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ASUS RT-AC86U

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware Upgrade

Web-interface

AiMesh

Command line interface

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Today our laboratory hosts ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router that offers a whole set of significant capabilities among which are the support of MU-MIMO, AiMesh and AiProtection, adaptive QoS. All of this became possible thanks to dual-core processor with the support of 64-bits version of instruction set with an operating frequency of 1.8 GHz. But first things first!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router is built to stand up and intended for desk mounting. We’ve already met such form of the case of ASUS network equipment, for example, RT-AC68U and 4G-AC55U models, however, obvious differences exist: the front panel doesn’t have ribby glance cover anymore. Now cover of the front panel is two-colored and mate, common ASUS gaming devices design is discernible. So except for vendor name, LEDs indicating working of the router and its wired and wireless interfaces are located here.

The upper panel has three SMA-connectors for connecting external antennae and the ventilation grate.

The ventilation grate also covers the rare panel of the case. Except for it, sticker with brief information about the device, five Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (four LAN and one WAN), USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, DC-IN port for power connection together with Power button, key button turning off LEDs of the front panel and sunken Reset button are located here.

Two buttons: WPS and button for turning on/off wireless interfaces are placed on one of the sides.

Specialized stand with rubber legs is responsible for positioning the device in vertical mode that allows more convenient placing the router on horizontal surfaces.

Now let’s have a look at the insides of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router which hardware consists of the only textolite plate of aquamarine color. We don’t consider a small plate of one antenna.

Main elements are placed on both sides of the plate, but before we start describing used electronic components, we would like to take our readers attention to four long antenna cables connecting remote points on the plate. We should admit that we consider such design a bit strange.

Under the long radiator on the right side of the plate, if it can be called like this, there are two protecting screens with technologic holes that get access for reviewing three chips located under them. The system is based on Broadcom BCM4906 processor with dual cores operating on 1.8 GHz frequency. Microschemas Broadcom BCM4365E and BCM4366E with antennae configurations of 3x3:3 and 4x4:4 correspondingly are responsible for wireless network functioning. Also we cannot help but mention that ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router has 512 Mbytes of RAM based on Micron MT41K256M16TW chip.

On the left side of the plate Macronix MX30LF2G18AC flash-memory module of 256 Mbytes is available for review. The whole left side is covered by a big detachable screen.

That’s where we complete review of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router hardware platform and go directly to studying its software capabilities.

Firmware Upgrade

Upgrade of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router firmware version can be performed in a rather traditional way: using Firmware Upgrade tab of Administration web-interface menu item. The whole process takes about three minutes and doesn’t require any special knowledge from the user. Upgrade can be performed both in manual and semi-automatic mode.

One can check success rate of firmware upgrade with the help of any web-interface page as firmware version is displayed in the header near device Operation Mode. One can get more detailed info about using firmware with the help of Firmware Upgrade tab of Administration menu. To be reasonable, it’s worth noting that the given page also allows performing update of antivirus signatures in case AiProtection option was activated.

If firmware upgrade was not completed successfully, the router moves to recovery mode which can be identified by turned off power LED. Indirectly TTL value returned in ICMP echo-replies also indicates this. In normal mode TTL = 64 and in recovery mode TTL = 100.

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<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
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 = 0ms, Average = 0ms

One can restore firmware version using Firmware Restoration specialized utility which interface a bit differs from all we reviewed before, however the meaning left the same.

If the administrator cannot use the utility due to any reason, ASUS RT-AC86U router provides one more restoration way: web-server built-in the bootloader to which one can connect with the help of any modern browser. One should just select file with the correct firmware and click Update Software button.

That’s where we bring the review of the questions dedicated to firmware upgrade to a close and pass on to studying the web-interface capabilities of the device.

Web-interface

One can access to web-interface of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router with the help of any modern browser. After entering correct credentials the device start page is open for the administrator. The web-interface is available in 19 languages.

We will not review all web-interface capabilities of the router in detail but describe the most interesting of them.

In Network Map menu item a new option we haven’t met before is added: AiMesh Node that displays state of wireless Mesh network. Using of wireless Mesh networks is a trendy line for development wireless routers and access points of various vendors. Mesh network allows space covering with wireless network without gaps. Previously the same can be achieved by using repeaters or hybrid WDS connections. Mesh network simplifies the process of wireless network expansion.

Managing of guest wireless networks is performed with the help of menu item of the same name. Creation up to three guest networks in each frequency range is available.

Ai Protection menu item provides access to settings of network security mechanisms and parent control. It’s worth noting that the given functionality was significantly rewritten. As for the capabilities provided before they were expanded and deepened.

Not new but not less useful option is QoS support functionality (Adaptive QoS and Game Boost menu items).

Also during analysis of network performance Traffic Analyzer menu item that contains statistic data about links utilization and displays data about real-time load can be helpful.

The wireless module of the device under test can work in two modes: providing independent network functioning in both frequency ranges and with the support of Smart Connect. In the second way the router can use built-in logic for optimization of client distribution to frequency ranges. However it’s worth noting that the distribution rules are presented in Smart Connect Rule tab of Network Tools menu item. All other tabs of Wireless menu item are rather typical for ASUS wireless equipment. Probably, it’s just worth reviewing Professional tab with the help of which the administrator can decrease mutual influence of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB 3.0, select preferable modulation scheme, enable or disable beamforming mechanism and activate MU-MIMO option that allows the router to serve several wireless clients simultaneously.

Tabs of LAN menu item are rather typical, option of turning on/off hardware acceleration is absent as the given acceleration is used automatically.

Capabilities of WAN menu item are not remarkable as well as they are rather standard for ASUS wireless equipment.

Admirers of IPv6 will be glad with the menu item of the same name. Except for statically or dynamically configuring interface addresses, support of three tunnels using as transitional solution is provided: 6to4, 6in4 and 6rd. Also we cannot help but mention support of DHCP-PD (Prefix Delegation) option which we reviewed in detail in our article dedicated to IPv6.

VPN menu item delighted us with the support of IPSec protocol server. ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router can work as a server for the following tunnel connections: PPTP, OpenVPN and IPSec, simultaneously performing client functions for PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN connections.

Firewall settings for IPv4 and IPv6 traffic are combined in General tab of Firewall menu item. We should admit that we are a bit surprised with the lack of settings for IPv4 traffic filtration.

Among available for selection operating modes of the device a new one is added: AiMesh Node, in this mode ASUS RT-AC86U can connect to existing wireless routers in AiMesh Router mode and expand their coverage area.

That’s where we bring to the completion of the brief review of web-interface capabilities of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router and go directly to more detailed review of AiMesh technology.

AiMesh

Mesh networks are becoming more and more popular nowadays. One can even say that for wireless networks it is a trend of 2018. Let’s try to study ASUS implementation of Mesh networks. It’s worth noting here that today we will provide our readers with brief review of this implementation but not bothering with details. We hope that in one of our next reviews we’ll manage to provide more detailed review and testing of this wireless solution.

What for Mesh networks and wireless solutions based on them are needed? The answer is simple: for improving wireless coverage. The modern approach to implementation of wireless networks based on IEEE 802.11 technologies involves setting several wireless routers and access points for minimization of so named “blind zones” in which Wi-Fi coverage is absent or unstable. If one implements provided approach with the help of independent devices then the client has to manually or semiautomatically reconnect between wireless networks created by different access points, select SSID to which the connection should be established. With the help of AiMesh the administrator can unify several devices by using wired and wireless links so that from client perspective the system looks like a whole entity allowing to perform automatic roaming during client movement between coverage areas of different access points. The list of models and more detailed description of the technology one can find on vendor website.

Mesh network consists of wireless equipment of two types: router and one or several nodes connecting to wireless router. ASUS RT-AC86U can perform both specified roles.

In our laboratory we had two ASUS wireless routers with the support of AiMesh: RT-AC86U and GT-AC5300. We decided to provide GT-AC5300 with functions of the central device, whereas RT-AC86U was used as an AiMesh node.

At first we moved RT-AC86U to AiMesh Node mode.

The next step is allowing association from the AiMesh router. To be reasonable, it’s worth noting that selecting of operation mode AiMesh Node drops user settings to the defaults so users don’t need to perform preliminary settings of new equipment that will be used as AiMesh node, one should just unpack it, install in a required place and connect power. Discovering of new AiMesh nodes and their settings are performed with the help of AiMesh wireless router.

Association between an AiMesh node and the router is completed. From this moment the AiMesh node becomes unavailable for direct managing.

For each of associated AiMesh nodes one can view brief information and select preferable way of connection between a node and the router. If there is an ability to unify all AiMesh devices with the help of a wire between each other, certainly, we would recommend to do it. At first, transmission speed and safety of the connection can become significantly higher, secondly, additional wireless channel for connection between the router and nodes is not required. Honestly, in this case the whole AiMesh network becomes similar to an ordinary corporate Wi-Fi network with a controller.

