ASUS RT-N18U

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade and utilities

Web-interface

Command line interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

It looks like Foxnetwork laboratory being the first to receive ASUS equipment for review gets to be a good tradition. RT-N18U model, which is meant to replace its predecessor RT-N16, is not an exception. We were sent it, which was not even a mass production sample, long before the vendor announced the launch of the device. That's why Foxnetwork offers its readers a one-in-a-kind opportunity to find out the mystery behind the new device and learn more about it. Enough waiting, let's get down to reviewing it!

Whilst we were preparing the review for publication, the vendor representatives provided us with a mass production sample of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router, which is somewhat different from a prototype product. That’s why we had to make certain alterations in the finished article so that all our readers would be able to receive fresh and trustworthy information to the greatest possible extent.

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-N18U wireless router comes in a black plastic case with dimensions of 153x206x37 mm (not considering the antennae). To work properly the device needs an external power unit (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12V and 1.5А.

On the upper panel of the device there are a brand tag and model name (RT-N18U). Also, there are LEDs indicating the status of the whole device, its wireless module, LAN and WAN ports, as well as LEDs indicating the connected USB devices.

The largest part of the bottom panel of the router is a ventilation grate. Also there are four rubber legs used for table mounting and two tooling holes used to mount the device on the wall.

Side panels are not remarkable at all and there is only a ventilation grate located on them.

On the rear side there are four LAN and one WAN Gigabit Ethernet ports, one USB 2.0 ports, three aerial sockets used to connect the external detachable antennae, as well as ON/OFF, Reset, and WPS buttons, and a power socket. The USB 3.0 port is located on the router front panel.

Hardware stuffing of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router is one aquamarine textolite card. All the most interesting elements are covered with two metal screens located under a radiator on one of the card sides.

The only element accessible for inspection was the Spansion S34ML01G100TFI00 flash memory module with the size of 128 Mbytes.

That is where we bring the review of the device hardware to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware upgrade and utilities

One can detect a switched-on ASUS wireless router within the local network wired segment using Device Discovery utility.

 

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade process may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. Firmware upgrade in the semi-automatic mode is available only if the router is connected to the WAN network. In order to upgrade the firmware manually the user will need to download the firmware upgrade file beforehand from the vendor's website. The whole upgrade procedure takes not longer than three minutes (not considering the firmware download time).

In case of a failure during the firmware upgrade process, the router changes for the rescue mode during which the power indicator on the device starts slowly flashing. The administrator can restore the firmware using Firmware Restoration utility, which automatically searches for an inoperable device within the network and upgrades its firmware. It'd be fair to mention that the administrator can manually switch the router over to the rescue mode. To do that s/he only needs to hold Reset button for 10 seconds while the device is booting.

In case if it's not possible to use the utility due to this or that reason, the firmware restoration will still be feasible. There will be two methods that the administrator can use: uploading the firmware via TFTP or using the web-server built in the loader. The former can be done using any modern TFTP client in order to upload the actionable firmware to the device and wait until it's rebooted.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-N18U_3.0.0.4_374_4857-g1becd6c.trx
Transfer successful: 29040640 bytes in 76 second(s), 382113 bytes/s

The second method is a bit more functional. Using this technique the administrator not only can restore the firmware, but also reset the user settings.

Since at the time when this article was being written there were no alternative firmware versions for ASUS RT-N18U available, we are bringing this chapter to a close and proceed to the brief review of the device web-interface capabilities.

Web-interface

The web-interface of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router is similar to all devices powered by ASUS-WRT firmware, and therefore we will not review all of its capabilities in detail but only focus on the newest and most interesting ones.

Upon the successful authentication an administrator will find him/herself on the home page of the device.

ASUS RT-N18U supports only one frequency range, 2.4 GHz, and therefore allows the user creating up to three guest wireless networks in this range via Guest network menu item.

Using tabs located in Traffic Manager menu item one can manage priority of transmitted packets and analyze the utilization of the router interfaces.

Getting connected to the service provider can be done using both the static or dynamic IP address or one of the following tunnels: PPPoE, PPTP, and L2TP. The applicable settings are located in Connection tab, WAN menu item.

One of the nice capabilities of ASUS-WRT firmware for the majority of ASUS wireless routers is support of the second WAN port (Double WAN tab, WAN menu item), which can be carried out either using one of the device LAN ports or getting connected to it via one of the supported USB modems.

The list of protocols that are permitted NAT Passthrough are located in NAT Passthrough tab, WAN menu item.

The user can manage the IPv6 support parameters using the same-named menu item.

A great new thing that appeared in the latest firmware versions is a possibility to filter IPv6 traffic. In order to manage these settings the administrator needs to use IPv6 Firewall tab in Firewall menu item.

