Introduction

External design and hardware

Setting-up procedures

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Music playback

Conclusion

Introduction

When our laboratory received a wireless repeater and access point ASUS RP-AC52 for review, we were slightly surprised at the external design of the device; RP-AC52 is performed as an ordinary plugging in power adapter. The vendor considers it exactly as a repeater according to both the name of the model and its unpretentious components. However, the capability of wireless music transmission will be a pleasant benefit, but we are going to talk about it just below.

External design and hardware

ASUS RP-AC52 is designed in a style that is not typical enough for the family of ASUS network equipment. Though its glazed surface is still decorated with signature trimmed edges, the device itself became entirely white. Mostly, it’s explained by its focus on setting directly into a wall outlet; the fact is that RP-AC52 doesn’t have an external adapter and is placed in the single case, even external antennae are absent, so the device will not strike the eye.

Besides the device itself, there is only a user manual on quick setup in the box; and even a traditional patch-cord is absent. The box could be smaller because its current dimensions allow 2-3 devices to be easily placed inside.

There are small ventilation holes at each side of the device. At the right panel there are Fast Ethernet interface and audio port of 3.5 mm, and at the left one there are WPS, Reset buttons and a power switch. The front side has separated LED indicators of a signal level for each of two ranges 2.4 and 5 GHz. Looking at the external design many readers surely think about PowerLine equipment but this device doesn’t refer to it at all.

One more pleasant addition to the functionality of the repeater is its back light. Of course, it may be difficult to read a book with the help of it, but nearby things become visible at night. The back light can be switched off by slight touching the front panel.

The internal components are situated on two textolite plates, one of which performs functions of power supply. There is SoC processor MediaTek MT7620A together with MT7610EN on another plate. DDR2 module Winbond W9751G6KB-25 of 64 Mbytes serves as RAM, and Realtek ALC5629 microchip is responsible for sound output. The antennae are also situated here.

Let’s turn to the software capabilities of the device now.

Setting-up procedures

After plugging the device in and a quick initiation procedure during which LED indicators are flashing one after another, one can start its initial settings. On the list of Wi-Fi networks there is a new open network ASUS_RPAC52, after connecting to which a user can go to http://192.168.1.1/ address, where the primary setup wizard instantly asks her/him to set up the administrator’s password. It’s worth noting that the initial settings can also be performed with the help of a wire connection to the device.

Then it is necessary to select an operation mode for the device; it can be a repeater (by default) or an access point. Correspondingly, in the first mode ASUS RP-AC52 connects to an existing network to extend the wireless coverage, and in the second one the device should be connected to wired equipment via Ethernet cable to establish a new wireless network.

After agreement with the mode specified by default, the primary setup wizard shows a list of found networks with a common list for both ranges. Remarkable, that it is possible to connect simultaneously to two different networks within two different ranges.

At the end of the work the wizard offers to check the finalize configuration of the wireless networks (suffixes _RPT and _RPT5G are added to their names by default) and to wait for two minutes that is necessary for the reboot of the device. It’s worth mentioning that the vendor’s engineers  made assurance double sure because the reboot requires about half a minute.

After the reboot is completed, two new wireless networks ready for the connection with the settings specified on the final page of the wizard should appear on the list of networks.

If after the connection to new networks of the repeater there is no Internet access but the wireless connection itself is successful (that means the IP-address is assigned and the right gateway is set), it is necessary to enable in the settings of the repeater Wi-Fi Proxy option that is placed in the last tab of the Wireless setting page. In more detail, we are going to talk about Wi-Fi Proxy option in the testing part.

Though the firmware upgrade is not necessary during the initial setup, we recommend performing it straight away. Changing the firmware version is performed with the help of Firmware upgrade item, Administration menu. Upgrade may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. Manual upgrade requires only preliminary uploading a file with a new firmware version from the web site of the vendor. The whole upgrade process needs approximately three minutes (not including time that is necessary for uploading a file from the Internet).

That's where we complete the review of initial settings for ASUS RP-AC52 and pass directly on to studying the web-interface of the device.

Web-interface

Like in other models of wireless devices of ASUS company the web-interface looks clear enough for common users. As always, the first menu point is Quick Internet Setup, after that one can see Network Map, Wireless, LAN, Administration, System Log and Audio items.

Network Map menu item, as usually, allows displaying data about the connections and the client list, which is , by the way, disabled by default for some reason. During its activation, a notification about possible problems with the network is shown, and all devices found within the local network are displayed in the client list.

Among the tabs of Wireless menu item one can use filtering traffic according to MAC addresses, enable WMM and change initial settings of the wireless networks. Everything is standard, except Wi-Fi Proxy item that in some cases helps solve the problem of no Internet access.

