Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Command line

LAG

Testing

Summary

P.S.

Introduction

About half-year ago review of ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router was published on our pages. About a model that came to our laboratory today it is known that it has a wireless formula AC3100 that means maximum theoretical wireless data transmission speed equal to 3.1 Gbps. What is it, a setback? A simpler model? No, the answer is that RT-AC3200 wireless router has three wireless modules whereas RT-AC88U has two ones. It means that with the help of RT-AC88U the user can provide a particular wireless client with higher speed: till 1000 Mbps in 2.4 GHz range and till 2167 Mbps in 5 GHz range. Of course, providing that the client device itself can operate at such high speeds.
Okay, let’s get started!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router comes in black plastic case with the following dimensions: 300x188x84 mm (not including antennae). For its working the device needs an external Power adaptor (included in the box) with the following parameters: 19V and 2.37A.

The upper panel has a small ventilation grate, vendor name and eight LEDs indicating device status and its wired (including USB) and wireless interfaces.

The testing model has four external detachable antennae connecting to the rare panel and both sides of the router. It’s worth noting that the shape of antennae and their coloring are rather unusual for the network equipment. The sides are not remarkable with other details.

Buttons for enabling/disabling LEDs and wireless network are placed on the front panel of the router. Hidden port USB 3.0 is also placed here.

Ventilation grate covers great part of the bottom panel of RT-AC88U case. In addition, a small sticker with the brief information about the device, three rubber  legs and two technological holes for mounting the router on the wall are placed here.

On the rare panel there are eight LAN Gigabit Ethernet and one WAN GE interfaces, socket for power adapter connection, ON/OFF, Reset and WPS buttons and USB 2.0 port. Yes, it is not often that one meets SOHO router with eight LAN ports!

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

The hardware platform of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router consists of the only textolite plate, which main elements are placed on both sides.

Unfortunately, almost all key chips are hidden under the protection screens. Only two ones are accessible for review. Realtek RTL8365MB chip performs functions of four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch which provides work for four additional LAN ports. Flash-memory functions are performed by ESMT F59L1G81LA-25T NAND chip with the capacity of 128 Mbytes. It should be also mentioned here that ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router has dual-core CPU Broadcom BCM4709C0 working at the frequency of 1.4 GHz and RAM of 512 Mbytes based on Nanya NT5CC256M16DP-DI.

That’s where we proceed to completion the hardware review of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router and pass directly on to studying its software capabilities.

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade can be performed with the help of Firmware Upgrade item of Administration menu. Changing of the firmware version can be performed in manual or semi-automatic mode.

Regardless of the way chosen for the upgrade, any special skills are not required from the user. The whole process requires about three minutes (not considering time necessary for downloading a file with a new firmware from the vendors’ servers).

One can check if the upgrade procedure is successful with the help of any device web-interface page, in which upper part information about current firmware version is displayed.

If firmware upgrade failed, the router can enter to rescue mode. One can recognize the mode in question by slowly flashing power LED on the upper panel of the device. It’s worth noting that the user can move RT-AC88U to the rescue mode manually by pressing and holding Reset button before turning off the device. An indirect indicator that testing model is in rescue mode is TTL field equal to 100 in receiving ICMP echo replies.

C:\>ping 192.168.1.1
Pinging 192.168.1.1 with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=100
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=100
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=100
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=100
Ping statistics for 192.168.1.1:
 Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
 Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 2ms, Average = 0ms

We will not review a standard restoration procedure (with the help of Firmware Restoration utility) and instead of this specify two more ways with the help of which the administrator can restore firmware in ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router.

The first alternative way of firmware restoration is using a web-server built in the bootloader which is accessible for users in case of router entering to recovery mode. It’s also worth noting that with the help of built-in web-server the user can reset user settings if necessary.

The second in the list, but not in its meaning, is restoration with the help of TFTP protocol. Router bootloader has built-in TFTP server that allows the administrator to upload a file with new firmware to the router.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC88U_3.0.0.4_380_2345-ga24f32d.trx
Transfer successful: 43266048 bytes in 115 second(s), 376226 bytes/s

That’s where we proceed to completion the brief review of firmware upgrade and restoration for ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router and pass directly on to reviewing its web-interface capabilities.

