Reviews

Routers

ASUS RT-AC1200G+

ASUS RT-AC53

ASUS RT-AC5300

ASUS RT-AC88U

D-Link DIR-809

ASUS 4G-N12

netis Beacon AC1200 Gaming Router WF2681

D-Link DIR-890L

D-Link DIR-825AC

ASUS RT-AC3200

ASUS RT-AC51U

D-Link DIR-860L

Wireless router NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000 or even more cosmic space at our homes

Small-sized D-LINK DIR-516 Wireless Router

ASUS 4G-AC55U

D-Link DIR-806A Wireless Router

New ZyXEL Keenetic Ultra II and Giga III Wireless Routers

Budget-priced ASUS RT-N11P Wireless Router

NETGEAR R7500

ASUS RT-AC87U

Buffalo WZR-1750DHP

ASUS RT-N18U

NETGEAR WNDR4700

ASUS RT-N65U

ASUS RT-AC52U

ASUS RT-AC56U

The New Wireless Flagship Device or ASUS RT-AC68U

DIR-868L or the First Router with Support of 802.11ac by D-Link

NETGEAR WNDR3800

ASUS RT-N14U

AC for All or NETGEAR R6300

New Router for New Standard, ASUS RT-AC66U

D-Link DVA-G3672B

D-Link DIR-857 or HD Media Router 3000

NETGEAR JDGN1000

N900 NETGEAR WNDR4500 Wireless Router

ASUS RT-G32 rev. C1 and RT-N10 rev. B1

ASUS DSL-N12U

D-Link DSL-2750U, ADSL2+ wireless router with USB

Soviet coffee-grinder or D-Link DIR-645

ASUS RT-N66U or wireless 900 Mbps

Mobile wireless router for 3G/Wi-Fi networks or ASUS WL-330N3G

NETGEAR WNR1000v2 wireless router for home

ASUS RT-N10U

ASUS RT-N56U or hardware NAT acceleration

ASUS RT-N16

ASUS DSL-G31 – connection to ADSL or Ethernet providers

Wireless router and VoIP gateway ASUS AX-112W

Connection of the whole network to Yota or ASUS WMVN25E2+

All the interfaces faster than Fast Ethernet or ASUS RT-N15

NICs and access points

ASUS USB-AC68

Repeater, wireless bridge and Access Point ASUS RP-AC68U

ASUS RP-AC56: Repeater and Access Point in Two Frequency Ranges

ASUS EA-AC87

ASUS RP-N12

ASUS RP-AC52

ASUS WL-330NUL or NIC and Router All in One

ASUS PCE-AC66 or a client card for 802.11ac network

NETGEAR WNCE3001

ASUS EA-N66 or an alien pyramid

A UFO, or NETGEAR WNAP320

Switches

GigaLink GL-SW-F101-08PSG-I

D-Link DGS-3620-28TC

NETGEAR FSM726v3

ADSL2+ Switch with Annex L and Annex M Support or D-Link DAS-3248EC

Access layer switch QTECH QSW-2800

NETGEAR GS108PE, or a smart eight port gigabit ethernet switch with PoE

Network Storages

QNAP TAS-168

QNAP TVS-463

Thecus W4000 – the first network storage based on Microsoft Windows

Desktop Thecus N10850 NAS

Thecus N8810U-G

Thecus N16000PRO Advanced Testing

Expansion Unit Thecus D16000

Thecus N16000PRO

Two-bay D-Link DNS-327L NAS

Buffalo TS4400D

Thecus N4520

Buffalo LinkStation 421

Buffalo TeraStation 5600

Modern Six-bay NAS or NETGEAR ReadyNAS 516

Thecus N4800Eco

Small but speedy, or Thecus N2800

D-Link DNS-345

N16000 or Top Model by Thecus

CFI-B8253JDGG or an external RAID

D-Link ShareCenter DNS-325 or a Small NAS for Home and Office

Thecus N8900 or connecting NAS via 10 GE

HuaweiSymantec Oceanspace S2600

NETGEAR ReadyNAS 2100

Thecus N8800+ or a two-unit storage for eight disks

Rackmount network storage Thecus 1U4200XXX

NETGEAR ReadyNAS Ultra 2 Plus or a speedy two-bay storage

Pocket NAS or Thecus N0204

ASUS NAS-M25

Power Line Communications

ASUS PL-X52P

D-Link DHP-500AV and DHP-540

ASUS PL-X32M

IP-cameras

Round-the-clock surveillance, or ACTi TCM-5611 and PLEN-0203

Firewalls

NETGEAR ProSecure UTM50

NETGEAR SRX5308

Other

TLK TWS-156054-M-GY antivandal cabinet

Adder IPEPS Digital

StreamTV Adapter or D-Link DIB-200

AquaInspector Server Ultimate by Smart-Soft

NComputing N400 or a Citrix Thin Client

Dune HD TV-303D

Dune HD TV-301W and Vdali TV

AquaInspector or a Key-ready Solution for Managing, Controlling and Securing the Internet Access

NetProtect E-29 crash-test

Fluke AirCheck, or We Can See the Radiowaves

Antivandal cabinet – a cure-all solution?

