TRENDnet's debut 802.11ac router packs a host of features and fabulous performance at a price that won't break the bank. It won't be the prettiest piece of kit in your home, but it may well end up being your favourite.
With the arrival of the (still draft) 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, the race is on for manufacturers to build new networking kit that convinces consumers it’s time to upgrade. Today we take a look at TRENDnet’s first 802.11ac router, the AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-812DRU).
Before we dive into the hardware, let’s recap on naming conventions. Over the last couple of years, manufacturers have attempted to clarify the speed of their devices via a consistent naming convention. You’ll see names like N300, N600 and in the case of this router, AC1750. What do they mean? Well, the letter denotes the Wi-Fi standard (802.11n or the faster 802.11ac, for example) and the numbers denote the total throughput available across both bands. In the case of the TRENDnet router, the “1750″ equates to a throughput of up to 1300 Mbps on the AC band, and up to 450 Mbps on the N band – add those together, and there’s your 1750.
Of course, these are theoretical limits, achieved in lab conditions so don’t read too much into the actual numbers – your real world speeds are likely to be different.
TRENDnet’s AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router is a reasonably compact, book sized router, with internal antennas for neat form factor. As with many of the modern routers on the market today, its four Gigabit Ethernet ports are joined by a single USB 2.0 port which allows easy sharing of USB devices on your network – most notably, a USB printer or flash drive. A rear WPS button is used to connect devices via Wi-Fi and a physical power switch allows you to power on the device from the rear. Completing the physical hardware controls, a recessed reset button is located on the base of the router which allows you to reset the device to factory defaults.
LEDs on the front panel of the router indicate (from bottom up) power, successful Internet connection, connectivity for the four Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi transmission, WPS and a successful USB connection.
Priced around the £100 mark, TRENDnet are aiming the TEW-812DRU at the value end of the market, and that creates some compromises on the aesthetics and materials used for the build. The router doesn’t look terrible, but has quite a plasticy feel (despite an attempt to spoof a brushed metal feel on the sides of the device). There’s an argument that routers don’t have to look the best as they’ll be tucked in a cupboard or cabinet – but it’s fair to say there are better looking devices out there if design is important to you. But you’ll pay more for these than you will for the TRENDnet device.
Once powered on, the router throws out two distinct Wi-Fi network SSIDs, one for standard connections and one for 802.11ac connections.
Connect to either network and you can access the router’s web management console via its default address at 192.168.10.1.
Two web-based wizards are available to allow you to easily setup the device. The Internet Connection Setup Wizard walks you through connecting the router to your ISP, whilst the Wireless Security Setup Wizard helps you configure your internal wireless network – configuring the SSID for each band and setting up password security. Both wizards guide you step by step through configuring the router’s basics from the factory defaults and work well – you’ll be up and running in no time.
The dual bands pushed out by the router can be used to optimise speeds – the faster, 5GHz band for wireless 802.11ac connections (particularly where an 802.11ac wireless media bridge is being used for AV equipment) and the slower 2.4 GHz band for everyday 802.11n devices. Of course, the router is backwards compatible with all common flavours of Wi-Fi, so all of your devices around the home should have no issue connecting. Theoretical speeds for each standard are as follows:
- 802.11a: up to 54 Mbps
- 802.11b: up to 11 Mbps
- 802.11g: up to 54 Mbps
- 802.11n: up to 450 Mbps (for both 2.4 & 5 GHz)
- 802.11ac: up to 1.3 Gbps
Once you have the router connected to the Internet, and your wi-fi networks configured, you can take a look through the rest of the management console. Those who love to tweak their router configurations will be please to see an array of controls available to customise the default router settings. TRENDnet have included the ability to configure Guest networks on the router, so you can allow family and friends to utilise your wireless network without having to use your own passwords on the device.
As a result, settings are available to customise the Internal network and Guest network individually – you can places each on a different subnet, configure DHCP settings and IP address ranges separately. If you’re security conscious, you’ll love the configurability TRENDnet have built into the management console.
Up to 16 individual networks can be set up on the router – four Internal networks on each of the two bands, as well as four guest networks on each. If you’re so minded, you can create a suite of segmented networks to meet your needs around the home, clustering similar devices by speed or location. For the average user, it’s going to be overkill, but it’s a great feature for network enthusiasts.