Review: 2 tri-band routers push wireless network speeds

Two new 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers from D-Link and Linksys bring real-world half-a-gigabit speeds to your office.

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Do you need real Wi-Fi speed in your office? As 802.11ac-equipped laptops and PCs become common (and your 802.11n gear grows older), it's time to consider upgrading your Wi-Fi network infrastructure.

You could push for the bleeding edge and get one of the first 802.11ac Wave 2 Access Points (AP) -- which use a system of multiple antennas to increase throughput -- such as the Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 and Asus RT-AC87U. There's just one problem with that plan: 802.11ac Wave 2 client devices are about 18 months from commercial delivery -- and while these Wave 2 devices will work with the current generation of client 802.11ac equipment, you won't get the full throughput benefit.

Another problem with Wave 2, which in theory can reach a data rate of 6.8Gbps, is that you'll need to upgrade your wired network to support it. So unless you're ready to replace your existing routers and possibly your cabling as well, 802.11ac is where you should put your money today.

Two good bets for your IT cash are the D-Link AC3200 and the Linksys AC3200 routers. Why the similar names? Because they make similar performance claims.

Both support two separate 5Ghz channels and a single 2.4Ghz frequency channel. Combine the maximum throughput of the three channels -- 1,300 Mbps on the 5GHz Wireless-AC band and 600 Mbps on the 2.4Ghz 802.11n -- and you get a top speed of 3,200 Mbps. Thus the name.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Too bad it doesn't really work that way. You can't actually bond the channels together on any single device. What you can do, however, is support three devices at once. Both APs are powered by the 2.96GHz Broadcom 5G XStream Wi-Fi chip. With its three radios and fast performance, it enables these devices to simultaneously support three connected devices.

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