As managing of AiMesh nodes is now performed centrally, to upgrade firmware one should go to Firmware Upgrade tab of Administration menu item of AiMesh router.

That’s where we bring to the completion of the first acquaintance with AiMesh technology and move directly to studying capabilities of the device command line.

Command line interface

Access to the command line of the device can be enabled/disabled with the help of System tab of Administration menu item. The given access can be provided using Telnet and SSH protocols. Certainly, we recommend using the second one due to security reasons.

Login and password used for the access to the command line interface are the same as for the router web-interface access. Firmware of the testing model is built on Linux OS with a kernel of version 4.1.27 using BusyBox of version 1.24.1.

RT-AC86U login: admin
Password:
admin@RT-AC86U:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC86U:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC86U 4.1.27 #2 SMP PREEMPT Mon Mar 26 11:31:50 CST 2018 aarch64
admin@RT-AC86U:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.24.1 (2018-03-26 10:58:36 CST) multi-call binary.
BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2015.
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed
copyright notices.
Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]
 or: busybox --list
 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:
 [, [[, add-shell, arp, arping, ash, awk, basename, bash, blkid, blockdev, cat, chmod, chown, chpasswd, chrt, clear, cmp, cp, crond, cut, date, dd, depmod, df, dirname, dmesg, du, echo, egrep,
 env, ether-wake, expr, false, fatattr, fdisk, fgrep, find, flock, free, fsck, fsck.minix, fstrim, fsync, ftpget, grep, gunzip, gzip, halt, head, ifconfig, insmod, ionice, kill, killall,
 klogd, less, ln, logger, login, logread, ls, lsmod, lsusb, md5sum, mdev, mkdir, mknod, mkswap, modprobe, more, mount, mv, nc, netstat, nice, nohup, nslookup, pidof, ping, ping6, poweroff,
 printf, ps, pwd, pwdx, readlink, reboot, remove-shell, renice, rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, sed, setconsole, sh, sleep, smemcap, sort, strings, stty, swapoff, swapon, sync, syslogd, tail, tar,
 taskset, telnetd, test, tftp, tftpd, top, touch, tr, traceroute, traceroute6, true, tty, udhcpc, umount, uname, unzip, uptime, usleep, vconfig, vi, watch, wc, which, zcat, zcip
admin@RT-AC86U:/#

With the help of ps command, let’s see which processes are currently running on the device. Top utility shows information on the current activity of the launched processes. We decided to present outputs of the given utilities in an individual file.

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogues together with sysinfo utility output we present in a separate file as well. So, for example, there is tcpcheck utility in /sbin catalogue which allows checking if a particular TCP port is open on a particular host.

admin@RT-AC86U:/# tcpcheck
usage: tcpcheck [host:port]
admin@RT-AC86U:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.3:23
192.168.1.3:23 failed
admin@RT-AC86U:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC86U:/#

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 utilization can be also obtained using uptime command.

admin@RT-AC86U:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# ls
1 1179 16 22 4 58 736 777 805 bus fcache led scsi tty
10 1199 167 2283 49 588 737 779 838 cmdline filesystems loadavg self uptime
1007 12 17 23 5 59 738 781 879 config.gz fs locks slabinfo version
1015 1200 18 24 52 592 745 789 881 consoles interrupts meminfo socinfo vmallocinfo
1018 13 19 25 53 6 752 791 9 cpuinfo iomem misc softirqs vmstat
1022 1348 2 26 54 656 758 792 990 crypto ioports modules stat wfd
1025 1350 201 27 56 678 761 793 994 device-tree irq mounts swaps zoneinfo
1026 14 205 28 565 679 763 794 997 devices kallsyms mtd sys
11 15 206 282 566 691 765 796 998 diskstats kcore net sysrq-trigger
1131 1511 21 295 57 693 766 797 bcmlog driver kmsg nvram sysvipc
1139 1512 2116 3 571 7 767 8 brcm emf kpagecount pagetypeinfo thread-self
1176 1513 214 317 572 731 768 803 buddyinfo execdomains kpageflags partitions timer_list
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# cat uptime
4342.18 8641.86
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# cat loadavg
3.50 3.70 3.65 1/125 2289
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# cat cpuinfo
processor : 0
BogoMIPS : 100.00
Features : fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32
CPU implementer : 0x42
CPU architecture: 8
CPU variant : 0x0
CPU part : 0x100
CPU revision : 0
processor : 1
BogoMIPS : 100.00
Features : fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32
CPU implementer : 0x42
CPU architecture: 8
CPU variant : 0x0
CPU part : 0x100
CPU revision : 0
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# cat socinfo
SoC Name :BCM4906
Revision :A0
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# uptime
 04:13:03 up 1:13, load average: 3.04, 3.58, 3.60
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc#

We can't help but mention nvram utility that allows changing certain important device operation parameters. To be honest, we should also notice that capabilities of the given command are a bit different from ones we reviewed for other models.

admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram
usage:
nvram [get] :get nvram value
 [set name=value] :set name with value
 [unset name] :remove nvram entry
 [show] :show all nvrams
 [dump] :show all nvrams tuples
 [setflag bit=value] :set bit value
 [getflag bit] :get bit value
 [save] :save nvram to a file
 [restore] :restore nvram from saved file
 [erase] :erase nvram partition
 [commit [restart]] :save nvram [optional] to restart wlan
 [kernelset] :populate nvram from kernel configuration file
 [save_ap] :save ap mode nvram to a file
 [save_rp_2g] :save 2.4GHz repeater mode nvram to a file
 [save_rp_5g] :save 5GHz repeater mode nvram to a file
 [save_rp_5g2] :save 5GHz high band repeater mode nvram to a file [triband]
 [fb_save file] :save the romfile for feedback
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
size: 54542 bytes (76530 left)
acc_list=admin>adminpassword
acc_webdavproxy=admin>10
http_username=admin
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc#

So, for example, using nvram utility one can turn off STP on LAN interfaces of RT-AC86U router.

admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan1_stp=1
lan_stp=1
size: 54542 bytes (76530 left)
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan1_stp=1
lan_stp=0
size: 54542 bytes (76530 left)
admin@RT-AC86U:/proc# reboot

That is where we bring the brief review of the router command line interface capabilities to a close and pass on to testing the device.

Testing

Traditionally we start testing section with 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-AC86U wireless router boots in 72 seconds. We consider this result normal.

The second not less than traditional test is a security scanning procedure, performing with the help of a security scanner Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8. On the whole, there were 14 open ports discovered. The most interesting discovered data are presented below. Obviously, we informed vendor about discovered vulnerability straight away. Based on official announce of ASUS representatives, RT-AC86U wireless router uses DNS server that is not exposed to CVE-2004-0789 vulnerability and the given scanner result is false positive.

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 Laptop
Motherboard ASUS Maximus IX Extreme ASUS GL753VD
CPU Intel Core i7 7700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 7700HQ 2.8GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 GByte DDR4-2400 Hyundai 8 GByte
NIC Intel X550T2
ASUS PCE-AC88
Realtek PCIeGBE
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Windows 10 x64

The first performance test was measuring of user data transmission speeds on device performing routing with NAT/PAT. Measurements were performed for 1, 5 and 15 simultaneous TCP sessions with window size increased to 100 Mbytes. As a measuring instrument utility JPERF of 2.0.2 version was used. The results of measurements are shown on the diagram below.

We turned off NAT/PAT translations and checked device performance during ordinary routing of IPv4 traffic.

We cannot help but check router operating with IPv6 traffic.

ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router supports great amount of different tunnel connections part of which are used for connection to provider or remote networks while others can be used for support of remote connections to the device itself. Certainly, we found out which maximum throughputs can be available when this or that tunnel connection is used. We decided to start with PPTP so popular among Windows users. The measurements were performed with enabled encryption and without it.

We should notice that we were surprised with obtained speeds.

The next step was tunnel connection with the help of L2TP. The results of measurements are similar to PPTP connection without encryption.

In recent years connection to remote networks with the help of OpenVPN protocol is becoming more and more popular, obviously, we cannot help but use this protocol in our tests as well.

Our first acquaintance with ASUS network equipment started with wired routers of SL line which differential peculiarity was support of tunnels using IPSec. For a long time we haven’t seen support of this protocol in SOHO devices of top vendors, however, fortunately, it seems that IPSec trend is coming back and support of this tunnel connection occurs among capabilities of network devices of various vendors. We decided not to miss the opportunity to measure ASUS RT-AC86U performance on working with IPSec in remote access mode.

As ASUS RT-AC86U is a wireless router, we performed measuring of available to the users transmission speeds between wired and wireless segments. The measurements were performed in both frequency ranges.