Web-interface

For configuring the router via the web-interface one can use any modern browser. On login, login and password should be entered.

After entering the correct credentials the user is navigated to the start page of the device, where the brief information about the wireless router and some of its modules status is displayed. It’s worth noting that web-interface of RT-AC88U is available in 18 languages. We will not describe all abilities provided by the web-interface in detail but review some of the most interesting abilities and changes.

AiProtection menu item allows users to estimate router security, enable malicious sites blocking function and perform prevention and blocking of infected devices. Apart from this, configuring of parental control is performed here. All solutions for providing security described here are performed by ASUS together with Trend Micro specialists.

QoS configuration is performed with the help of QoS menu item. Here the administrator can set a particular priority to a device or prioritize a particular traffic class. Web History tab contains the list of resources visited by the user.

Game Boost option that allows accelerating handling of game packets became a novelty.

One can get access to statistical information with the help of Traffic Analyzer item.

The list of available applications working with the devices connecting to USB port is rather wide: AiDisk, File/Media server, Print Server, 3G/4G, Time Machine and Download Master. One can get access to the applications in question with the help of USB Application item.

One more application not included to the list of USB Application menu item is available in AiCloud2.0 item. With the help of this application one can share files placed on connected to router USB-disk. With the help of AiCloud 2.0 one can also perform synchronization of files between several ASUS network devices.

As ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router is a device which supports second wave of IEEE 802.11ac standard (802.11ac wave 2), among functions supported by the device one can find not only MU-MIMO but also a new modulation type NitroQAM/1024-QAM. Of course, this modulation will work only for close wireless clients but its using will help significantly increase speeds of connecting such devices.

In Switch Control item of LAN menu there is a new option “Bonding/Link aggregation” which allows bonding LAN1 and LAN2 ports in a group with the use of 802.3ad. We will review this in more detail in a special section about LAG configuration with the help of RT-AC88U router.

As all top ASUS wireless routers, RT-AC88U allows simultaneous connecting to two providers. Dual connection can be used for load balancing and providing backup. To perform this configuration the administrator should go to Dual WAN item of WAN menu.

We should also say a couple of words about the main connection. “Extend the TTL value” option was reviewed before. However, router web-interface allows not only changing TTL value in packets receiving from the provider but also changing this field in the packets of the outgoing direction that is from the local network to the global one. We would like to have an ability to manually specify TTL value to which the changing will be performed, but even without this setting this option will be very useful for some users which providers filter traffic based on the field in question.

IPv6 menu item allows configuring the protocol of the same name.

In the review of ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router we already told about Feedback item of Administration menu intended to sending feedbacks by users. RT-AC88U also has this item.

That’s where we proceed to completion the brief review of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router web-interface and pass directly on to reviewing its command line.

Command line

Enabling/disabling access to the device command line is carried out with the help of System tab, Administration menu.

ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router allows connecting not only with the use of telnet unsecure protocol but also with the help of SSH. Login and password used for the access to the command line interface are the same as for the web-interface access. Software of the testing model is built on Linux 2.6.36.4 operating system using BusyBox of version 1.17.4.

RT-AC88U login: admin
Password:
ASUSWRT RT-AC88U_9.0.0.4 Mon Mar 21 01:50:56 UTC 2016
admin@RT-AC88U:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC88U:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC88U 2.6.36.4brcmarm #59 SMP PREEMPT Mon Mar 21 09:53:15 CST 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC88U:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-03-18 15:54:10 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

With the help of ps command, let’s see what processes are currently running on the device. Top utility shows information on the current activity of the launched processes. The results of specified utilities working are shown in a separate file.

