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Belkin AC1750 DB wireless router
Satisfyingly fast 802.11ac performance is let down by a sometimes infuriating configuration experience
- Fast and reliable 802.11ac performance
- New interface is a step in the right direction for Belkin
- Stylish design
- Was slow to implement some settings
- We experienced an annoying restart loop while playing with the configuration settings
We'd love to tell you to go and grab the Belkin AC1750, especially since its 802.11ac performance was so great in our test environment, both from short range and from longer distances. But our unit was plagued by reliability issues once we started playing with the parental filter and some of its other settings.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
Belkin's AC1750 is one of the company's ADSL2+ modem-router products that doesn't actually feature the modem inside the main body. Instead, the modem is located in the power adapter, with the router being separate. It's a router that's dual-band, it supports speeds up to 1.3GBps when using 802.11ac, and it proved to be fast during our tests. But it wasn't without its faults and anger-inducing moments.
A router for the home
The AC1750 stands tall and has a glossy finish. There is an assortment of Gigabit Ethernet ports on the rear, and they are joined by two USB ports (one 3.0, one 2.0) that allow the unit to share a hard drive and printer. On the front, you get a status light and a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button, but that's it. It's quite simple, it doesn't look too bad when placed in a prominent position in the home, and it's fairly easy to set up and use — it is aimed at the home market, after all.
When you set up the AC1750, you will notice that instead of plugging in the ADSL line directly into the router, you will have to plug it into the power adapter. It's what is known as Belkin's Power Modem, and it makes it a little easier to use the AC1750 strictly as a router if you ever get a cable connection. A network cable runs up the length of the power cord and plugs in to the router's WAN port to facilitate the ADSL2+ connection. On our iiNet connection, it maintained an expected speed of 11 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads, and 0.8Mbps for uploads, and it didn't give us any unexpected downtime throughout our month-long test period (except for when it was time to configure it, but more on that later).
It's a simple device to set up if you are at all familiar with networking (and even if you aren't), and you can even set it up wirelessly since credentials for the wireless networks are pre-configured and supplied on a printed tab. When you first venture in to its Web interface, there is evidence that the AC1750 is designed to be more user friendly than previous Belkin routers.
The Web interface now has more of a 'dashboard' look, with big buttons showing off some of the router's main features, and there are more advanced settings hidden below. Since a wizard takes care of the initial setup, you can make your way into the advanced settings when you want to change wireless network names, passwords, and channels, or for other tasks such as updating the firmware (though Belkin firmware updates are few and far between, and even though we are reviewing in August, the latest was from February).
It's an interface that is a welcomed improvement in terms of looks and layout compared to older Belkin wireless routers, but we found an annoyance: when we used the back button in Firefox, it took us to the previous Web site we were on, rather than the previous settings page. At the top of the Web interface page, the name of the wireless networks is shown in large type, with the password displayed underneath. This provides quick access to the wireless networking settings, though when you actually go into them, the name and security settings are on separate tabs.
Speedy 802.11ac performance
We tested the AC1750's 802.11ac performance with a laptop that has an Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260 adapter, which has a maximum connection speed of 867Mbps. This is the link speed that we observed during our tests, and we used the laptop to transfer files from an Asustor AS-202TE NAS device that was attached to the router via a Gigabit Ethernet connection.
From a close distance of 2m, we were able to transfer large files (think movie-sized MP4 files) at a rate of 42.08 megabytes per second (MBps) with a peak transfer rate of 47.4MBps. Meanwhile, smaller files (think MP3 and FLAC) transferred at 34.6MBps with a peak transfer rate of 42.2MBps. Both are outstanding results that are only bested by the Netgear Nighthawk. However, the Belkin did some of its best work from longer range.
From a distance of 15m, the AC1750 transferred our big files at a rate of 20.78MBps, peaking at 26MBps, while our small files were transferred at 17.05MBps, peaking at 20.4MBps. These are the best results we've seen to date from this distance in our test environment, and the thing that impressed us most is that the transfers didn't fluctuate greatly across multiple runs, nor were individual runs full of dips and peaks in the transfer rate — except during the small file transfers where the larger sized FLAC files transferred quicker than the smaller MP3s.
