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The New Wireless Flagship Device or ASUS RT-AC68U

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade and additional utilities

Web-interface

Command line interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

Early in 2013 we tested an ASUS wireless router that supported 802.11AC standard draft. However, just before the end of the year ASUS came up with a new router, which is even faster and more robust. Let us get you familiar with ASUS RT-AC68U!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router is made of black plastic and meant to be vertically placed on the desk. The device case has dimensions of 220х84х160 mm (not including the antennae) and weights 640 grams. To work properly it needs an external power unit with the following characteristics: 19V and 1.75А.

Apart from the model name and 3D brand tag, there are also LEDs indicating the router power as well as the status of wired LAN/WAN/USB ports and two wireless ranges (2.4 and 5.0 GHz) located on the front panel of the device.

One of the side panels is not remarkable at all, whilst the other one has two buttons: WPS (used for facilitating the wireless user connection) and Wi-Fi on/off used to manually switch the wireless modules on or off. It'd be fair to mention that enabling or disabling Wi-Fi can also be performed via the web-interface; while this button has been placed on the device case for enhanced convenience of the users.

There are a ventilation grate and three sockets for connection of the external antennae located on the top side of the router.

The device bottom is a leg that props the case up so that it stays vertically. This model has a much bigger leg, a kind of non-detachable stand.

Apart from the ventilation grate and sticker with the brief information about the device, the rear side also has four LAN Gigabit Ethernet and one WAN ports as well as USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 interfaces located on it. Also, there are a power button, socket for connection of the external power unit, sunken reset button, and LED on/off button located over here. There is an illuminated brand tag located just below the button that switches the LEDs on and off.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. The hardware stuffing of the device is just one textolite card that is mostly covered with heat sink units, the biggest of which has two sets of micro chips underneath covered by metal shields. The only module accessible for inspection was the Spansion S34ML01G100TF100 flash memory module with the size of 128 Mbytes.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware upgrade and additional utilities

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. The user can perform the system upgrade either in a manual or semi-automatic mode, the latter requiring connection to the Internet. Upon manual firmware upgrade one needs to download a file with the new firmware version from the vendor's website. The whole update procedure takes about three minutes (not considering the file downloading time).

In case of a failure during the firmware upgrade process, the router changes for the recovery mode during which the power indicator on the device starts slowly flashing. To restore the firmware one may use a single-purpose utility called ASUS Firmware Restoration, which only needs to know the path to the firmware upgrade file to restore it.

It'd be fair to mention that the administrator can manually switch RT-AC68U over to the recovery mode. To do that s/he only needs to hold Reset button for ten seconds while the device is booting. One can also determine whether the device is in the recovery mode remotely according to certain indirect characteristics since if the device is undergoing a recovery procedure, the boot loader that replies to ICMP queries with packets with TTL=100 (it's TTL=64 when not in the recovery mode) will be functioning in the device.

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=3ms 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

In case if the administrator is not allowed to use the special-purpose utility, s/he will still be able to recover the device. One can do this via either an HTTP server embedded in the boot loader or by transferring the new firmware through TFTP. One can access the boot loader web-server using any modern browser just by entering 192.168.1.1 IP-address.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\FW_RT_AC68U_3004374501.trx
Successfully sent: 28782592 bytes for 112 sec., 256987 bytes/s

Apart from Firmware Restoration utility, ASUS RT-AC68U software pack includes two other standard programs: Device Discovery (used to detect ASUS wireless equipment within the LAN) and Router Setup Wizard (used for facilitation of the initial setting-up procedure of the device).

DDR Configuration Upgrade Tool is yet another nice utility that lets the user increase the RAM frequency from 533 MHz to 666 MHz. It's worth noticing that a change in frequency of this kind would be noticeable only if certain operations had been performed: using of PPTP/L2TP tunnels, operation of the built-in VPN client and server, and access to the data stored on an external HDD. All tests we are talking about in this article have been done with the router RAM's frequency set to 533 MHz.

That is where we bring review of the supportive utilities and firmware upgrade process to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the router web-interface.

