ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Router

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Today we take a look the ASUS flagship 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router. Wireless AC technology has been on the market for almost a year so it is pretty mainstream and can be found in computers, mobile devices, and of course routers.  We have looked at AC routers from Netgear, Buffalo, and Cisco in the past where we saw tremendous increases in wireless speeds.  Most of the time, the firmware and GUI’s of these routers mirrored the non-AC routers from that particular manufacturer so those who are upgrading don’t really have a steep learning curve at all.

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On first look, the ASUS AC1750 Gigabit Router looks exactly like ASUS’s Dual-Band 802.11n RT-N66U router which reviewed a few months ago.  The only difference is that the identification label showing the model number.  The RT-N66U has silver lettering while the AC66U is in gold.  The comparison to the wireless-n RT-N66U is not a bad comparison to be honest. We found it to be one of the fastest Wireless-N routers on the market with GUI that was logical and precise. If the AC1750 RT-AC66U performs like its little brother, this could be the router of choice for anyone looking to step up to gigabit Wi-Fi speeds.

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The RT-AC66U is designed around a 600 MHz Broadcom BCM4706 which is the same power plant used in the ASUS RT-N66U wireless-N router.  The engineers at Broadcom designed the BCM processor with a 600 MHz MIPS32 784k superscalar CPU that supports high-speed DDR2 and PCIe.  While it contains a USB controller to connect it to external devices, it is only USB2.0 port.

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All of this internal power is designed to deliver dual-band wireless capabilities over 2.4GHz and 5GHz while providing Gigabit Ethernet performance. 

ASUS also includes their ASUS AiClout service with this router which provides a user with remote access, sharing, and syncing with no extra apps or services that you need to purchase.  The RT-AC55U (like it’s little brother) also features something called AiRadar which optimizes wireless performance and coverage with the router’s detachable high-powered antennas.

ASUS built this router to be the centerpiece in not only your computer network, but your entertainment network as well.  With features like AiCloud , AiRadar, and two multi-functional USB ports, this router is all about remote performance and file sharing.

 

ASUS RT-AC66U Features:

 

Let’s break open the box and take a closer look at the ASUS RT-AC66U to see how easy it is to set up.

ASUS RT-AC66U: Setup & Configuration

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ASUS ships the RT-AC66U Dual-Band Router with the standard equipment that you see in other router packages.  Besides the 802.11ac Gigabit router, you will find a router stand, a RJ-45 Ethernet cable, power adapter, support/driver CD, Quick Start instructions, and a warranty card.

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Measuring in at just a bit over 8” x 5.5” x 1.3”, the AC66U router is exactly the dimensions of the N66U router which makes perfect sense of course. 

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The housing for the flagship AC-router exactly matches the “Black Diamond” router where there are no physical buttons on the front face of the router.  Instead you see a series of LED indicators displaying the status of Power, LAN, WAN, 2.4GHz, 5.0GHz, and USB port use.

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On the back, you will find a DC power port, power button, 2 USB ports, a reset button, WAN port, 4 LAN ports, and a small WPS security button.

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Initial setup of the RT-AC66U Router was as fast and easy as any router on the market today.  After plugging everything in, we powered up the router and opened a browser on our PC.  Here, we just typed in the factory default home IP address (192.168.1.1) to get to the router’s menu. From here, we set up our Wi-Fi settings, security, and all the other features.

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ASUS provides a way to get up and running even faster though. You can actually use any Wi-Fi-enabled device to configure router as well.  After opening a browser, the RT-AC66U takes you straight to a setup page.  After a few clicks, you are up and running.  We tried it from our PC, phone, tablet, and laptop with no problems.  If you just accepted all defaults from the router, setup should take about 30 seconds!

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We found configuring the ASUS RT-AC66U to be basically identical to our experience setting up the RT-N66U.  The firmware version we have loaded is version 3.0.0.4.354 which was released in March of 2013.  Since there has been no update for the past few months, we can assume that this latest firmware version is stable and mature.

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For you open-source firmware fans, the ASUS RT-AC66U supports DD-WRT, one of the most popular third-part firmware builds.  While we didn’t install and use DD-WRT, we have heard that DD-WRT complements the ASUS router rather nicely.  No matter what your preference in firmware builds is, it seems that you have a few options if you purchase this router.

