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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

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

Initial setup and firmware update

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

Fairly recently the review of the flagship device – ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router has appeared on our pages. Presence of eight LAN ports was an outstanding feature of the model. Such a number of wired interfaces may be required in the presence of a wide range of the devices having wire connection: desktop computers, network storages and MFPs, videoplayers and so on. However only geeks and computer enthusiasts usually have so much equipment. Often even four standard wired ports can be far too many to normal users. Today our network laboratory got the model with two LAN and one WAN interface for testing. ASUS RT-AC53 – truly a budget router.

So, let's get started!

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router comes in black plastic case with the following dimensions: 320х190х35 mm (not including antennae) with weight of only 285 grams. For its working the device needs an external power adaptor (included in the box) with the following parameters: 12 V and 1 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 do not have anything remarkable on them apart from a ventilation grate located on them.

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

Three non-detachable rotatable antennae, three Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (one WAN and two LAN), power socket with ON/OFF button, WPS and sunken Reset buttons are located on the rare panel.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case. The electronic stuffing of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router is one green textolite card which has all essential elements located on one of its sides. The only exception is the flash-memory module GigaDevice 25Q64CSIG with the capacity of 8 Mbytes.

Functions of Gigabit Ethernet wired switch are performed by Realtek RTL8367RB chip. The system is powered by MediaTek MT7620A CPU that operates at 580 MHz frequency. We have already met such a CPU in ASUS RP-AC52 and RT-AC51U models earlier. Winbond W9751G6KB-25 DDR2 with the size of 64 Mbytes performs functions of the RAM. Support of 2.4 GHz wireless range (2T2R) is built in the CPU whereas for the range of 5 GHz the separate MediaTek MT7610EN wireless chip is used.

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

Initial setup and firmware update

After the first switching on ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router a user need to perform the initial setup of the device. The initial setup is extremely simple – it is required only to specify the main settings of Internet connection, to set admin password, to select an operation mode.

Firmware upgrade is traditional for all ASUS wireless routers and does not require any specific proficiency from the user. One need to use Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item and select the file with the new firmware version to carry out firmware upgrade. It is also worth noting that upgrade can be made also in a semi-automatic mode what, naturally, requires Internet connection.

The whole process requires about three minutes (not considering time necessary for downloading a file with a new firmware from Internet).

Here, in our opinion, it is appropriate to mention the utilities delivered together with the router because usually need for them arises in the course of initial setup of the device. So, complete with ASUS RT-AC53 there are three utilities: Device Discovery, Firmware Restoration and ASUS Printer Setup. To admit, we do not really understand how the vendor assumes to use ASUS Printer Setup utility as RT-AC53 model has no USB ports.

With Device Discovery utility the user can detect ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router in his local network.

In case of a problem during the firmware upgrade process, RT-AC53 may change to the rescue mode during which the Power indicator starts slowly flashing. Unfortunately, the tested wireless router has no web-server built-in in the bootloader, therefore it is possible to recover a firmware by means of the Firmware Restoration utility or manually, by downloading the firmware to the device via TFTP.

It should also be noted that while in the rescue mode, RT-AC53 is not responding to ICMP echo requests (ping).

C:\>ping 192.168.1.1
Pinging 192.168.1.1 with 32 bytes of data:
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Request timed out.
Ping statistics for 192.168.1.1:
    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 0, Lost = 4 (100% loss),

However, TFTP recovery is also not so simple. At first, we tried to send a file with the new firmware to the router, but unsuccessfully.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC53_3.0.0.4_380_6038-g76a4aa5.trx
Timeout occurred
 Connect request failed

Then we ran Wireshark and began to analyze the traffic between the test PC and the router. It was found that RT-AC53 periodically sends ARP-request to the address 192.168.1.75.

We have changed the address on the test PC to 192.168.1.75/24, and then the firmware file transfer has occurred successfully. A few seconds after RT-AC53 has received the file, it rebooted using the new firmware.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC53_3.0.0.4_380_6038-g76a4aa5.trx
Transfer successful: 7475296 bytes in 2 second(s), 3737648 bytes/s

That’s where we proceed to completion the brief review of firmware upgrade and initial setup and pass on to reviewing web-interface capabilities of the device.

Web-interface

The web interface of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router can be accessed by means of any modern browser. Device web interface is made in the traditional gray and black colors and is available in thirteen languages.