Tabs in VPN menu allow one managing built-in VPN client and server. The following protocols are supported for the VPN client: PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN, whilst the VPN server only supports PPTP and OpenVPN.

Operation mode tab in Administration menu item lets the administrator choose the RT-N18U operation mode.

Beginning with 3.0.0.4.376_1211 firmware version the users have several new interesting features. For example, apart from basic wireless network settings now System Status group provides graphs that show you the utilization of the device CPU and RAM.

Yet another interesting feature that was added came to be the possibility to review the signal strength of the connected wireless clients.

That is where we bring the brief review of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its command line.

Command line interface

Switching the access to the command line on is performed using System tab, Administration group in the web-interface.

In order to access the ASUS RT-N18U wireless router command line one needs to enter the same login and password as for logging in to the device web-interface. Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 2.6.36.4 OS using BusyBox 1.17.4.

RT-N18U login: admin
Password:
ASUSWRT RT-N18U_3.0.0.4 Mon Mar 24 04:51:54 UTC 2014
admin@RT-N18U:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-N18U:/# uname -a
Linux RT-N18U 2.6.36.4brcmarm #1 PREEMPT Mon Mar 24 11:48:15 CST 2014 armv7l GNU
/Linux
admin@RT-N18U:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2014-03-24 11:42:53 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, 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-N18U:/# 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< [khelper]
7 admin 0 SW [kworker/u:1]
46 admin 0 SW [sync_supers]
48 admin 0 SW [bdi-default]
49 admin 0 SW< [kblockd]
97 admin 0 SW [kswapd0]
143 admin 0 SW [fsnotify_mark]
153 admin 0 SW< [crypto]
225 admin 0 SW [mtdblock0]
230 admin 0 SW [mtdblock1]
235 admin 0 SW [mtdblock2]
240 admin 0 SW [mtdblock3]
262 admin 0 SW [kworker/0:1]
265 admin 0 SW [mtdblock4]
269 admin 664 S hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
298 admin 2092 S console
299 admin 1504 S /bin/sh
303 admin 1492 S syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
306 admin 1492 S /sbin/klogd
312 admin 0 SW [khubd]
405 admin 2100 S usbled
450 admin 2100 S /sbin/wanduck
458 admin 1496 S telnetd
461 admin 2100 S wpsaide
Mem: 32756K used, 223132K free, 0K shrd, 420K buff, 7264K cached
CPU: 0% usr 0% sys 0% nic 100% idle 0% io 0% irq 0% sirq
Load average: 0.05 0.06 0.05 1/52 648
PID PPID USER STAT VSZ %MEM %CPU COMMAND
472 1 admin S 3352 1% 0% httpd
473 1 admin S 3352 1% 0% httpd -s -p 8443
1 0 admin S 2108 1% 0% /sbin/preinit
599 1 admin S 2104 1% 0% u2ec
609 608 admin S 2104 1% 0% u2ec
608 599 admin S 2104 1% 0% u2ec
477 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% watchdog
461 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% wpsaide
405 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% usbled
450 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% /sbin/wanduck
485 477 admin S 2100 1% 0% ots
490 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% disk_monitor
466 1 admin S 2100 1% 0% ntp
298 1 admin S 2092 1% 0% console
471 1 admin S 2012 1% 0% avahi-daemon: running [RT-N18U-0A38.lo
627 458 admin S 1508 1% 0% -sh
299 298 admin S 1504 1% 0% /bin/sh
648 627 admin R 1496 1% 0% top
458 1 admin S 1496 1% 0% telnetd
306 1 admin S 1492 1% 0% /sbin/klogd
303 1 admin S 1492 1% 0% syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -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. For example, /sbin catalog features tcpcheck utility that lets the administrator find out whether a TCP port is open in a certain node.

admin@RT-N18U:/# tcpcheck
usage: tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-N18U:/# tcpcheck 5 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-N18U:/# tcpcheck 5 192.168.1.3:80
192.168.1.3:80 failed

Looks like /rom/Beceem_firmware catalog features files that are somehow associated with Yota service provider.

admin@RT-N18U:/# ls /rom/Beceem_firmware/
RemoteProxy.cfg macxvi.cfg.giraffe macxvi200.bin.giraffe
Server_CA.pem.yota macxvi.cfg.gmc macxvi200.bin.normal
macxvi.cfg.freshtel macxvi.cfg.yota

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 utilization can also be learnt using uptime command.