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogues, as well as the output of sysinfo utility, are located in a separate file. For example, in /sbin catalogue there is tcpcheck utility that allows checking if a particular TCP port is opened on a particular host.

admin@RT-AC88U:/# tcpcheck
usage:  tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-AC88U:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC88U:/# 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 operating system uptime, its average utilization, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. In general, one can discover the system uptime and its average utilization with the help of uptime command.

admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# ls
1              384            482            719            buddyinfo      irq            softirqs
10             386            486            720            bus            kallsyms       stat
11             391            488            721            cmdline        key-users      swaps
111            4              493            722            cpu            kmsg           sys
158            448            499            723            cpuinfo        loadavg        sysrq-trigger
166            457            5              740            crypto         locks          sysvipc
2              461            500            742            devices        meminfo        timer_list
240            463            501            745            diskstats      misc           tty
245            464            53             749            dmu            modules        uptime
250            466            55             770            driver         mounts         version
255            467            56             775            emf            mtd            vmallocinfo
277            470            587            8              execdomains    net            vmstat
280            475            6              872            filesystems    pagetypeinfo   zoneinfo
285            476            611            9              fs             partitions
3              478            614            bcm947xx       interrupts     scsi
367            479            621            bcm_chipinfo   iomem          self
371            481            7              brcmnand       ioports        slabinfo
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# cat uptime
1777.50 3500.00
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# cat loadavg
0.00 0.01 0.05 1/65 875
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# cat cpuinfo
Processor       : ARMv7 Processor rev 0 (v7l)
processor       : 0
BogoMIPS        : 2798.38
processor       : 1
BogoMIPS        : 2798.38
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult edsp
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x3
CPU part        : 0xc09
CPU revision    : 0
Hardware        : Northstar Prototype
Revision        : 0000
Serial          : 0000000000000000
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal:         515324 kB
MemFree:          404244 kB
Buffers:            1240 kB
Cached:             6052 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:            11684 kB
Inactive:           4164 kB
Active(anon):       8992 kB
Inactive(anon):      208 kB
Active(file):       2692 kB
Inactive(file):     3956 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          8556 kB
Mapped:             3864 kB
Shmem:               644 kB
Slab:              62760 kB
SReclaimable:       1764 kB
SUnreclaim:        60996 kB
KernelStack:         520 kB
PageTables:          668 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:      257660 kB
Committed_AS:      20160 kB
VmallocTotal:    1302528 kB
VmallocUsed:       26964 kB
VmallocChunk:    1257340 kB
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# uptime
 03:29:58 up 29 min, load average: 0.07, 0.03, 0.05

We cannot help but mention nvram utility that allows changing certain important device operation parameters.

admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
http_username=admin
size: 53090 bytes (77982 left)
acc_list=admin>password
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
admin@RT-AC88U:/proc#

For example, with the help of NVRAM utility one can disable STP protocol on LAN ports of RT-AC88U.

admin@RT-AC88U:/# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=1
lan1_stp=1
size: 51870 bytes (79202 left)
admin@RT-AC88U:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC88U:/# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC88U:/# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC88U:/# nvram show | grep stp
size: 51870 bytes (79202 left)
lan_stp=0
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC88U:/# reboot

That’s where we draw the brief review of the router command line interface capabilities to a close and pass on directly to testing the device.

LAG

Performance of devices used in modern home networks and networks of small offices has already stepped over the boundary of 1Gbps. What comes next? There are three ways for further development, two of which mean using higher-speed links. Firstly, these are standards with speeds of 10 Gbps (for example, 10GBASE-T or 10GBASE-LR) that are already used in corporate networks for a long time. However, ten-fold increasing of data transmission speeds in SOHO networks is not highly demanded yet, moreover, price of such solutions is still rather high. So the second way is using of a new group of standards with data transmission speeds till 2.5 Gbps (2500BASE-X or 2500BASE-T). This way proposes increasing of the capacity in 2.5 times comparing with gigabyte networks, remaining the solution price rather low (comparing with the solutions based on Gigabit Ethernet technology). But what is the third way? The third way is using of corresponding technologies of physical and datalink layers but also means aggregation two or more links in a bundle. This way is described in IEEE 802.3ad standard and is called LAG (Link Aggregation). ASUS uses exactly this way for RT-AC88U wireless router. Increased number of ports of the router allows allocating two of them for performing such an aggregation. A corresponding setting is available in Switch Control item of LAN menu. LAN1 and LAN2 interfaces are aggregated in a group. It'd be fair to mention that at the moment the user can only enable/disable aggregation and there are no additional settings.

