Asus RT-AC68U review
Asus’ wireless routers have impressed us when we’ve reviewed them in the past; the manufacturer has won the overall award in our last two wireless router Labs tests. The RT-AC68U model is the highest specification router we’ve seen from the firm, offering 802.11ac wireless at speeds of up to 1,300Mbits/sec and up to 600Mbits/sec over 802.11n.
It’s a cable router, as most of the high-spec routers we see are these days, but other than the lack of ADSL, it’s absolutely stuffed with high-end hardware. As you’d expect from a wireless device costing £190, all four network ports on the rear support Gigabit speeds. There’s also a pair of USB sockets – one of which is USB 3 – for file-sharing, printing and 3G adapter connection.
Under the hood, the whole shebang is powered by a dual-core 800MHz ARM Cortex A9 processor. File transfers using the USB 3 port certainly seem to benefit from this, delivering top sequential read and write speeds of 37.2MB/sec and 22.6MB/sec over a Gigabit link – far faster than anything we’ve seen from any other wireless router.
The RT-AC68U produced a lightning overall performance for wireless testing, too. We tested first with a laptop running Intel’s 3×3 stream WiFi Link 5300 adapter, and found speed at long range over 5GHz to be particularly impressive. Over a distance of 40m, with a wooden wall and a double-glazed window in the way, transfers peaked at 7MB/sec, faster than anything in our last routers roundup. Over 2.4GHz at this distance, transfers peaked at 5.4MB/sec, which is similarly impressive.
At close range, it lagged a touch behind the fastest router we’ve reviewed – the Netgear D6300. However, it was still rapid: in our 802.11ac test, it registered a top speed of 20MB/sec (using a 2×2 stream Edimax AC-1200 USB 3 adapter); it gained 23.6MB/sec at close range over 5GHz 802.11n using our test laptop’s 3×3 stream WiFi Link 5300 embedded adapter; and it hit speeds of 13MB/sec over 2.4GHz 802.11n.
Asus also furnished us with a sample of its latest 1,300Mbits/sec, PCI Express x1 3×3 card – the PCE-AC68 – to show what this router is really capable of. With this installed in our test PC, and its large, three-pronged external antennae connected to the card’s back plate, speeds rocketed. At close range, we measured a frankly astonishing top speed of 57.2MB/sec (480Mbits/sec) over 802.11ac. At long range, speeds were equally jaw-dropping, hitting a peak of 31.9MB/sec (268Mbits/sec). We’ve never seen wireless speeds close to this.
As usual, Asus’ web interface is impeccable, presenting all the settings in a clean, easy-to-understand manner. It takes you through setup step-by-step without the need for a CD, and there’s a decent range of features on offer, too.
In addition to wireless guest network and repeater modes, hardware VPN server and customisable QoS settings, you get the full range of Asus’ AiCloud remote file-sharing, synchronisation and network access tools. These are almost embarrassingly easy to set up and use, and there’s app support for Android and iOS, although only for file sharing. On the down side, parental controls are weak: you can only set up allow or deny access to clients at certain times. However, generally speaking, we like what’s on offer.
It all adds up to the best all-round router we’ve come across. Wireless speeds are supremely quick over short and long range, with both 802.11n and 802.11ac equipment. USB connectivity is the fastest we’ve seen from any router, and it’s very easy to set up and use. The biggest downside is the high price – if you want the best in wireless performance, you’re going to have to pay through the nose.
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Gigabit LAN ports||4|
|10/100 LAN ports||0|
|Wireless bridge (WDS)||yes|
|WPA Enterprise support||yes|
|WPS (wireless protected setup)||yes|
|Port forwarding/virtual server||yes|
|Web content filtering||no|
|Dimensions||220 x 83 x 320mm (WDH)|