LAN point provides only the ability to enable/disable the DHCP server for clients and set IP address for the repeater.

Administration menu item contains general settings such as changing the device operation mode and password, firmware upgrade, back-up copying/restoring setting and touch panel setting. In the last tab, one can set for the touch panel control of LEDs indicating activity for different Wi-Fi ranges, power, back light and audio output. That means the entire quiet of light and audio for the device can be obtained by slight touching it.

After the review was completely written, we’ve found a new firmware version on the web site of the vendor. Among the new features it’s worth noting the increased number of the device operation modes; the following ones became additionally supported: Media Bridge (that is in itself a wireless client) and two Express Way modes that help distribute the load on the frequency ranges or allow connecting devices with support of the only frequency range to the networks within another range.

System Log menu item contains a big amount of service information and doesn’t have filtering settings, so it is designed mostly for service goals. In Wireless Log tab, the list of connected clients for each range of the repeater is displayed.

At last, Audio menu point isn’t responsible for sound output settings, but allows listening to internet radio on the device itself with the help of set up radio stations from all over the world.

That’s where we draw the web-interface part to a close and move on to the command line review.

Command line

Access to the repeater via Telnet protocol can be switched on/off with the help of System tab, Administration menu item.

Login and password used for the access to the command line interface are the same as for the web-interface access. Repeater ASUS RP-AC52 is built on Linux operating system with a core of version 2.6.36 using BusyBox of version 1.12.1.

RP-AC52 login: admin
Password:
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2015-03-11 15:21:47 CST) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.
# busybox
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2015-03-11 15:21:47 CST) multi-call binary
Copyright (C) 1998-2008 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:
 [, [[, arping, ash, basename, brctl, cat, chmod, chpasswd, cp, date, dmesg, echo,
 expr, free, ftpget, ftpput, grep, halt, hostname, ifconfig, insmod, kill, killall,
 klogd, ln, logger, login, logread, ls, lsmod, mdev, mkdir, mknod, mount, mv, ping,
 poweroff, ps, pwd, reboot, rm, rmmod, route, sed, sh, sleep, syslogd, telnetd, test,
 touch, traceroute, umount, unzip, vconfig, vi, wc, wget
# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.36 (root@asus) (gcc version 3.4.2) #2 Wed Mar 11 15:36:05 CST 2015

With the help of ps command, let’s see what processes are currently running on the device. Unfortunately, top utility showing information on the current activity of the launched processes is absent on the device.

# ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 admin     2476 S    /init
 2 admin        0 SW   [kthreadd]
 3 admin        0 SW   [ksoftirqd/0]
 4 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:0]
 5 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:0]
 6 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
 7 admin        0 SW   [sync_supers]
 8 admin        0 SW   [bdi-default]
 9 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd]
 10 admin        0 SW   [kswapd0]
 11 admin        0 SW<  [aio]
 12 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:1]
 15 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock0]
 16 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock1]
 17 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock2]
 18 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock3]
 19 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock4]
 20 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock5]
 59 admin        0 SW   [RtmpCmdQTask]
 60 admin        0 SW   [RtmpWscTask]
 66 admin        0 SW   [RtmpCmdQTask]
 67 admin        0 SW   [RtmpWscTask]
 75 admin     2476 S    /sbin/wanduck
 77 admin     2244 S    httpd
 78 admin     1404 S    dnsmasq
 79 admin     1588 S    /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
 80 admin     1812 S    /sbin/syslogd -m 0 -t GMT-4 -O /tmp/syslog.log
 85 admin     1812 S    /sbin/klogd
 95 admin     1568 S    audiod RP-AC52(E0:3F:49:8E:4E:08)
 97 admin     2476 S    watchdog
 98 admin     2480 S    apcli_monitor
 102 admin    12180 S    m3player -n RP-AC52(E0:3F:49:8E:4E:08) -i br0
 104 admin     1820 S    /bin/sh
 105 admin     1816 S    telnetd
 106 admin     1280 S    lld2d br0
 114 admin     3584 S    shairport -a RP-AC52(E0:3F:49:8E:4E:08) -o 5230 -b 45
 119 admin     2472 S    ntp
 126 admin     3688 S    mDNSResponder
 127 admin     3688 S    mDNSResponder
 128 admin     3688 S    mDNSResponder
 133 admin     2480 S    apcli_monitor
 135 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:1]
 136 admin     2936 S    mDNSPublish E03F498E4E08@RP-AC52(E0:3F:49:8E:4E:08 _r
 239 admin     1824 S    -sh
 485 admin     1816 R    ps

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.