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Here, we see the ASUS AiCloud options where a user can turn the RT-AC66U into a personal cloud server.  You can connect this server to Windows, MAC Linux, and USB storage devices.  If you set up multiple accounts, account holders can sync with other AiCloud clients and products directly.

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For those who might be considering spending money on online storage or even cloud-capable NAS, this feature could be worth its weight in gold – or at least the price of a fancy internet-capable NAS since all of your files and data can now be accessed, shared, and managed online by any computing device including smartphones and tables!

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Of course this router has our favorite feature - Guest Networking. With it's dual-bands each able to generate three different SSIDs, this gives you great control and security over who uses your network.

For a more detailed look at the setup experience and specific parts of the GUI, please check out our ASUS RT-N66U review


 

ASUS RT-AC66U: Wireless Speed Tests

RT-AC66U-2Once again, we wanted to test our router in a real world application so we connected the ASUS RT-AC66U to a PC running Windows 7 64-bit and configured it using “Automatic” settings for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. We took our Alienware M17XR4 to use as a target laptop client.  The Alienware M17XR4 features an Intel i7-3610QM CPU with 6GB RAM running Windows 7 64-Bit, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M.  More importantly for our tests, it is outfitted with a Qualcomm Antheros Killer Wireless-N 1103 Network Adapter. The Killer 1103 is a three-antenna network adapter that connects at up to 450Mbps over 802.11n and features reduced power consumption and Wi-Fi Direct. Much has been written about the Killer NIC technology in recent years but there is no doubt that this 3-antenna solution will give us the best possible wireless throughput for our test. Many people don’t have an 802.11ac device in their arsenal yet, so we are looking at some of the best speeds this router can do without the use of Wireless-AC.

 

 

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We took our Alienware laptop and moved it 25-feet away from the ASUS router. We didn't tell the client anything more than the SSID name for each router tested and let it automatically choose the channel to connect to.  All the routers were set to “Unsecure Mode” (for fastest data throughput), and with WMM / QoS turned ON. After connecting, we ran the PC application LAN Speed Test (LST) to measure file transfer and network speeds. LST builds a file in memory and then transfers the packet without the effects of windows file caching.  It then reports the time and calculates the network speed.


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We repeated the test 2 more times rotating the router 90 degrees after each test to make sure that the router’s speed was affected adversely by its orientation.

 

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Benchmark Results: The ASUS RT-AC66U shoots to the top of our 1MB throughput test for Average Read speeds.  The ASUS RT-AC66U also clocks in with the fastest Average Write speed of our 802.11AC-enabled routers. While there is only a small difference in top Read speeds between the Netgear R6300 and ASUS RT-AC66U, the ASUS shows us a 35% improvement in Average Write speeds over the Netgear (and a 7% increase over the Cisco Linksys AC1750).

 

Benchmark Results:  Here we see how larger data packets do with our AC-routers.  Testing these data packet sizes is important since this best simulates multimedia streaming wirelessly over a network. The Netgear R6300 router still is the cream of the crop with respect to Average Read speeds. The ASUS RT-AC66U measures the best Average Write speeds just ahead of the Netgear R6300.  We have seen in the past that using a 802.11ac in "mixed-mode" (ie. AC + N) doesn't harm the throughput in any way. In fact, everyone of these routers shows that 802.11n-only devices work faster when used with AC-router.

 

These results are critical for those who don’t have a many 802.11ac devices connected to their network.  What this shows is that even with non-wireless-AC devices, your will see a good improvement on speeds when using one of these routers.

 

ASUS RT-AC66U: Wireless 802.11ac Tests

RT-AC66U-4For our next test, we turned off the built-in Wi-Fi on our Alienware M17XR4and connected it to a Netgear R6300 802.11ac Router configured as a Bridge to each of the wireless AC routers in our test suite. Let’s check out what true 802.11ac wireless networking can do.  Again, we used LAN Speed Test (LST) to check the throughput of our 1MB and 100MB data packets.

