LAS VEGAS -- Ever since 802.11ac started appearing in routers we've been dreaming of getting honest-to-goodness 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Wi-Fi speeds. Ha! The fastest 802.11ac router CNET or ZDNet has seen to date, the Asus AC2400 RT-AC87U Dual-band Wireless Gigabit Router delivers 504 Megabits per second (Mbps) to clients. D-Link's new AC3200 ULTRA Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R), introduced at CES, promises to deliver speeds of up to 1.3Gbps.
Call me cynical, but I'll believe it when I see it in my office and not on a pristine, radio-frequency protected test-bench. But, It Just Might Work.
That's because D-Link isn't using the current 802.11ac 2013 standard for its new line of high-speed routers; instead, it's using the latest Broadcom chipset based on the still unratified 802.11ac 2015 standard, aka Wave 2. This new wave of technology pushes the theoretical limit of Wi-Fi to 7Gbps. In addition, Wave 2 supports multi-user MIMO, which enables simultaneous multiple spatial streams to multiple clients. Multi-user MIMO is seen as being as big an improvement for Wi-Fi as the jump from shared to switched Ethernet was for wired networking.
Multi-user MIMO, however, won't be supported in the AC3200. You'll need to wait for the next two models in this new Wi-Fi router family to appear later this year for that.
If you've been deploying Wi-Fi in the enterprise for any length of time, you already know that D-Link is following a long line of Wi-Fi vendors who deliver pre-ratification "standard" equipment. Historically, the problem with this is that these models are then incompatible with the later truly standard hardware. A D-Link product manager assured me at CES that this router, and its two forthcoming even faster brothers -- the AC5300 ULTRA Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L/R) and AC3100 ULTRA Wi-Fi Router (DIR-885L/R) -- would be brought up to code with firmware upgrades.
D-Link promises that the three routers in the ULTRA Performance Series will deliver "chart-topping wireless speeds up to 5.3 Gbps ." I'm not so sure about that last boast, but what I do know is that in order to break the 1Gbps barrier you'll need to use D-Link's ULTRA AC1900 Wi-Fi USB Adapter (DWA-192) on your existing laptops and desktop PCs. Even a brand new computer with an 802.11ac Wave 1 chipset won't be able to crack the high-speed wall.
"We've set the bar for how a Wi-Fi Router should look and perform," said Daniel Kelley, D-Link's vice president of marketing. "Our new ULTRA Performance Series has everything a demanding user is looking for - three bands of Wi-Fi, fast speeds, beamforming, and QoS - all housed in an attractive form-factor that is sure to make a statement."
Besides sheer speed, these new routers also feature Wireless 11AC Beamforming to enhance signal strength and throughput; Smart Connect to automatically assign clients to the wireless band providing the best bandwidth; and an advanced QoS engine with a drag-and-drop UI to provide an easy way to prioritize applications and devices. In addition, the routers come with gigabit WAN/LAN Ethernet ports for high speed wired connectivity and are enabled with WPA or WPA2 security and Wi-Fi Protected setup to ensure network integrity and ease-of-setup.
Each router comes with high-power antennas. There will be four for the DIR-885L, six for the DIR-890L and eight for the DIR-895L/R. These are meant to maximize range and optimize coverage.
The D-Link AC3200 ULTRA Wi-Fi Router is available now for $309.99. The other two routers and the AC1900 USB adapter won't show up until the second quarter, and pricing has yet to be announced.
That also means, I'm sorry to say, that D-Link almost certainly will not be breaking the Gigabit barrier this month. You'll need to wait for the adapter to appear before we can really see just how good this new line of routers will be.
I've got a feeling they're going to do it. If they don't, I know a host of other Wi-Fi companies, including Linksys, that will be happy to beat them to the punch.