Thin client NComputing L300

KASPERSKY INTERNET SECURITY 2011

WinRAR x64 performance test

UPS APC AP9617/9619 management

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade and utilities

Web interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Reviews and tests of different vendors’ top devices most often appear on our pages: the fastest, the most functional, with the most trendsetting technologies. However most of ordinary users don’t need expensive and complex network equipment. The main requirements which are imposed by subscribers of home networks to wireless routers are stability of operation, good wireless coverage, availability of basic functionality. This is how the model ASUS RT-AC1200G+ was created. Let's consider it in more detail!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router comes in black plastic case with the following dimensions: 207х148х35 mm (not including external antennae) with weight of only 395 grams. For its working the device needs an external power adaptor (included in the box) with the following parameters: 12 V and 2 A.

The upper panel, consisting of two parts, is opaque. It has a vendor name and key parameters of a product together with LEDs indicating status of wired and wireless interfaces of the device and power supply.

The side panels have two external antennae and a ventilation grate located on them.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model is equipped with four external non-detachable rotatable antennae, two of which are located on the side panels, and two on the rear panel. Apart from them five Gigabit Ethernet ports (four LAN and one WAN), power socket with ON/OFF button, USB 2.0 interface, sunken Reset button and WPS button are located on the rare panel.

On the bottom panel of the router there are a sticker with brief information about the device, four rubber legs, two recesses for two more legs, two technological holes for mounting the device on the wall and, of course, a ventilation grate.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. The electronic stuffing of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is one aquamarine textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, almost all key chips are hidden under the protection screens. The only exception is the flash-memory module Spansion (Cypress) FL128SAIF00 with the capacity of 16 Mbytes. It is worth noting that the vendor of the router reveals information about some features of the platform. For example, it is known that the capacity of RAM available for RT-AC1200G+ model is 128 Mbytes, and the platform itself is based on Broadcom chips: BCM47189 (SoC that operates at 900 MHz frequency with support of Ethernet and IEEE 802.11A/N/AC wireless network); BCM43217 (responsible for support of IEEE 802.11 B/G/N wireless network). Functions of wired switch are performed by Broadcom BCM53125 chip. From the analysis of a component layout on a card it is possible to conclude that the antennae connected to the side panels of the case work in the range of 2.4 GHz whereas those that are connected to its rear panel are intended for operation in the range of 5 GHz. The device possesses the following MIMO configuration: 2x2:2, that is two antennae are used for transmission, two for reception and two spatial streams.

That is where we bring the brief review of the hardware platform of the router to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware upgrade and utilities

Firmware upgrade does not require any specific proficiency from the user and is carried out using Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade may be performed both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. The latter case, naturally, requires Internet connection. The whole process requires about three minutes (not considering time necessary for downloading a file from Internet).

Here, in our opinion, it is appropriate to mention the utilities delivered together with the router. Complete with ASUS RT-AC1200G+ three utilities are distributed: Device Discovery, Firmware Restoration and ASUS Printer Setup.

With Device Discovery utility the user can detect ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router in his/her local network.

Connection of the remote printer is made by means of Printer Setup utility.

In case of a problem during the firmware upgrade process, RT-AC1200G+ may change to the rescue mode during which the Power indicator starts slowly flashing. Indirect indicator of such a mode will be TTL equal 100 in ICMP echo replies. In the normal mode of the router TTL equal 64. Standard method of device restoration is to use Firmware Restoration utility.

If it isn't possible to use the specified utility, a web-server embedded into the bootloader is available to the administrator, by means of which it is possible not only to restore a firmware, but also set the device's default settings.

Another way to restore the firmware of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ router is via TFTP.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put "c:\RT-AC1200G+_3.0.0.4_380_3971_0816-g516a6d6.trx"
Transfer successful: 13537280 bytes in 18 second(s), 752071 bytes/s

The router needs to be rebooted after the restoration is completed.

That is where we bring review of utilities and firmware upgrade methods of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model to a conclusion and pass on to examining its capabilities.

Web interface

The web interface of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is available in sixteen languages and is typical for ASUSWRT firmware devices. We will not consider explicitly all capabilities of the device, but only turn our attention to the most interesting of them.

Guest Network menu item allows creating up to three guest networks in each frequency band. This feature will be in demand in a situation where it is necessary only to provide someone with temporary access to a global network without disclosing the primary key or network name.

Bandwidth Limiter and Traffic Monitor features are available in Traffic Manager menu item.

The schedule, according to which a device is allowed access to the Internet, is controlled by means of Parental Controls menu item. The presence of built-in Yandex.DNS service support will help to protect children from unwanted content.

For control of the applications using the external device connected to USB port one need to use USB Application menu item.

Router wireless module settings can be performed using Wireless menu item tabs.

By means of LAN menu item tabs users can change LAN IP parameters, control DHCP server, create static routes, control connection to IPTV service. Switch Control tab contains additional parameters intended for device tweaking.

