Introduction

External design

Hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Our test lab already hosted two younger counterparts of ASUS RP-AC56 model, RP-N12 and RP-AC52 repeaters. However, even the most powerful device of the two offered theoretically possible speeds of only up to 750 Mbps. ASUS RP-AC56 two-range repeater and access point raises the limit of supported speeds up to 1200 Mbps. Okay, let's get started!

External design

ASUS RP-AC56 comes in a white plastic case with two external tilting non-detachable antennae. The device case has dimensions of 139х85х34 mm (not including the antennae and power plug).

The largest part of the front panel is ribbed, which is already quite traditional for all network equipment by ASUS. There are three LEDs that indicate the status of the entire device and wireless networks in every frequency range located over here. Also, the front panel has two buttons located on it: WPS and Reset.

The rear part of the case, if you can call it this way, has a ventilation grate, sticker with brief information about the device, and rotatable power plug.

Literally the entire upper panel is a ventilation grate, whilst the bottom panel has an ON/OFF button located on it.

The antennae are fastened to the sides of the case. The device sides also have one Gigabit Ethernet port and audio port.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the device.

Hardware

ASUS RP-AC56 wireless repeater is powered by two green textolite cards. One of them performs functions of a PSU.

Components of the other card are located on one side. MediaTek MT7621ST, which operates in 880 MHz frequency and has 64 Mbytes of RAM, is used as a SoC CPU. MediaTek MT7612EN and MT7603EN chips answer for support of the wireless network. Wolfson Microelectronics WM8960G chip performs functions of sound processing.

Now let's pass on to reviewing of the software capabilities of the device.

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. The firmware upgrade process may be carried out both in the manual and semi-automatic modes and does not require any specific technical skills, taking about three minutes (not considering the time necessary for downloading the firmware file from the web).

In case of a failure during the firmware upgrade process, ASUS- RP-AC56 changes for the rescue mode during which the power indicator on the device starts slowly flashing. Unfortunately, there were no utilities meant for firmware recovery available on the vendor's website at the moment when this article was being written. It's worth mentioning that the device bootloader doesn't have an embedded web-server, which was used in other devices by ASUS for firmware recovery purposes. However, it's not that hopeless. One can restore the firmware of RP-AC56 in the manual mode using TFTP. The device uses 192.168.1.1/24 IP address in the rescue mode and cannot receive TFTP connections from a random address in the mentioned subnet. We used Wireshark network analyser to examine how our TFTP client tried to transfer the firmware.

From the screenshot above one can see that RP-AC56 tried to locate 192.168.1.75 host in the network. We assigned our test PC this IP address and managed to install the firmware successfully.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RP-AC56_3.0.0.4_378_6655-g3325802.trx
Transfer successful: 10933260 bytes in 7 second(s), 1561894 bytes/s

That is where we bring review of the firmware upgrade and recovery process of ASUS RP-AC56 to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

ASUS RP-AC56 repeater web-interface is very common for wireless devices by ASUS and that is why we decided not to review all capabilities of the web-interface in detail but stop only on the most interesting ones. The Internet connection wizard turned out to be the only difference.

Network Map menu item shows information about the device status and all connected clients.

Wireless network is managed using the same-named menu item.

LAN menu item lets the user specify the IP parameters of the device.

The device operation mode can be selected using Operation Mode tab, Administration menu item.

All log information is located in tabs in System Log menu item.

ASUS RP-AC56 repeater and access point can play music. The corresponding settings are located in Audio menu item.

When the device under review is used either in the repeater mode or the media bridge mode, a few menu items and tabs will become available whilst others will change.

Wireless menu item is one of the menu items that underwent these changes.

Also, it's worth mentioning that Manual, Utility, and Feedback links will redirect the user to the Chinese version of the vendor's website irrespective of the RP-AC56 web-interface language.

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

Command line

Managing the access to the command line is performed using System tab, Administration menu item in the web-interface. One can access the command line using telnet protocol.

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

# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.36 (emily_ye@wireless-desktop) (gcc version 4.6.3 (Buildroot 2012.11.1) ) #3 SMP Wed Jun 24 15:17:12 CST 2015
# busybox
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2015-06-24 14:23:17 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, renice, rm, rmmod, route, sed, sh, sleep, sysctl,
 syslogd, taskset, telnetd, test, top, touch, traceroute, umount, unzip, uptime, vconfig, vi, watch, wc,
 wget

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.

# ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 admin     1480 S    /sbin/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   [migration/0]
 7 admin        0 SW   [migration/1]
 8 admin        0 SW   [kworker/1:0]
 9 admin        0 SW   [ksoftirqd/1]
 10 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
 11 admin        0 SW   [sync_supers]
 12 admin        0 SW   [bdi-default]
 13 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd]
 14 admin        0 SW<  [kmmcd]
 15 admin        0 SW   [kworker/1:1]
 16 admin        0 SW   [kswapd0]
 17 admin        0 SW<  [crypto]
 23 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock0]
 24 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock1]
 25 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock2]
 26 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock3]
 27 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock4]
 28 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock5]
 29 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock6]
 30 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:1]
 46 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:1]
 69 admin        0 SW   [RtmpCmdQTask]
 70 admin        0 SW   [RtmpWscTask]
 71 admin        0 SW   [RtmpMlmeTask]
 86 admin        0 SW   [RtmpCmdQTask]
 87 admin        0 SW   [RtmpWscTask]
 88 admin        0 SW   [RtmpMlmeTask]
 98 admin     1480 S    /sbin/wanduck
 100 admin     1376 S    httpd
 101 admin      912 S    dnsmasq
 102 admin      928 S    /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
 103 admin      956 S    /sbin/syslogd -m 0 -t GMT-4 -O /tmp/syslog.log
 113 admin      952 S    /sbin/klogd
 118 admin      896 S    audiod RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:34)
 120 admin     1480 S    watchdog
 121 admin     1480 S    roaming_aid
 122 admin     1472 S    detectWAN_arp
 128 admin      960 S    telnetd
 131 admin     2432 S    avahi-daemon: running [RP-AC56-8234.local]
 142 admin     1472 S    ntp
 147 admin     8360 S    m3player -n RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:34) -i br0
 149 admin      776 S    lld2d br0
 165 admin     3516 S    shairport -a RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:34) -o 5229 -b 45
 169 admin      964 S    /bin/sh
 173 admin     2732 S    mDNSResponder
 174 admin     2732 S    mDNSResponder
 175 admin     2732 S    mDNSResponder
 180 admin     2084 S    mDNSPublish 1CB72CD78234@RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:34 _r
 222 admin      972 S    -sh
 231 admin      844 S    /usr/sbin/ntpclient -h pool.ntp.org time.nist.gov  -i
 232 admin      960 R    ps
# top
Mem: 48636K used, 11820K free, 0K shrd, 4988K buff, 17116K cached
CPU:   0% usr   0% sys   0% nice  99% idle   0% io   0% irq   0% softirq
Load average: 0.00 0.00 0.00
 PID  PPID USER     STAT   VSZ %MEM %CPU COMMAND
 240   238 admin    R      964   2%   0% top
 147   118 admin    S     8360  14%   0% m3player -n RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:34
 165   118 admin    S     3516   6%   0% shairport -a RP-AC56(1C:B7:2C:D7:82:3
 173     1 admin    S     2732   5%   0% mDNSResponder
 174   173 admin    S     2732   5%   0% mDNSResponder
 175   174 admin    S     2732   5%   0% mDNSResponder
 131     1 admin    S     2432   4%   0% avahi-daemon: running [RP-AC56-8234.l
 180   165 admin    S     2084   3%   0% mDNSPublish 1CB72CD78234@RP-AC56(1C:B
 1     0 admin    S     1480   2%   0% /sbin/init
 121     1 admin    S     1480   2%   0% roaming_aid
 98     1 admin    S     1480   2%   0% /sbin/wanduck
 120     1 admin    S     1480   2%   0% watchdog
 142   120 admin    S     1472   2%   0% ntp
 122     1 admin    S     1472   2%   0% detectWAN_arp
 100     1 admin    S     1376   2%   0% httpd
 238   222 admin    S      972   2%   0% -sh
 222   128 admin    S      972   2%   0% -sh
 169     1 admin    S      964   2%   0% /bin/sh
 128     1 admin    S      960   2%   0% telnetd
 103     1 admin    S      956   2%   0% /sbin/syslogd -m 0 -t GMT-4 -O /tmp/s

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, and /usr/sbin catalogs, as well as the output of sysinfo utility, are located in a separate file.