We decided to check working of link aggregation mechanism and connected RT-AC88U wireless router to our testing switch Cisco WS-C3560CG-8TC-S (IOS version is 15.2(2)E4). De facto link aggregation standard for today is using of LACP protocol, so we performed a corresponding setting of the switch which is displayed below.

3560#sho run int gi0/7
Building configuration...
Current configuration : 179 bytes
interface GigabitEthernet0/7
 description ASUS RT-AC88U Etherchannel test.
 switchport access vlan 9
 switchport mode access
 load-interval 30
 channel-group 1 mode active
end
3560#sho run int gi0/8
Building configuration...
Current configuration : 179 bytes
interface GigabitEthernet0/8
 description ASUS RT-AC88U Etherchannel test.
 switchport access vlan 9
 switchport mode access
 load-interval 30
 channel-group 1 mode active
end

To our regret, the test switch and ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router didn’t manage to negotiate aggregation.

3560#sho etherchannel summary
Flags:  D - down        P - bundled in port-channel
 I - stand-alone s - suspended
 H - Hot-standby (LACP only)
 R - Layer3      S - Layer2
 U - in use      f - failed to allocate aggregator
 M - not in use, minimum links not met
 u - unsuitable for bundling
 w - waiting to be aggregated
 d - default port
Number of channel-groups in use: 1
Number of aggregators:           1
Group  Port-channel  Protocol    Ports
------+-------------+-----------+-----------------------------------------------
1      Po1(SU)         LACP      Gi0/7(w)    Gi0/8(w)

We decided to check what exactly went wrong. As it turned out, the reason is rather simple: RT-AC88U works in LACP Fast mode whereas the switch supports only LACP Slow mode (that is also called normal sometimes). The information about Cisco switch and the neighborhood device discovered by it is displayed below.

3560#sho lacp internal
Flags:  S - Device is requesting Slow LACPDUs
 F - Device is requesting Fast LACPDUs
 A - Device is in Active mode       P - Device is in Passive mode
Channel group 1
 LACP port     Admin     Oper    Port        Port
Port      Flags   State     Priority      Key       Key     Number      State
Gi0/7     SA      bndl      32768         0x2       0x2     0x107       0xD
Gi0/8     SA      bndl      32768         0x2       0x2     0x108       0xD
switch3560#sho lacp neighbor
Flags:  S - Device is requesting Slow LACPDUs
 F - Device is requesting Fast LACPDUs
 A - Device is in Active mode       P - Device is in Passive mode
Channel group 1 neighbors
Partner's information:
 LACP port                        Admin  Oper   Port    Port
Port      Flags   Priority  Dev ID          Age    key    Key    Number  State
Gi0/7     FA      1         1cb7.2c75.0058   0s    0x0    0x0    0x3     0x7
Gi0/8     FA      1         1cb7.2c75.0058   2s    0x0    0x0    0x2     0x7

Unfortunately, Cisco WS-C3560CG-8TC-S switch doesn’t support LACP Fast. One more switch Cisco WS-C6509-E with supervisor WS-SUP720-3B and interface card WS-X6148-GE-TX was in our possession. The peculiarity of this device is the ability to work in both Slow|Normal and Fast LACP modes.

6509(config-if)#lacp rate ?
 fast    Request LACP packets to be ingressed at the 1 second rate for this interface
 normal  Request LACP packets to be ingressed at the 30 second rate once the link is established
6509(config-if)#lacp rate fast
6509(config-if)#do sho run int gi3/1
Building configuration...
Current configuration : 181 bytes
!
interface GigabitEthernet3/1
 description fox_test_asus_rt-ac88u_lacp
 switchport
 switchport mode access
 lacp rate fast
 channel-protocol lacp
 channel-group 1 mode active
end

And with such settings LAG (in Cisco terminology Port-Channel or EtherChannel) worked successfully.