The tested model has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. We connected our external testing SSD Transcend TS256GESD400K of 256 Gbytes and performed measurements of access speeds to data placed on it. The measurements were performed for five file systems: EXT2/3, FAT32, NTFS, and HFS+.

On pages of different forums we see often questions about access speed to USB drive using connection via tunnel. On the diagram below one can view comparison of access speeds to SSD while using tunnel and without it. NTFS was used as a file system.

Using of encrypted tunnel has a great influence even on rather slow file operations.

Also we decided to find out how much the model under review heats up during testing procedures. We decided to start with using of built-in sensors displaying CPU temperature.

admin@RT-AC86U:/# cat /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp
76307

Presented number displays temperature in thousandths of Celsius degree, so internal chip temperature is equal to 76,3 degrees Celsius. Is it much or little? Though on a first glance it seems that this is rather much, in reality one should remember that it is an internal temperature of SoC processor. Also we decided to measure temperature of the case cover with the help of our laboratory pyrometer ADA TemPro-2200. It occurred that case temperature doesn’t exceed 37 degrees Celsius, whereas external temperature in the room in these summer days was 25 degrees Celsius. As measurements were performed using contactless way, external temperature of chips and protecting screen was available for measuring as well. It occurred that external surfaces of the plate can heat up to 48 degrees Celsius, however we should remember that these surfaces are not available for user direct contact.

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

Summary

On the whole, we are glad with tested ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router that presented stably high speeds both in wired and wireless segment. Among the innovations regarding this model we can mention support of MU-MIMO, mesh networks and built-in VPN server for IPSec.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router are the following.

  • High data transmission speeds in both frequency ranges
  • Support of MU-MIMO
  • High speeds of IPv6 traffic routing
  • High performance of VPN servers and clients
  • Support of NitroQAM modulation
  • Smart Connect option
  • High access speeds to data placed on USB drive
  • Support of wireless mesh networks
  • Functions of users network security
  • Support of DHCP-PD option for IPv6 networks

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention discovered drawbacks of the device.

  • The web-interface is not completely translated
  • Relatively high price

When this review was being written, average price of ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router in Moscow e-shops was 16000 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC86U in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 200 euro.

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Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware update

Web-interface

Command line

Utilities

Testing

Summary

Introduction

It’s been a long time since we published QNAP NAS review on our pages. There were several reasons for that, however we should admit that we missed. And now we are glad to introduce our readers to the review of QNAP TS-531X NAS that allows mounting not only up to five HDDs or SSDs with SATA interface but also SSD modules with M.2 interface with the help of specialized expansion cards. But first things first!

External design and hardware

QNAP TS-531X NAS is meant for desk mounting and not intended for mounting in the rack without using of special-purpose shelves. The dimensions of the model case are 185x211x236 mm and its weight without disks is a bit less than 6 kg. It’s worth noting here that there two kinds of the model in question: TS-531X-2G and TS-531X-8G, and the difference between them is in preset RAM amount. TS-531X-2G model has 2 GBytes of RAM, whereas RAM amount of TS-531X-8G model is 4 times more and equal to 8 GBytes. On the whole NAS motherboard has two slots for RAM installation that allows increasing available RAM amount up to 16 GBytes.

There is also a small difference between the models in their weight: TS-531X-2G model weighs 5.8 kg whereas TS-531X-8G is 100 g heavier and its weight is equal to 5.9 kg.

To work properly TS-531X needs (in standby mode) 17 W of electric power, and during operation it consumes about 30 W. Certainly, real energy usage directly depends on mounted HDDs and current load of the device.

The majority of the front panel is taken up by five bays for HDD mounting of 2.5 and 3.5 inch. The maximum volume of disk space is 60 TBytes (with mounting HDDs of 12 TBytes capacity) and by using expansion modules it can be increased to 252 TBytes. LEDs indicating work of the whole storage and its separate parts are also placed here; for example, with their help one can define intense of using this or that HDD. One of USB 3.0 ports is located on the front panel together with the button that allows copying data to NAS or vice versa. COPY button is not the only one on the front panel, except for it, POWER button is placed here. Vendor name and sticker with brief information about the model is also placed on the front panel of the storage case.

The upper panel and sides are not remarkable at all, except for a small ventilation grate placed on one side of the case.

Four circle rubber legs are located on the bottom panel of the case.

The biggest part of the rare panel of QNAP TS-531X NAS is taken up by fan with the dimensions of 120x120 mm. Unfortunately, vendor cannot manage without using more fans, so there is also a fan of 40x40mm cooling built-in power adapter near which slot for connecting to power grid is located. Kensington lock and sunken Reset button, two USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two slots for plugging in SFP+ modules are located on the rare panel, too. It’s worth specially noting presence of the PCIe Gen2 (x2) expansion slot. On vendor website there is a great amount of expansion cards. The cards in question can be relatively divided into three groups: network adapters, adapters for SSD connection with M.2 interface and hybrid ones that perform both functions. Certainly, before buying a particular card model one should be sure in its compatibility with the using storage and SSDs that are going to be used. We should notice that we were pleasantly surprised with the support of drives with M.2 interface.

Let us add several words about devices using for expansion QNAP TS-531X NAS with USB 3.0 ports. External disk arrays of QNAP UX-500P and UX-800P models supporting work of five and eight disks correspondingly can be connected to these ports. However, if even this capacity is not enough, TS-531X model can connect remote network resources via iSCSI protocol but it’s a kind of another story.

QNAP TS-531X NAS uses built-in flash memory of 512 MBytes to store firmware. OS and its application software are operated on Cortex-A15 Annapurna Labs Alpine AL-314 quad-core CPU that runs at a frequency of 1.7 GHz.

Now let’s have a look at firmware update process.

Firmware update

Firmware update can be carried out in two ways: using Internet and in local mode. In the first mode, obviously, NAS access to the Internet is required, whereas in the second mode only file with new firmware version preliminary downloaded from vendor website is needed. Without any dependency on the preferable way of firmware update, the administrator should navigate to Firmware Update tab of Firmware Update menu item of System group in the Control Panel.

The whole firmware update process takes about five minutes (not considering time needed to download file from vendor website) and doesn’t require any special knowledge from the user.

After all relevant procedures are performed, NAS should be rebooted. One can check success rate of firmware update process using Firmware Update tab of Firmware Update menu item of System group in the Control Panel.

We cannot help but mention about one more way of firmware update: with the help of QNAP Qfinder Pro utility.

That’s where we proceed to completion of brief description of ways for QNAP TS-531X NAS firmware update and go directly to reviewing its web-interface capabilities.

Web-interface

One can access the web-interface of the QNAP TS-531X NAS using any modern browser. We will not describe all capabilities of the testing model web-interface, however review the most interesting of them.

Upon successful authentication the user gets access to multipage desktop of the device. There are shortcuts for the most frequently used NAS functions on the desktop.

One can also get access to the main functions using main menu, button for opening which is placed in the left corner of the desktop.

With the help of the toolbar buttons placed on top of desktop the user can perform search, view running background tasks, get information about external devices, inspect NAS working journal, change main access parameters for the device, turn off or reboot the device and display information panel.

One can get access to myQNAPcloud website with the help of special buttons placed at the bottom part of the desktop. Using them the administrator can also download a special utility for managing NAS, send feedback via feedback form or request for help.

Let’s review main capabilities provided by the Control Panel.

Using General Settings menu item of System group the administrator can select port and protocol for access to the device, manage parameters of time synchronization, change codepage, select region of NAS locating, change login screen.

One can change parameters of storage pools and volumes, manage snapshots, configure access via iSCSI protocol with the help of Storage & Snapshots item of the same group of the Control Panel. QNAP TS-531X NAS can use SSDs intended for cache to accelerate its work. The corresponding setting is provided in this item as well.

NAS ability to measure performance of a particular HDD became a pleasant surprise for us. Measuring is performed both for sequential read speed and for the number of inputs/outputs per second (IOPS). From our point of view, it is a scrupulously useful function allowing the administrator to detect (and replace if needed) the slowest HDD in the array or detect SSD degradation in time.

Also we cannot help but notice an ability to connect remote resources to NAS via iSCSI protocol.

Probably, we could take special attention to the capabilities of Storage & Snapshots item, however we go further to Security menu item using which the administrator can restrict the list of allowed IP addresses, configure additional security parameters for SSH/Telnet, HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SAMBA and AFP protocols, set secure certificate and also change user password policy.

One can manage audio alerts and fan rotation speed settings with the help of Hardware menu item.

QNAP TS-531X NAS power can be managed with the help of Control Panel menu item of the same name.

Alert notifications about events occured for the device can be sent to the administrator via e-mail, SMS or push notifications on the cell, the corresponding setting is available in Notification menu item.

Except for USB drives TS-531X model supports USB printers and UPS as external devices. The corresponding setting is available in External Device menu item.

Information about current state of all NAS elements is gathered in System Status menu item.