WAN connection is controlled by means of Internet menu item. Here the administrator can change virtual servers’ settings by means of which access from the Internet to LAN resources is provided. Absence of Dual WAN function, which allows to be connected to two providers simultaneously for balancing or backing up, seems surprising to us especially considering the availability of 3G / 4G modem support.

Connection to the Internet or ISP network can be made not only using IPv4, but also by means of the sequel of the IP-IPv6. The appropriate settings are collected in the same-named menu item.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router allows remote users to connect to LAN behind the device. The appropriate settings are provided in VPN item. Unfortunately, only one tunnel protocol – PPTP is supported.

Access control is made by means of tabs in Firewall menu item. In addition to direct control of access to different nodes based on IP addresses, the possibility of traffic filtering on the basis of URLs and keywords is also available to users.

The change of an operation mode of the device, control of system settings and also updating the firmware are made using the tabs in Administration menu item.

All log information is presented in System log menu item.

In addition to the main features, some support tools are also available to users, which can be accessed not only through the command line interface, but also using Network Tools menu item of the device's web interface.

That is where we bring a review of the capabilities of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router web interface to a conclusion and pass to the section dedicated to command line of the device.

Command line

Control of access to command line of the device is made by means of System tab Administration menu item. A nice option here is SSH support for providing secure access to the router when command line interface is used.

In order to access the command line one must use the same credentials as for the connection to the router web interface. Firmware of the model under testing is built on Linux 2.6.36.4 OS with BusyBox 1.17.4.

RT-AC1200G+ login: admin
Password:
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC1200G+ 2.6.36.4brcmarm #1 PREEMPT Thu Nov 3 15:55:43 CST 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-11-03 15:46:45 CST) multi-call binary.
Copyright (C) 1998-2009 Erik Andersen, Rob Landley, Denys Vlasenko
and others. Licensed under GPLv2.
See source distribution for full notice.
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
   or: function [arguments]...
        BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
        utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
        link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
        will act like whatever it was invoked as.
Currently defined functions:
        [, [[, arp, ash, awk, basename, blkid, cat, chmod, chown, chpasswd, clear, cmp, cp, crond, cut, date, dd, df,
        dirname, dmesg, du, e2fsck, echo, egrep, env, ether-wake, expr, fdisk, fgrep, find, flock, free, fsck.ext2,
        fsck.ext3, fsck.minix, fsync, grep, gunzip, gzip, head, ifconfig, insmod, ionice, kill, killall, klogd, less,
        ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, lsusb, md5sum, mdev, mkdir, mke2fs, mkfs.ext2, mkfs.ext3, mknod, mkswap,
        modprobe, more, mount, mv, netstat, nice, nohup, nslookup, pidof, ping, ping6, printf, ps, pwd, readlink,
        renice, rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, sed, setconsole, sh, sleep, sort, strings, swapoff, swapon, sync, syslogd,
        tail, tar, telnetd, test, top, touch, tr, traceroute, traceroute6, true, tune2fs, udhcpc, umount, uname, unzip,
        uptime, usleep, vconfig, vi, watch, wc, which, zcat, zcip

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. By using top utility one can obtain information on the current activity of the launched processes. The output of specified utilities is located in a separate file.

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogs, as well as the output of sysinfo utility, are located in a separate file. For example, /sbin catalog features tcpcheck utility that lets one find out whether a TCP port is open on a certain host.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.2:23
192.168.1.2:23 failed

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilization, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. Actually, system uptime and average system utilization can also be learnt using uptime command.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# ls
1              373            407            610            crypto         loadavg        swaps
141            375            411            612            devices        locks          sys
151            377            412            614            diskstats      meminfo        sysrq-trigger
2              378            477            619            driver         misc           sysvipc
222            380            48             636            emf            modules        timer_list
227            381            491            638            execdomains    mounts         tty
232            384            5              7              filesystems    mtd            uptime
237            389            50             736            fs             net            version
242            390            51             95             interrupts     pagetypeinfo   vmallocinfo
265            391            583            bcm_chipinfo   iomem          partitions     vmstat
267            393            584            buddyinfo      ioports        scsi           zoneinfo
297            394            585            bus            irq            self
299            398            586            cmdline        kallsyms       slabinfo
3              399            587            cpu            key-users      softirqs
304            4              6              cpuinfo        kmsg           stat
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat uptime
942.34 897.65
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat loadavg
0.18 0.16 0.13 1/54 738
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# uptime
 03:15:50 up 15 min, load average: 0.17, 0.15, 0.12

We can't help but mention nvram utility that allows changing certain important device operation parameters.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
http_username=admin
acc_list=admin>adminpass
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc#

So, for example, by means of nvram utility it is possible to disable STP for RT-AC1200G+ LAN ports.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=1
lan1_stp=1
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=0
lan1_stp=1
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# reboot

Unfortunately, RT-AC1200G+ model isn’t equipped with the thermosensors in contrast to ASUS hi-end devices.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat /proc/dmu/temperature
cat: can't open '/proc/dmu/temperature': No such file or directory
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# wl -i eth1 phy_tempsense
wl: Unsupported
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# wl -i eth2 phy_tempsense
wl: Unsupported

That's where we proceed to completion of the review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first testing procedure we traditionally begin our testing section with is estimating the booting time of the router, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router boots in 48 seconds. We believe that this result is decent. It is also worth noting that during the booting we received several echo replies about 20-25 seconds after power was on, but these messages were sent by the bootloader, which is indirectly indicated by the value of TTL equal 100 in the returning packets.

