This is WD's first next generation wireless ac compatible router. The company only entered the router space in recent years, but has impressed with feature packed models like the My Net N900 Central. With the AC1300 WD is pushing its proprietary 'FasTrack' technology front and centre which it claims makes the router the fastest and most consistent in its class.
For such a big release Western Digital hasn't spent a great deal of time on design. The My Net series has never sported the most innovative look and the AC1300 is virtually identical to its predecessors. This means the same sunken, gloss rectangular casing and matt lid pattern. Even the front activity LEDs are the same with blue flashing power, WiFi, Internet and WPS lights and a dedicated WPS physical button. It is no PlusNet router monstrosity, but it certainly is boring.
That said 'boring' has its benefits. The AC1300 is rigidly built, has large rubber feet to keep it in place and can be positioned just about anywhere without catching the eye. Then again this could prove a necessary evil as the AC1300 doesn't sit upright and cannot be wall mounted.
While its looks won't make friends and influence people, its feature set just might. Unlike the hard drive packing N900, the AC1300 is all about speed.
802.11ac compatibility is the big draw, but WD is also pushing its 'FasTrack' automated media prioritisation technology for equal billing. Media prioritisation isn't new, but with our media consumption increasingly online WD has taken it a step farther by embedding it in the core of the AC1300. FasTrack is pre-programmed to prioritise a vast array of online services from Netflix and YouTube to Spotify and VoIP traffic from the likes of Skype. FasTrack also analyses the whole of any media file rather than just pieces, a process WD boasts will reduce buffering.
The AC1300 prides itself on smart management of your local network as well with integrated network diagnostics. As well as providing an array of statistics it claims to analyse common network connectivity issues and address them automatically. Despite this WD doesn't yet have a full Cloud platform like Linksys and D-Link, so all access must be done locally.
Elsewhere the AC1300 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It comes with two USB 2.0 ports (though no USB 3.0), there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports (though sadly not the seven the N900 broke from the pack to provide), Gigabit WAN and WPA/WPA2 and WPS security. IPv6 support is also there out the box along with parental controls.
Setting up the AC1300 does lead you down the CD route (something companies are starting to break from as Ultrabook and tablet popularity skyrockets), but it is a smooth process nonetheless. Admin and wireless passwords are set straight away and the main UI is attractive with intuitive categories which shouldn't scare away even the most timid of technophobes.
Techies will simply plug in the AC1300, connect manually and dive into the settings – something the CD-based process thankfully doesn't restrict.