Netgear and Buffalo have been working hard to build and get to market new wireless routers based on the 802.11ac (pending ratification) standard. PC Perspective recently ran a giveaway for the Netgear 802.11ac router, but it seems that Buffalo has managed to beat them to market with their new gear. In fact, Buffalo yesterday released two 802.11ac devices with the AirStation™ WZR-D1800H wireless router and WLI-H4-D1300 wireless Ethernet bridge. Both devices are powered by Broadcom’s 5G WiFi chips (what Broadcom refers to 802.11ac as–the fifth generation of consumer WiFi) and based around the IEEE standard that is set to become an official standard early next year.
The Buffalo 802.11ac Router (left: front, right: rear view)
The router and Ethernet bridge both support the upcoming 802.11ac standard as well as the current 802.11 b, g, and n standards so they are backwards compatible with all your devices. They also support all the normal functions of any other router or bridge device–the draft support for 802.11ac is what differentiates these products. The router stands vertically and has a router reset and USB eject buttons, one USB 2.0 port, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet WAN port. Below the WAN port is a power button and DC in jack. The Buffalo Ethernet bridge allows users to connect Ethernet devices to a network over WiFi. It looks very similar to the router but does not have a WAN port or USB port on the back. It also does not act as a router, only a bridge to a larger network. The largest downside to the Ethernet bridge is pricing: (although out of stock now) Newegg has the bridge listed for the same price as the full fledged router. At that point, it does not have much value–users would be better off buying two routers and disabling the router features on one (and because the Broadcom chipset should enable custom firmwares, this should be possible soon).
The Buffalo 802.11ac Ethernet Bridge (left: front, right: rear view)
What makes these two devices interesting though is the support for the “5G WiFi” 802.11ac wireless technology. This is the first time that the Wireless connections have a (granted, theoretical) higher transfer speed than the wired connections, which is quite the feat. 802.11ac is essentially 802.11n but with several improvements and only operating on channels in the 5GHz spectrum. The pending standard also uses wider 80 Mhz or 160 MHz channels, 256 QAM modulation, and up to eight antennas (much like 802.11n’s MIMO technology) to deliver much faster wireless transfer rates than consumers have had available previously. The other big technology with the upcoming WiFi standard is beamforming. This allows wireless devices to communicate with their access point(s) to determine relative spatial position. That data is then used to adjust the transmitted signals such that it is sent in the direction of the access point at the optimum power levels. This approach is different to traditional WiFi devices that broadcast omni-directionally (think big circular waves coming out of your router) because the signals are more focused. By focusing the signals, users get better range and can avoid WiFi deadspots.
Hajime Nakai, Chief Executive Officer at Buffalo Technology stated that “along with Broadcom, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to innovation by providing a no-compromise, future proofed wireless infrastructure for consumers’ digital worlds.”
The Buffalo AirStation™ WZR-D1800H router and WLI-H4-D1300 Ethernet bridge are available for purchase now for around $179.99 USD. The Ethernet bridge is listed as out of stock on Newegg; however, the router is still available (and the better value).