The second no less than standard test was a security scanning procedure using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 utility. Scanning has been carried out from the LAN. On the whole, there were 18 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Obviously, we told the vendor about discovered vulnerabilities and suspicions on their existence. Vendor’s technical specialists informed us that discovered vulnerabilities (and even some other ones) are already fixed in the actual firmware versions. XSpider utility identifies vulnerabilities by version number reported by the system in the banner and other checks are not performed.

Before getting down to performance tests of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 7700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC88
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC88U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to start measuring of device performance from discovering throughput on performing NAT/PAT. The tests were carried out with 1, 5 and 15 simultaneous TCP connections.

It can be seen from the diagram above that the total speed of simultaneous traffic flows even in both directions didn't exceed 1 Gbps (in a full duplex mode). In our opinion, this limitation is connected to 1xRGMII usage and performance of CPU as during the specified test CPU was 100% utilized.

During next testing we decided to disable NAT HWA and find out what transmission speeds will be available to users in this case. As can be seen from the diagram below, disabled hardware acceleration leads to loss of router throughput by several times during NAT/PAT.

Performance measurement of RT-AC1200G+ model while execution of routing without NAT/PAT became the next experiment. All ASUS wireless routers tested earlier by us in this test demonstrated speeds similar to the NAT/PAT test with disabled HWA. To our surprise, pure routing is executed by this device at higher speeds. It seems that the hardware acceleration is used also during routing without NAT/PAT as well.

We could not ignore the throughput of the device by operation with upcoming version of IP – IPv6. ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model showed excellent results when processing IPv6 traffic.

Connection to operators can also be made using a variety of tunnels (VPN). We decided to find out what speeds will be available to users when connecting to providers using PPTP and L2TP VPNs.

Performance testing using PPTP was done without encryption, because when MPPE was enabled the tunnel was set up, but no data were transferred through it. We decided to figure out what exactly was happening. It turned out that at some point the router ceases to encrypt the data sent to the tunnel (with an intensive traffic flow from LAN to WAN). If there is only a flow from WAN to LAN, RT-AC1200G+ model is capable of processing encrypted traffic at speeds about 40 Mbps. Naturally, we reported about the problem to the vendor. The error will be fixed in one of the upcoming firmware versions.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router has built-in VPN server. Unfortunately, PPTP, the throughput of which we have just measured, is the only protocol supported. It seems surprising to us that the vendor did not include OpenVPN support in the firmware.

The model under testing has the ability to support quality of service of the transferred traffic. So, for example, the administrator can limit the speed with which data of a host located on the local network is transferred to the Internet. We decided to find out how real transmission speed corresponds to configured values.

From the diagram above it is seen that starting from about 90 Mbps, an increase in the speed allowed to the host does not affect the real transmission speed. This effect is related to the router's CPU throughput, because when the traffic reaches 90 Mbps, CPU is 100% utilized. In the diagram below we presented the part of the graph in which the router still successfully copes with the task of providing quality of service.

Perhaps, one of the most anticipated measurements are the tests of the wireless module. The diagrams below show wireless data transmission speeds we received in both frequency ranges.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is fitted with USB2.0 port, which can be used for connection of external drives, 3G and 4G modems, and multifunctional devices. We decided to find out what access speeds to the data stored on the USB drive will be available to users of the tested wireless router. For the measurements, we consistently formatted our test 256 GByte Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD drive into four different file systems: NTFS, FAT32, EXT2 and EXT3. The results of the measurements are shown in the diagram below.

Before getting down to the summary, we would like to note that during the execution of various tests of this section, we also measured the temperature of the router case using our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature of the top panel that we managed to measure has been 45.2°C while average temperature in the room was equal to 25°С.

Summary

In general, we were satisfied with the tested ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model, which belongs to wireless routers of the middle class. ASUS RT-AC1200G+ is great for working in home ISP networks, providing access to the Internet without reducing the speed at all basic tariff plans, and the presence of USB 2.0 port allows one to connect the external drive, MFD or 3G/4G modem to the device.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router are the following:

  • high routing speeds (including VPN);
  • USB 2.0 port;
  • reasonable price;
  • both wireless ranges support;
  • a built-in VPN server;
  • IPv6 support;
  • QoS feature presence;
  • 3G/4G modem support;
  • high access speeds to data on external USB storage;
  • support of up to three guest networks in each wireless frequency range;
  • parental controls presence.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention about its drawback:

  • the web-interface is not completely translated.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router supports a maximum theoretical speed in 2.4 GHz frequency range equal to 300 Mbps, as well as 867 Mbps in 5 GHz range. Real speeds in these ranges turned out to be excellent, real user data transfer rates exceeded 50% of the theoretical ones. However, it seems to us that more efficient wireless modules would be more appropriate in this model. For example, in 2.4 GHz range it would be logical to see a wireless module supporting N600.

