This is TrendNet's first full fat (1300Mbit 802.11ac and 450Mbit 802.11n) next generation wireless router. The interesting part is the 812DRU aims to compete with the bigger, more expensive bands in terms of performance, but then undercut them in price. The cheapest 802.11ac router we have reviewed to date is the excellent Asus RT-AC56U at £125, so with the 812DRU available for just a fraction over £100 we're intrigued.
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Given its price tag it is somewhat predictable that first impressions of 812DRU are not overly inspiring. The textured, matt pseudo metal finish on its sides is practical and actually looks pretty good, but the dull grey middle harks back to the days of beige PCs. There is no excuse for using beige in a tech product in 2013.
On the plus the side, 812DRU is well constructed and there are no rattles nor any flex in the casing. It is also extremely light at just 395g and it measures a mere 180 x 155 x 48mm, making it one of the smallest and lightest 802.11ac routers we've seen. The upright design also means it has a small desktop footprint, but sadly there is no option to wall mount.
The big news with the 812DRU is its 1750Mbit rating. In every cut price 802.11ac router we've seen up to now (including the aforementioned AC56U), costs are cut by scaling back to a 2x2 antenna array which reduces theoretical speeds for wireless ac to 867Mbit and wireless n to 300Mbit for a '1200Mbit' advertised product. This tends not to affect short range performance, but speeds quickly tail off as you get further from the router.
Interestingly, however, the 812DRU doesn't carry the 3x3 antenna array a 1750Mbit rating would suggest. Instead TrendNet lists a 3x2 antenna array, the first time we have seen such a combination on an 802.11ac router. On paper this should mean blazing fast short range performance, but still poses some question marks about how it will hold up at distance. It is a reduced level of cost cutting.
Elsewhere the 812DRU ticks a number of key boxes. Notably there are 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports, which we've seen cut to one, plus 3x Fast Ethernet - now a misnomer - on some 802.11ac routers like the EE Bright Box 2. There is also IPv6 support and WPA/WPA2 and WPS security. In addition you'll find Dynamic DNS, UPnP, a native Firewall and support for traffic prioritisation.
There is just a single USB 2.0 port though, when we'd prefer two (USB 3.0 tends to be for marketing purposes when USB speeds over a network are yet to threaten the limits of USB 2.0).
You won't be surprised to hear TrendNet doesn't have a Cloud platform like Linksys' Smart WiFi or D-Link's mydlink to remotely control and monitor your router settings, but most security conscious users will actually consider this a good thing.
Unlike a number of router makers, TrendNet still bothers to include a setup CD in the box, but thankfully it isn't necessary to use for owners of ultrabooks, phones and tablets. Simply plug the 812DRU in, hit the WPS button when connecting to it and you're ready to go.
Well, not quite as there are some slightly antiquated aspects to the process we'd like to see refined. Unlike Asus, Linksys and others there is no setup process that automatically begins once you connect to the router for the first time. These set the admin password, wireless SSIDs and their passwords as well as detect your Internet connection type.
Instead you must manually login to the 812DRU at 192.168.10.1 where the dreaded admin/admin username and password are set as default. You then individually run the separate 'Internet Connection Setup Wizard' and 'Wireless Security Setup Wizard'. You must also go into advanced settings to change the admin username and password.
We suspect many users won't do either of these things, which leaves their security vulnerable and them left scratching their heads why their internet connection isn't working automatically. While using the CD will circumvent this, that isn't the point in 2013 as CD drives are quickly disappearing. The router also doesn't apply firmware updates automatically so you have to get them from the TrendNet website, download them and upload them to the router manually.
That said with these things done the 812DRU UI is extremely easy to live with. Yes it is a long way removed from the drag and drop niceties of Linksys Smart WiFi, but it is fast and simple to navigate so even the less tech savvy shouldn't get lost.