All of which leads to a sizeable caveat. Since the Buffalo AirStation 1750's D1800H and D1300 are the first 802.11ac devices we have tested we have no context for comparison and putting it against even the fastest 802.11n router is comparing apples with oranges. As such the Buffalo combo is fast, but it remains to be seen how it does in the mix when other 802.11ac kit starts hitting the market.
Emphasising the importance of this question is the Buffalo D1800H's 802.11n wireless performance. At 2.4GHz we found it to be significantly slower than the DIR-645 at both two metres and 10 metres with a wall between it, hitting peaks of just 4.2MB per second (33.6Mbit) and 2.68MB per second (21.44Mbit) respectively. Over 5GHz 802.11n speeds only improved by about 20 per cent so if you plan to replace your main router know that performance won't be stellar when you're not connected to the bridge… at least until 802.11ac devices, dongles and cards are launched.
Value (updated: 21.06.2012)
So how much does a future proofing investment cost? Less than we expected. With a £139.99 RRP the D1800H carries very little premium compared to a high end 802.11n device and while n performance is lacking the future proofing it provides should make it the more attractive buy. As for the media bridge this is a reasonable £129.99 for those desperate to unlock the potential of 802.11ac right now. Our one note of caution is that as the first of many 802.11ac routers on the horizon it may well be worth waiting to see what the competition come up with first before splashing out.
Verdict (updated: 21.06.2012)
The Buffalo AirStation 1750's D1800H router gives a tantalising glimpse into the future of Wi-Fi. Combined with the D1300 media bridge it produces speeds far beyond anything we have seen from 802.11n equipment. Having to buy a separate media bridge to enjoy is frustrating, but with the router coming at a small price premium it is a wise buy even without it for some future proofing. Against this we don't yet know how fast the D1800H is compared to other ac routers as we await their arrival and 802.11n performance is weak. Impatient speed freaks should apply, but for everyone else it will be be worth waiting to see what the competition comes up with in the first wave of 802.11ac gadgets.