Also it should be noted that the built-in VPN server of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router supports only PPTP protocol. Of course, this is not a big problem, but we would like to see here the support of OpenVPN technology, which we are so used to in flagship models.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router in Moscow online shops was 4765 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC1200G+ in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 75 euro.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Testing

Summary

Introduction

For a very long time ASUS Company has sent wireless routers and access points for testing to our network laboratory, absolutely ignoring wireless network adapters with PCIE and USB interfaces. Finally, it's time to fix this gap and to provide our readers with the review of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter with the USB 3.0 interface. This model allows connecting to the existing wireless networks at speeds up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and to 1300 Mbps in the range of 5 GHz, so ASUS USB-AC68 card possesses AC1900 wireless formula. Let's consider model in more detail!

External design and hardware

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter comes in black plastic case with red insertions and two external antennae. External antennae can rotate and be fixed in one out of three positions.

On the front side (if such a device could in principle have the front side) a blue LED is placed, which can be used to visually determine whether the wireless network connection exists. The appearance of the test model for some reason caused resistant association with a little black birdie with red wings who is sitting down on some dark object.

Overall dimensions of the device are 115х30х18 mm with weight of only 44 grams. Leaping ahead, it is worth noting that there are four antennae in USB-AC68 model: two external and two internal, allowing the device to operate in 3x4 MIMO (3T4R) mode, ie three antennae on transmission and four on data receipt can dynamically be involved.

A significant part of the model case is a ventilation grate for improved cooling of chips as fast wireless adapters typically consume a lot of energy and can heat up considerably.

Together with the Wi-Fi adapter comes a CD with drivers, a warranty book and a brief instruction for connection of the device. It should also be noted that in a set there is an USB-extender with a cradle, allowing more convenient placing of the adapter on the desktop or other horizontal surface. The cradle is not magnetic, but with a weighting compound, its bottom side is rubber and allows sticking to smooth objects. Cable length of about one meter what, in our opinion, will be enough for most users.

Now let's have a look at the insides of ASUS USB-AC68 case. The electronic stuffing of the device is single textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, all chips are hidden under protective screens and aren't accessible for review. On a card there are two slots for connection of external antennae, and also two internal nondetachable antennae are located. ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter is based on Realtek RTL8814AU chip.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of the device to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing.

Testing

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used. As the load generator we used JPerf utility version 2.0.2. The tests were carried out with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections in case of placing the wireless router and tested equipment in close proximity to each other (from one to three meters).

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC ASUS RT-AC88U Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus 

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter has USB 3.0 interface therefore we made its connection to the appropriate interface of our test computer. Functioning of a wireless network was provided by ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router, which we already have described earlier. Performance measurement was made for both wireless ranges: 2.4 and 5 GHz. Results of measurements are given on the diagram below.

Unfortunately, not all notebooks and desktop computers have USB 3.0 port therefore we decided to find out what speeds will be available to users who will connect ASUS USB-AC68 model to USB 2.0 port.

As seen from the diagram above, the interface of Wi-Fi adapter connection  has practically no impact on speed of data transmission in the range of 2.4 GHz. For connections in the range of 5 GHz the version of the USB interface begins to play the significant role, however this influence will be noticeable only in a situation when wireless devices in principle are able to reach such speeds (fast wireless router or access point, good signal, absence of noises and so on).

We didn't keep away from operation of ASUS USB-AC68 in AD HOC mode for the range of 2.4 GHz. The received speeds turned out to be noticeably below what was shown by the Wi-Fi adapter in Wi-Fi client mode, however generally it is caused by restrictions of an operating system. ASUS PCE-AC88 model was used as a wireless client. The diagrams below contain comparison of speed of data transmission in the direction of USB->Wi-Fi while operation of the adapter in ad hoc and wireless client modes. As always, measurement of speeds was performed for one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections. It is also worth noting that maximum speed of connection of the wireless client to ad hoc network didn't exceed 300 Mbps.

Naturally, we couldn't help but clarify how ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter heats up in the course of operation. For temperature measurement we used our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature of heat-sinking screen inside the case that we managed to measure has been 47 °C while temperature in the room was equal to 27 °C.

Summary

In principle, we were satisfied with new ASUS USB-AC68 wireless adapter with the USB 3.0 interface allowing the user to increase significantly performance of PCs and notebooks by operation in a wireless network. USB-AC68 model supports all modern wireless protocols IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and is perfect even for those users who have high requirements for devices design. The used wireless formula allows making the best use of majority of the modern routers (up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and up to 1300 Mbps for connections at frequencies of 5 GHz). External rotatable antennae together with AiRadar technology will allow not only to increase data-transfer speed, but also to expand coverage.

