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Belkin AC 1800 DB 802.11ac router

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Belkin’s flagship 802.11ac router has loads of features: does it perform?

Score 7/10

 

Pros
Competitive wireless ac speeds
Interesting looks
Integrated Norton parental controls

Cons
Weak 802.11n 2.4GHz performance
No Cloud platform
Overpriced

Review Price £179.99

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi; Norton parental controls; 4x Gigabit Ethernet; Dual USB 2.0 ports; WPA/WPA2 and WPS security

What is the Belkin AC1800 DB?
This is Belkin’s flagship 802.11ac wireless router. It joins an increasingly packed wireless ac marketplace where the likes of Linksys and D-Link have already released their second generation products. Belkin has equipped the AC1800 DB with a healthy feature set and will hope recruiting Norton to beef up its parental controls will give it an edge as competition heats up.

AC1800 DB – Design71VpuFfQPnL-SL1500-
The Belkin AC1800 also sets itself apart when it comes to looks. The vertically standing router gives the impression it was stolen off a 1950s science fiction show with its sweeping curves and air outlets that trace the circumference of its central silver band. The outlets keep the router cool at all times and like most premium routers it operates silently. The sleek look does necessarily widen out at the back to fit its array of ports, but it doesn’t spoil the overall appearance.

That said there are some downsides. While solidly put together the Belkin AC1800 has a piano black gloss finish that preserves every ring of a finger print and there is a distinct lack of useful activity lights other than power and WPS. The upside is the AC1800 won’t distract you with a multitude of blinks, but indicators for the internet status and Ethernet, wireless and USB activity would have been more practical. The Belkin AC1800 also can’t be wall mounted as its stand is fixed, but this isn’t a great loss with an upright router.

Belkin AC1800 DB – Features
Belkin-AC-1200-DB-2-Belkin may be a smaller name in networking, but it ticks most of the right boxes with the AC1800. It is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible with four Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual USB 2.0 ports. USB 3.0 doesn’t make an appearance, but this isn’t a major issue given routers’ chipset performance so far remains a greater bottleneck on USB speeds than USB 2.0. In addition, the Belkin AC1800 comes with the staples of WPA/WPA2 and WPS security and support for IPv6 plus DLNA streaming.

Belkin is also making a big noise about its integrated ‘IntelliStream’ QoS (Quality of Service), which automatically prioritises network traffic from video and gaming (much like ‘FasTrack’ on the Western Digital My Net AC1300) and its collaboration with Norton to integrate parental controls.The latter amounts to basic website filtering with malicious, adult and ‘non-family friendly’ site blocking that it defines as “malware, phishing, and scam sites and also sites that contain sexually explicit material, mature content, abortion, alcohol, tobacco, crime, cult, drugs, gambling, hate, suicide or violence”. In reality many free software alternatives will do this, but it does have the benefit of referencing Norton’s continually updated website databases.

Overall this amounts to a pretty solid feature set, but there are two flies in the ointment. The first is the absence of any Cloud platform like D-Link, Linksys (which Belkin recently bought from Cisco) and Asus, which allow remote management of the router. The second is a rather weedy treatment of 802.11n with a reduction that sees Belkin quote 300Mbit rather than the usual 450Mbit theoretical maximum for a top of the range router. Of course the theoretical numbers are always nonsense, but it does throw up a red flag.

Belkin AC1800 DB – Setup
The Belkin AC1800 setup is also a little antiquated. Belkin supplies a CD with the AC1800 when many routers (in the age of tablets and Ultrabooks) are moving to a CD-less setup (configuration on first connection), but the process remains smooth guiding you through wireless connection and setting your default wireless and admin passwords.
Advanced users will be able to skip this, connecting wirelessly using WPS and finding the router’s admin settings at 192.168.2.1.

These settings are clearly laid out with a simple graphical UI and it will try to assist with basic connectivity problems should they be detected. As you might expect diving into advanced settings is less user friendly and heavily text based, but numerous options are available including management of Intellistream, Norton’s website filter (which should arguably be in the main menu) and Firewall, LAN and WAN settings.

Belkin AC1800 DB – Performance
Belkin AC1800 BD 802 11ac Belkin AC 1800 DB 802.11ac routerThe Belkin AC1800′s appealing looks and functionality are also backed up by solid 802.11ac test results.

Belkin-AC1800-BD-802-11acIn our test environment at 2m and 10m line of sight and 13m behind two standing walls the router recorded speeds of 35.5MBps (284Mbps), 27.7MBps (221.6Mbps) and 23.5MBps (188Mbps). At 2m this makes the Belkin AC1800 the third fastest router we have tested ahead of the D-Link DIR-868L at 34MBps (272Mbps), but behind the Linksys EA6700 and Asus RT-AC66U, which recorded 36.7Mbps (293.6Mbps) and 39.1MBps (312.8Mbps) respectively. That said it drops behind all three at 10m and is actually slower than them and the WD My Net AC1300 (24.3MBps – 194.4Mbps) at 13m.

It was a similar story testing 802.11n over 5GHz (images in the gallery above). The AC1800′s 2m, 10m and 13m speeds of 22MBps (176Mbps), 17.6MBps (140.8Mbps) and 10.2MBps (81.6Mbps) make it the second fastest router behind the EA6700 at 2m, but it slipped behind the Asus and D-Link at 10m and 13m only holding off the EA6700′s bizarrely weak performance (7.7MBps – 61.6Mbps) at the latter distance.

With 802.11n 2.4GHz our fears about the AC1800′s reduced number of antennas came to fruition. At 2m, 10m and 13m it produced highly inconsistent speeds of 9.3MBps (74.4Mbps), 5MBps (40Mbps) and 2.4MBps (19.2Mbps) with its 10m and 13m speeds 50-100 per cent down on EA6700, AC66U, 868L and My Net AC1300 meaning it actually placed closer to first generation wireless ac routers like the Linksys EA6500 and D-Link DIR-865L which seemed to treat 802.11n 2.4GHz as an afterthought.

Network performance over USB was nothing to write home about either coming in at 3.9MBps (31.2Mbps) compared to 7.1MBps (56.8Mbps), 4.9MBps (39.2Mbps) and 4.8MBps (38.4Mbps) from the EA6700, 868L, My Net AC1300 with the AC66U (3.1MBps – 24.8Mbps) its only scalp.

F9K1118-side

Should I buy the Belkin AC1800 DB?
Based on everything so far the answer would be ‘maybe’, but it depends on one critical factor the Belkin AC1800 sadly gets badly wrong: price. Belkin retails for the router for an astonishing £179.99 and surprisingly we haven’t seen many cuts from online retailers.

This makes the it roughly £30-50 more expensive than its major rivals, which is hard to fathom. We contacted Belkin about this and while it admitted the gap will narrow with future products, it currently has no plans to drop the price any time soon. If you are a concerned parent thinking the AC1800′s Norton controls are worth the extra expense we’d point you to this an array of free software alternatives that will do an even better job.

Verdict
The Belkin AC1800 DB gets many things right. It is nicely designed, has an appealing feature set and performs reasonably well, but unfortunately all this good work is sabotaged by an unrealistic price tag.

Scores In Detail
Build Quality 7/10
Design 8/10
Features 7/10
Performance 7/10
Usability 7/10
Value 6/10

Originally published on TrustedReviews, read it here.

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