# cd /proc
# ls
624           98            19            3             asound        slabinfo      kmsg
239           97            18            2             mtd           filesystems   kpagecount
136           95            17            1             execdomains   locks         kpageflags
135           85            16            self          ioports       cmdline       crypto
133           80            15            mounts        iomem         cpuinfo       diskstats
128           79            12            net           timer_list    devices       partitions
127           78            11            sysvipc       modules       interrupts    mt7620
126           77            10            fs            kallsyms      loadavg       Config
119           75            9             driver        buddyinfo     meminfo
114           67            8             tty           pagetypeinfo  stat
106           66            7             bus           vmstat        uptime
105           60            6             sys           zoneinfo      version
104           59            5             irq           vmallocinfo   softirqs
102           20            4             misc          swaps         kcore
# cat uptime
1551.59 1507.31
# cat loadavg
0.08 0.03 0.01 1/45 629
# 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: [0x0ff8, 0x0ff8, 0x09db, 0x0ff8]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp
shadow register sets    : 1
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
# cat meminfo
MemTotal:          61532 kB
MemFree:           11744 kB
Buffers:               0 kB
Cached:            29908 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:            11028 kB
Inactive:          21676 kB
Active(anon):       2796 kB
Inactive(anon):        0 kB
Active(file):       8232 kB
Inactive(file):    21676 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          2824 kB
Mapped:             3788 kB
Shmem:                 0 kB
Slab:               9980 kB
SReclaimable:       2168 kB
SUnreclaim:         7812 kB
KernelStack:         360 kB
PageTables:          352 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       30764 kB
Committed_AS:       8628 kB
VmallocTotal:    1048372 kB
VmallocUsed:        6944 kB
VmallocChunk:    1035140 kB

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogues are shown below.

# ls /bin
reg               sh                xtables-multi     umount            date
hostname          ated              dmesg             rtinicapd         mii_mgr
audiod            iwpriv            iwconfig          ls                pwd
mii_mgr_cl45      grep              ash               m3player          touch
ps                iptables-restore  iptables          dnsmasq           mtd_write
igmpproxy.sh      login             asplayer          flash             ln
mount             rt2860apd         busybox           sleep             echo
mv                cp                lld2d             rm                cat
kill              chmod             mkdir             ping              vi
mknod             igmpproxy         sed               gpio
# ls /sbin
wan-down               wps_stop               re_wpsc                ip-up
ATE                    halt                   wps_oob                rmmod
insmod                 webs_upgrade_radio.sh  webs_upgrade.sh        restart_dhcpd
link_up                wan-up                 apcli_monitor          lsmod
mDNSResponder          watchdog               detectWAN_arp          ifconfig
link_down              gen_ralink_config      wanduck                run_telnetd
mdev                   nvram_oob              syslogd                ip-down
mDNSPublish            start_telnetd          logread                ntp
ddns_updated           link_status            restart_dns            webs_update.sh
poweroff               klogd                  wps_start              reboot
vconfig                track_set              route
rc                     init                   logmessage
# ls /usr/bin
traceroute  test        [           logger      free        ftpget      arping      basename
ftpput      wc          expr        unzip       [[          killall     wget
# ls /usr/sbin
telnetd     amixer      tcpcheck    httpd       udhcpc      networkmap  nvram
chpasswd    bpalogin    ntpclient   infosvr     brctl       shairport

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

# nvram
Usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [commit] [show] [restore file] [save file]
# nvram show | grep admin
http_username=admin
http_passwd=admin
size: 9126 bytes (52314 left)

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

Testing

As always, we are interested at the booting time of the device. In the repeater mode the device boots in about 35 seconds that is good enough because it has not only to turn itself on and establish its own wireless network but also to connect itself to an existing wireless network.

The second test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) network security scanner. On the whole, there were seven open ports discovered. The most interesting data we obtained are presented below.

As we promised before, in this part we are going to talk about the characteristics of Wi-Fi Proxy functionality that allows connecting to some wireless networks via the repeater. During working via the repeater without using the function under discussion all wireless clients are visible in a wireless segment of the network under a common MAC-address (that is the address of the repeater). That is all of them will have different IP-addresses but MAC-address will be the same. The example of the ARP-table of a wireless router with the wireless network coverage extended with the help of ASUS RP-AC52 repeater is presented below. 10.0.1.147 is the IP-address of the repeater, and 10.0.1.107 is the IP-address of a wireless client.

admin@RT-AC66U:/tmp/home/root# arp
? (10.0.1.147) at E0:3F:49:8E:4E:09 [ether]  on br0
? (10.0.1.107) at E0:3F:49:8E:4E:09 [ether]  on br0