One can get information about current usage of NAS resources with the help of Resource Monitor item.

Not all NAS functions are available to the users for free, for activation of some of them one should get a special license. Among these functions, for example, is the support of exFAT Driver, Antivirus, Video Recorder. One can use License Center menu item for managing licenses.

With the help of menu items of Privilege group the administrator can manage users and user groups, configure quotas on using disk space, manage folder access parameters. It’s also worth noting that QNAP TS-531X NAS can perform functions of the domain controller.

One can manage parameters of NAS network connection with the help of Network menu item of Network & File Services group. So, for example, here one can configure IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, turn on port aggregation, perform binding of a service to a particular network interface, specify proxy-server and DDNS.

File service managing in Windows, Mac and Linux networking is performed with the help of Win/Mac/NFS item of the same group.

Except for file service typical for this or that OS, the testing model supports rather standard protocols such as FTP which working parameters are shown in the menu item of the same name of Network & File Services group.

The administrator should use Telnet/SSH manu item if it is necessary to manage access to the command line of TS-531X model.

Optionally one can add NAS to the centralized monitoring system that performs device polling via SNMP. The corresponding settings are provided in the item of the same name.

Except for file service QNAP TS-531X NAS provides users with different application servers and databases such as iTunes, DLNA, Web, LDAP, SQL, Syslog, RADIUS, TFTP and NTP. To access settings of applications one should use items of the group of the same name. Also using it one can perform antivirus scanning of data storing on the device.

All listed above can be referred to NAS settings, however web-interface capabilities of TS-531X model do not end here. So, for example, with the help of File Station application users can perform standard file operations using only a browser.

However, set of tools provided to the users do not end here, too. Among available services are Photo Station and Music Station, Video Station and Download Station, Surveillance Station and Notes Station. However if even they are not enough, QNAP Store users have several dozens of applications both from QNAP and third-party vendors. One can get access to the list of available applications in App Center store.

That’s where we bring a brief review of QNAP TS-531X NAS web-interface capabilities to a conclusion and pass on to its command line.

Command line

One can manage access to the command line of QNAP TS-531X NAS with the help of Telnet/SSH menu item of Network & File Services group.

Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 4.2.8 operating system using BusyBox 1.01.

[/] # uname -a
Linux NASFFBA09 4.2.8 #2 SMP Thu Feb 15 08:31:43 CST 2018 armv7l unknown
[/] # busybox
BusyBox v1.01 (2018.02.14-18:42+0000) multi-call binary
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:
 [, addgroup, adduser, ash, awk, basename, bunzip2, busybox, bzcat,
 cat, chgrp, chmod, chown, chroot, chvt, clear, cmp, cp, crond,
 crontab, cut, date, dc, dd, deallocvt, delgroup, deluser, df,
 dirname, dmesg, dos2unix, du, echo, egrep, env, expr, false, fdisk,
 fgrep, find, free, getty, grep, gunzip, gzip, halt, head, hexdump,
 hostname, hwclock, id, ifconfig, init, insmod, install, ip, kill,
 killall, klogd, linuxrc, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum,
 mkdir, mknod, mktemp, modprobe, more, mount, mv, nameif, netstat,
 nslookup, openvt, passwd, pidof, ping, ping6, pivot_root, poweroff,
 ps, pwd, rdate, readlink, reboot, renice, reset, rm, rmdir, rmmod,
 route, sed, sh, sha1sum, sleep, sort, strings, swapoff, swapon,
 switch_root, sync, sysctl, syslogd, tail, tar, tee, telnet, test,
 tftp, time, top, touch, tr, traceroute, true, tty, umount, uname,
 uniq, unix2dos, unzip, uptime, usleep, vi, wc, wget, which, whoami,
 xargs, yes, zcat
[/] #

Let's see which processes are currently running on the device using ps command. Top utility displays information on the current activity of the launched processes. We decided to present outputs of the utilities in an individual file.

We have placed the contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, and /usr/sbin catalogues into a separate file, too.

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
[/proc] # ls
1/ 13523/ 2480/ 37/ 9309/
10/ 136/ 2481/ 38/ 9319/
100/ 13669/ 2495/ 3858/ 9320/
101/ 13695/ 25/ 39/ 9327/
102/ 137/ 2513/ 3918/ 9793/
103/ 13707/ 2514/ 3926/ 98/
10374/ 13709/ 25346/ 40/ 99/
10379/ 13721/ 26/ 4032/ 9909/
104/ 14/ 2607/ 4044/ 9975/
105/ 14081/ 2608/ 41/ Qtier
106/ 14146/ 26218/ 416/ asound/
107/ 14215/ 2648/ 417/ buddyinfo
108/ 14416/ 2659/ 42/ bus/
109/ 14481/ 2663/ 427/ cgroups
10968/ 14596/ 2664/ 428/ cmdline
10973/ 14597/ 2666/ 4336/ config.gz
11/ 14607/ 27/ 4416/ consoles
11018/ 14617/ 27017/ 442/ cpu/
11019/ 14622/ 2716/ 443/ cpuinfo
11020/ 14682/ 2717/ 4446/ crypto
11063/ 15/ 2719/ 4556/ device-tree@
11395/ 150/ 2720/ 5/ devices
114/ 15079/ 2728/ 5223/ diskstats
115/ 151/ 2730/ 5720/ driver/
116/ 15139/ 2732/ 5727/ execdomains
117/ 15189/ 2733/ 6444/ filesystems
11749/ 152/ 2734/ 6456/ flashcache/
11767/ 153/ 2735/ 6553/ fs/
11770/ 15326/ 2736/ 6734/ interrupts
11771/ 154/ 2738/ 7/ iomem
11781/ 155/ 2740/ 8/ ioports
118/ 15521/ 2745/ 80/ irq/
11838/ 156/ 2747/ 81/ kallsyms
119/ 15636/ 2750/ 8100/ key-users
11983/ 15672/ 2753/ 82/ keys
120/ 159/ 2821/ 827/ kmsg
12010/ 160/ 28349/ 83/ kpagecount
121/ 161/ 28405/ 84/ kpageflags
12150/ 17/ 29/ 85/ loadavg
12159/ 18/ 2905/ 86/ locks
122/ 18298/ 2907/ 87/ mdstat
123/ 18506/ 292/ 88/ meminfo
12333/ 18700/ 293/ 89/ misc
12370/ 19/ 294/ 9/ modules
124/ 19779/ 295/ 90/ mounts@
12483/ 19789/ 296/ 91/ mtd
12484/ 19793/ 2970/ 9122/ net@
12485/ 2/ 2973/ 9124/ pagetypeinfo
125/ 20114/ 3/ 9125/ partitions
12585/ 20901/ 30/ 9127/ scsi/
126/ 21/ 3001/ 9128/ self@
127/ 21525/ 3004/ 9131/ slabinfo
128/ 21528/ 30084/ 9133/ softirqs
12836/ 21813/ 3071/ 9135/ stat
12888/ 22/ 3072/ 9146/ swaps
129/ 22482/ 30952/ 92/ sys/
12953/ 22485/ 31/ 9201/ sysvipc/
13/ 22486/ 3135/ 9202/ thread-self@
130/ 22488/ 3136/ 9203/ timer_list
131/ 23/ 31808/ 9204/ tsinfo/
13118/ 23230/ 3216/ 9205/ tty/
132/ 23233/ 3273/ 9206/ uptime
13259/ 2336/ 338/ 9259/ version
133/ 23654/ 34/ 9262/ vmallocinfo
13339/ 23681/ 3488/ 9268/ vmstat
13388/ 24/ 3489/ 9271/ zoneinfo
134/ 2415/ 35/ 9274/
13420/ 24554/ 36/ 9286/
13477/ 24568/ 364/ 9290/
135/ 2476/ 3677/ 93/
[/proc] # cat uptime
32470.95 126567.64
[/proc] # cat loadavg
3.61 3.54 3.51 1/601 31863
[/proc] # uptime
 02:02:18 up 9:01, load average: 3.61, 3.54, 3.50
[/proc] # cat cpuinfo
processor : 0
model name : Annapurna Labs Alpine AL314 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU @ 1.70GHz
Speed : 1.7GHz
Features : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae evtstrm
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant : 0x2
CPU part : 0xc0f
CPU revision : 4
processor : 1
model name : Annapurna Labs Alpine AL314 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU @ 1.70GHz
Speed : 1.7GHz
Features : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae evtstrm
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant : 0x2
CPU part : 0xc0f
CPU revision : 4
processor : 2
model name : Annapurna Labs Alpine AL314 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU @ 1.70GHz
Speed : 1.7GHz
Features : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae evtstrm
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant : 0x2
CPU part : 0xc0f
CPU revision : 4
processor : 3
model name : Annapurna Labs Alpine AL314 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU @ 1.70GHz
Speed : 1.7GHz
Features : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae evtstrm
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant : 0x2
CPU part : 0xc0f
CPU revision : 4
Hardware : Annapurna Labs Alpine
Revision : 0000
Serial : 0000000000000000
[/proc] #
[/proc] # cat meminfo
MemTotal: 2079392 kB
MemFree: 105248 kB
MemAvailable: 1213440 kB
Buffers: 400160 kB
Cached: 1103584 kB
SwapCached: 288 kB
Active: 869664 kB
Inactive: 854432 kB
Active(anon): 265280 kB
Inactive(anon): 277184 kB
Active(file): 604384 kB
Inactive(file): 577248 kB
Unevictable: 2240 kB
Mlocked: 2240 kB
HighTotal: 589824 kB
HighFree: 22464 kB
LowTotal: 1489568 kB
LowFree: 82784 kB
SwapTotal: 24647264 kB
SwapFree: 24631168 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 222592 kB
Mapped: 65632 kB
Shmem: 322112 kB
Slab: 85440 kB
SReclaimable: 38080 kB
SUnreclaim: 47360 kB
KernelStack: 19296 kB
PageTables: 46592 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
WritebackTmp: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 25686944 kB
Committed_AS: 3954048 kB
VmallocTotal: 565248 kB
VmallocUsed: 36288 kB
VmallocChunk: 510976 kB
[/proc] #

