Western Digital MyNet AC1300 review

The AC1300 is the second router we've tested from Western Digital and it's a decent router but frankly, not as impressive as Western Digital's debut MyNet N900.
Photo of Western Digital MyNet AC1300

Western Digital’s MyNet AC1300 is the company’s first pre-draft 802.11ac router. Western Digital only recently got into the wireless router market with its debut router, the MyNet N900 this past summer. While the MyNet N900 is a surprisingly good first effort, the AC1300, when tested in 11ac mode, gave some of the lowest throughput we’ve seen among the current crop of 11ac routers; lost its Internet connection a couple times; and did not provide the QoS streaming improvements we saw with the N900. On the plus side, the AC1300 provides excellent throughput at 5GHz in 802.11n and offers the same uncomplicated setup and attractive interface of the N900. Still, on the merits of 11ac alone, there are better pre-draft 11ac routers. Western Digital’s own MyNet N900 is a more impressive router in general.

Specs
The MyNet AC1300 is similar in design to the MyNet N900 except that it’s smaller and has an all-black casing opposed to the black and silver housing of the N900. Another difference between the two: Western Digital surprised the consumer networking world by going off the beaten track and adding seven Gigabit LAN ports to the rear panel of the N900 instead of the standard four. The AC1300 has just the four Gigabit ports. I was a bit disappointed that Western Digital did not also offer the extra three LAN ports that made their first router stand out from the pack.

On the front of the router are fours LEDs representing power, wireless status, WAN, and USB device connectivity. A WPS button for connecting clients at a touch is also on the front. WPS works very well with Western Digital’s router as I found when connecting the AC1300 to its companion MyNet Wi-Fi bridge.

The rear of the device has four Gigabit LAN ports, WAN port, two USB ports, a reset button, and a power button.

The AC1300 is a dual-band router supporting up to 450 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on 5GHz.

Setup
Western Digital has one of the easiest router setups on the market, rivaled by the setup process of Cisco Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi routers. While the router ships with a setup and resource CD, a hard copy guide is included in the packaging. The guide details through illustrations how to set the router up in five steps.

The first couple of steps show how to plug in the power adapter and connect cables. As soon as the router is powered on, two default SSIDs are already created for connecting clients. Once I connected a Windows client to the 2.4GHz WLAN, I received a message in Windows, “Do you want to set up your network? This is a new router that has not been set up. Click OK to start set up.”

After I clicked “OK,” I was prompted to enter the router’s eight-digit PIN. This PIN is printed on a sticker affixed to the underside of the router. A wizard then walked me through giving my wireless network a name and setting up security.
This completes the router’s initial set up; from there, you can access the router’s interface for further configuration.

Features and Settings
The AC1300′s interface is the same My Dashboard interface that I liked in the MyNet N900. As in the N900, the AC1300′s web-based GUI displays a nice round-up of initial “to-do” tasks via a notification message drop down list in the home screen. The notifications provide a good reminder for customers to perform important specific configurations such as changing the router’s default admin password.

The home page dashboard provides an overview of the AC1300′s settings such as SSIDs, Internet connection status, number of devices connected, and more general information about the router and network.

Through the dashboard, you can also see any USB devices connected and if parental controls are enabled. There’s an advanced settings tab which will allow configuration of more granular features including WAN, IPv6, and Dynamic DNS settings.

The features have not changed since the launch of the N900. You can read that review for a more in-depth overview of specific features such as parental controls. As with the N900, there aren’t a lot of advanced capabilities to make this a router a choice for many small businesses. There’s no VPN server and IPv6 support is light. However, there are robust settings for home networks. For instance, you can create up to 32 firewall rules, enable MAC filtering, and Application Level Gateway (ALG) which allows traffic such as PPTP, IPSec, and SIP for VoIP to pass through the network.

You have some very light NAS capabilities through the software. I was pleased to see when I added a flash drive, the AC1300′s interface picked right up on the drive’s make, model, and capacity.

Multimedia
Western Digital’s big push behind its MyNet line of router is that they are optimized for multimedia.  FasTrack QoS is Western Digital’s proprietary Quality-of-Service feature that’s baked-into the AC1300 (and the N900, as well).