The strength areas of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi Adapter are presented below:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • support of USB 3.0;
  • existence of a USB-extender and a cradle;
  • design;
  • a possibility of operation in the ad hoc mode;
  • existence of external rotatable antennae;
  • simple installation.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention its drawback:

  • lack of original utility for device control.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter  in Moscow online shops was 4800 roubles. We hope for the considerable reduction of price in the nearest future after the device is available for sale in more shops.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS USB-AC68 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 70 euro.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Initial setup and firmware update

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Fairly recently the review of the flagship device – ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router has appeared on our pages. Presence of eight LAN ports was an outstanding feature of the model. Such a number of wired interfaces may be required in the presence of a wide range of the devices having wire connection: desktop computers, network storages and MFPs, videoplayers and so on. However only geeks and computer enthusiasts usually have so much equipment. Often even four standard wired ports can be far too many to normal users. Today our network laboratory got the model with two LAN and one WAN interface for testing. ASUS RT-AC53 – truly a budget router.

So, let's get started!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router comes in black plastic case with the following dimensions: 320х190х35 mm (not including antennae) with weight of only 285 grams. For its working the device needs an external power adaptor (included in the box) with the following parameters: 12 V and 1 A.

The upper panel, consisting of two parts, is opaque. It has a vendor name and key parameters of a product together with LEDs indicating status of wired and wireless interfaces of the device and power supply.

The side panels do not have anything remarkable on them apart from a ventilation grate located on them.

On the bottom panel of the router there are a sticker with brief information about the device, four rubber legs, two technological holes for mounting the device on the wall and, of course, a ventilation grate.

Three non-detachable rotatable antennae, three Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (one WAN and two LAN), power socket with ON/OFF button, WPS and sunken Reset buttons are located on the rare panel.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. The electronic stuffing of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router is one green textolite card which has all essential elements located on one of its sides. The only exception is the flash-memory module GigaDevice 25Q64CSIG with the capacity of 8 Mbytes.

Functions of Gigabit Ethernet wired switch are performed by Realtek RTL8367RB chip. The system is powered by MediaTek MT7620A CPU that operates at 580 MHz frequency. We have already met such a CPU in ASUS RP-AC52 and RT-AC51U models earlier. Winbond W9751G6KB-25 DDR2 with the size of 64 Mbytes performs functions of the RAM. Support of 2.4 GHz wireless range (2T2R) is built in the CPU whereas for the range of 5 GHz the separate MediaTek MT7610EN wireless chip is used.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of the router to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Initial setup and firmware update

After the first switching on ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router a user need to perform the initial setup of the device. The initial setup is extremely simple – it is required only to specify the main settings of Internet connection, to set admin password, to select an operation mode.

Firmware upgrade is traditional for all ASUS wireless routers and does not require any specific proficiency from the user. One need to use Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item and select the file with the new firmware version to carry out firmware upgrade. It is also worth noting that upgrade can be made also in a semi-automatic mode what, naturally, requires Internet connection.

The whole process requires about three minutes (not considering time necessary for downloading a file with a new firmware from Internet).

Here, in our opinion, it is appropriate to mention the utilities delivered together with the router because usually need for them arises in the course of initial setup of the device. So, complete with ASUS RT-AC53 there are three utilities: Device Discovery, Firmware Restoration and ASUS Printer Setup. To admit, we do not really understand how the vendor assumes to use ASUS Printer Setup utility as RT-AC53 model has no USB ports.

With Device Discovery utility the user can detect ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router in his local network.

In case of a problem during the firmware upgrade process, RT-AC53 may change to the rescue mode during which the Power indicator starts slowly flashing. Unfortunately, the tested wireless router has no web-server built-in in the bootloader, therefore it is possible to recover a firmware by means of the Firmware Restoration utility or manually, by downloading the firmware to the device via TFTP.

It should also be noted that while in the rescue mode, RT-AC53 is not responding to ICMP echo requests (ping).

C:\>ping 192.168.1.1
Pinging 192.168.1.1 with 32 bytes of data:
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Ping statistics for 192.168.1.1:
    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),

However, TFTP recovery is also not so simple. At first, we tried to send a file with the new firmware to the router, but unsuccessfully.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC53_3.0.0.4_380_6038-g76a4aa5.trx
Timeout occurred
 Connect request failed

Then we ran Wireshark and began to analyze the traffic between the test PC and the router. It was found that RT-AC53 periodically sends ARP-request to the address 192.168.1.75.

We have changed the address on the test PC to 192.168.1.75/24, and then the firmware file transfer has occurred successfully. A few seconds after RT-AC53 has received the file, it rebooted using the new firmware.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC53_3.0.0.4_380_6038-g76a4aa5.trx
Transfer successful: 7475296 bytes in 2 second(s), 3737648 bytes/s

That’s where we proceed to completion the brief review of firmware upgrade and initial setup and pass on to reviewing web-interface capabilities of the device.

Web-interface

The web interface of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router can be accessed by means of any modern browser. Device web interface is made in the traditional gray and black colors and is available in thirteen languages.

We will not review all capabilities of the model, but only turn our attention to the most interesting of them.

RT-AC53 model, as well as all remaining modern wireless ASUS devices, supports creation up to three guest networks in each frequency band. The appropriate setup is available in the Guest Network menu item.

The settings which are responsible for Quality of Service support are collected in the Traffic Manager menu item. Here the user can manually limit data transmission speed for certain hosts, or use traditional QoS. Also by means of this menu item it is possible to receive the diagram of wired and wireless interfaces utilization.

