Western Digital entered the networking market in 2012 with an 802.11n router. The company has now delivered not only its first 802.11ac Draft 2.0 router--the My Net AC1300--but also its first 802.11ac bridge, the My Net AC Bridge (which we'll review separately). So what does a company that builds storage devices know about designing wireless networking hardware? Enough to deliver a light spanking to the best Wi-Fi router we've tested, the Asus RT-AC66U--at least on the 5GHz band.
But merely outperforming the RT-AC66U on a couple of benchmarks isn't enough to knock Asus's router out of our best-of-the-best ranking: Western Digital's router is speedy enough on the 5GHz frequency band, but it offers fewer features and services than the Asus product does. It also delivered considerably lower 802.11n performance on the 2.4GHz band.
We suspect that the AC1300's mediocre 802.11n performance is due to WD's decision to use internal antennas in a horizontally oriented enclosure (it has no provisions for wall mounting). Asus remains one of the few router manufacturers to employ external dipole antennas that the user can position for maximum range and performance, and its router can stay horizontal on a stand or hang vertically on a wall. On the other hand, WD's router doesn't call much attention to itself, while Asus's screams "I'm a router!" We think performance trumps decor, but you might feel differently.
The AC1300 is easy to set up and doesn't require an installation disc; you simply log in to the router to see a graphical user interface with seven large icons arranged across the top. The interface doesn't look as slick as the one that Cisco provides with its EA6500 802.11ac router, but it is intuitive enough to figure out without your needing to resort to a user manual.
The router comes with WPA2 security preconfigured, with easy-to-remember passwords assigned to both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios (ours came from the factory with the password "19PinkTuna" assigned to both). You can, of course, change the factory-assigned SSIDs and passwords to whatever you like. The unit also supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup, which enables you to connect client devices by pushing buttons. You can operate guest networks on both frequency bands, but these are disabled by default and do not have preconfigured security.
Thanks to dual USB 2.0 ports, you can attach both a USB printer and a USB storage device to the AC1300 and share attached devices over the network. In addition to the typical UPnP server, WD also provides DLNA, iTunes, and FTP servers. The Asus RT-AC66U, however, delivers each of those features plus a SAMBA server, an integrated BitTorrent client, and a VPN pass-through for secure remote network access. And unlike Asus (with the RT-AC66U) or Cisco (with the Linksys EA6500), Western Digital offers no cloud-based features that enable you to access your network or your network-attached storage remotely.
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