Web-interface

The web-interface of the device under review is similar to the one we already saw in RT-AC66U, and therefore we will not review all of its capabilities in detail, but focus on the newest and most interesting ones. Actually, web-interfaces of all wireless ASUS devices built on ASUS-WRT firmware are similar. This way a user who understood how to set up a certain router will be easily able to swap to another device featured in this production line-up.

Firstly, we cannot help but mention that now support of Time Machine (USB application menu item) is available. This feature would come in handy for everyone who uses devices by Apple.

One of the device LAN ports may be used for connection of IPTV consoles; the applicable settings are available in IPTV tab, LAN menu item. The administrator can enable or disable support of Jumbo frames and routing hardware acceleration in Switch Control tab in the same menu item.

Starting with 3.0.0.4.374_501 firmware version the users will not only be able to enable or disable the hardware acceleration, but also choose its level. When this article was being written, there had been no technical details about the difference between Level 1 CTF and Level 2 CTF. CTF stands for Cut-Through Forwarding. It was only known that CTF Level 1 is solely a software practice available on any hardware by Broadcom, whilst CTF Level 2 is a software and hardware acceleration practice used for certain chips that support this level of acceleration. Sometimes usage of CTF Level 2 can cause problems if certain non-standard network protocols are used.

Currently almost all ASUS-WRT firmwares will have a feature that will let the administrator use one of the device LAN ports as the second WAN port; the corresponding settings are available in Dual WAN tab, WAN menu item. Apart from the LAN port, a USB port with the 3G/4G modem connected to it can also be used for this. The second external port can be used for backing up or load balancing. Once the second WAN port has been activated, the user will be able to choose the port to be set up in Internet Connection tab. Upon connection to the provider using a LAN port instead of WAN, the administrator will be able to reduce the frequency at which the DHCP queries are sent out (DHCP query frequency feature). This setting may come in handy when the provider blocks those users whose routers are sending out the queries too often.

The user can manage the IPv6 operation parameters using the same-named menu item. It's worth noticing that when the article was being written, the only thing that support of this protocol entailed was routing of IPv6 packets. It is not possible to access the web-interface and data stored on the HDD through IPv6.

The built-in VPN client and server had also experienced some changes (VPN menu item). Now the VPN server supports two protocols: PPTP and OpenVPN.

The amount of protocols supported by the VPN client got bigger and now they are three: PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN.

The number of the device operation modes has also been increased: wireless router, repeater, access point, and wireless bridge.

The last menu item is called Network Analysis. We had already talked about the capabilities it provides earlier in the review of ASUS RT-N14U wireless router.

That is where we bring a brief review of ASUS RT-AC68U router web-interface capabilities to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its command line.

Command line interface

It's not hard at all to access the device command line: one only needs to enable the corresponding feature in System tab, Administration menu item.

RT-AC68U login: admin
Password:
ASUSWRT RT-AC68U_3.0.0.4 Mon Nov 18 06:05:22 UTC 2013
admin@RT-AC68U:/tmp/home/root#

Traditionally, BusyBox library is installed in Linux 2.6.36.4 system.

admin@RT-AC68U:/tmp/home/root# uname -a
Linux RT-AC68U 2.6.36.4brcmarm #17 SMP PREEMPT Sat Nov 16 11:52:10 CST 2013 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC68U:/tmp/home/root# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2013-11-16 11:46:16 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, mkdosfs, mke2fs, mkfs.ext2, mkfs.ext3, mkfs.vfat,
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, wget, 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.

