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Updated 11/3/14: Added AC3200 class, rename AC2300
Updated 1/13/14: Added AC1900, AC2300 classes

The original version of this article lays out whys and wherefores of the classification system we use for identifying the maximum performance capabilities of Wi-Fi products in our Router and Wireless Finders, Charts and Rankers.

In general, we have been in sync with how manufacturers are using "N" and "AC" terms when describing wireless routers and access points. But when it comes to wireless adapters / clients, it looks like we are swimming against the tide of ever-optimistic marketers.

So in the interest of not adding to confusion, we are throwing in the towel and mirroring what manufacturers are doing. Table 1 is the new Class table that applies to both routers / access points and wireless devices.

"Class" designation 2.4 GHz N Radio
Maximum Link Rate (Mbps)
5 GHz AC Radio
Maximum Link Rate (Mbps)
AC3200 600 1300
AC2350 600 1733
AC1900 600 1300
AC1750 450 1300
AC1600 300 1300
AC1300 450 867
AC1200 300 867
AC750 300 433
AC580 150 433
N900 450 450
N750 450 300
N750 300 450
N600 300 300
N450 450
N300 300
N150 150
Table 1: Wi-Fi Device classification table - routers / APs and clients

These notes apply to Table 1:

  1. For routers and access points, classes from N600 up indicate products capable of simultaneous dual-band operation.
  2. For routers and access points, classes from N450 down indicate products capable of single-band operation.
  3. Wireless clients are capable of single-band operation only. So, for example, an AC1200 client can connect at a maximum 300 Mbps link rate in 2.4 GHz or 867 Mbps in 5 GHz, but never both simultaneously
  4. Wireless bridges, repeaters and extenders follow Rule 3 unless they explicitly specify simultaneous dual-band operation
  5. AC3200 class has two 5 GHz radios, each supporting 1300 Mbps maximum link rate

One change to previous router / AP nomenclature is that AC1310 is now the more commonly used AC1300. This still designates a product with the combination of 450 Mbps 802.11n in 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps 802.11ac in 5 GHz, however.

We also have changed our AC2300 class to AC2350 to better reflect total throughput. Note that some manufacturers have aggressively rounded this class up to AC2400.

Please note that not all manufacturers use this terminology consistently. For example, WD has named its AC1750 class router the MyNet AC1300 HD. But most manufacturers have been good about specifying each band's maximum link rate somewhere in their fine print.

What do you think? Please let us know over in the Forums, or drop a line to comments@smallnetbuilder.com to weigh in. Thanks!

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