That's where we proceed to completion of the brief review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to the shortest part of this review - describing its auxiliary utilities.

Utilities

One can manage QNAP NAS not only with the help of a browser or command line but also using specialized utilities. We’ll not review all of them in detail in this review and just mention some of them.

There are utilities both for PC and mobile platforms. Utilities for PC supports Windows, Mac and Linux OS.

With the help of QNAP Qfinder Pro utility the administrator can detect NAS in his/her local network and perform its preliminary settings.

One can synchronize files and folders using Qsync utility.

QNAP NetBak Replicator utility has similar functionality and allows fast backup copying of files from PC to NAS.

For remote access to NAS using cloud service one should use myQNAPcloud utility.

One can manage downloads performed by NAS with the help of QGet utility.

We cannot help but mention QNAP vSphere Client utility that allows managing QNAP NAS using ordinary vSphere client.

The analogs of application servers we discussed during web-interface capabilities review also exist as applications for cells and tablets. So, for example, with the help of Qfile application one can manage his/her files located in the network from the cell.

That’s where we bring a brief review of utilities available to QNAP NAS users to a conclusion.

Testing

The first traditional testing procedure 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 ICMP echo reply is received. QNAP TS-531X NAS starts sending echo-replies after 390 seconds (6:30 minutes), however at that moment the testing model is not fully ready for work. The device informs the user about the completion of the booting procedure with a special sound signal after 2 minutes 28 seconds more, so the total booting time of QNAP TS-531X NAS is equal to 8 minutes 58 seconds. We consider this a decent result. However the given test is not completed yet. We measured the booting time for firmware of 4.3.4 version (0483 build). Why is this important? The point is that there is one very interesting fix in the changelog for 4.3.4 version (0486 build):

[Fixed Issues]
- Booting process would take a longer time after users updated QTS to 4.3.4.0483 build 20180213.

We decided to update firmware and repeat this test. It turned out that TS-531X model with the firmware of 4.3.4 version (0486 build) starts sending ICMP echo-replies after 292 seconds (4 minutes 52 seconds), whereas final sound signal comes after 343 seconds (5 minutes 43 seconds) from the moment the power is on that is almost 1,5 times less than the booting time required for NAS with the firmware of the previous version.

The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 network security scanner. On the whole, there were 20 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

QNAP engineers attentively check the discovered vulnerabilities and publish detailed info about all corrections on the official website.

At last we got straight down to the most interesting part of our review - performance tests, however before start we would like to get our readers familiar with the key parameters of the test stand we used.

Component PC
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme
CPU Intel Core i7 7700K 4 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbyte
NIC Intel X550T2
OS Windows Server 2012 R2

A pleasant option is to measure performance of each HDD separately using features of QNAP TS-531X NAS itself, to do this, one should go to Disks item of Storage group of Storage & Snapshots section. Only two tests are available: Sequential read and IOPS read result but we consider them basic and very important.

To perform other performance tests we used Intel NASPT utility of 1.7.1 version due to which requirements we decreased amount of RAM available to the system. Such a decrease is necessary to minimize influence of local caching.

The first test from which we decided to begin performance measuring of the model under consideration was measuring access speeds to user data located on independent disks. For this test we didn’t grouped HDDs to RAID arrays. We used three different drives: HGST HUS724030ALA640 HDDs (two devices) and HDN724040ALE640 (two devices) and SSD OCZ AGILITY3 (one device) which we used as a cache. But first things first! Access to data was performed via SMB and iSCSI protocols. Here and below unless otherwise mentioned one 10 Gigabit Ethernet link was used for access to NAS.

As one can see from the diagrams above, HDDs performance is a bit different.

We decided to group several HDDs to RAID0 array and measure its performance. We made three kinds of arrays: two identical HGST HUS724030ALA640 HDDs, two identical HGST HDN724040ALE640 HDDs and an option with using all four specified HDDs.

These speeds are very good, especially if remember that using HDDs are not the fastest among ones using today.

Now it’s time to build RAID1 array using two identical HDDs.

Probably our attentive reader already noticed that during access speeds testing via iSCSI protocol DirectoryCopyToNAS test is absent. It is so due to the reason that this test shown inadequately high speeds. From our point of view, such an increase of speeds is caused by the local caching on the testing host.

QNAP TS-531X NAS has two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. We decided to provide our readers with the comparison diagram for both ways of connection via SMB protocol.

ISCSI protocol supports MultiPath option that allows transmitting data simultaneously via several paths. On the diagram below results of measuring speeds with using one or two Gigabit Ethernet links are compared and the same is performed for one or two 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections.

We find it surprising to obtain such an increase of speeds in several tests using two 10 Gigabit Ethernet links, taking into account that on a first glance the channel itself is not a bottleneck. Certainly, we assume presence of some internal software restrictions of NAS that influence maximum speed of data transmission in the network.

Obviously, we cannot help but compare performance of different types of HDD arrays.

As we already mentioned above, QNAP TS-531X NAS allows using SSD mounted in bays intended for HDDs as caching devices. It’s worth noting that it is not the only way of connecting cache to NAS. Some NICs and expansion cards allow connecting SSD with M.2 interface that allows providing higher access speeds to data in cache. Unfortunately we didn’t have at our disposal such drives so we had to use our old SSD OCZ AGILITY 3 as a cache.

On the diagrams below one can see comparison of user data access speeds without using cache and on the first and second launch of test using cache disk.

We should confess that we are a bit confused with the obtained results: in several tests performance of NAS without using cache is higher. It’s probably owed to the performance of the drive we used as a cache disk.

New IP version IPv6 is getting more and more popular. We cannot miss support of this protocol by the NAS. On the diagrams below one can see comparison of the performance for QNAP TS-531X using IPv4 and IPv6.

Access to NAS can be provided not only to users from the local network but also to remote users. In this case various tunnel protocols supported by NAS are used: PPTP, OpenVPN, IPsec. We decided to find out which speeds are available to the users during connection to NAS with the help of PPTP tunnel using MPPE 128 encryption.

Also we decided to compare performance of QNAP TS-531X model on using PPTP and OpenVPN tunnels.

We should take our readers attention that data transmitting via the tunnel significantly utilizes NAS CPU. So, for example, on data transmitting with 50 Mbps speed via OpenVPN tunnel with standard settings CPU of the testing model is 30 percent utilized.

QNAP TS-531X NAS supports not only Ethernet frames of standard size (1500 bytes) but also increased ones (jumbo frames). Certainly, we cannot help but compare data access speeds on using ordinary and jumbo frames.

Using of jumbo frames significantly influences several access speeds in case of using SMB protocol, whereas influence on performance and iSCSI is more negative.

In conclusion, we would like to get our readers familiar with access speeds to data located on the external drive connected to NAS with the help of USB 3.0 interface. To perform this test we used our SSD Transcend TS256GESD400K of 256 Gbytes that we sequentially formatted to different file systems.

That’s where we complete testing section and move directly to summing it all up.

Summary

We are glad with tested QNAP TS-531X NAS that supports mounting up to five HDDs with SATA interface or SSDs. The model under review is intended for home offices and small companies. Disk space provided by the NAS (maximum 60 TBytes) is more than enough for the most users and high data access speeds make work convenient and fast. QNAP TS-531X has four network interfaces (two copper Gigabit Ethernet ports and two ones for SFP+ modules), we consider such a set rather optimal, however additional NIC or expansion card can be mounted if needed. Unfortunately, on making this review we cannot test another option we consider interesting: support of SSDs with M.2 interface. From our point of view, such drives can significantly increase device performance.