admin@RT-AC68U:/tmp/home/root# ps
PID USER VSZ STAT COMMAND
1 admin 2108 S /sbin/preinit
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 [kworker/u:1]
52 admin 0 SW [sync_supers]
54 admin 0 SW [bdi-default]
55 admin 0 SW< [kblockd]
108 admin 0 SW [kswapd0]
154 admin 0 SW [fsnotify_mark]
164 admin 0 SW< [crypto]
240 admin 0 SW [mtdblock0]
245 admin 0 SW [mtdblock1]
250 admin 0 SW [mtdblock2]
255 admin 0 SW [mtdblock3]
273 admin 0 SW [mtdblock4]
276 admin 0 SW [kworker/0:1]
278 admin 0 SW [kworker/1:1]
279 admin 664 S hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
313 admin 2092 S console
315 admin 1508 S /bin/sh
325 admin 0 SWN [jffs2_gcd_mtd4]
332 admin 0 SW [khubd]
429 admin 2100 S usbled
483 admin 2100 S /sbin/wanduck
485 admin 1132 S /bin/eapd
488 admin 2100 S wlaide
489 admin 2100 S wpsaide
491 admin 1468 S nas
493 nobody 1044 S dnsmasq --log-async
494 admin 2100 S ntp
498 admin 2020 S avahi-daemon: running [RT-AC68U-FB48.local]
500 admin 1112 S /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
501 admin 1128 S networkmap
503 admin 2100 S watchdog
506 admin 2100 S ots
507 admin 1332 S rstats
515 admin 1148 S lld2d br0
542 admin 1476 S radvd -u admin
544 admin 1476 S radvd -u admin
547 admin 1132 S dhcp6s -c /etc/dhcp6s.conf br0
590 admin 716 S miniupnpd -f /etc/upnp/config
599 admin 2108 S u2ec
601 admin 1176 S lpd
610 admin 2108 S u2ec
611 admin 2108 S u2ec
619 admin 1496 S syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
621 admin 1496 S /sbin/klogd
628 admin 3500 S httpd
630 admin 1500 S telnetd
660 admin 1512 S -sh
670 admin 1500 R ps
admin@RT-AC68U:/tmp/home/root# top
Mem: 41200K used, 214516K free, 0K shrd, 308K buff, 6780K cached
CPU: 0.0% usr 0.0% sys 0.0% nic 100% idle 0.0% io 0.0% irq 0.0% sirq
Load average: 0.00 0.01 0.03 1/58 669
PID PPID USER STAT VSZ %MEM CPU %CPU COMMAND
628 1 admin S 3500 1.3 0 0.0 httpd
1 0 admin S 2108 0.8 0 0.0 /sbin/preinit
599 1 admin S 2108 0.8 0 0.0 u2ec
610 599 admin S 2108 0.8 0 0.0 u2ec
611 610 admin S 2108 0.8 0 0.0 u2ec
503 1 admin S 2100 0.8 1 0.0 watchdog
494 1 admin S 2100 0.8 0 0.0 ntp
483 1 admin S 2100 0.8 0 0.0 /sbin/wanduck
429 1 admin S 2100 0.8 0 0.0 usbled
489 1 admin S 2100 0.8 0 0.0 wpsaide
506 503 admin S 2100 0.8 0 0.0 ots
488 1 admin S 2100 0.8 1 0.0 wlaide
313 1 admin S 2092 0.8 1 0.0 console
498 1 admin S 2020 0.7 1 0.0 avahi-daemon: running [RT-AC68U-FB48.local]
660 630 admin S 1512 0.5 0 0.0 -sh
315 313 admin S 1508 0.5 1 0.0 /bin/sh
669 660 admin R 1504 0.5 0 0.0 top
630 1 admin S 1500 0.5 0 0.0 telnetd
619 1 admin S 1496 0.5 0 0.0 syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
621 1 admin S 1496 0.5 0 0.0 /sbin/klogd
544 1 admin S 1476 0.5 0 0.0 radvd -u admin
542 1 admin S 1476 0.5 0 0.0 radvd -u admin
491 1 admin S 1468 0.5 1 0.0 nas
507 1 admin S 1332 0.5 1 0.0 rstats
601 1 admin S 1176 0.4 0 0.0 lpd
515 1 admin S 1148 0.4 1 0.0 lld2d br0
485 1 admin S 1132 0.4 0 0.0 /bin/eapd
547 1 admin S 1132 0.4 0 0.0 dhcp6s -c /etc/dhcp6s.conf br0
501 1 admin S 1128 0.4 0 0.0 networkmap
500 1 admin S 1112 0.4 1 0.0 /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
493 1 nobody S 1044 0.4 0 0.0 dnsmasq --log-async
590 1 admin S 716 0.2 0 0.0 miniupnpd -f /etc/upnp/config
279 1 admin S 664 0.2 1 0.0 hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
255 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [mtdblock3]
278 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [kworker/1:1]
2 0 admin SW 0 0.0 0 0.0 [kthreadd]
9 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [ksoftirqd/1]
7 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [migration/1]
250 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [mtdblock2]
245 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [mtdblock1]
325 2 admin SWN 0 0.0 1 0.0 [jffs2_gcd_mtd4]
332 2 admin SW 0 0.0 0 0.0 [khubd]
273 2 admin SW 0 0.0 1 0.0 [mtdblock4]
4 2 admin SW 0 0.0 0 0.0 [kworker/0:0]
5 2 admin SW 0 0.0 0 0.0 [kworker/u:0]
6 2 admin SW 0 0.0 0 0.0 [migration/0]

