Western Digital My Net AC Bridge review: Another great 802.11ac bridge
If you’re building an 802.11ac network, you have two options on the client side: Purchase a second 802.11ac router from the same manufacturer and configure it to operate as a bridge, or purchase a dedicated 802.11ac wireless bridge. Unless you need to connect only one client, we strongly recommend the latter option, as it’s less expensive and a whole lot easier to set up. If you do have just one client, Netgear’s A6200 Wi-Fi USB adapter is a cheaper option (you can read our review of the A6200 here).
Western Digital is the only the third vendor to offer a dedicated 802.11ac bridge, following in the footsteps of Buffalo Technologies (with the AirStation AC1300 bridge) and Cisco (with the Linksys WUMC710). The Buffalo device is basically a clone of that company’s AirStation AC1300 router—it’s equally as big and bulky. WD’s bridge isn’t nearly as compact as Cisco’s, but its footprint is about the same. Whereas the Cisco device is short and squat, the WD bridge is narrow, tall, and permanently mounted to a stand, all of which renders it susceptible to tipping over when bumped. Its height, however, offers an advantage: faster performance at long range.
Like the other 802.11ac bridges, the My Net AC Bridge provides four ethernet ports in back for connecting the hardware in your home-entertainment system to your network, and from there to the Internet. Typical clients include a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, a home-theater PC, an AV receiver, and/or a media streamer. LEDs indicating power, WPS (Wireless Protected Setup) pairing status, the Web connection, and the wireless connection are located on the side of the bridge. The LEDs are difficult to see if you’re looking at the device straight on, but you might appreciate not having such a visual distraction in your entertainment center (we certainly do).
We benchmarked the My Net AC Bridge alongside our current favorite 802.11ac router, the Asus RT-AC66U, and then compared its performance with that of Cisco’s Linksys WUMC710, streaming to three locations inside a 2800-square-foot, single-story home. As you can see in the chart above, Western Digital’s bridge delivered about the same performance at close range (the router and client in the same room, about 9 feet apart) and in our home-theater test (35 feet apart, with four walls in between). But Western Digital’s bridge offered much higher performance than Cisco's model did when we moved the client to a home office that was located 65 feet from the router and separated by three walls.
Which product is superior? Although we prefer the Linksys WUMC710’s squat design, it’s hard to argue with the My Net AC Bridge’s superior long-range performance. We'd call it a tie, but we've seen Western Digital's bridge selling online for about $20 less than Cisco's.