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Western Digital My Net AC1300 802.11ac router

August 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The storage expert throws its hat into the wireless ac arena…

Score 7/10

 

Pros
Simple setup
Intuitive user interface
Integrated media prioritisation

Cons
Wireless speeds behind sector benchmarks
No Cloud platform
Feature set deserves cheaper pricing
Dull design

Review Price £139.00

Key Features: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi; 4x Gigabit Ethernet; 2x USB 2.0; FasTrack media prioritisation software

What is the Western Digital My Net AC1300 802.11ac router?

This is WD’s first next generation wireless ac compatible router. The company only entered the router space in recent years, but has impressed with feature packed models like the My Net N900 Central. With the AC1300 WD is pushing its proprietary ‘FasTrack’ technology front and centre which it claims makes the router the fastest and most consistent in its class.

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Design
For such a big release Western Digital hasn’t spent a great deal of time on design. The My Net series has never sported the most innovative look and the AC1300 is virtually identical to its predecessors. This means the same sunken, gloss rectangular casing and matt lid pattern. Even the front activity LEDs are the same with blue flashing power, WiFi, Internet and WPS lights and a dedicated WPS physical button. It is no PlusNet router monstrosity, but it certainly is boring.

That said ‘boring’ has its benefits. The AC1300 is rigidly built, has large rubber feet to keep it in place and can be positioned just about anywhere without catching the eye. Then again this could prove a necessary evil as the AC1300 doesn’t sit upright and cannot be wall mounted.

Western-Digital-My-Net-AC1300-2-

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Features
While its looks won’t make friends and influence people, its feature set just might. Unlike the hard drive packing N900, the AC1300 is all about speed.

802.11ac compatibility is the big draw, but WD is also pushing its ‘FasTrack’ automated media prioritisation technology for equal billing. Media prioritisation isn’t new, but with our media consumption increasingly online WD has taken it a step farther by embedding it in the core of the AC1300. FasTrack is pre-programmed to prioritise a vast array of online services from Netflix and YouTube to Spotify and VoIP traffic from the likes of Skype. FasTrack also analyses the whole of any media file rather than just pieces, a process WD boasts will reduce buffering.

The AC1300 prides itself on smart management of your local network as well with integrated network diagnostics. As well as providing an array of statistics it claims to analyse common network connectivity issues and address them automatically. Despite this WD doesn’t yet have a full Cloud platform like Linksys and D-Link, so all access must be done locally.

Elsewhere the AC1300 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It comes with two USB 2.0 ports (though no USB 3.0), there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports (though sadly not the seven the N900 broke from the pack to provide), Gigabit WAN and WPA/WPA2 and WPS security. IPv6 support is also there out the box along with parental controls.

WD-setup

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Setup
Setting up the AC1300 does lead you down the CD route (something companies are starting to break from as Ultrabook and tablet popularity skyrockets), but it is a smooth process nonetheless. Admin and wireless passwords are set straight away and the main UI is attractive with intuitive categories which shouldn’t scare away even the most timid of technophobes.

Techies will simply plug in the AC1300, connect manually and dive into the settings – something the CD-based process thankfully doesn’t restrict.

WD-My-Net-AC1300-UI

Western Digital My Net AC1300 – Performance
WD-My-Net-AC1300-802-11acSo do the AC1300’s speed claims come to fruition? It is in the right ball park. At our test distances of two metres and 10 metres line of sight and 13 metres behind two standing walls it clocked 31.6MBps (252.8Mbps), 25.9MBps (207.2Mbps) and 24.3MBps (194.4Mbps) respectively using 802.11ac.

This sees it lag behind the Linksys EA6700, Asus RT-AC66U and D-Link DIR-868L (which we would consider the best three routers currently on the market) at close range, but it reduces the gap on the 868L at 13m and is just 3-4MBps behind EA6700 and AC66U at this distance.

Performance on 802.11n at 5GHz was less impressive. The AC1300 managed 18.5MBps (148Mbps), 14MBps (112Mbps) and 7.8MBps (62.4Mbps) which saw it outstripped by all three routers at 2m and 10m.

While it matched the EA6700’s 7.7MBps (61.6Mbps) at 13m we found this to be the EA6700’s weak spot with the AC66U and 868L managing 11MBps (88Mbps) and a barnstorming 14.1MBps (112.8Mbps) respectively. On the plus side the AC1300 speeds were rock solid throughout (graphs for this can be seen in the gallery at the top of the page).

WD-My-Net-AC1300-802-11n-2-4GHzWhen it came to 802.11n at 2.4GHz the AC1300 again lagged, but not by much. It hit 11Mbps (88Mbps), 8.7MBps (69.6Mbps) and 2.9MBps (23.2Mbps) at 2m, 10m and 13m when scores around 11MBps, 10MBps and 3.5MBps were the norm with the big three, with the exception of the benchmark 5.3MBps (42.4Mbps) achieved by the AC66U at 13m.

That said this doesn’t tell the whole story as you will see from the performance graphs opposite, the AC1300’s speeds were erratic as distance increased.

As for performance over USB, the AC1300 managed 4.8MBps (38.4Mbps): in line with the 868L, much better than the lacklustre 3.1MBps (24.8Mbps) of the AC66U but not in the same league as the EA6700’s breakaway 7.1MBps (56.8Mbps). While useable for simple media streaming, until router CPU power increases to tackle the greater drain of USB transfers attaching storage via Gigabit Ethernet will remain the much better option.

wdfMyNetAC1300

Should I buy the Western Digital My Net AC1300?
While the performance results show the AC1300 slightly lags behind the fastest routers we have tested it is in no way sluggish and will handle everything the vast majority of users can throw at it. FasTrack will also have appeal for users with slow Internet connections, but in all honesty this is unlikely to be a problem for users looking to buy such a high end router.

Still while the AC1300 isn’t the quickest we’ve seen, it also isn’t the most fully featured or stylishly designed. The network analytics are welcome, but available in most premium routers and we would have to run the AC1300 for many months to see if its claims of automatically tackling connectivity problems is true. This is a limitation of the review process.

Superficial as it may sound we also think it is about time WD paid slightly more attention to its external design given the stylish, racy and futuristic looks given to Linksys EA6700, Asus RT-AC66U and D-Link DIR-868L respectively.

In terms of value for money at £139 the AC1300 is cheaper than the EA6700 and AC66U (£169.99 and £159.99), while it comes in at the same price as the 868L. For those on a tight budget the D-Link has the most appeal and – while online offers may affect things – we’d also stretch to get our hands on the EA6700 and AC66U before WD’s offering.
Verdict
Competent is the word which most comes to mind with the AC1300. It is solidly constructed, fast and nicely featured but it looks dull, isn’t as quick as the fastest routers and lacks the ambitious Cloud platforms being developed by Asus, D-Link and Linksys. In that scenario the My Net AC1300 needed to be cheaper to really catch our attention.

Scores In Detail

Design 6/10
Features 7/10
Performance 7/10
Usability 7/10
Value 7/10

To read the original review on TrustedReviews click here

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