Let's find out what kind of content /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, and /usr/sbin catalogues have.

admin@RT-AC68U:/# ls /bin
ash cp echo gzip mkdir nice rm sleep uname
busybox date egrep ionice mknod pidof rmdir sync usleep
cat dd fgrep kill more ping rstats tar vi
chmod df fsync ln mount ping6 sdparm touch watch
chown dmesg grep login mv ps sed true wps_monitor
comgt eapd gunzip ls netstat pwd sh umount zcat
admin@RT-AC68U:/# ls /sbin
ATE fsck.ext3 mkswap swapoff
add_account fsck.minix mod_account swapon
add_folder fsck.msdos mod_folder switchmode
add_multi_routes fsck.vfat modify_if_exist_new_folder syslogd
arp get_account_list modprobe tcpcheck
asus_lp get_all_folder mtd-erase2 test_disk1
asus_sd get_apps_name mtd-unlock test_disk2
asus_sg get_folder_list mtd-write2 test_if_exist_account
asus_sr get_permission ntp test_if_exist_share
asus_tty get_phy_speed nvram_erase test_of_var_files
asus_usb_interface get_phy_status ots test_share
asus_usbbcm get_var_file_name pc tune2fs
auto_macclone gpio preinit udevtrigger
autodet halt psta_monitor udhcpc
blkid hotplug radio usb_notify
chk_app_state hotplug2 rc usbled
console how_many_layer rcheck vconfig
create_if_no_var_files ifconfig read_sms wanduck
ddns_updated initial_all_var_file reboot watchdog
del_account initial_folder_list restart_wireless wimaxc
del_folder initial_var_file rmmod wimaxd
dhcp6c-state insmod route wlaide
disk_monitor klogd run_app_script wlcconnect
disk_remove led_ctrl run_pptpd wlcscan
dosfsck lsmod run_telnetd wpsaide
e2fsck mdev send_sms write_smb_conf
ejusb mkdosfs service write_webdav_conf
fdisk mke2fs set_permission zcip
firmware_check mkfs.ext2 setconsole
free_caches mkfs.ext3 setup_dnsmq
fsck.ext2 mkfs.vfat sigmon
admin@RT-AC68U:/# ls /usr/bin
[ cnid2_create db_upgrade gpg-error nohup tr
[[ cut db_verify gpg-error-config nslookup traceroute
ad db_archive dbd head printf traceroute6
afpldaptest db_checkpoint dirname hmac256 readlink uniconv
afppasswd db_deadlock du killall renice unzip
afpstats db_dump dumpsexp less smbpasswd uptime
apple_dump db_hotbackup env libgcrypt-config sort wc
asip-status.pl db_load ether-wake logger strings wget
awk db_printlog expr lsusb tail which
basename db_recover find macusers taskset xmlwf
clear db_sql flock md5sum test
cmp db_stat free netatalk-config top
admin@RT-AC68U:/# ls /usr/sbin
3ginfo.sh avahi-daemon httpd memalloc scsi-stop
acsd avahi-dnsconfd hub-ctrl minidlna setuprsa.sh
afpd bcrelay icon.ico miniupnpd smbd
app_base_library.sh brctl icon.large.ico mkhfs sysinfo
app_base_link.sh chat igmpproxy mkntfs tc
app_base_packages.sh check_spectrum.sh igs mt-daapd telnetd
app_cancel.sh chkhfs infosvr nas test_system
app_check_folder.sh chkntfs inotify netatalk u2ec
app_check_pool.sh chpasswd ip netstat-nat udpxy
app_fsck.sh chpasswd.sh ip6tables networkmap updown.sh
app_fsck_all.sh cnid_dbd ip6tables-restore nmbd usb_modeswitch
app_get_field.sh cnid_metad iptables nozip_webs_update.sh vsftpd
app_init_run.sh crond iptables-restore nozip_webs_upgrade.sh webdav_client
app_install.sh cru l2tp-control ntpclient webs_update.sh
app_move_to_pool.sh dhcp6c l2tpd nvram webs_upgrade.sh
app_remove.sh dhcp6s lighttpd openssl wl
app_set_enabled.sh dnsmasq lighttpd-arpping openvpn wlconf
app_stop.sh ebtables lighttpd-monitor pppd wpa_cli
app_switch.sh epi_ttcp lld2d pppoe-relay wpa_supplicant
app_update.sh et lld2d.conf pptpctrl xtables-multi
app_upgrade.sh ez-ipupdate lpd pptpd zip_webs_update.sh
arpstorm gctwimax mDNSResponder radvd zip_webs_upgrade.sh
asuswebstorage gencert.sh madwimax scsi-start