If it is necessary to restrict time of wide area network usage, refer to Parental Controls menu item.

Wireless Network settings collected in Wireless menu item tabs are traditional for the majority of ASUS wireless routers, so we will not review them in detail.

Switch Control tab in LAN menu item has drew our attention. Except of switch-on/switch-off option of NAT acceleration, there is a possibility of limitation the speed of a certain (usually undesirable) traffic here.

ASUS RT-AC53 can use static and dynamic IP addresses for connection to providers, and also the following tunnels: PPTP, L2TP and PPPoE. The appropriate settings are available on Internet Connection tab WAN menu item. Perhaps, the couple of words should be told here about Extend the TTL value and Spoof LAN TTL value options. Both options are intended for simplification of the user operation on networks of operators, limiting subscribers by the number of the connected devices. Spoof LAN TTL value option allows to send packets to the Internet with the fixed TTL field in IP packet header whereas Expand TTL Value option influences traffic in the opposite direction, allowing not to discard those packets which TTL shall be set to zero when passing through a router.

Unfortunately, the Dual WAN function isn't supported by RT-AC53 model.

IPv6 settings are collected in the same-named menu item.

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router has built-in VPN client and server. Unlike in flagship models, support of the OpenVPN is absent here.

Traffic filtering is made by means of tabs in Firewall menu item.

The choice of an operation mode of the device is made by means of Operation mode tab Administration menu item.

That is where we bring a brief review of the main capabilities of the device web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining of its command line.

Command line

Control of access to command line of the device is made by means of System tab Administration menu item. It is worth noting that access is supported by means of Telnet and SSH protocols.

In order to access the command line one must use the same log-on information as for the connection to the router web interface. Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 2.6.36 OS using Busy Box 1.17.4.

RT-AC53 login: admin
Password:
admin@RT-AC53:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC53:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC53 2.6.36 #1 Fri Sep 23 12:05:55 CST 2016 mips GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC53:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-09-23 12:02:33 CST) multi-call binary.
Copyright (C) 1998-2009 Erik Andersen, Rob Landley, Denys Vlasenko
and others. Licensed under GPLv2.
See source distribution for full notice.
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
   or: function [arguments]...
        BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
        utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
        link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
        will act like whatever it was invoked as.
Currently defined functions:
        [, [[, arp, ash, awk, cat, chmod, chown, chpasswd, cmp, cp, crond, cut, date, dd, df,
        dirname, dmesg, echo, egrep, env, ether-wake, expr, fgrep, find, free, grep, gunzip,
        ifconfig, insmod, ionice, kill, killall, klogd, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum,
        mdev, mkdir, mknod, modprobe, more, mount, mv, netstat, nice, nohup, nslookup, pidof,
        ping, ping6, printf, ps, pwd, readlink, renice, rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, sed, sh, sleep,
        sort, strings, sync, syslogd, tar, telnetd, test, top, touch, tr, traceroute, traceroute6,
        udhcpc, umount, uname, uptime, usleep, vconfig, vi, watch, wc, which, zcat, zcip

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. By using top utility one can obtain information on the current activity of the launched processes. The output of specified utilities is located in a separate file.

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogs, as well as the output of sysinfo utility, are located in a separate file. For example, /sbin catalog features tcpcheck utility that lets the administrator find out whether a TCP port is open in a certain host.

admin@RT-AC53:/# tcpcheck
usage:  tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-AC53:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC53:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.2:23
192.168.1.2:23 failed

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilization, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. Actually, system uptime and average system utilization can also be learnt using uptime command.

admin@RT-AC53:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# ls
1              193            267            bus            kpagecount     stat
10             194            3              cmdline        kpageflags     sys
11             196            30             cpuinfo        loadavg        sysrq-trigger
115            2              301            crypto         locks          sysvipc
116            20             306            devices        meminfo        timer_list
12             201            4              diskstats      misc           tty
13             204            41             driver         modules        uptime
135            208            430            execdomains    mounts         version
136            21             5              filesystems    mt7620         vmallocinfo
164            212            6              fs             mtd            vmstat
17             22             7              interrupts     net            zoneinfo
172            226            76             iomem          nvram
175            23             8              ioports        pagetypeinfo
18             261            82             irq            partitions
180            263            9              kcore          self
19             265            buddyinfo      kmsg           softirqs
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat uptime
1746.00 1673.66
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat loadavg
0.07 0.07 0.02 1/47 432
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat cpuinfo
system type             : MT7620
processor               : 0
cpu model               : MIPS 24Kc V5.0
BogoMIPS                : 386.04
wait instruction        : yes
microsecond timers      : yes
tlb_entries             : 32
extra interrupt vector  : yes
hardware watchpoint     : yes, count: 4, address/irw mask: [0x0000, 0x0878, 0x0ff8, 0x0ff8]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp
shadow register sets    : 1
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# uptime
 03:29:19 up 29 min, load average: 0.05, 0.06, 0.02

We can't help but mention nvram utility that allows changing certain important device operation parameters.

admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [save file] [restore file] [fb_save file]
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep admin
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
http_username=admin
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep password
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
http_passwd=password
admin@RT-AC53:/#

So, for example, by means of nvram utility it is possible to disable STP for RT-AC53 LAN ports.

admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep stp
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
lan_stp=1
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep stp
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
lan_stp=0
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC53:/#

That's where we proceed to completion of the review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first testing procedure we traditionally begin our testing section with is estimating the booting time of the router, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router boots in 42 seconds. We believe that this result is decent.

