Asus RT-N66U

While the RT-N66U may not have had the fastest 2.4GHz signal at close quarters, it certainly has the best range of any 802.11n router we've tested. Add to this the easy-to-use interface, leagues of options and the fact that it simply works — we can't help but recommend this.


8.5
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Asus calls the RT-N66U "The Dark Knight", although not officially, no doubt to avoid the scrutiny of DC's lawyers.

You can see why, from the angled, aggressive, all-black design, along with the diamond-plated pattern across the front. It has three removable, repositionable antennas (bat ears?), and can be laid flat, vertical with a stand or wall mounted, and it comes with quite the reputation.

We discovered that it ran quite warm during operation, with the metal around the ports becoming hot to the touch. In saying this, we didn't have any problems arising as a result of the heat.

We do have one thing to say for the RT-N66U: while setting up and testing, most routers can be arduous, as things may become flaky or some setting doesn't work with your local network, but the RT-N66U just worked first time.

Specs at a glance

Firmware tested 3.0.0.3.178
ADSL2+ modem No
Annex M N/A
3G modem Supported via USB
IPv6 Yes
Wireless protocols 802.11b/g/n
Dual band Simultaneous
Highest wireless security WPA2
WDS Yes
Ethernet ports 4x gigabit, 1x gigabit WAN
USB print sharing/storage Storage, printer
Accessories Ethernet cable, installation CD

Connections

Power button, 2x USB 2.0 ports, gigabit WAN, 4x gigabit Ethernet ports, WPS button.
(Credit: Western Digital)

UI and features

Frustratingly for experienced users, you'll have to go through an easy set-up wizard on first accessing the web UI, with no way to skip straight to manual settings.

Asus has kicked up its game hugely in the UI department, presenting something that is not only above its previous efforts, but also surpasses many of its competitors' efforts, too. It's easy to use, but hit the advanced section and you'll get more LAN and WAN options than most router vendors offer.

The default home screen is split into three — menu on the left, quick overview in the middle and quick settings on the right. Click something in the overview section, and the right-hand side will change its options contextually. It's a great way to get all of the basic settings you need in one place. There are even status icons and links above the interface, each giving you useful information, and, where appropriate, can take you to the relevant config page.

Asus' new router interface is worlds ahead of where it used to be.
(Screenshot by Craig Simms/CNET)

While most routers will offer a guest SSID to allow internet access for friends, Asus allows three different SSIDs on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, allowing you to set different authentication methods, time limits and intranet permissions for each.

A real-time traffic monitor is built in that can differentiate between internet, wired and the two wireless bands, the graph giving useful time-specific data. Sadly, it's unable to bury down to the client level, so you can't find out who it is taking up all of your bandwidth.

Parental control functions are in there, but it's simply a schedule-based internet access — to access URL or keyword filters, you'll have to head to the firewall section.

3G/4G dongles are supported over USB, but frustratingly Asus does not provide a compatibility list, leaving consumers shooting in the dark. The USB ports also support printers (once again, no compatibility list is available) and storage, the latter of which can be accessed via FTP, SMB, DLNA and iTunes.

If you intend to leave your USB storage attached, you can also install Asus' Download Master software on it, supporting Torrents, newsgroup downloading (as long as you have an .NZB file) and aMule. You can even set up scheduled download events, if you desire.

Performance

After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, an empty channel of either 1, 6 or 11 is chosen for 2.4GHz wireless testing. Usually, the router is restricted to the 20MHz band if the option is available.

We use iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams with a TCP window size of 1MB and an interval of one second. The test is run for five minutes in three different locations on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router, one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors, and two floors down under the same conditions.

The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets (the Atheros AR5008X, Ralink RT2870 and Intel Ultimate-N 6300), and then all results are averaged.

2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Cisco Linksys EA4500
  • WD MY Net N900 Central
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear R6300
  • Asus RT-N66U

  • 139.00136.33111.15101.2793.86
  • Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 13110295.0390.8067.63
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 64.6753.8353.1637.1728.97
  • Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


The Asus isn't the fastest 2.4GHz off the block, but look across all three locations — it manages the most consistent speed across all distances involved, and does very well at our farthest test point, location three.

5GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Cisco Linksys EA4500
  • WD MY Net N900 Central
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear R6300
  • Asus RT-N66U

  • 205.33190.33189.67181.67171
    Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 164.66151.33135.50135.33132.33
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 13.338.538.533.700
    Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Asus' 5GHz performance is not only excellent, but its range also still remains impressive. Location three is typically very harsh on 5GHz signals, and while we'd hardly call an average score of 13Mbps usable, the Asus has done a better job than all previous routers here.

Warranty

The RT-N66U is covered by a three-year warranty, pipping Billion, Cisco and Netgear's two years.

Conclusion

While the RT-N66U may not have had the fastest 2.4GHz signal at close quarters, it certainly has the best range of any 802.11n router we've tested. Add to this the easy-to-use interface, leagues of options and the fact that it simply works — we can't help but recommend this.



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