We will not review all capabilities of the model, but only turn our attention to the most interesting of them.

RT-AC53 model, as well as all remaining modern wireless ASUS devices, supports creation up to three guest networks in each frequency band. The appropriate setup is available in the Guest Network menu item.

The settings which are responsible for Quality of Service support are collected in the Traffic Manager menu item. Here the user can manually limit data transmission speed for certain hosts, or use traditional QoS. Also by means of this menu item it is possible to receive the diagram of wired and wireless interfaces utilization.

If it is necessary to restrict time of wide area network usage, refer to Parental Controls menu item.

Wireless Network settings collected in Wireless menu item tabs are traditional for the majority of ASUS wireless routers, so we will not review them in detail.

Switch Control tab in LAN menu item has drew our attention. Except of switch-on/switch-off option of NAT acceleration, there is a possibility of limitation the speed of a certain (usually undesirable) traffic here.

ASUS RT-AC53 can use static and dynamic IP addresses for connection to providers, and also the following tunnels: PPTP, L2TP and PPPoE. The appropriate settings are available on Internet Connection tab WAN menu item. Perhaps, the couple of words should be told here about Extend the TTL value and Spoof LAN TTL value options. Both options are intended for simplification of the user operation on networks of operators, limiting subscribers by the number of the connected devices. Spoof LAN TTL value option allows to send packets to the Internet with the fixed TTL field in IP packet header whereas Expand TTL Value option influences traffic in the opposite direction, allowing not to discard those packets which TTL shall be set to zero when passing through a router.

Unfortunately, the Dual WAN function isn't supported by RT-AC53 model.

IPv6 settings are collected in the same-named menu item.

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router has built-in VPN client and server. Unlike in flagship models, support of the OpenVPN is absent here.

Traffic filtering is made by means of tabs in Firewall menu item.

The choice of an operation mode of the device is made by means of Operation mode tab Administration menu item.

That is where we bring a brief review of the main capabilities of the device web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining of its command line.

Command line

Control of access to command line of the device is made by means of System tab Administration menu item. It is worth noting that access is supported by means of Telnet and SSH protocols.

In order to access the command line one must use the same log-on information as for the connection to the router web interface. Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 2.6.36 OS using Busy Box 1.17.4.

RT-AC53 login: admin
Password:
admin@RT-AC53:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC53:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC53 2.6.36 #1 Fri Sep 23 12:05:55 CST 2016 mips GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC53:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-09-23 12:02:33 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, cat, chmod, chown, chpasswd, cmp, cp, crond, cut, date, dd, df,
        dirname, dmesg, echo, egrep, env, ether-wake, expr, fgrep, find, free, grep, gunzip,
        ifconfig, insmod, ionice, kill, killall, klogd, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum,
        mdev, mkdir, mknod, modprobe, more, mount, mv, netstat, nice, nohup, nslookup, pidof,
        ping, ping6, printf, ps, pwd, readlink, renice, rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, sed, sh, sleep,
        sort, strings, sync, syslogd, tar, telnetd, test, top, touch, tr, traceroute, traceroute6,
        udhcpc, umount, uname, 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 the administrator find out whether a TCP port is open in a certain host.

admin@RT-AC53:/# tcpcheck
usage:  tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-AC53:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC53:/# 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-AC53:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# ls
1              193            267            bus            kpagecount     stat
10             194            3              cmdline        kpageflags     sys
11             196            30             cpuinfo        loadavg        sysrq-trigger
115            2              301            crypto         locks          sysvipc
116            20             306            devices        meminfo        timer_list
12             201            4              diskstats      misc           tty
13             204            41             driver         modules        uptime
135            208            430            execdomains    mounts         version
136            21             5              filesystems    mt7620         vmallocinfo
164            212            6              fs             mtd            vmstat
17             22             7              interrupts     net            zoneinfo
172            226            76             iomem          nvram
175            23             8              ioports        pagetypeinfo
18             261            82             irq            partitions
180            263            9              kcore          self
19             265            buddyinfo      kmsg           softirqs
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat uptime
1746.00 1673.66
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat loadavg
0.07 0.07 0.02 1/47 432
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# cat cpuinfo
system type             : MT7620
processor               : 0
cpu model               : MIPS 24Kc V5.0
BogoMIPS                : 386.04
wait instruction        : yes
microsecond timers      : yes
tlb_entries             : 32
extra interrupt vector  : yes
hardware watchpoint     : yes, count: 4, address/irw mask: [0x0000, 0x0878, 0x0ff8, 0x0ff8]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp
shadow register sets    : 1
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
admin@RT-AC53:/proc# uptime
 03:29:19 up 29 min, load average: 0.05, 0.06, 0.02