Our test environment is surrounded by 2.4GHz networks, and the performance we usually get from this band is not impressive. To try and get the best out of the AC1750, we used a Wi-Fi analyser smartphone app to tell us which channel was the least congested for us to use. But even with this reconnaissance work, the performance we achieved of 3.5MBps for a large file (and 3.4MBps for small files) was only slightly better than what the router achieved when it detected the optimal channel on its own. You won't want to rely on the 2.4GHz for heavy file transfers.
Despite the slow file transfer performance when copying files in bulk from our NAS to our laptop, the 2.4GHz network remained suitable for streaming content over short distances (less than 5m). We had no problems getting content from our NAS box to a WD TV Live media streamer, and Google Chromecast handled Full HD files from the Google Play Store mostly flawlessly through a Samsung Galaxy S5.
What else is there?
In addition to the usual wireless network settings, you can also enable a Guest network with a Cafe-style login. This will enable you to supply wireless networking credentials to visitors, without them being able to gain access to your local computers on your regular wireless networks. They will be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network, then, once they launch a Web browser, will be directed to enter the password (which you have given them).
There is Intellistream, which is an automatic QoS (quality of service) feature, and this can prioritise traffic such as video or games over less timely traffic such as BitTorrent, and it seemed to do the trick in our tests when we ran video streaming and BitTorent tasks simultaneously (the video streaming was interrupted by a maxed out torrent download until we enabled Intellistream).
You can also see a glance how many devices are connected to your router and what their network details are, and the status page can give line attenuation and noise details in addition to Internet connection speed.
While it's a router that proved to be solid for Internet access and wireless transfers throughout our month-long test period, there were some extremely frustrating moments. When it came time to test out some of the other settings, such as the Guest network we just talked about, the router took an excruciatingly long time to implement the changes that we made. For example, when we disabled the Guest network, the router told us it was restarting in order to make the change, but, upon 'restarting', the Guest network was still enabled. The router then restarted on its own about 10 minutes later, and could not be accessed for another 10 minutes until it came back online. Changing other features, such as the Wi-Fi channel, took about one minute to come into effect.
Another feature that didn't impress was the built-in Twonky media server. It failed to index the media on our portable Seagate hard drive, even after numerous hardware resets and repeated attempts to refresh the index. The hard drive was also painfully slow (under 1MBps) to transfer data most of the time, and even right-clicking on files took about 20 seconds before the right-click menu would appear. We say 'most of the time', because towards the start of our evaluation period, we were able to access files off the drive at a pace of about 9MBps; but we were unable to replicate that effort consistently during our evaluation period.
Other features of the router include a Web-based Norton ConnectSafe parental filter, which did a mixed job of blocking content; when we used the most aggressive setting, it blocked adult sites, but allowed video sites such as Live Leak, which tends to show graphic violence. We should also mention that after enabling and disabling this feature, it seemed to put the router into an endless restart loop. It would stay up for about five minutes before going offline, and wouldn't come on again for another few minutes. It was something hardware resets did not fix, it happened at the end of our review, and it was annoying to the point where we installed another router in order to stay online and complete this review.
What's the verdict?
Overall, we love the 802.11ac speed that the AC1750 can provide when used with 802.11ac clients, and its performance in our distance tests was also pleasing. This 802.11ac performance is the best aspect of the router, but the restart problems have ultimately left us disappointed.
In particular, configuration changes left us waiting a long time in between restarts, and sometimes the restarts weren't initiated at the time we changed the setting, but later on, with the router seemingly doing its own thing.
When we first set up the router and didn't play with any of its Guest, filtering, or QoS features, it performed very well. It's seems to be the type of router that will work wonderfully if you just set up Internet and Wi-Fi and then leave it at that. If you start making changes to its configuration, then it could end up angering you with its sluggishness and continual restarts until it settles. In short, we don't think you should buy it if you love tinkering with settings.
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