So how do router and receiver look look? In a word, identical. Buffalo has decided to twin the designs which both use discrete antenna bands around their rectangular exterior and they have smart matt black and metallic finishes, which should keep the dust away. At a matching 210 x 184 x 30mm they aren't overly huge and are equally happy positioned upright or on their sides. Build quality is excellent and they feel durable in hand.
Where we did hit our first snag though was in the setup. On paper Buffalo has made it simple to get both the router and media bridge up and running with each featuring an 'AOSS' (AirStation OneTouch Secure System) button that simply requires pressing a button on each to pair them. Unfortunately for us a successful pairing required two restarts and a reset and they need to be re-paired any time one is unplugged. Happily further attempts saw pairing work as advertised so we are happy to put it down to a glitch having not seen widespread reports of similar issues elsewhere.
Next is the router UI and, for such a future-focused device, it feels like stepping back in time. In short the browser based interface looks like something from the early days of web page design with garish colours, ugly fonts and an inconsistent layout. It isn't lacking in functionality, but it is far less intuitive than it should be and a far cry from the fluid UIs from the likes of D-Link and Netgear. It needs a complete makeover.
Happily where the Buffalo AirStation 1750 D1800H and D1300 combo does come up trumps is performance. With the router and bridge just two metres apart we achieved real world 802.11ac transfer speeds of up to 26.7MB per second (213.6Mbit) which obliterate our previous benchmark of 10.3MBps (82.4Mbit) from the D-Link DIR 645 Smartbeam router. This lead widens further with distance. At 10 metres with a solid wall between router and bridge we still hit speeds of 16.2MB per second (129.6Mbit) compared to 5.61MBps (44.88Mbit) from the DIR-645.
Pushing this further we found our first major drop off when positioning the router and bridge 13 metres apart with three walls between them. In this scenario transfer speeds only peaked at 4.2MB per second (33.6Mbit) which - while still much faster than the 2.57MBps (20.56Mbit) achieved by the DIR-645 - showed range issues for some users with large houses may remain. That said we were still able to reliably stream 1080p video from our NAS.