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

admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [save file] [restore file] [fb_save file]
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep admin
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
http_username=admin
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep password
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
http_passwd=password
admin@RT-AC53:/#

So, for example, by means of nvram utility it is possible to disable STP for RT-AC53 LAN ports.

admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep stp
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
lan_stp=1
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC53:/# nvram show | grep stp
size: 20283 bytes (41157 left)
lan_stp=0
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC53:/#

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-AC53 wireless router boots in 42 seconds. We believe that this result is decent.

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

Before getting down to performance tests 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 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-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 with hardware acceleration (default setting). The tests were carried out with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections. Results of measurements are given on the diagram below.

It can be seen from results of this test that routing is made at the wire speeds, the device CPU at the same time remains underutilized. The only thing we want to mention, the limitation by operation in a full duplex: total speed of data transmission in both directions didn't exceed 1 Gbps that, in our judgment, is connected to internal wiring of the device.

We decided to disable hardware acceleration and repeat the previous measurements. Device performance in this case is restricted to performance of its CPU.

In case of a classical routing without NAT the hardware acceleration isn't used therefore the speeds received as a result of the test are similar to what we received in the previous one.

On the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries tunnels (VPN) still remain one of popular methods of connection to providers. We decided to test the wireless router throughput using two types of such tunnels: PPTP and L2TP. ASUS RT-AC53 supports both encrypted (MPPE128), and unencrypted PPTP tunnels.

We decided to continue wired tests by performance measurement of ASUS RT-AC53 model by operation with upcoming version of IP – IPv6.

Processing of IPv6 packets is made by the CPU therefore restriction of speeds is caused by the performance of the CPU, in other words the transmission of IPv6-traffic with a speed about 200 Mbps leads to 100% utilization of the CPU.

ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router has the ability to support quality of service of the transferred traffic. So, for example, it is possible to setup limit of the maximum bandwidth available to a certain device. We decided to find out how real transmission speed corresponds to configured values. On the diagram below three curves are given: blue corresponds to the configured values, green – to the traffic transferred from the user to the Internet, and red – in the opposite direction.

For speeds up to 150 Mbps the received values correspond quite well to configured, but since this speed increases the available to the user bandwidth stops, again due to the performance of the CPU, - for support of QoS the CPU is used. All devices for which the restriction of speed rule while QoS is switched on isn't configured receive a throughput about 175 Mbps. It is worth noting that we don't count the found limits as a problem as QoS mechanisms usage usually is required in case of relatively low access rates to the global network, and the majority of providers in Russia doesn’t offer rates with a speed over 100 Mbps.

QoS support mechanisms are not the single means allowing to limit the data transmission speed. It is about the settings located in Switch Control tab LAN menu item. However, here it is worth speaking more about the protective mechanisms allowing to stabilize network functioning in cases when, for example, the NIC of one of the PC failed and sends a large number of defective frames. We couldn't help but test operation of this mechanism on the example of Unknown Unicast frames restriction. Measurements were done for the speeds up to 700 Mbps – the restriction mechanism perfectly coped with the traffic generated by our test PC. It seems that such Storm Control in RT-AC53 model is implemented in hardware. Here, however, it is necessary to tell about the fly in the ointment which we found in the course of testing. If restrictions configured rather high, then the traffic which receiver is unknown will lead to 100% loading of the CPU at a speed about 500 Mbps therefore we extremely don't recommend to change values by default.

Finally, it's time for the wireless tests. Measurements were taken in case of layout of the router and the client in close proximity from each other, distance between them was from one to three meters. At first we found out what speeds will be available to the users in 2.4 GHz frequency range.

The next test was measurement of the wireless throughput in 5 GHz frequency range. The range of 5 GHz continues to remain less utilized in comparison with the range of 2.4 GHz therefore we as always recommend to users to draw the closest attention to it.

