Belkin AC 1200 DB 802.11ac router review: A model that’s not very willing for prime time

Belkin AC 1200 DB Dual-band 802.11ac Wireless Router Analysis, by Michael Brown September 11, 2012

If you’re balking at the prospect of spending almost $ 400 to purchase an 802.11ac router plus an 802.11ac bridge to go with it, Belkin has a less-expensive alternative for we. With a street cost of $ 160, the Belkin AC 1200 DB fees regarding $ 40 lower than the 802.11ac routers from Asus (the RT-AC66U), D-Link (the DIR-865L), plus Netgear (the R6300). Unlike the similarly priced Buffalo WZR-D1800H, though, Belkin’s router delivers lower specs, too.

The alternative 4 802.11ac routers I tested utilize 802.11ac plus 802.11n radios which help 3 spatial streams about every frequency band, nevertheless the Belkin AC 1200 DB’s radios help just 2. As a happen, while every of the additional 4 routers delivers a wireless 802.11ac network with maximum theoretical throughput of 1.3 gigabits per 2nd, and a concurrent 802.11n network with maximum theoretical throughput of 450 megabits per next, the Belkin AC 1200 DB’s theoretical maximums are 867 mbps plus 300 mbps, respectively.

The AC 1200 DB has a vertical orientation, that could cause greater range than routers which sit flat about a surface, despite that its antennas are hidden inside its plastic enclosure. There is not any provision for mounting the router about a wall. Belkin delivers 2 USB 2.0 ports found on the back of the router, to help network-attached storage along with a shared printer. I didn’t try to connect a USB printer, however, the AC 1200 DB was much slower than the different 802.11ac routers at composing big files plus little files to an connected USB difficult drive. It moreover completed dead last at reading those files within the connected drive.

The AC 1200 delivers a DLNA-compliant media server, parental controls which allow you to block access to unseemly sites, along with a rudimentary quality-of-service engine which Belkin dubs Intellistream. QoS is expected to form a network traffic thus which lag-sensitive applications like games, media streaming, plus VoIP get high concern than lag-insensitive apps like BitTorrent downloads. But Belkin doesn’t permit we to configure any QoS settings manually; Intellistream is expected to do which for we automatically once you run a diagnostic speed test. Unfortunately, I couldn’t receive the speed test to run to completion. Belkin clearly must enhance Intellistream inside purchase to create it helpful plus worth recommendation.

The AC 1200 arrived within the factory with channel bonding disabled about its 2.4GHz radio yet enabled about its 5GHz radio. Whenever I forced the 2.4GHz radio to combine 2 20MHz channels to make an 802.11n network with 40MHz of bandwidth, the router responded by generating 2 second-place finishes.

Benchmarking 5GHz 802.11ac performance

I utilized an AVADirect computer built with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M CPU, 4GB of memory, plus an integrated Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 Wi-Fi adapter to run my benchmark tests. The Ultimate-N 6300 may send plus get 3 simultaneous 150-mbps spatial streams (450 mbps inside total); many adapters are limited to handling 2 (300 mbps inside total). This was all of the streaming I required to evaluate the AC 1200′s 802.11n performance (about both the 2.4GHz as well as the 5GHz frequency bands). To measure the router’s 802.11ac performance found on the 5GHz frequency band, I obtained an technology test of Belkin’s fresh Video Link 802.11ac media bridge, that I connected to the AVADirect’s ethernet port. The Video Link carefully resembles the router.

To test the router, I placed the customer successively at five spots inside plus outside a 2800-square-foot, ranch-style house (ranges within the router are noted inside every chart below). I utilized the open-source IPERF benchmark (as well as the JPERF Java graphical front end crafted for it). To measure the router’s downlink TCP output, I set up the computer because a host plus chosen a desktop PC hard-wired to the router because the customer.

The AC 1200 delivered disappointing 802.11ac performance at close range, with all the customer 9 feet away within the router plus inside the same space. With TCP throughput of really 162 mbps, this 802.11ac router was even slower than the 802.11n Asus RT-N66U router I utilized because a reference point.

As the chart below indicates, the AC 1200 DB’s performance didn’t boost whenever I moved the customer to my kitchen test environment, 20 feet away within the router with 1 wall separating them within the router. Once again, the Belkin AC 1200 completed dead last found on the output test.

The upcoming 2 benchmark runs took area inside my house theatre. This really is a room-within-a-room shape, with 4 walls of 2-by-4 framing plus drywall inside 4 walls of 2-by-6 framing plus drywall, with about 6 inches of dead air plus fiberglass insulation separating them. My aim was to optimize the room’s acoustics, to not build a Faraday cage, yet various lower routers plus alternative wireless equipment have had trouble penetrating it. But, none of the 802.11ac routers I tested had any difficulty achieving the customer inside this area, as well as the Belkin really outperformed Buffalo’s router whenever the customer was found on the coffee table inside this space.

Since people need to connect the gear inside their house entertainment program to an 802.11ac network, I decided to measure TCP throughput with all the media bridge inside the built-in equipment cabinet inside my house theatre (the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall cabinet is built from cabinet-grade plywood, including the back). As the chart below indicates, the AC 1200 DB’s TCP throughput dropped by almost half inside this place, however, it nevertheless offered over enough bandwidth to wirelessly mount plus stream a Blu-ray ISO image of the film Spiderman 3 from a Windows Home Server 2011 machine inside my house workplace to a home-theater PC inside the entertainment center, including its high-definition soundtrack.

