Published on December 3rd, 2012 | by Greg0
Buffalo Three: AirStation AC1300/ N450 Wireless Bridge Blazes
We recommend a primer: if you haven’t already, please check out our article on the Buffalo AirStation Wireless Dual-Band Router. We’ll wait. And when you come back, we’ll tell you all about why you shouldn’t really get one of these bridges without the router to pair it with. These Buffalo networking devices go together like fine wine and cheese, if there were a wine or cheese that pretty much required the companion to work well.
Now you’ve read up on the basics of 802.11ac, and know the essentials- your house probably contains only devices that support the current standard 802.11n or earlier ones like 802.a/b/g. The new standard is in draft-status, which means it won’t be widely supported until late next year. Thus, anything that runs 802.11ac is a sort of a beta product, something that might or might not play nicely with other 802.11ac networking gear a dozen or so months from now. It can help to wait, but if you’re looking for the fastest, highest-speed wireless tech available- and don’t mind paying a bit more or wading through some troublesome interfaces- then we’ve got just the ticket. You need to get the router we mentioned above, as well as the Buffalo AirStation AC1300/ N450 Wireless Bridge (also known formally as the WLI-H4-D1300).
This is also a dual-band device that is totally backwards-compatible, and can run perfectly adequately with any old wireless router, added into your existing infrastructure. You can upgrade piecemeal if you need, and grab this one or the router first and add the other later. But for maximum speeds and an optimal experience, you’ll need both pieces of the puzzle. In fact, this was the only 802.11ac device we tested, and it worked wonders- once properly configured, we hit maximum speeds of 350 Mbps. This is unheard-of, and means that cables really can be a thing of the past- our peak direct connections through gigabit ethernet through CAT-6 wiring get nearer to 120 Mbps typically, and most computer equipment can only read or write at speeds around (or less!) than that.
We plugged in the bridge placed about 50 feet away through a wall, did some configuration to connect it to the router, and set it to use the 80Mhz channel. We then used CAT-6 cables to connect to our Xbox 360, PS3, and AppleTV media center. What we found was download speeds cut down by an incredible factor, dropping by around half in most cases, versus using the various built-in networking adapters to connect to a wireless-N router. Of course, reduced noise/interference might play a small role, but we couldn’t help but be impressed. DLC content was a piece of cake to download, as were console updates- no more interminable waiting for an update to a game or the dashboard, and now finally a reasonable way to actually buy full-size games from the cloud. Xbox Live also performed better; Netflix and Hulu streaming were faster and more stable, no drop-outs or were audio lag that could happen occasionally before.
It’s not cheap – in fact, the bridge is at press time more expensive than the router. It’ll cost you about $160, available online, and we did love this one- in conjunction with Buffalo’s router. It’s a powerful, hyper-speed bridge, and for that alone has our respect. It’s not necessarily easier to configure than the router, but firmware tools are less critical with bridges in our experience. And we could just literally press a button and get a setup that worked well.