The latest Wi-Fi protocol — 802.11ac — is slowly rolling out; I take the TRENDnet AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router for a spin.
Plus, three other devices that can speed your work or keep you safe from viruses and laptop heat.
The next Wi-Fi standard, available now
It’s an odd fact that router vendors start selling products with new networking protocols before the IEEE Standards Association has published final specs. For example, the next Wi-Fi networking standard is 802.11ac, which — according to a Wikipedia article — won’t be approved until early 2014. Nevertheless, Apple, D-Link, NETGEAR, TRENDnet, and others are already selling 802.11ac routers.
The new Wi-Fi standard promises astounding enhancements for wireless connections, especially media streaming. A Wi-Fi Alliance press release provides details, but briefly put, 802.11ac can provide more than twice the data-transfer rates of 802.11n and deliver that performance to more devices simultaneously. It reportedly also includes new antenna technology that directs signals to receiving devices. (Current Wi-Fi devices simply transmit in all directions.)
Finding an 802.11ac router is easy; finding mobile devices that support the new standard — not so much. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active is reportedly certified for 802.11ac, but it’s unclear whether any of the phones currently offered has it. For now, adding a compatible USB networking adapter is the best bet for upgrading devices to 802.11ac. Most of the router vendors also supply adapters.
To see what real-world speeds 802.11ac provides, I tested TRENDnet’s AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (more info; see Figure 1). The router’s spec sheet boasts speeds of up to 1300 Mbps on an AC channel and 450 Mbps on its dual N band, plus high-powered amplifiers that extend wireless coverage.
The AC1750 lists for U.S. $230, but you’ll find it on Amazon for a far more reasonable cost of around $138. TRENDnet also sells a USB 3.0 802.11ac adapter (AC1200, U.S. $70).