The AC 1200 DB conducted somewhat better whenever I moved the customer as well as the media bridge to the initial of my 2 outside test locations—an outdoor terrace enclosed by 3 walls plus 1 half wall with glass windows. In the real globe, I question which anybody might try to set up a media bridge outside considering dragging the bridge plus acquiring an outlet (plus probably an extension cord) are too inconvenient. Below again, Belkin completed inside last area, owing to its two-stream radio.

My next exterior place had been a picnic table located completely outside my apartment. At this place, the router plus customer were 75 feet aside plus split by 3 insulated inside walls, plus 1 insulated outdoor wall clad about 1 side with fiber-cement lapboard. Under these conditions, the reference 802.11n router delivered TCP throughput of only 25.2 mpbs, nevertheless Belkin’s router attained TCP throughput of 78.2 mbps—far greater performance than Buffalo’s WZR-1800H managed. The first-place finisher at this place, D-Link’s DIR-865L, delivered an astonishing 152 mbps.

Benchmarking 2.4GHz 802.11n performance

Most of the routers I tested inside 2.4GHz mode supported off of channel bonding due to the faint presence of different routers utilizing the same spectrum, nevertheless the Belkin AC 1200 stuck to its guns plus continued to offer 40MHz of bandwidth. Stomping about neighboring wireless networks won’t win we any neighbors, though, plus it is interesting to find when Belkin enables this to continue when the Wi-Fi Alliance starts certifying 802.11ac routers.

In any event, channel bonding enabled the AC 1200 DB to make a first-place tie along with a second-place finish whenever the customer was nearest to the router, despite its providing just 2 spatial streams, because the following chart illustrates.

Belkin’s 2.4GHz network dropped to 4th spot whenever the customer was set up inside my house theatre or out about my terrace, completing before Buffalo’s WZR-D1800H ineach case. It bested both the Buffalo plus D-Link routers whenever the customer was farthest within the router. That third-place finish is impressive for a two-stream router.

Benchmarking hardwired ethernet performance

The AC 1200 DB’s four-port gigabit ethernet switch conducted because expected, delivering TCP throughput of 943 mbps—right inside line with almost all of the rest of the field.

To evaluate the AC 1200 DB’s performance because a network-attached storage device, I connected a 500GB Western Digital My Passport USB drive to among the router’s USB ports. I utilized a stopwatch to time how lengthy it took the device to copy a some files from a PC to the drive over the network (a write test), plus then I copied a some files within the USB drive to the networked PC over the network (a read test). The PC was hardwired to the network.

I created a large-file test by ripping a DVD (Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn) to the PC’s difficult drive. My advice: Don’t purchase this router in the event you think we may ever wish To employ the Belkin router’s USB port for network-attached storage. Copying this four.29GB file within the PC to the transportable difficult drive needed a mind-blowing 2211 seconds (virtually 37 minutes). The quickest router I tested, Asus’s RT-AC66U, accomplished the same task inside lower than 5 minutes. If I had any drawing abilities, I’d have tweaked the chart under to show the Belkin (as well as the D-Link) routers busting by the right-hand edge representing the chart’s 10-minute limit. Even thus, both routers outperformed the Buffalo, that didn’t know my NTFS-formatted difficult drive at all.

The Belkin (as well as the D-Link) routers conducted better whenever the task was to read which single big file within the connected USB difficult drive. As the chart under shows, the Belkin outperformed each different router about this benchmark.

Unless we rip a great deal of films from DVD or Blu-ray discs, you’ll seldom move a single big file to a difficult drive connected to a router. A more well-known task is to move batches of little files back plus forth over a network. To evaluate every router’s performance inside this situation, I created a single folder containing 595MB of little files (subfolders containing music, images, pictures, documents, spreadsheets, so on).

As depicted by the chart below, the AC 1200 was much quicker at copying many tiny files to an connected drive than at copying a single big file. However its performance found on the previous task nonetheless looks anemic compared to which of the rest of the field: The router required over 6 minutes to create 595MB of small-file information to the drive.

The same criticism applies to its performance inside retrieving a big quantity of tiny files from an connected difficult drive, because indicated by the chart below.

Bottom line

Belkin’s AC 1200 DB wireless router is lighter about specs, attributes, plus performance than the rest of the field. Its two-spatial-stream radios prevented it from completing initially in almost any tests, nevertheless it did surprise me by completing 2nd about 2 of my benchmarks (albeit when testing its 2.4GHz 802.11n performance). In truth it delivered better 2.4GHz 802.11n performance than many of the more sophisticated routers, because of its dogged insistence about preserving channel bonding because spectrum.

The value of getting 2 USB ports—one for sharing a printer, as well as the alternative for sharing a USB difficult drive over the network—is severely diminished by the router’s performance whilst hosting a storage device. With one exception, the AC 1200 DB was excruciatingly slow whenever reading plus composing files over the network. This really is clearly a checkbox item for Belkin, instead of an important feature. Anyone with severe network storage requires will be effectively advised to purchase a devoted NAS box, nevertheless in the event you should depend found on the less-expensive alternative of utilizing router-hosted storage, you need to avoid this router.

Note: This review is piece of the roundup. Click here to read the introduction to the story plus discover hyperlinks to the alternative 802.11ac routers reviewed simultaneously.

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