 

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Test Results: It is when we look at the throughput speed tests under wireless-AC do we really get a sense for the true speeds of these next-generation routers. Here we the Netgear R6300 continues to set the pace with the fastest Average Read Speeds in our test suite.  The ASUS RT-AC66U isn’t exactly chopped liver and is only 7.5% slower than the Netgear R6300. The ASUS’s Read Speeds are a little more concerning as they AC66U was 36% slower than our fastest router, the Buffalo WZR-D180H. 

 

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Test Results: Again we see ASUS RT-AC66U lagging slightly in our 100 MB Data Packet speed tests.  While increasing its speeds significantly over its own wireless-N speeds – by 106% to be exact –the ASUS RT-AC66U still trails both the Netgear R6300 and Cisco Linksys AC1750 by 30%. As you can see, all of these routers do an incredible job of transferring data with the 802.11ac wireless protocol.

 

ASUS RT-AC66U: Power Consumption

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Power consumption by your home’s electronic devices continues to be a very important issue so we have made an attempt to present some simple power consumption tests on the various routers that we had. To measure idle usage, we reset each wireless router to the default settings and plugged them with no devices connected to them. We then measured the power draw from each router at the wall with our P3 International P4400 Kill-A-Watt electric usage monitor.

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Benchmark Results: As expected, the ASUS RT-AC66U consumes the same amount of energy as that of all the wireless-AC routers.  The idle-power consumption numbers are almost 2-time greater than wireless-N devices.

 

Since most people will have their routers turned on for 24-hour a day operation, we think that examining power usage is an important benchmark. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is an important financial estimate that helps consumer’s direct and indirect costs of a product. In our TCO calculation we will be figuring up how much it costs to have a wireless router running per year in an idle state with the unit being installed 24-hours a day. We will be using 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) based on the bureau of labor statistics report from April 2012 showing that amount as the national average.

 

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Benchmark Results: There is a price to pay for the fast Wi-Fi on the market and you will definitely see a difference in your electric bill when you get rid of you old wireless-N device and replace it with a new 802.11ac device.

ASUS RT-AC66U: Final Thoughts

RT-AC66U-1bThe ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band 802.11ac router was pretty incredible to work with. Setting aside the conversation centering on Wi-Fi speed for a moment, the GUI is feature-packed with almost everything anyone – newbies to power users – would want in an interface. 

Working with the ASUS RT-AC66U is very painless and the interface responses to commands quickly with no delays between pages or input settings. From our initial setup to configuring and customizing our wireless network and access, the ASUS didn’t disappoint.

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With respect to the wireless speeds, like all 802.11ac routers we have tested over the past several months, the AC66U showed us incredible speeds over our ‘typical’ wireless-N.  Even though the ASUS router didn’t ‘win’ our speed tests, you have to look at the larger picture in that if you are stepping up to an AC-router, from an ancient 802.11b/g/n, you will notice a difference from the time you turn the device on. 

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When you look at the overall functionality of the RT-AC66U, you will be very satisfied that you are getting one of the most feature-packed routers on the market. Even though we think the GUI is fantastic, there are those who might want to upgrade to a more customized firmware. The AC66U (like the N66U) supports DD-WRT, but there is no word yet about any other open-source firmware.

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Having two USB ports helps expand the functionality of the RT-AC66U as well. For those of you who might be looking to purchase a network attached storage device, you can use your USB external drive and plug directly into the ASUS router and share files with users or access data from a remote location using ASUS AiCloud.

We worked with the AiCloud a little bit, but we found it a bit choppy and slower than our QNAP NAS.  Of course the list price of the QNAP was well over $500 before installing hard drives. As you can see, if you have patience (and are frugal) you can get much of the same function as a stand-alone NAS unit.

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With so many new devices coming to market with built-in wireless-AC, you would be crazy if you didn’t look at the benefits having one of these routers serve as the brains of your network. While still expensive relative to lower costing N600 and N900 devices, you are built for the future with an N1750 device. The ASUS RT-AC66U can be purchased today for around $180.  In comparison, the ASUS RT-N66U – ASUS’s wireless-N dual-band router cost $150.

 

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Legit Bottom Line:  Even though the ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band 802.11ac was not the fastest wireless router we had, the features and GUI make up for its speed test performance