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

# cd /proc/
# ls
425           131           87            23            5             irq           vmstat        uptime
424           128           86            17            4             misc          zoneinfo      version
243           122           71            16            3             scsi          vmallocinfo   softirqs
222           121           70            15            2             asound        slabinfo      kcore
180           120           69            14            1             mtd           filesystems   kmsg
175           118           46            13            self          execdomains   locks         crypto
174           113           30            12            mounts        ioports       cmdline       diskstats
173           103           29            11            net           iomem         cpuinfo       partitions
169           102           28            10            fs            timer_list    devices       mt7621
165           101           27            9             driver        modules       interrupts    nvram
149           100           26            8             tty           kallsyms      loadavg
147           98            25            7             bus           buddyinfo     meminfo
142           88            24            6             sys           pagetypeinfo  stat
# cat uptime
3862.29 7700.73
# cat loadavg
0.00 0.00 0.00 1/57 428
# cat cpuinfo
system type             : MT7621
processor               : 0
cpu model               : MIPS 1004Kc V2.15
BogoMIPS                : 583.68
wait instruction        : yes
microsecond timers      : yes
tlb_entries             : 32
extra interrupt vector  : yes
hardware watchpoint     : yes, count: 4, address/irw mask: [0x0ff8, 0x0ff8, 0x0ffb, 0x0ffb]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp mt
shadow register sets    : 1
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
processor               : 1
cpu model               : MIPS 1004Kc V2.15
BogoMIPS                : 583.68
wait instruction        : yes
microsecond timers      : yes
tlb_entries             : 32
extra interrupt vector  : yes
hardware watchpoint     : yes, count: 4, address/irw mask: [0x0000, 0x0ff8, 0x0ffb, 0x0000]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp mt
shadow register sets    : 1
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
# cat meminfo
MemTotal:          60456 kB
MemFree:           11616 kB
Buffers:            4988 kB
Cached:            17152 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:             6716 kB
Inactive:          18500 kB
Active(anon):       3076 kB
Inactive(anon):        0 kB
Active(file):       3640 kB
Inactive(file):    18500 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          3084 kB
Mapped:             4964 kB
Shmem:                 0 kB
Slab:              16384 kB
SReclaimable:       3096 kB
SUnreclaim:        13288 kB
KernelStack:         456 kB
PageTables:          336 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       30228 kB
Committed_AS:       9464 kB
VmallocTotal:    1048372 kB
VmallocUsed:        8428 kB
VmallocChunk:    1034824 kB
# uptime
 21:04:37 up  1:04, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
#

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 password
size: 9008 bytes (52432 left)
http_passwd=password
acc_password=

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

The first testing procedure we usually begin our testing section with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. ASUS RP-AC56 repeater boots in 103 seconds.

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

Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention the key specifications 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
ASUS RT-AC66U
Atheros AR8131
ASUS EA-AC87
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

The first throughput tests we decided to perform were the device performance tests upon operation in the access point mode in both frequency ranges.

Diagrams of the user data transfer speeds upon operation of ASUS RP-AC56 in the media bridge mode are presented below. In this mode ASUS RP-AC56 virtually performs functions of a wireless client.

One of the most anticipated tests is, we dare say, measurements of the device performance upon operation in the repeater mode. We have tested all four different connection modes; results of the measurements are presented below. As we expected, the lowest throughputs were received when both connections were established in the 2.4 GHz frequency range.

It's worth mentioning that we saw a significant decrease in the data transfer speeds upon enabling of Wi-Fi Proxy feature. One can read more about this feature in one of our previous reviews dedicated to ASUS RP-AC52 model. The extent to which this effect manifests itself varies depending on the used frequency range. On the diagram below one can see the most outstanding example of such changes.

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

Summary

ASUS RP-AC56 wireless repeater turned out to be a well-performing average-level device that can meet the needs of common wireless network users. Its design and small size make it possible to place the device in public areas.

The strength areas of ASUS RP-AC56 repeater and access point are presented below.

  • Small size and smart design
  • Operation in two frequency ranges and support of modern IEEE 802.11ac standard
  • Acceptable performance of the wireless module
  • Built-in player of web-based radio
  • Availability of Wi-Fi Proxy feature
  • Support of several operation modes (Media Bridge, repeater and access point)

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention certain drawbacks we have discovered.

  • Incorrect time zones for Russia
  • The web-interface is not completely translated
  • No auxiliary utilities available

Obviously, we have notified the vendor about all discovered shortcomings and were told that they will be fixed in the nearest future.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RP-AC56 in Moscow online shops was 6264 roubles.

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