Sysinfo utility shows detailed information on the device and its settings. We decided to present the utility output in an individual file.

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 utilisation can also be learnt using uptime command.

admin@RT-AC68U:/# cd /proc/
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# ls
1 313 501 611 crypto loadavg sys
10 315 503 619 devices locks sysrq-trigger
108 325 506 621 diskstats meminfo sysvipc
11 332 507 628 dmu misc timer_list
154 4 515 630 driver modules tty
164 429 52 660 emf mounts uptime
2 483 54 7 execdomains mtd version
240 485 542 757 filesystems net vmallocinfo
245 488 544 8 fs pagetypeinfo vmstat
250 489 547 9 interrupts partitions zoneinfo
255 491 55 bcm947xx iomem scsi
273 493 590 buddyinfo ioports self
276 494 599 bus irq slabinfo
278 498 6 cmdline kallsyms softirqs
279 5 601 cpu key-users stat
3 500 610 cpuinfo kmsg swaps
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# cat uptime
1781.49 3527.08
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# cat loadavg
0.00 0.01 0.03 1/58 759
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# cat cpuinfo
Processor : ARMv7 Processor rev 0 (v7l)
processor : 0
BogoMIPS : 1599.07
processor : 1
BogoMIPS : 1595.80
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-AC68U:/proc#
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal: 255716 kB
MemFree: 214368 kB
Buffers: 272 kB
Cached: 6896 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 4988 kB
Inactive: 6120 kB
Active(anon): 4084 kB
Inactive(anon): 3828 kB
Active(file): 904 kB
Inactive(file): 2292 kB
Unevictable: 0 kB
Mlocked: 0 kB
SwapTotal: 0 kB
SwapFree: 0 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 3948 kB
Mapped: 2432 kB
Shmem: 3964 kB
Slab: 16492 kB
SReclaimable: 1536 kB
SUnreclaim: 14956 kB
KernelStack: 464 kB
PageTables: 484 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
WritebackTmp: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 127856 kB
Committed_AS: 17180 kB
VmallocTotal: 385024 kB
VmallocUsed: 18020 kB
VmallocChunk: 357900 kB
admin@RT-AC68U:/proc# uptime
04:31:49 up 31 min, load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.02

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

admin@RT-AC68U:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase] ...
admin@RT-AC68U:/# nvram show | grep level
size: 38372 bytes (27164 left)
wl0_radio_pwrsave_level=0
wl1_radio_pwrsave_level=0
log_level=6
vpn_loglevel=3
console_loglevel=5
wl_radio_pwrsave_level=0

That is where we bring review of the device command line to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing it.

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 protocol. ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router boots in 41 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 ten open ports discovered, and they are TCP-53 (DNS), UDP-53 (DNS), TCP-80 (HTTP), TCP-515 (printer), TCP-3394 (d2k-tapestry2), TCP-3838, TCP-5473, TCP-9100, TCP-9998, and TCP-18017 (HTTP). The most interesting data are presented below.