Existence of two versions of TS-531X model different in preset RAM amount allows customers to select the device that is more applicable for the particular tasks. In addition, vendor has recently launched four HDDs model with similar software: TS-431X2.

Strength areas of QNAP TS-531X NAS are the following:

  • ability to set additional expansion card;
  • built-in GE and 10 GE interfaces;
  • support of drives with M.2 interface (optional);
  • ability to measure access speeds to the disks by the abilities of NAS itself;
  • high access speeds to the user data;
  • ability to aggregate network interfaces;
  • USB 3.0 ports;
  • ability to install extra software packages;
  • IPv6 support;
  • built-in VPN Server and Client;
  • support of external disk arrays;
  • ability to manage NAS using mobile apps;

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention discovered drawbacks of the model:

  • the fan in the PSU is too small;
  • strict list of compatible expansion plates and SSD-modules with M.2 interface;
  • relatively high price;

At the moment this review was being written, the average price for a QNAP TS-531X-2G was 55666 roubles, whereas TS-531X-8G model cost 71140 roubles. The prices do not include HDDs.

As of this writing, the best price for QNAP TS-531X-2G in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 544 euro and about 686 euro for QNAP TS-531X-8G model. The prices do not include HDDs.

User Rating: 0 / 5

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Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade and utilities

Web interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Reviews and tests of different vendors’ top devices most often appear on our pages: the fastest, the most functional, with the most trendsetting technologies. However most of ordinary users don’t need expensive and complex network equipment. The main requirements which are imposed by subscribers of home networks to wireless routers are stability of operation, good wireless coverage, availability of basic functionality. This is how the model ASUS RT-AC1200G+ was created. Let's consider it in more detail!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router comes in black plastic case with the following dimensions: 207х148х35 mm (not including external antennae) with weight of only 395 grams. For its working the device needs an external power adaptor (included in the box) with the following parameters: 12 V and 2 A.

The upper panel, consisting of two parts, is opaque. It has a vendor name and key parameters of a product together with LEDs indicating status of wired and wireless interfaces of the device and power supply.

The side panels have two external antennae and a ventilation grate located on them.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model is equipped with four external non-detachable rotatable antennae, two of which are located on the side panels, and two on the rear panel. Apart from them five Gigabit Ethernet ports (four LAN and one WAN), power socket with ON/OFF button, USB 2.0 interface, sunken Reset button and WPS button are located on the rare panel.

On the bottom panel of the router there are a sticker with brief information about the device, four rubber legs, two recesses for two more legs, two technological holes for mounting the device on the wall and, of course, a ventilation grate.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. The electronic stuffing of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is one aquamarine textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, almost all key chips are hidden under the protection screens. The only exception is the flash-memory module Spansion (Cypress) FL128SAIF00 with the capacity of 16 Mbytes. It is worth noting that the vendor of the router reveals information about some features of the platform. For example, it is known that the capacity of RAM available for RT-AC1200G+ model is 128 Mbytes, and the platform itself is based on Broadcom chips: BCM47189 (SoC that operates at 900 MHz frequency with support of Ethernet and IEEE 802.11A/N/AC wireless network); BCM43217 (responsible for support of IEEE 802.11 B/G/N wireless network). Functions of wired switch are performed by Broadcom BCM53125 chip. From the analysis of a component layout on a card it is possible to conclude that the antennae connected to the side panels of the case work in the range of 2.4 GHz whereas those that are connected to its rear panel are intended for operation in the range of 5 GHz. The device possesses the following MIMO configuration: 2x2:2, that is two antennae are used for transmission, two for reception and two spatial streams.

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

Firmware upgrade and utilities

Firmware upgrade does not require any specific proficiency from the user and is carried out using Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade may be performed both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. The latter case, naturally, requires Internet connection. The whole process requires about three minutes (not considering time necessary for downloading a file from Internet).

Here, in our opinion, it is appropriate to mention the utilities delivered together with the router. Complete with ASUS RT-AC1200G+ three utilities are distributed: Device Discovery, Firmware Restoration and ASUS Printer Setup.

With Device Discovery utility the user can detect ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router in his/her local network.

Connection of the remote printer is made by means of Printer Setup utility.

In case of a problem during the firmware upgrade process, RT-AC1200G+ may change to the rescue mode during which the Power indicator starts slowly flashing. Indirect indicator of such a mode will be TTL equal 100 in ICMP echo replies. In the normal mode of the router TTL equal 64. Standard method of device restoration is to use Firmware Restoration utility.

If it isn't possible to use the specified utility, a web-server embedded into the bootloader is available to the administrator, by means of which it is possible not only to restore a firmware, but also set the device's default settings.

Another way to restore the firmware of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ router is via TFTP.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put "c:\RT-AC1200G+_3.0.0.4_380_3971_0816-g516a6d6.trx"
Transfer successful: 13537280 bytes in 18 second(s), 752071 bytes/s

The router needs to be rebooted after the restoration is completed.

That is where we bring review of utilities and firmware upgrade methods of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model to a conclusion and pass on to examining its capabilities.

Web interface

The web interface of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is available in sixteen languages and is typical for ASUSWRT firmware devices. We will not consider explicitly all capabilities of the device, but only turn our attention to the most interesting of them.

Guest Network menu item allows creating up to three guest networks in each frequency band. This feature will be in demand in a situation where it is necessary only to provide someone with temporary access to a global network without disclosing the primary key or network name.

Bandwidth Limiter and Traffic Monitor features are available in Traffic Manager menu item.

The schedule, according to which a device is allowed access to the Internet, is controlled by means of Parental Controls menu item. The presence of built-in Yandex.DNS service support will help to protect children from unwanted content.

For control of the applications using the external device connected to USB port one need to use USB Application menu item.

Router wireless module settings can be performed using Wireless menu item tabs.

By means of LAN menu item tabs users can change LAN IP parameters, control DHCP server, create static routes, control connection to IPTV service. Switch Control tab contains additional parameters intended for device tweaking.

WAN connection is controlled by means of Internet menu item. Here the administrator can change virtual servers’ settings by means of which access from the Internet to LAN resources is provided. Absence of Dual WAN function, which allows to be connected to two providers simultaneously for balancing or backing up, seems surprising to us especially considering the availability of 3G / 4G modem support.

Connection to the Internet or ISP network can be made not only using IPv4, but also by means of the sequel of the IP-IPv6. The appropriate settings are collected in the same-named menu item.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router allows remote users to connect to LAN behind the device. The appropriate settings are provided in VPN item. Unfortunately, only one tunnel protocol – PPTP is supported.

Access control is made by means of tabs in Firewall menu item. In addition to direct control of access to different nodes based on IP addresses, the possibility of traffic filtering on the basis of URLs and keywords is also available to users.

The change of an operation mode of the device, control of system settings and also updating the firmware are made using the tabs in Administration menu item.

All log information is presented in System log menu item.

In addition to the main features, some support tools are also available to users, which can be accessed not only through the command line interface, but also using Network Tools menu item of the device's web interface.

That is where we bring a review of the capabilities of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router web interface to a conclusion and pass to the section dedicated to command line of the device.

Command line

Control of access to command line of the device is made by means of System tab Administration menu item. A nice option here is SSH support for providing secure access to the router when command line interface is used.

In order to access the command line one must use the same credentials as for the connection to the router web interface. Firmware of the model under testing is built on Linux 2.6.36.4 OS with BusyBox 1.17.4.

RT-AC1200G+ login: admin
Password:
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC1200G+ 2.6.36.4brcmarm #1 PREEMPT Thu Nov 3 15:55:43 CST 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-11-03 15:46:45 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

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. The output of specified utilities is located in a separate file.

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 one find out whether a TCP port is open on a certain host.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/# 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 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-AC1200G+:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# ls
1              373            407            610            crypto         loadavg        swaps
141            375            411            612            devices        locks          sys
151            377            412            614            diskstats      meminfo        sysrq-trigger
2              378            477            619            driver         misc           sysvipc
222            380            48             636            emf            modules        timer_list
227            381            491            638            execdomains    mounts         tty
232            384            5              7              filesystems    mtd            uptime
237            389            50             736            fs             net            version
242            390            51             95             interrupts     pagetypeinfo   vmallocinfo
265            391            583            bcm_chipinfo   iomem          partitions     vmstat
267            393            584            buddyinfo      ioports        scsi           zoneinfo
297            394            585            bus            irq            self
299            398            586            cmdline        kallsyms       slabinfo
3              399            587            cpu            key-users      softirqs
304            4              6              cpuinfo        kmsg           stat
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat uptime
942.34 897.65
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat loadavg
0.18 0.16 0.13 1/54 738
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# uptime
 03:15:50 up 15 min, load average: 0.17, 0.15, 0.12

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

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
http_username=admin
acc_list=admin>adminpass
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc#

So, for example, by means of nvram utility it is possible to disable STP for RT-AC1200G+ LAN ports.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=1
lan1_stp=1
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=0
lan1_stp=1
size: 39757 bytes (25779 left)
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# reboot

Unfortunately, RT-AC1200G+ model isn’t equipped with the thermosensors in contrast to ASUS hi-end devices.

admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# cat /proc/dmu/temperature
cat: can't open '/proc/dmu/temperature': No such file or directory
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# wl -i eth1 phy_tempsense
wl: Unsupported
admin@RT-AC1200G+:/proc# wl -i eth2 phy_tempsense
wl: Unsupported

That's where we proceed to completion of the 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 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-AC1200G+ wireless router boots in 48 seconds. We believe that this result is decent. It is also worth noting that during the booting we received several echo replies about 20-25 seconds after power was on, but these messages were sent by the bootloader, which is indirectly indicated by the value of TTL equal 100 in the returning packets.

