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Best 802.11ac Routers to Choose From

The latest 802.11ac standard is the latest and arguably the most anticipated Wi-Fi standard, thanks to its much faster speeds. Since it was first showcased more than a year ago, there's been an influx of new routers that support the new Wi-Fi standard.

There's a different side to this development, however: we can't enjoy the new 802.11ac standard the way we do 802.11n just yet. That's because as Wi-Fi standards go, in order to have 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections, in addition to a supported router, you'll also need hardware clients, such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones, that support this standard, and currently there are very few clients that have built-in 802.11ac support. However, Windows computer owners can quickly add 802.11ac to their systems via a USB adapter, such as the TEW-805UB from Trendnet. Mac users can rest assured that 802.11ac will soon be supported.

However, everyone can benefit from a good 802.11ac router, and that's because they all support Wireless-N. Basically, 802.11ac routers are N900 or N600 routers with support for 802.11ac on the 5GHz band. 

Here are the top 802.11ac routers on the market. These are the first routers from their respective vendors, so it's possible that better 802.11ac routers could be on the way.

Trendnet TEW-812DRU

The good: The Trendnet TEW-812DRU AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router offers excellent Wi-Fi performance and ease of use at a low cost.

The bad: There's no wall-mounting option and the router's USB plugged-in storage performance is slow.

The bottom line: The Trendnet TEW-812DRU is the most affordable 802.11ac-enabled router on the market, and it offers excellent performance.

The Trendnet TEW-812DRU is by far the most affordable 802.11ac-enabled router on the market. At $150, it's in fact cheaper than many N900 Wireless-N routers. And the low price doesn't mean low performance. In my testing it's among the top three fastest routers on the market; it also offered a very stable Wi-Fi signal.

Its only drawbacks are the slow USB storage speed, when working with an external hard drive plugged into its USB port, and the lack of wall-mounting options.

Netgear R6300

The good: The NetGear R6300 WiFi Router supports 802.11ac and offers superb performance. It comes with a nice mobile-app-enabled Web interface that's easy to use.

The bad: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is bulky. Its mobile app only works within the local network and the performance of its network storage and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band could be better.

The bottom line: The Netgear R6300 WiFi Router is for a high-standards, low-ego type of user: it's not something you can show off aesthetically, but a powerhouse for a robust, fast home network, both for now and tomorrow.

The Netgear R6300 router is the first 802.11ac router I've seen that offered close to what the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard is supposed to be. In my testing, it proved to be the fastest Wi-Fi router by far, when coupled with another 802.11ac client (which, by the way, was another R6300 configured to work as a media bridge). The router, however, works with all existing Wi-Fi devices on the market, offering up 450Mbps Wireless-N on each of its two frequency bands.

Asus RT-AC66U

The good: The Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router offers great performance on the 5GHz frequency band, and lots of features for homes and businesses.

The bad: The Asus RT-AC66U runs rather hot, and is relatively expensive.

The bottom line: The Asus RT-AC66U is an excellent router and is currently one of the best options among those that support the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.

The Asus RT-AC66U is basically the N900 RT-N66U with support for 802.11ac. It has almost exactly the same features as the previous model. One of its novelties is the fact that it can work as a VPN server, making it an excellent choice for business users. Also, it's capable of hosting a cloud storage service when coupled with an external hard drive. You can also use a USB cellular modem with its USB port as a backup Internet connection if your DSL (or cable) goes down, or when you're out and about.

Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H

The good: The Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H supports 802.11ac and all previous Wi-Fi standards. It's very fast on the 5GHz band and is comparatively affordable.

The bad: The router's 802.11ac speed, while very fast, isn't close to what the new standard is supposed to offer. Its 2.4GHz band Wireless-N performance could use some improvement, and the support for USB external hard drives is limited and buggy.

The bottom line: The Buffalo AirStation AC1300 / N900 Gigabit Dual Band Wireless Router WZR-D1800H offers great value by adding support for 802.11ac on top of a high-end N900 router without increasing the price. However, the router doesn't have enough appeal for those who just need simple, low-budget wireless home networking.

What a crazy name, you might think, but the Buffalo has a good reason for the lengthy name: it was the very first 802.11ac router on the market. The vendor probably wanted to make sure that users would be aware of its new features.

Like the Netgear R6300, it supports Wi-Fi clients that use any previous Wi-Fi standard, be it 802.11n/g/a or /b, offering dual-band Wireless-N, with each band being able to provide up to 450Mbps of bandwidth. So even without any 802.11ac clients at home, you can still enjoy its performance, just as you would a Wireless-N router.

D-Link DIR-865L

The good: The D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router offers good performance on the 5Ghz band and can be easily managed via the Internet, using a browser or mobile device.

The bad: The DIR-865L's performance on the 2.4Ghz band and its network storage feature could be better. The router's cloud-based features are limited and fragmented.

The bottom line: The D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router makes a decent investment thanks to its cloud-based features, support for 802.11ac, and good performance on the 5Ghz band.

The D-Link DIR-865L is the first 802.11ac router from D-Link, and it supports the company's new cloud approach: you can manage the router via the Mydlink portal, using a Web browser or mobile app. Other than that, it's a decent router that offers excellent performance on the 5GHz band (with 802.11ac clients or Wireless-N clients). On the 2.4GHz band, however, its performance could use some improvement.

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