Currently our test lab is hosting two wireless router by ASUS meant for operation in LTE mobile operator networks: 4G-AC55U and 4G-N12. Today we're going to review the more entry-level model of the two, ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router, which features four Fast Ethernet ports and a wireless module with N300 support. However, let's take our time and tell you about everything in parts.
ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the dimensions of 175x125x30mm and the weight of only 300 grams. The device needs an external power adapter with the following characteristics (included in the box) for proper functioning: 12V and 1А.
A considerable part of the front panel of the router is glossy. On the right part of the front panel there are LEDs that indicate operation of the device essential components: the wireless module and wired interfaces as well as LEDs indicating presence of the installed SIM card and connection to the WAN. LTE LED displays the power of the mobile service provider signal in the area where the device is located.
The side panels of the case feature a slot for the SIM card and WPS button that is used for facilitation of wireless clients connection. It's worth noticing that 4G-N12 supports only full-sized miniSIM cards. MicroSIM and nanoSIM cards can be installed only using a special-purpose adapter.
The upper panel is not remarkable at all and there is only a ventilation grate on it.
The router under review has two external non-detachable antennas for the Wi-Fi network and two internal antennas used for connection to mobile networks. External antennas are fastened to the rear part of the device case. Also, there are four wired Fast Ethernet LAN ports located over here; one of them may be used as a WAN port if it's necessary to get connected to networks of wired service providers. A power socket, ON/OFF button, sunken Reset button, and a sticker with brief information about the device are located here too.
The bottom part of the device has two round rubber legs and a small plastic stand meant for improved comfort in desktop mounting.
Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. Hardware stuffing of ASUS 4G-N12 4G wireless router is two green textolite cards: a motherboard and wireless module used for connection to mobile service providers. Unfortunately, all primary elements are covered with metal screens. Only Broadcom BCM5358UB0 chip, which performs SoC CPU functions with support of 4G networks, is accessible.
That is where we bring a very brief device hardware review to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.
Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Currently the firmware may only be upgraded in manual mode. In order to do this one will need to predownload the firmware file from the vendor's website.
The whole firmware upgrade process takes around one and a half minute and does not require any technical proficiency from the administrator.
That is where we bring a brief review of the firmware upgrade process of the device to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the wireless router web-interface.
The web-interface of 4G-N12 4G wireless router is similar to other wireless telecommunications equipment by ASUS and therefore we will not review all of its capabilities in detail but only focus on the newest and most interesting ones. The web-interface is available in 13 languages.
A new group that has been added is called SMS and one can use its tabs to send, receive, and edit text messages. Phone Book tab lets the user save phone numbers of the most sought-after subscribers on the router.
On the whole, tabs in Wireless menu group are traditional and feature the same data as in other wireless routers by ASUS. Probably the only thing that we'd like to point out is inability to manually set the bandwidth of the Wi-Fi wireless channel to 40 MHz using current firmware.
LAN menu item is used to specify the IP-address of the router LAN port as well as configure the operation parameters of DHCP.
One of the most interesting menu items is WAN. ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router can get connected both to the wired service providers and wireless networks of mobile service providers. Selection of the connection type is made using Internet Connection tab. Unfortunately, connection methods popular in ex-Soviet bloc countries like PPTP and L2TP are not supported at the moment. One can choose only PPPoE as well as static or dynamic IP-address.
Mobile Connection Status tab shows the parameters of the current connection to the mobile service provider network as well as allows managing traffic limits.
One can choose the mobile network generation using which the connection should be established via Mobile Connection Scan tab. Also, one can select the service provider that one needs to connect to.
Virtual Server/Port Forwarding tab lets the user manage the rule for PAT that allows remote users to gain access to a certain LAN resource.
Intrusion Detection tab in Firewall menu item lets one carry out a thorough scanning of the transmitted packets for certain network services.
Managing access to the WAN resources can be scheduled. The appropriate settings are available in Access Control and Schedule Rule tabs.
Another interesting capability that is worth reviewing is WAN Capture in Network Tools menu item, which lets save packets that are transmitted via the device WAN interface. The file is saved in a format supported by the majority of modern traffic analyzers. For example, it can be opened using Wireshark.
It'd be fair to mention that 4G-N12 cannot be detected using standard ASUS – Device Discovery wireless equipment detection software because it may not be a proprietary ASUS device but a platform that has been ordered from third-party vendors like in the case of SL series routers. Also, getting connected to the device using Telnet and SSH protocols is impossible. That is why we are bringing this review of the device web-interface capabilities to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing it.
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 protocol. ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router boots in 29 seconds and we think it's a decent result.
The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) utility from the local network. On the whole, there were two open ports discovered, and they are TCP-80 (HTTP) and TCP-8085 (HTTP).
Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention the key specifications of the test stand we used.
|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
|OS||Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus||Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus|
At first we measured the data transmission speed between the wired and wireless clients. In order to test it we used JPERF utility, 2.0.2 version. Results of the measurements are presented on the diagram below.
It's worth mentioning that the obtained values are due to the maximum connection speed of the wireless client. And though 4G-N12 router has N300 module, the connection speed didn't exceed 144 Mbps. It's possible that this happened due to the inability to set the bandwidth of 40 MHz. Perhaps when the vendor adds the above-mentioned setting, we will be able to obtain higher speed values. However, even in this case we would not expect it to improve performance significantly since it would be limited by Fast Ethernet wired interfaces.
The second throughput test was setting of the maximum user data transmission speeds with enabled NAT/PAT. In other words, one of the four wired ports was used as the WAN interface.
The obtained results are decent when it comes to one-way only operation, but we expected the speeds to be higher in full-duplex operation.
Neither could we keep away from reviewing connection to the LTE network of the mobile service providers. At this stage we would like to point out that the received speeds will depend not only on the mobile service provider and the load of its network, but also on the proximity of the mobile phone tower to the device. Results of our measurements performed in one of the towns in Moscow region, far away from mobile phone towers, are presented below.
That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.
ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router used for operation in LTE networks of the mobile service providers made a good impression on us. We believe that this device would become the workhorse for many home and small office users that experience problems with or have no connection to wired service providers. 4G-N12 will allow for provision of access to the WAN for all wired devices as well as wireless employees and customers. Connection settings are really easy and do not require any kind of special technical know-how. We hope that at the time when the device is on sale, the price will be competitive enough so that all interested users can afford it.
The strength areas of ASUS 4G-N12 wireless router are presented below.
- Possibility of connection to both wireless and wired service providers
- Acceptable routing speeds
- Ability to receive and send text messages
- The device boots really fast
- Ability to limit wireless traffic
- Support of deep packet inspection and access control
- Ability to capture the transmitted packets
Unfortunately, we cannot help to mention certain drawbacks of the model.
- 4G-N12 cannot be detected by Device Discovery utility
As of this writing, the best price for ASUS 4G-N12 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was 139 euro.