The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out from the LAN using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 utility. On the whole, there were nine open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC88
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC88U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to start measuring of device performance from discovering throughput on performing NAT/PAT with hardware acceleration (default setting). The tests were carried out with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections. Results of measurements are given on the diagram below.

It can be seen from results of this test that routing is made at the wire speeds, the device CPU at the same time remains underutilized. The only thing we want to mention, the limitation by operation in a full duplex: total speed of data transmission in both directions didn't exceed 1 Gbps that, in our judgment, is connected to internal wiring of the device.

We decided to disable hardware acceleration and repeat the previous measurements. Device performance in this case is restricted to performance of its CPU.

In case of a classical routing without NAT the hardware acceleration isn't used therefore the speeds received as a result of the test are similar to what we received in the previous one.

On the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries tunnels (VPN) still remain one of popular methods of connection to providers. We decided to test the wireless router throughput using two types of such tunnels: PPTP and L2TP. ASUS RT-AC53 supports both encrypted (MPPE128), and unencrypted PPTP tunnels.

We decided to continue wired tests by performance measurement of ASUS RT-AC53 model by operation with upcoming version of IP – IPv6.

Processing of IPv6 packets is made by the CPU therefore restriction of speeds is caused by the performance of the CPU, in other words the transmission of IPv6-traffic with a speed about 200 Mbps leads to 100% utilization of the CPU.

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router has the ability to support quality of service of the transferred traffic. So, for example, it is possible to setup limit of the maximum bandwidth available to a certain device. We decided to find out how real transmission speed corresponds to configured values. On the diagram below three curves are given: blue corresponds to the configured values, green – to the traffic transferred from the user to the Internet, and red – in the opposite direction.

For speeds up to 150 Mbps the received values correspond quite well to configured, but since this speed increases the available to the user bandwidth stops, again due to the performance of the CPU, - for support of QoS the CPU is used. All devices for which the restriction of speed rule while QoS is switched on isn't configured receive a throughput about 175 Mbps. It is worth noting that we don't count the found limits as a problem as QoS mechanisms usage usually is required in case of relatively low access rates to the global network, and the majority of providers in Russia doesn’t offer rates with a speed over 100 Mbps.

QoS support mechanisms are not the single means allowing to limit the data transmission speed. It is about the settings located in Switch Control tab LAN menu item. However, here it is worth speaking more about the protective mechanisms allowing to stabilize network functioning in cases when, for example, the NIC of one of the PC failed and sends a large number of defective frames. We couldn't help but test operation of this mechanism on the example of Unknown Unicast frames restriction. Measurements were done for the speeds up to 700 Mbps – the restriction mechanism perfectly coped with the traffic generated by our test PC. It seems that such Storm Control in RT-AC53 model is implemented in hardware. Here, however, it is necessary to tell about the fly in the ointment which we found in the course of testing. If restrictions configured rather high, then the traffic which receiver is unknown will lead to 100% loading of the CPU at a speed about 500 Mbps therefore we extremely don't recommend to change values by default.

Finally, it's time for the wireless tests. Measurements were taken in case of layout of the router and the client in close proximity from each other, distance between them was from one to three meters. At first we found out what speeds will be available to the users in 2.4 GHz frequency range.

The next test was measurement of the wireless throughput in 5 GHz frequency range. The range of 5 GHz continues to remain less utilized in comparison with the range of 2.4 GHz therefore we as always recommend to users to draw the closest attention to it.

In conclusion of this section we decided to find out to what maximum temperature the device case heats up during intensive use. We measured the temperature of the device case using our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature that we managed to measure has been: the top panel – 37 °C, the bottom panel – 41 °C. During measurements temperature in the room was equal to 25°С.

That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.

Summary

We were satisfied with the tested ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router. This model belongs to the low-end class: you shouldn't expect the record speeds or the maximum set of features from it. However to most of home users the functionality of RT-AC53 will be more than enough. For connection to the Internet of one desktop computer, the top box and several notebooks with smartphones, it isn't required to buy the network monster, - normal inexpensive wireless router will be just enough. ASUS RT-AC53 model is an example of such a solution – nothing extra, just everything you need.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router are presented below:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • QoS feature presence;
  • support of up to three guest networks in each wireless frequency range;
  • high speeds of IPv6 traffic handling;
  • possibility of time constraint on use of the Internet (parental monitoring);
  • a built-in PPTP client and server;
  • fast boot of the device;
  • possibility of undesirable traffic restriction in LAN;
  • reasonable price.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention some of its drawbacks:

  • the web-interface is not completely translated;
  • only two LAN ports.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router in Moscow online shops was 3700 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC53 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 50 euro.