The use of Wi-Fi Proxy option leads to the fact that in a wire segment each wireless client has a unique MAC-address. To be more exact, a wireless client is visible not under his/her own address but under an address obtained from his/her real address and the address of the repeater. The first three bytes of the address (OUI) correspond to the first three bytes of the repeater’s address (the given OUI corresponds to ASUS devices), and the last three bytes correspond to the last three ones of the client’s address. The example of the ARP-table of ASUS RT-AC66U wireless router with enabled Wi-Fi Proxy function on the repeater is presented below.

admin@RT-AC66U:/tmp/home/root# arp
? (10.0.1.147) at E0:3F:49:8E:4E:09 [ether]  on br0
? (10.0.1.107) at E0:3F:49:97:A9:30 [ether]  on br0

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

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 GBytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
OS Windows Server 2012 R2 Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

The next test was measuring routing speeds between wired and wireless clients in different device operation modes. The results of the device performance in the mode of a classic access point are presented at the diagrams below.

Even in 2.4 GHz range the device shows very good results but it’s rather expected that in 5 GHz one the results are better because in this range a faster standard IEEE 802.11ac is used.

Now let’s turn to the testing of the routing speeds in the main device operation mode as a repeater. In this mode speeds are slightly lower because of the specifics of work, and in general case a 5 GHz client stands to gain about speed without any dependency on a frequency range a repeating access point works within.

The lowest throughput was shown in the mode of repeating 2.4 GHz signal within the same frequency range; probably, in this case it’s worth thinking about a partial transition to 5 GHz frequency range than trying to extend the wireless network coverage.

That's where we draw the performance testing to a close and move on to testing of functionality.

Music playback

It’s probably one of the most interesting functions of the device, which we’ve studied carefully. First of all, it was mentioned above that the web-interface of the repeater provides the ability of listening to Internet radio from the list of set up radio stations as well as ones added manually. The device can also be discovered in a home network as AirPlay/DLNA player and one can connect to it via some programs such as, for example, Airfoil (for Windows and Mac) or TuneBlade Free.

For mobile devices based on iOS or Android there is a special program AiPlayer, which is available at the application stores App Store and Play Market correspondingly.

Devices based on iOS 4.2 and above have no need of it because AirPlay technology is available everywhere except iPhone and iPod Touch of the first generation. After connecting to the device, music will be streaming from any player or program, which is rather convenient.

For Android devices Miracast technology is considered “native” and in this particular case one cannot do without ASUS branded program. It allows playing local files, files from network DLNA libraries, and listening to Internet radio. Moreover, streaming to DLNA players is supported, so the program can be used not only for the particular repeater.

If it is necessary to listen to music from other applications, one can use much more convenient programs, for example, Allstream, that allow capturing the entire audio stream from a device and passing it to any receiver, however, root rights are necessary for this.

Despite the nuances described above, the device successfully deals with the set task and the function of music playback itself rises no criticism. We have not performed special testing of the audio channel, but taking into account that typical for most motherboards of PCs and notebooks audio codec Realtek is used, the sound quality should be almost at the same level i.e. acceptable for most users.

That’s where it’s time to sum it all up.

Conclusion

Due to the multimedia capabilities of ASUS RP-AC52 repeater, it made much more pleasant impression on us than if it was only a signal amplifier even with the support of two ranges. But even without music playback the device has shown excellent speeds and dealt with its primary task. It happens rarely when a device that has non-profile functionality works well for its intended purpose.

The strength areas of ASUS RP-AC52 are presented below.

  • Compact dimensions and accurate external design
  • Ability to completely switch off the light
  • Support of two frequency ranges and a modern IEEE 802.11ac standard
  • Good performance of wireless networks
  • Built-in AirPlay/DLNA player and Internet radio
  • Back light functionality
  • Support of Wi-Fi Proxy functionality

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention some drawbacks of the device.

  • Relatively high price
  • Unpretentious components
  • No user manual in Russian and not completely translated web-interface
  • Incorrect time zone for Moscow

A higher price is partly justified by the support of a couple of pleasant additional functions. We can recommend ASUS RP-AC52 as a simple and convenient solution for extending Wi-Fi network coverage, especially in case of using it together with an acoustic system.

When this review was being written, the average price of the ASUS RP-AC52 in online shops of Moscow was 5600 roubles.

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0 #2 ASUS RP-AC52lab controls 2017-01-16 23:02
Thanks a lot, I like this.
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0 #1 ASUS RP-AC52 - FoxNetLabkenandrus 2016-11-24 00:23
Awesome blog!
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