The second no less than standard test was a security scanning procedure using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 utility. Scanning has been carried out from the LAN. On the whole, there were 18 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Obviously, we told the vendor about discovered vulnerabilities and suspicions on their existence. Vendor’s technical specialists informed us that discovered vulnerabilities (and even some other ones) are already fixed in the actual firmware versions. XSpider utility identifies vulnerabilities by version number reported by the system in the banner and other checks are not performed.

Before getting down to performance tests of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 7700K 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-AC88
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC88U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to start measuring of device performance from discovering throughput on performing NAT/PAT. The tests were carried out with 1, 5 and 15 simultaneous TCP connections.

It can be seen from the diagram above that the total speed of simultaneous traffic flows even in both directions didn't exceed 1 Gbps (in a full duplex mode). In our opinion, this limitation is connected to 1xRGMII usage and performance of CPU as during the specified test CPU was 100% utilized.

During next testing we decided to disable NAT HWA and find out what transmission speeds will be available to users in this case. As can be seen from the diagram below, disabled hardware acceleration leads to loss of router throughput by several times during NAT/PAT.

Performance measurement of RT-AC1200G+ model while execution of routing without NAT/PAT became the next experiment. All ASUS wireless routers tested earlier by us in this test demonstrated speeds similar to the NAT/PAT test with disabled HWA. To our surprise, pure routing is executed by this device at higher speeds. It seems that the hardware acceleration is used also during routing without NAT/PAT as well.

We could not ignore the throughput of the device by operation with upcoming version of IP – IPv6. ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model showed excellent results when processing IPv6 traffic.

Connection to operators can also be made using a variety of tunnels (VPN). We decided to find out what speeds will be available to users when connecting to providers using PPTP and L2TP VPNs.

Performance testing using PPTP was done without encryption, because when MPPE was enabled the tunnel was set up, but no data were transferred through it. We decided to figure out what exactly was happening. It turned out that at some point the router ceases to encrypt the data sent to the tunnel (with an intensive traffic flow from LAN to WAN). If there is only a flow from WAN to LAN, RT-AC1200G+ model is capable of processing encrypted traffic at speeds about 40 Mbps. Naturally, we reported about the problem to the vendor. The error will be fixed in one of the upcoming firmware versions.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router has built-in VPN server. Unfortunately, PPTP, the throughput of which we have just measured, is the only protocol supported. It seems surprising to us that the vendor did not include OpenVPN support in the firmware.

The model under testing has the ability to support quality of service of the transferred traffic. So, for example, the administrator can limit the speed with which data of a host located on the local network is transferred to the Internet. We decided to find out how real transmission speed corresponds to configured values.

From the diagram above it is seen that starting from about 90 Mbps, an increase in the speed allowed to the host does not affect the real transmission speed. This effect is related to the router's CPU throughput, because when the traffic reaches 90 Mbps, CPU is 100% utilized. In the diagram below we presented the part of the graph in which the router still successfully copes with the task of providing quality of service.

Perhaps, one of the most anticipated measurements are the tests of the wireless module. The diagrams below show wireless data transmission speeds we received in both frequency ranges.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router is fitted with USB2.0 port, which can be used for connection of external drives, 3G and 4G modems, and multifunctional devices. We decided to find out what access speeds to the data stored on the USB drive will be available to users of the tested wireless router. For the measurements, we consistently formatted our test 256 GByte Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD drive into four different file systems: NTFS, FAT32, EXT2 and EXT3. The results of the measurements are shown in the diagram below.

Before getting down to the summary, we would like to note that during the execution of various tests of this section, we also measured the temperature of the router case using our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature of the top panel that we managed to measure has been 45.2°C while average temperature in the room was equal to 25°С.

Summary

In general, we were satisfied with the tested ASUS RT-AC1200G+ model, which belongs to wireless routers of the middle class. ASUS RT-AC1200G+ is great for working in home ISP networks, providing access to the Internet without reducing the speed at all basic tariff plans, and the presence of USB 2.0 port allows one to connect the external drive, MFD or 3G/4G modem to the device.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router are the following:

  • high routing speeds (including VPN);
  • USB 2.0 port;
  • reasonable price;
  • both wireless ranges support;
  • a built-in VPN server;
  • IPv6 support;
  • QoS feature presence;
  • 3G/4G modem support;
  • high access speeds to data on external USB storage;
  • support of up to three guest networks in each wireless frequency range;
  • parental controls presence.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention about its drawback:

  • the web-interface is not completely translated.

ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router supports a maximum theoretical speed in 2.4 GHz frequency range equal to 300 Mbps, as well as 867 Mbps in 5 GHz range. Real speeds in these ranges turned out to be excellent, real user data transfer rates exceeded 50% of the theoretical ones. However, it seems to us that more efficient wireless modules would be more appropriate in this model. For example, in 2.4 GHz range it would be logical to see a wireless module supporting N600.

Also it should be noted that the built-in VPN server of ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router supports only PPTP protocol. Of course, this is not a big problem, but we would like to see here the support of OpenVPN technology, which we are so used to in flagship models.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC1200G+ wireless router in Moscow online shops was 4765 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC1200G+ in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 75 euro.

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Introduction

External design and hardware

Testing

Summary

ASUS XG-U2008

Introduction

ASUS XG-U2008 is a switch with ten copper ports two of which are 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Today we have an unusual guest in our testing laboratory. Traditionally we are testing devices with web-interface or command line for configuring. ASUS XG-U2008 doesn’t require any special configuration, the switch works right out of the box and ideally suits for small working groups that need connection on maximum speed for reasonable price.

10 GE interfaces of ASUS XG-U2008 can be used both as uplinks and for connection of high speed hosts such as powerful servers and workstations, or modern network storages.

 

External design and hardware

ASUS XG-U2008 unmanaged level 2 switch comes in a thin metal case with the plastic elements and the dimensions of 240х125х27 mm and mass of 630 g. To work properly the model under review needs an external power adapter (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12V and 1,5A, so its power consumption does not exceed 18W.

 

 

The upper panel of the switch is metal, the name of the vendor’s company together with the model name are placed here.

 

There are LEDs indicating operating of the whole device and each of its wired interfaces on the front panel. LEDs indication allows one to identify not only speed on which a device connected to a switch port is working but also a problem in cable infrastructure if any.

 

The most part of both sides is covered with the ventilation grate.

 

The ventilation grate is also placed on the bottom panel of the case. In addition to it, there are four rubber legs and a small sticker with brief information about the switch here. ASUS XG-U2008 is intended for desktop placing, for mounting on the rack special holders are needed.

 

There are three groups of network interfaces on the rare panel of the switch case. In addition, ON/OFF button and a plug for connecting of external adapter are located here.

 

ASUS XG-U2008 doesn’t have fans and its cooling is performed with the help of metal case inside of which a remarkable heat sink rejecting heat from two main chips is placed.

 

The hardware platform of the switch consists of the only green textolite plate, which main elements are placed on its one side.

 

Marvell 88E6190X-BUK2 chip serves as a switch and silicon Marvell 88X3220-BTH4 provides support of 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

 

That's where we proceed to completion of the review about the hardware of ASUS XG-U2008 switch and pass directly on to testing it.

Testing

As ASUS XG-U2008 is an unmanaged switch, many our standard tests are not applicable to it. The only thing that we could measure was switching speed and latency of forwarding frames. Let’s review it step by step.

According to ASUS, XG-U2008 switch fabric performance is 56 Gbps that is an incredible value for such a small device. Such throughput means that the switch is able to pass data from all its interfaces on the wire speed. So, for example, using GE interface the user is able to send data at 1488000 fps. On the graph below one can see the dependency between throughput and the frame size. Naturally, the larger the frame size is, the higher efficiency of transmission is, because of change in proportion between user data and overheads (encapsulation headers of the corresponding layer).

In parallel with measuring of throughput, we decided to discover which latency the switch adds.

