On Computers: AC router promises speed and delivers it

Jim Hillibish

Just when you think you’ve got the router thing figured out, here comes a parade of new models that changes everything.

Cisco began the charge with its first AC router, taking advantage of new standards to increase speed. It’s three times faster than our typical “n” routers.

More AC types will be here by the end of the year, hopefully driving down the price. The Cisco retails at $349, about $250 more than dual-band “n” routers that have served us so well.

There’s one problem with all of this glory. You’ll need hardware that supports the AC standard. That is coming soon. Where have we heard this before? I think I’d wait for the hardware support before jumping for the AC.

Some of the new ACs are supporting some or all of the AC potential on “g” and “n” model networked hardware. You’ll get close to top speed but will need apps or new gear to do the other fun stuff.

For your bucks, the AC is more than a router. It contains ports to connect all the Wi-Fi enabled gear in your home theater directly to the Internet. That makes even multiple streamings fast enough to help eliminate the usual agonies of buffering and not enough bandwidth.

This is a router for your entertainment room, not your computer room. And there’s more.

These routers arrive with onboard apps to connect your handheld devices, anyplace on earth. This means you can be in London, access your home system, and do anything just like sitting there at home.

The apps work off cloud computing systems. Cisco’s is free, so far.

Say you’re in Shanghai and need an important report sitting on your home system. You can get it in seconds using your AC router network. And on and on.

The main AC advantage is its speed. It operates at 5 Ghz. That’s faster than Verizon 4G, the fastest cell data net. This turns your home net into a powerhouse.

There’s enough speed to stream two or more movies at the same time, ending the hegemony of parents over children for entertainment options. You can keep your streaming music always on without impinging on other applications.

We’re just at the beginning of home Wi-Fi apps. Soon you’ll be able to activate home security systems, lighting, heating and any other appliance with network connection. No more excuses that you forgot your homework. Download it at school to your cellphone or tablet.

Before you speed out and buy one of these, do your homework, as this is a lot more complicated that simply upgrading a “g” router to an “n.” Or, wait a year or so for the software to catch up with the hardware, or vice versa.

Beware: Using a torridly fast modem is like driving a fast car. Once you try it, you can never go back to a four cylinder.

Contact Jim Hillibish at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.