6509#sho etherchannel summary
Flags:  D - down        P - bundled in port-channel
 I - stand-alone s - suspended
 H - Hot-standby (LACP only)
 R - Layer3      S - Layer2
 U - in use      N - not in use, no aggregation
 f - failed to allocate aggregator
 M - not in use, no aggregation due to minimum links not met
 m - not in use, port not aggregated due to minimum links not met
 u - unsuitable for bundling
 d - default port
 w - waiting to be aggregated
Number of channel-groups in use: 2
Number of aggregators:           2
Group  Port-channel  Protocol    Ports
------+-------------+-----------+-----------------------------------------------
1      Po1(SU)         LACP      Gi3/1(P)       Gi3/2(P)

Obviously, we reported about the problem in question and hope it will be fixed in the next firmwares.

Testing

The first traditional test we begin this part 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-AC88U wireless router boots in 93 seconds. We consider that it is a normal result.

The second no less than standard test is a security scanning procedure of the device, performing with the help of a security scanner Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8. Testing was performed from LAN port of the router. There were 17 open ports discovered. The most interesting data of this test are presented below.

Obviously, we told the vendor about discovered vulnerabilities. Vendor’s technical specialists informed us that discovered vulnerabilities (and even some other ones) are already fixed in the actual firmware versions. Then we went to XSpider utility tech support for clarifications. It was discovered that identifying vulnerabilities is performed by version number reported by the system in the banner and other checks are not performed. Therefore, RT-AC88U is free from the listed vulnerabilities.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our readers familiar with the main parameters 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-AC68
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC88U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to start measuring of ASUS RT-AC88U performance from discovering throughput on performing NAT/PAT and without it. As one can see from the diagrams below, throughput with NAT/PAT is significantly higher that is explained by using hardware accelerator during performing translations. To perform all tests of this kind we used JPerf utility of 2.0.2 version with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections.

IP of the next generation IPv6 gains popularity. Probably, this is connected with the fact that ISPs in Russia don’t block IPv6 traffic because of Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications’ restrictions IPv6 provides users with a wider address space. Naturally, we cannot help but measure performance of ASUS RT-AC88U router during handling of IPv6 traffic.

The model under test can perform both functions of VPN-server and VPN-client not restricting by using VPN only for connecting to an ISP (that is still very popular in Russia and CIS countries). We decided to find out which data transmission speed the users can get on using the following protocols: PPTP and OpenVPN. In our tests PPTP tunnel didn’t use encryption and connecting OpenVPN was performed with default settings.

One more wired test was checking work of QoS mechanism. We rate limited incoming and outgoing traffic and performed measurements with the help of JPerf utility of 2.0.2 version with ten simultaneous TCP connections. As one can see from the diagram below, this mechanism is effective only for rather low speeds till 200 Mbps that will be more than enough for the most of users with slow Internet connection.

Now it’s about time to measure performance of the wireless module of ASUS RT-AC88U router. At first, we used ASUS PCE-AC68 card as a wireless client.

Speeds occurred to be rather high, however, we decided not to stop at this and perform measurements using the second router ASUS RT-AC88U as a wireless client.

Also we decided to use multifunctional access point ASUS RP-AC68U as a wireless client, which review was published on our pages not a long time ago. For connecting to RT-AC88U router, ASUS RP-AC68U access point was set to Media Bridge mode.

As we had two ASUS RT-AC88U wireless routers, we decided to measure speeds of user data transmission while using WDS mode.

ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router has USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. Naturally, we cannot pass it by. At the diagrams below one can see access speeds to our external testing SSD Transcend TS256GESD400K with the capacity of 256 Gbytes.

It’s worth noting that using of bad-quality devices or cables in USB 3.0 mode can lead to interference influencing wireless clients.