As one can see from the diagram above, switching latency almost linearly depends on the frame size. Such dependency occurs due to store-and-forward switching mode used for ASUS XG-U2008. Overall, there are three switching modes: store-and-forward, cut-through and fragment-free. In the first mode the switch stores the whole frame and checks the FCS (frame check sequence), and after that the switching procedure is performed. In cut-through mode sending of the frame starts right after the part of Ethernet-frame header that contains destination address is received. Fragment-free mode is a kind of hybrid of the first ones: at the beginning, first 64 bytes of the frame are received and after that its transmission is started (without waiting till the whole frame is received by the switch). The value of received data (64 bytes) was not chosen occasionally: in the first networks using Ethernet standard collision could occur exactly at the moment of transmission of the first 64 bytes. Certainly, networks with hubs and half-duplex modes are not used for a long time. Naturally, in two last modes checking of FCS is not performed that can cause transmission of broken frames (frames with wrong FCS value) in the network.

It’s worth noting here that for all measurements in this review we used traffic-generator IXIA because our testing platform was not able to measure latency with the needed accuracy.

Except the latency itself we also measured jitter that is displayed in the diagram below. We would like to take readers attention to the jitter measurement unit for ASUS XG-U2008: it is measured in nanoseconds.

The next step was repeating of the same measurements using 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. As our testing traffic-generator didn’t have copper ports working at such speed we decided to use Cisco WS-C3560CX-8XPD-S switch as a media converter (between optical interfaces of the traffic-generator and copper ports of the tested switch ASUS XG-U2008). We already mentioned this model earlier in the article about multigigabit interfaces. The ninth and tenth interfaces of ASUS XG-U2008 switch don’t support NBASE-T technology so when we manually set 2,5 or 5 Gbps speed on connected devices the interface didn’t come up indicating with orange LED about the problems with connection. It’s worth to mention here that there are devices with the support of NBASE-T technology in ASUS products line, for example, wired network card XG-C100C with RJ-45 port. However, let’s go back to the testing. In the diagram below one can see user data transmission speed using connection to 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

We also measured the delay added by ASUS XG-U2008 switch. In all fairness, it’s worth to mention that we don’t know how to explain such an increase of latency depending on the frame size on Gigabit Ethernet interface. Probably, it occurs due to some internal procedures of traffic processing. On calculation of latency added by the testing switch, we, naturally, considered that the traffic two times passed through our laboratory media converter.

The dependency of the jitter on the frame size is shown in the diagram below.

During all passed tests we also measured the number of lost frames. Based on our measurements, the number of lost frames was equal to 0 percent so ASUS XG-U2008 switch is a non-blocking one.

Finally, we’d like to mention that we are a bit surprised with the absence of 10 Mbps speed support, however, in all fairness, we haven’t seen such network cards throughout the past few tens of years.

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

Summary

On the whole, we are pleased with tested ASUS XG-U2008 unmanaged level 2 switch. Certainly, we didn’t perform as many measurements as during testing of manageable models, however, in most cases for houses and small offices availability of managing the switch is not needed.

ASUS XG-U2008 model has eight Gigabit and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and is able to transmit traffic on the wire speed.

Stylish case and fanless design allow placing the device in any place of the interior not deteriorating it.

The strength areas of the switch are listed below.

  • Stylish case without fans
  • Support of 10GBASE-T
  • Switching on the wire speed
  • Compact dimensions
  • Availability of desk mounting and mounting on the rack
  • Support of jumbo-frames
  • Reasonable power consumption

We cannot forget about the requirements raised for cable infrastructure on using the devices with the support of 10GBASE-T standard. So if it is needed to provide connection on 10 Gbps speed at a distance till 100 m, one should use cable of 6a or 7 category. Cat6a cable allows transmitting data on maximum speed with the length of the track till 55 meters. On short distances (till 30 meters) twisted-pair wire of Cat5e category can be used.

When this review was being written, ASUS XG-U2008 switch was not being sold in Russia yet, so it is too preliminary to say about novelty price in roubles. However, average model price in Europe was 250 euro.

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Introduction

External design and hardware

Testing

Summary

Introduction

For a very long time ASUS Company has sent wireless routers and access points for testing to our network laboratory, absolutely ignoring wireless network adapters with PCIE and USB interfaces. Finally, it's time to fix this gap and to provide our readers with the review of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter with the USB 3.0 interface. This model allows connecting to the existing wireless networks at speeds up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and to 1300 Mbps in the range of 5 GHz, so ASUS USB-AC68 card possesses AC1900 wireless formula. Let's consider model in more detail!

External design and hardware

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter comes in black plastic case with red insertions and two external antennae. External antennae can rotate and be fixed in one out of three positions.

On the front side (if such a device could in principle have the front side) a blue LED is placed, which can be used to visually determine whether the wireless network connection exists. The appearance of the test model for some reason caused resistant association with a little black birdie with red wings who is sitting down on some dark object.

Overall dimensions of the device are 115х30х18 mm with weight of only 44 grams. Leaping ahead, it is worth noting that there are four antennae in USB-AC68 model: two external and two internal, allowing the device to operate in 3x4 MIMO (3T4R) mode, ie three antennae on transmission and four on data receipt can dynamically be involved.

A significant part of the model case is a ventilation grate for improved cooling of chips as fast wireless adapters typically consume a lot of energy and can heat up considerably.

Together with the Wi-Fi adapter comes a CD with drivers, a warranty book and a brief instruction for connection of the device. It should also be noted that in a set there is an USB-extender with a cradle, allowing more convenient placing of the adapter on the desktop or other horizontal surface. The cradle is not magnetic, but with a weighting compound, its bottom side is rubber and allows sticking to smooth objects. Cable length of about one meter what, in our opinion, will be enough for most users.

Now let's have a look at the insides of ASUS USB-AC68 case. The electronic stuffing of the device is single textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, all chips are hidden under protective screens and aren't accessible for review. On a card there are two slots for connection of external antennae, and also two internal nondetachable antennae are located. ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter is based on Realtek RTL8814AU chip.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of the device to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing.

Testing

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used. As the load generator we used JPerf utility version 2.0.2. The tests were carried out with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections in case of placing the wireless router and tested equipment in close proximity to each other (from one to three meters).

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 ASUS RT-AC88U Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus 

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter has USB 3.0 interface therefore we made its connection to the appropriate interface of our test computer. Functioning of a wireless network was provided by ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router, which we already have described earlier. Performance measurement was made for both wireless ranges: 2.4 and 5 GHz. Results of measurements are given on the diagram below.

Unfortunately, not all notebooks and desktop computers have USB 3.0 port therefore we decided to find out what speeds will be available to users who will connect ASUS USB-AC68 model to USB 2.0 port.

As seen from the diagram above, the interface of Wi-Fi adapter connection  has practically no impact on speed of data transmission in the range of 2.4 GHz. For connections in the range of 5 GHz the version of the USB interface begins to play the significant role, however this influence will be noticeable only in a situation when wireless devices in principle are able to reach such speeds (fast wireless router or access point, good signal, absence of noises and so on).

We didn't keep away from operation of ASUS USB-AC68 in AD HOC mode for the range of 2.4 GHz. The received speeds turned out to be noticeably below what was shown by the Wi-Fi adapter in Wi-Fi client mode, however generally it is caused by restrictions of an operating system. ASUS PCE-AC88 model was used as a wireless client. The diagrams below contain comparison of speed of data transmission in the direction of USB->Wi-Fi while operation of the adapter in ad hoc and wireless client modes. As always, measurement of speeds was performed for one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections. It is also worth noting that maximum speed of connection of the wireless client to ad hoc network didn't exceed 300 Mbps.

Naturally, we couldn't help but clarify how ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter heats up in the course of operation. For temperature measurement we used our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature of heat-sinking screen inside the case that we managed to measure has been 47 °C while temperature in the room was equal to 27 °C.

Summary

In principle, we were satisfied with new ASUS USB-AC68 wireless adapter with the USB 3.0 interface allowing the user to increase significantly performance of PCs and notebooks by operation in a wireless network. USB-AC68 model supports all modern wireless protocols IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and is perfect even for those users who have high requirements for devices design. The used wireless formula allows making the best use of majority of the modern routers (up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and up to 1300 Mbps for connections at frequencies of 5 GHz). External rotatable antennae together with AiRadar technology will allow not only to increase data-transfer speed, but also to expand coverage.

The strength areas of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi Adapter are presented below:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • support of USB 3.0;
  • existence of a USB-extender and a cradle;
  • design;
  • a possibility of operation in the ad hoc mode;
  • existence of external rotatable antennae;
  • simple installation.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention its drawback:

  • lack of original utility for device control.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter  in Moscow online shops was 4800 roubles. We hope for the considerable reduction of price in the nearest future after the device is available for sale in more shops.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS USB-AC68 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 70 euro.