Before getting down to throughput tests we would like to mention the key specification of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus V Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 3770K 3.5 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel Gigabit CT Desktop Adapter
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We began the throughput tests by measuring routing speeds upon execution of NAT/PAT, routing without any translations as well as routing of IPv6 packets. In order to test the device we used JPERF utility, 2.0.2 version. The tests were carried out with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent data flows.

ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router allows connecting to the provider via PPTP both using encryption and without it. The diagram presented below shows the performance of the device operating with PPTP tunnels.

Apart from connection to the provider, PPTP can also be used for remote connection to the local network located beyond the router. That's why ASUS RT-AC68U has a built-in VPN server.

This VPN server supports both PPTP and OpenVPN. We tested the device operation performance with this type of tunnels using AES256 encryption.

ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports that can be used for connection of external data carriers. Naturally, we just couldn't help but test the access speeds to the data located on our 750 GB Transcend StoreJet 25M3 via SMB protocol. NASPT 1.7.1 utility has been used for these purposes. According to the suggestions by Intel, we intentionally reduced the size of RAM on the test PCs in order to carry out these tests. The RAM size was changed using msconfig utility. The measurements were taken for the following file systems: NTFS, FAT32, EXT2, and EXT3.

Finally, we are about to test the performance of the wireless network segment of the device. ASUS PCE-AC68 was used as a wireless NIC. The highest estimated speed of Wi-Fi of the wireless router under review in 2.4 GHz frequency range is 600 Mbps, while in the frequency range of 5 GHz for the 802.11ac standard draft it's 1300 Mbps. The true-to-life data transmission speeds we obtained are presented on the diagrams below.

We believe that these speeds are really decent.

When this article had already been completed, we decided to find out what the end users actually think about ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router. As it turned out, one of their main concerns was the heat rising. But what's actually this heat rising and how was it measured? Chips this device is powered by possess certain undocumented functionality: showing temperature of the CPU and wireless modules. That's where we decided to test it ourselves. At first we used the router card we removed out of the device case. According to the data of diagnostic instructions, the CPU temperature was 81°С, while that of the wireless modules reached 68°С. Unfortunately, we have no information about where exactly inside of the chip these temperature sensors are installed and how correctly they are adjusted. As far as we managed to figure out, these sensors are meant for the internal use by protecting the chip from heating up. Chip temperatures of up to 120°С are considered regular. However, how high are the measured temperatures? We used a special-purpose Testo 845 pyrometer that we have at out lab to measure the temperature around the chips. According to our measurements, the card temperature hasn't got higher than 58°С. During measurements the environment temperature was 24°С.

admin@RT-AC68U:/# cat /proc/dmu/temperature
CPU temperature : 81 C
admin@RT-AC68U:/# wl -i eth1 phy_tempsense
68 (0x44)
admin@RT-AC68U:/# wl -i eth2 phy_tempsense
68 (0x44)

Once the measurements were finished, we installed the router card back into the case and measured it once again. This time the figures turned out to be higher.

admin@RT-AC68U:/# cat /proc/dmu/temperature
CPU temperature : 84 C
admin@RT-AC68U:/# wl -i eth1 phy_tempsense
70 (0x46)
admin@RT-AC68U:/# wl -i eth2 phy_tempsense
72 (0x48)

After that we decided to measure the temperature inside of the device case. It hasn't got higher than 42°С, which is a pretty regular figure for home wireless routers. Based on our measurements, we can tell that the user concerns on the possible heating up of the device are not reasonable. And though the showings of sensors meant for internal use are not that exact, they still fall within the limits of acceptable temperature range. In other words, one should not worry about the high temperatures.

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

Conclusion

Generally, we are quite glad about RT-AC68U, which can justifiably called the best device in the wireless router production line-up by ASUS. The device demonstrated great wired and wireless speeds as well as high access speeds to the data stored on an external HDD. The only thing that puzzles us is its price—250 USD—that may scare a Russian customer away.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC68U wireless router are presented below.

  • Excellent speeds in the wireless network segment
  • Support of OpenVPN
  • High operation speeds with an external USB disc
  • Support of double WAN port
  • Great wired speeds
  • Ability to create up to three guest networks in each wireless range
  • Support of IPv6

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

  • The web-interface is not completely translated
  • High price

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC68U in Moscow online shops was 8000 roubles.