5G Whiz: 7 Hot Devices Supporting The 802.11ac Standard

The New Face Of Wireless

The wireless industry has been buzzing about the next-generation wireless standard -- 802.11ac -- for a while now. But it wasn't until this year that vendors began rolling out products to support this new standard, also known as 5G.

Today, though, there are number of access points and routers on the market that support 802.11ac, which, according to the IEEE Standards Association, can deliver data rates up to 1.3 Gbps and big bandwidth improvements compared with its predecessor, 802.11n. These improvements also are poised to help enterprises better handle the growing number of mobile devices and bandwidth-hungry applications, such as video, being deployed on their wireless networks.

Here are seven 802.11ac devices that stand out in the market today.

Meru Networks' AP832

Meru Networks this month came to market with the AP832, its first-ever wireless access point supporting the new 802.11ac standard, and one it dubbed the fastest on the market today.

According to Meru, the AP832 is able to reach top-notch, 1.3-Gbps speeds because of its unique, single-channel architecture. While most access points today use multichannel architectures -- meaning they need a minimum of three, non-overlapping channels to avoid interference with other access points -- Meru's AP832 doesn't have this requirement. This, Meru said, allows the AP832 to tap into the few 80MHz channels available in the U.S. today, rather than having to dip into the lower-performing 40MHz channels to avoid interference, as other access points do.

"If you drop down to the 40MHz channel with 802.11ac, you are getting 600 Mbps versus what the standard mandates, or 1.3 Gbps," said Frederick Harris, director of channel marketing at Meru.

Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station

Apple may be best known for its iPhone and iPad, but the tech giant also plays in the world of Wi-Fi.

Apple this year launched its AirPort Extreme Base Station, its next-generation router complete with 802.11ac support and six different antennas, including three for the 2.4GHz band and three for the 5GHz band.

But, like most Apple products, it's the design of the AirPort that really makes it stand out in a crowd. Apple leveraged a new vertical design that it said both improves the device's performance and saves users' valuable desk space. Measuring in at less than 4 square inches and just 6.6 inches tall, the AirPort Extreme is 64 percent smaller than its predecessor, Apple said.

Cisco Aironet 3600 Access Points

Cisco has positioned its Aironet 3600 access points as the industry's first "enterprise-class" access points to support the 802.11ac standard.

According to Cisco, the Aironet 3600 Series, available now, allows users to get up to 30 percent better performance from their tablets, smartphones and other 5G-enabled devices thanks to its 4x4 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) design. What's more, the series is the first from Cisco to support ClientLink 2.0, Cisco's homegrown technology for optimizing the capacity and performance of networks handling a mix of client devices.

Aironet 3600 access points also support Cisco's CleanAir technology for minimizing radio frequency interference.

Asus RT-AC66U Router

Asus this year introduced the RT-AC66U, its first 802.11ac router and the launch platform for its new AiCloud service.

In addition to delivering the usual 802.11ac benefits such as speeds up to 1.3 Gbps and smoother application streaming, the new RT-AC66U is one of the first products out of the gate to support Asus' AiCloud service which, according to Asus, lets users turn the RT-AC66U into a "personal cloud server" with seamless connectivity to Windows PCs, Macs Linux machines and all USB storage. From there, users can access all content, files and other types of data from almost any device.

Aruba Networks 220 Series Access Points

Aruba Networks contributed to the 802.11ac buzz this year with the launch of its Aruba 220 Series access points.

According to Aruba, the new 220 Series was "purpose-built" to support this next-generation wireless standard and can reach speeds up to 1.9 Gbps for devices featuring Broadcom's TurboQAM technology. In addition, Aruba said its 220 Series APs include its ClientMatch technology, which ensures devices are always connected to the best possible access point -- and, as a result, deliver the best possible performance -- when roaming Aruba's wireless LAN.

D-Link DIR-865L Cloud Router

D-Link's DIR-865L Cloud Router is targeted mostly at the consumer market, where its 802.11ac support, according to D-Link, delivers seamless, lag-free HD video and other bandwidth-hungry apps.

But what really makes the DIR-865L unique is its support for D-Link's Cloud Services. Users can access, share, view and control any device running on their home network directly from their smartphones and tablets. The cloud services feature also lets users view the browsing history for all devices on their network, receive email alerts when new users connect to their network, and see when updates are available for DIR-865L router.

Ubiquiti's UniFi Access Point

Ubiquiti rolled out its first 802.11ac access point in the form of its new UniFi AP, an enterprise-focused access point the company said delivers 1,300-Mbps speeds and links of up to 400 feet.

In addition to its sleek, wall-mountable design, the new UniFi access point also comes with controller software that administrators can use to instantly provision thousands of UniFi APs, map out networks, and view and manage system traffic. Once the software is installed on a Mac or PC, Ubiquiti said it can be tapped into from any device that's equipped with a Web browser.