admin@RT-N18U:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-N18U:/proc# ls
1 458 543 diskstats mtd
143 46 550 dmu net
153 461 592 driver pagetypeinfo
2 463 599 emf partitions
225 465 6 execdomains scsi
230 466 601 filesystems self
235 471 608 fs slabinfo
240 472 609 interrupts softirqs
262 473 7 iomem stat
265 474 765 ioports swaps
269 475 799 irq sys
298 477 97 kallsyms sysrq-trigger
299 48 bcm947xx key-users sysvipc
3 480 buddyinfo kmsg timer_list
303 485 bus loadavg tty
306 49 cmdline locks uptime
312 490 cpu meminfo version
4 491 cpuinfo misc vmallocinfo
405 5 crypto modules vmstat
450 541 devices mounts zoneinfo
admin@RT-N18U:/proc# cat uptime
1477.03 1450.97
admin@RT-N18U:/proc# cat loadavg
0.04 0.05 0.05 1/52 801
admin@RT-N18U:/proc# cat cpuinfo
Processor : ARMv7 Processor rev 0 (v7l)
BogoMIPS : 1599.07
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-N18U:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal: 255888 kB
MemFree: 222592 kB
Buffers: 448 kB
Cached: 7280 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 5472 kB
Inactive: 6064 kB
Active(anon): 3904 kB
Inactive(anon): 3852 kB
Active(file): 1568 kB
Inactive(file): 2212 kB
Unevictable: 0 kB
Mlocked: 0 kB
SwapTotal: 0 kB
SwapFree: 0 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 3828 kB
Mapped: 2752 kB
Shmem: 3948 kB
Slab: 12368 kB
SReclaimable: 1248 kB
SUnreclaim: 11120 kB
KernelStack: 416 kB
PageTables: 476 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
WritebackTmp: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 127944 kB
Committed_AS: 16812 kB
VmallocTotal: 516096 kB
VmallocUsed: 17524 kB
VmallocChunk: 489864 kB
admin@RT-N18U:/proc# uptime
04:25:05 up 25 min, load average: 0.02, 0.04, 0.04

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

admin@RT-N18U:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [re
store] [erase] ...
admin@RT-N18U:/# nvram show | grep admin
size: 35259 bytes (30277 left)
http_username=admin
http_passwd=admin
acc_list=admin>admin<Family>family0a38
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1<Family>0

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 traditionally 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 RT-N18U wireless router boots in 38 seconds. It'd be fair to mention that somewhere around the 16th second we received a couple of echo-replies, which however weren't sent by the device OS but by the loader that one can detect using TTL=100 field.

The second test, which is no less traditional, 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 13 open ports discovered. The most interesting data we obtained are presented below.

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

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4770K 3.5 ГГц Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 ГГц
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Гбайта DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Гбайт
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We began the performance tests by measuring IPv4 routing speeds upon execution of NAT/PAT as well as upon switched-on accelerator of NAT translations. In order to test the device we used JPert utility, 2.0.2 version.

After that we decided to switch off the acceleration of NAT translations and measure the user traffic transmission speed upon routing without translations. Majority of users will probably use routing with NAT hardware acceleration and therefore one should pay more attention to the previous diagram.

Neither did we keep away from the support of IPv6.

Connection to the provider may be carried using one of the tunnel types. We decided to test connection using PPTP both with MPPE128 encryption and without it. These connection types are still widely-used by people in Russia and the CIS. However, lately it looks like the trend of using VPN connection type by the service providers is gaining momentum.

ASUS RT-N18U wireless router hardware supports the server and client sides of PPTP. We didn't carry out the applicable tests since generally its performance is on the same level as the one shown by PPTP as a WAN connection. Instead of this, we managed OpenVPN server and measured access speeds using the above-mentioned protocol.

ASUS RT-N18U supports wireless network operation in 2.4 GHz frequency range. Naturally, we decided to find out what wireless speeds will be available for the users. The diagram presented below contains data received from the mass production sample whose wireless module supports theoretical speeds of wireless transfer of up to 600 Mbps.

The rear panel of the model under review has a USB 2.0 port. The USB 3.0 port is located on the front panel of the device. We connected external 750 GB Transcend StoreJet 25M3 HDD to both USB ports of RT-N18U and tested the access speeds to the data located on it.

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

Conclusion

Generally, we are glad about the ASUS RT-N18U prototype model we tested and we are anticipated to see it on the shelves in stores. However, when this article was being written, there weren't even any announcement dates available. Also it's worth noticing that ASUS RT-N18U is a replacement for the outdated RT-N16 model.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router are presented below.

  • Support of three guest wireless networks
  • May be managed not only via HTTP, but also using HTTPS
  • Support of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports
  • High IPv6 traffic transmission speeds
  • Support of OpenVPN server and client
  • High access speeds to the data stored on a USB disc
  • Support of a double WAN port
  • Possibility to review the signal strength of client devices

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention one drawback.

  • The web-interface is not completely translated

When this article was being written, the official sales of ASUS RT-N18U wireless router in Russia did not yet start. The average price of the device in e-shops abroad was $170. The anticipated price of the device in Russia would be around 2700 roubles.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Found a typo? Please select it and press Ctrl + Enter.