know it is possible, or at least the manufacturers think so. The best you could probably hope for is around 800Mbps. All wireless network speeds are reduced by a number of factors out of your and the router’s control, such as interference from other items around it, network congestion, distance to the device, multiple connections and other software related things to make it compatible with older Wi-Fi devices.

If you are a serious online gamer, you are probably going to be really interested in this new standard for routers because of all of the streaming of HD video. This should also be the case for those that like to stream Netflix or other video content and hate getting the dreaded buffering error.

802.11ac routers are able to up the speed so much because they use a lot of attennas, anywhere from three to eight. This will greatly improve range and reliability through directional transmission and something called beamforming to reduce interference.[1]

The new standard will run on the 5GHz band moving it away from all of those other things in your home that the older wireless standards had to compete with, such as cordless phones, baby monitors and your microwave. However, the routers made to work on this standard are backward compatible to older network technology.

Currently there a dozen wireless routers on the market from the major brands that meet this technology standard. Officially are called AC1900 routers.

The 1900 numbers comes from the fact that theoretically the highest speed at 5GHz is 1300Mbps and the highest speed a 2GHz is 600 Mbps, so that makes a combined max speed of 1900 Mbps on the routers at any given time. Do not hold your breathe though. You are never going to get that max speed. It is like those MPG figures they put on windows stickers of new cars. However many miles per gallons it says it gets, that is only in a perfect world with the vehicle in tip top shape and in ideal driving conditions.

So given all of that, what are some of the best AC1900 Wireless Routers on the market today?

Trendnet TEW-818DRU AC1900

What are the Best 802.11ac Routers?
Credit: Amazon.com
  • Fast, easy to use, and one of the least expensive in this range ($188)
  • Great range
  • Internal antennae
  • Designed to stand vertically
  • LED indicator lights showing the statuses of all connections as well as whether the Internet is connected and if the wireless network is password protected

The device has two USB ports in the back for 2.0 and 3.0, however testing has revealed that it does not interact well with devices plugged into either of them.

Also, you cannot mount it to the wall with any hardware provided, however, if you really want that option it is not hard to come up with a solution for that in your home. I do not know anyone that actually mounts a router. I place it up as high as possible, but mounting it to a wall seems like overkill.

If you want to customize the router’s settings, you can login to the manufacturer’s web GUI and change everything in the same way you do with your current wireless network. In fact, there is nothing new to say about setup on any of these new routers on this latest standard. It is the same process and takes about 10 minutes just like the one you are probably on right now.

TRENDnet Wireless AC1900 Dual Band Gigabit Router with USB Share Port, TEW-818DRU
Amazon Price: $259.99 Too low to display Buy Now
(price as of Jan 25, 2015)

Asus RT-AC68U-AC1900

What are the Best 802.11ac Routers?
Credit: Amazon.com

Fast but one of the most expensive AC1900 routers at $220

  • Stands in an upright position
  • No option to mount it on the wall
  • 3 external  detachable antennas
  • Includes two USB ports for USB 2.0 and USB 3.0  
  • Broadcom BCM4709 with TurboQAM technology
  • LEDs on the front (you can turn them off) show the statuses of the ports on the back, if the Internet is live and  any wireless networks are connected
  • Can be used as an access point or a media bridge
  • Parental Control feature in the web interface
  • Network Map for viewing all of the devices connected to the network
  • Dual-WAN feature allows you to use one of the router's LAN ports as a secondary WAN port
ASUS (RT-AC68U) Wireless-AC1900 Dual-Band Gigabit Router
Amazon Price: $199.99 $179.98 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 25, 2015)

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 R7000

Netgear Nighthawk
Credit: Amazon.com
  • One of the fastest AC1900 routers on the market
  • Priced mid-range at $192
  • Horizontal flat design
  • Broadcom BCM4709 with TurboQAM technology
  • Bulky size with a huge power adapter that takes up an entire electrical socket
  • No Parental Control feature
  • Built-in VPN server
  • One USB 2.0 port on the back
  • One USB 3.0 on the front
  • Time Machine backup

It should be noted that he Nighthawk’s performance on the 2.4GHz has been shown in industry testing to be slower than some of its competitors. Also the Netgear Genie mobile app does not work over the Internet.

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (R7000)
Amazon Price: $249.99 $149.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 25, 2015)

Tips to Protect Your Wireless Network

Update the firmware is necessary.  Typically all you have to do is go to your router’s website and look for downloads, then firmware. It will ask you to enter your model number, then show you the latest. To see the latest version you already have installed, go into the admin page for your router (look in manual of online). For instance, Lynksys uses Just type an IP address like that in your browser and it will ask you for a password. If you have never set up a wireless network on a router before, the default password is usually “admin” from the manufacturer.

Once in, look for a tab such as Administration and that should lead you to your firmware version. If you do not have the latest, download the file from the manufacturer’s site, the load it into the admin interface. The option should be under Firmware, then click Browse to find the file on your Desktop. Sometimes when you try to update the firmware, it will tell you that you have the latest, so leave it alone.

Change Default Admin Password. While you are in the router web configuration,  change the default administration password so that no one can alter your security settings if they are given access to your account. Along the same lines, create a strong WPA2 password on your entire network.

Hide Your Network.  You can stop the name of your network from appearing in a list of available wireless networks in the area.  There is an option within the admin interface to do this. Check that option and it will hide the name of your network, technically called the SSID. That way someone will have to know the name of the network before they can even attempt to hack it.

Final Thoughts

Stepping up the next generation of router speeds is something that most Internet users can probably wait a bit on. After all, if you are someone that simply checks email of does general surfing, what you have is probably good enough.

However, if you do a lot of streaming of video, are involved in serious online gaming or have a lot of users on your network, for around $200 you can have a blazing fast wireless network that should be able to handle anything technology throws at you for the next five years at least.



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  1. "Dramatic Improvement in Wi-Fi 802.11ac/n Performance." Quantenna. 25/01/2015 <Web >

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