For streaming Internet content to a home network, the speed of streaming largely depends on how fast your Internet connection is. Yet, with the FasTrack QoS enabed on the N900 router, time to buffer and play a movie from Netflix decreased about ten seconds. I did not see the same results with the AC1300. I did see slightly better streaming on the internal network with FasTrack enabled on the AC1300, decreasing the time to buffer and stream a movie from one client machine to another about 3 seconds.
In fairness, other router manufacturers also offer some sort of multimedia streaming enhancement. I tested Netgear’s solution on its R6300 router and time to stream and buffer a Netflix movie was reduced about six seconds. For streaming within the network from device-to-device, the R6300′s QoS shaved also about three minutes off time to buffer. With Belkin’s AC 1200 DB Wi-Fi Dual-Band AC+ Gigabit Router, that buffering time was shaved about a second and-a-half.

So I don’t see huge difference with streaming with proprietary QoS technology enabled or disabled among different routers. However, QoS is more helpful when streaming within a network between devices, and is also dependent on capabilities of a client’s wireless adapter. I did receive better streaming in testing with Western Digital’s N900 than with the AC1300, using the same file and equipment, which is a bit puzzling.

Further Issues
I have to note a couple of times during a course of two-day testing; two clients I had connected to the AC1300 lost Internet connectivity. When I went into the router’s interface, I saw a notification message stating that Internet was not set up. I quick on and off of the router resolved the issue (and reconnected the clients) but the software seems a bit buggy. I also noticed at times, some slow responsiveness switching through differed settings pages within the interface.

Performance
With an 11ac router, the main criterion in gauging performance is throughput at the 802.11ac mode. Of course, with the exception of D-Link’s Wireless AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter (DWA-182) , there are no compatible 11ac wireless adapters for clients on the market.

Instead, I tested 11ac throughput using Western Digital’s 11ac MyNet Wi-Fi Bridge, Intel’s 3×3 6300 AGN wireless adapter, and D-Link’s DWA-182 USB adapter.
Unfortunately, as compared with other pre-draft 11ac routers, the AC1300 gave some of the lowest throughput in 11ac mode. At 15 feet, its wireless throughput averaged 75 Mbps. This is quite below other 11ac routers such as the Asus RT-AC66U, which averaged 129 Mbps at the same distance; Cisco Linksys’ Smart Wi-Fi Router AC 1750HD Video Pro EA6500  which tested at 133 Mbps; and Buffalo’s AirStation AC1300/N900 Gigabit Dual-Band Wireless router which managed 187 Mbps at the same distance.

In 802.11n mode at the 5GHz band, the AC1300 fared better. It cranked out speed only second to the Cisco Linksys EA6500. At the 2.4 GHz band, in Mixed mode, the AC1300 did not again, perform as well as the Asus or Buffalo router. Western Digital’s device also had worse range, decreasing 30 percent in throughput testing from 5 feet and then from 30 feet away from the router.
While performance in 5 GHz 802.11n mode was excellent; overall, the AC1300′s throughput and range was underwhelming.  Below are charts comparing it to other pre-draft 11ac routers:

Western Digital MyNet AC1300 5 GHz throughput

Western Digital MyNet AC1300 2.4 GHz throughput (Mixed Mode)

Western Digital MyNet AC1300 2.4 GHz throughput (N-Only Mode)

Second Router Not as Impressive as Debut
The AC1300 is the second router I’ve tested from Western Digital and, frankly, it’s not as impressive as Western Digital’s debut MyNet N900. The performance at 11ac mode, even using Western Digital’s 11ac bridge was below that of several competing 11ac router. The range drop at 2.4 GHz mode is also troubling. While the same good interface from the N900 is carried over into the AC1300, it’s unfortunate that Western Digital did not retain the seven LAN ports. Finally, I saw no improvement with multimedia streaming.

The AC1300 is a 3.5 out of 5 star earner for consumer routers; the current Editors’ Choice being the Cisco Linksys EA6500 has better throughput, just as easy a setup and better range in 2.4 GHz Mixed mode—a common mode most home users are likely to use.

More Router Reviews:

Specifications
Device Type Router
Networking Options 802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband), 802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband), 802.11ac draft, 802.11ac draft
Access Control Lists Based on MAC Addresses Yes
NAT Yes
Quality of Service Yes
Security WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)

Verdict
The AC1300 is the second router we've tested from Western Digital and it's a decent router but frankly, not as impressive as Western Digital's debut MyNet N900.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc