We first saw AC5300 routers back in 2015 when the high-speed protocol was introduced and made their way into India. The sad thing is, not much has changed since then. Those brands which brought the flagship units for sale in India were met with dismal reception and we’ve hardly seen any new units since then. However, that did not stop manufacturers of other products from incorporating the newer 802.11ad technology. We’ve seen motherboards such as the ASUS Prime X299-DELUXE which came with an onboard Wireless AD solution sporting speeds of up to 4600 Mbits. Enthusiasts and early adopters who go for such products will have to get 802.11ad routers sans official Indian support. So we’re looking at a stagnant market where brands are hardly any brands are bringing in the newer and shinier stuff. On the other hand, we’re seeing more brands introducing mesh routers. These generally have multiple units which are to be strategically placed around the premises to eliminate any and all dead spots. Let’s take a look at this year’s Zero1 Winner.
2017 Zero1 award Winner: ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Being the only brand with an AC5300 product that was released this year, ASUS ends up with the Zero1 Award. It’s still based on the Broadcom BCM4366 chip that was released a couple of years ago but there have been hardware revisions since then that have helped it improve performance. This chip in particular is the newer BCM4366E. Moreover, ASUS has switched to the BCM4908 for the CPU on the GT-AC5300 along with double the RAM and flash storage. Another feature that stands out is that this router packs in eight RJ45 ports which is a first time for us. If you are curious about the ROG branding, then you need not look further than the UI. The router UI has QoS settings placed under the Game Boost tab, and there’s a neat feature which has a ping list of popular multiplayer titles along with the different server locations. We didn’t find an option to add more entries to this table which was kind of a bummer. Essentially, it’s an improved RT-AC5300 with a swanky UI and newer hardware. Oh, and don’t forget the eight LAN ports.
Runner up: Linksys EA7500
Linksys has been one of the more expensive brands since the time they were a Cisco subsidiary. The quality of components used by them has been more or less top-notch with a build quality that puts most of the competition to shame. The Indian SKUs that were launched earlier this year, however, ship with Mediatek SoCs and not Broadcom SoCs, so that’s a major difference as compared to the international SKUs. However, it’s still one of the best AC1900 routers we’ve tested this year. Unfortunately, most AC1900 routers we checked out were released in India last year and don’t qualify for this year’s Zero1 Awards.
Best Buy: Xiaomi Mi 3C
Leave it to Xiaomi to bring hardware and software features of higher-end devices into the entry-level segment. Everything from the polished UI which is based off of OpenWRT, the inclusion of four antennae, remote control app and a great build make the Mi 3C a really good router. Especially when one is getting all of these for a measly price of `1,199. Unfortunately, it’s the only SKU from Xiaomi that’s selling in India, they could easily make a killing if they introduced the dual-band router in India as well.