One more test that we cannot help but perform is estimating performance of the wired switch of ASUS RT-AC88U test model. We have never been interested in performance of the switches built in home wireless routers before. This was explained by the fact that for a long time built-in switches have non-blocking architecture that allows performing switching on the wire speed. So there was no interest to perform measurement. However in case of RT-AC88U everything is a bit more difficult. Eight LAN ports accessible to the users don’t belong to the same chip. So, in substance, these are two independent switches (BCM4709C0 and RTL8365MB), each with four LAN ports, connecting together inside RT-AC88U. We decided to find out which data transmission speed between ports of different chips the users can expect. To check this, the schema shown below was prepared.

As we expected, the summary data transmission speed between hosts connecting to different switches is 1 Gbps. So data transmission between devices connecting to LAN ports 1-4 or 5-8 will be performed on the wire speed. However, the summary throughput between ports of different chips will be restricted by the performance of the internal link between switches that is 1 Gbps. The graph of the network interface utilization for A1 host is displayed below. Left part of the graph corresponds to the moment of time when traffic flows only between A1 and B1 hosts. Right part of the graph corresponds to two simultaneous connections A1->B1 and A2->B2.

For the most users of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router the discovered restriction is not remarkable, but for geeks who try to use maximum performance the specified peculiarity of the internal architecture should be kept in mind.

When this section was already completed, we remembered about one more capability of the device that is filtering of applications and web-sites performing by built-in Trend Micro software module. With the help of Parental Controls item of AiProtection menu we restricted access of our testing computer to all filtered content categories: web-sites for adults, messengers, social and peering networks and multimedia content.

At the result of the experiment access to all specified resources on the testing computer was almost blocked. Some applications just informed about the impossibility of connecting to the server while other applications even displayed the reason of blocking.

During performing testing we measured temperature of the device case using our lab pyrometer ADA TempPro-2200. The maximum temperature we have discovered was 39°C at air temperature of 24°C.

That’s where we proceed to completion the testing section and pass directly on to conclusion.

Summary

On the whole, we are pleased with tested ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router. The device demonstrated high data transmission speeds both in wired and wireless network segments. Availability of different QoS mechanisms allows gamers to fully enjoy online games and AiProtection technology protects children from unwanted content. MU-MIMO support is not highly demanded for today because of clients absence, however, in the nearest future users will be able to use their wireless networks more effectively due to MU-MIMO. Moreover, NitroQAM technology is purposed for increasing wireless throughput and allows increasing maximum theoretical data transmission speed in 1.25 times that is equal to 1000 Mbps for antennae configuration 4x4 in 2.4 GHz range and 2167 Mbps in 5GHz range.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router are listed below.

  • High data transmission speeds in both wireless ranges
  • Ability of port aggregation
  • High speeds of IPv6 traffic handling
  • Availability of QoS and AiProtection mechanisms
  • Support of MU-MIMO
  • High access speeds to data on external USB storage
  • Availability of high-performance VPN-server and client
  • Support of NitroQAM
  • Eight LAN ports
  • High-performance CPU
  • Availability of mobile application for managing.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention discovered drawbacks.

  • Capabilities of port aggregation are strongly restricted
  • The web-interface is not completely translated.

When this review was being written, ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router average price in Moscow online shops was 20915 rubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC88U in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was 348 euro.

P.S.

After the testing was fully completed and the review was published, we have received ASUS PCE-AC88 wireless NIC. Features of this model are higher transmission speeds and MU-MIMO technology support. Fortunately, the router was still in our laboratory therefore we requested from representatives of the vendor permission to carry out additional tests. Unfortunately, it is impossible to hold on testing of MU-MIMO technology using the single card therefore we have decided to test the performance of ASUS RT-AC88U router wireless module with PCE-AC88. Testing was held for both wireless ranges. Results of measurements are presented on the diagrams below.

From the provided diagrams it is visible that ASUS PCE-AC88 wireless NIC allows to utilize the possibilities of the router better (in comparison with the previous model – PCE-AC68).

Also we decided to carry out one more test, but this time wired, - to measure RT-AC88U L2TP throughput. Connections to the Internet via L2TP are no less popular in comparison with PPTP on the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries. Results of performance measurements of L2TP without encryption are presented on the diagram below.

This concludes our additional testing of ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router, it is time to finally return the equipment to the vendor.

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