In conclusion of this section we decided to find out to what maximum temperature the device case heats up during intensive use. We measured the temperature of the device case using our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature that we managed to measure has been: the top panel – 37 °C, the bottom panel – 41 °C. During measurements temperature in the room was equal to 25°С.

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

Summary

We were satisfied with the tested ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router. This model belongs to the low-end class: you shouldn't expect the record speeds or the maximum set of features from it. However to most of home users the functionality of RT-AC53 will be more than enough. For connection to the Internet of one desktop computer, the top box and several notebooks with smartphones, it isn't required to buy the network monster, - normal inexpensive wireless router will be just enough. ASUS RT-AC53 model is an example of such a solution – nothing extra, just everything you need.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router are presented below:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • QoS feature presence;
  • support of up to three guest networks in each wireless frequency range;
  • high speeds of IPv6 traffic handling;
  • possibility of time constraint on use of the Internet (parental monitoring);
  • a built-in PPTP client and server;
  • fast boot of the device;
  • possibility of undesirable traffic restriction in LAN;
  • reasonable price.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention some of its drawbacks:

  • the web-interface is not completely translated;
  • only two LAN ports.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC53 wireless router in Moscow online shops was 3700 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC53 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 50 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.

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Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Summary

P.S.

Introduction

Today ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router appeared in our test lab. At first we were slightly afraid to approach such a monster. RT-AC5300 model looks like the inverted crab, the strong similarity is caused by the shape and layout of antennae. But the declared characteristics were so promising that curiosity overrode. The wireless formula AC5300 means that the maximum theoretical data transmission speeds in the wireless segment equal to 5.3 Gbps will be available to users – absolutely incredible value. ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router incorporated the best from the two predecessors: three sets of the frequency channels (in both wireless ranges) and NitroQAM/1024-QAM. We have already seen these characteristics separately in the RT-AC3200 and RT-AC88U models, however RT-AC5300 supports both specified capabilities at the same time.

Let's consider the device in more detail.

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with a red horizontal stripe. The shape of the case can be roughly described as a parallelepiped with beveled edges. The device has eight external detachable antennae located on all four side panels. To work properly the device needs an external power adaptor (comes in the box) with the following characteristics: 19V and 3.42A. It should be noted that 65 Watts is rather big power for home network equipment without PoE function (measurements show that 7 Watts are consumed while booting, and 15-18 Watts are consumed during normal operation of the router with no USB-connected devices). Also dimensions of the device in any way don't allow to call it of home kind – 245х245х65 mm (without antennae) with weight 1,36 kg. Such a considerable weight is caused by existence of a large number of heat sinks inside the case, but first things first. One more remark which we would like to make is connected to device power supply unit. The voltage and the connector of the external power supply unit of RT-AC5300 router match with the same for ASUS notebooks, i.e. the user can replace the router adapter with notebook power supply unit. The converse is incorrect as notebooks for the power supply usually require adapters of greater power.

Almost the entire upper surface of the device is occupied by a ventilation grate with a logo of the vendor.

On the bottom of the case there are four triangle rubber legs, a ventilation grate and a sticker with brief information about the device.

Antennae are placed on all four side panels of the case (by two on each).

Six LEDs indicating status of the entire device as a whole, as well as the status of its wired and wireless interfaces, are located on the front panel.

On one of the side panels there are a USB 2.0 port and three buttons responsible for switching on/off the wireless module, switching on the WPS mode, and also switching on/off LEDs on the front panel. On the other side panel only antennae slots are placed.

The rear side has five Gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN and 1 WAN), a USB 3.0 port, a power socket with ON/OFF button, as well as sunken Reset button.

Now let's have a look at the insides of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router.

The electronic stuffing of the device is one textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. The best part of the card is covered with heat sinks and protective screens also placed on both of its sides. The only chip accessible for review is a 128 Mbyte Spansion S34ML01G200TFI00 flash memory module. ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router has a Broadcom BCM4709C0 CPU with two cores operating at a frequency of 1.4 GHz and Nanya NT5CC256M16CP-DI RAM with the size of 512 Mbytes. It is worth noting that the hardware stuffing of the model under review is very similar to that in ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router. Support of a wireless network is performed by Broadcom BCM4366 chip with the following antennae configuration: 4х4 for the range of 2.4 GHz and 4х4 for the range of 5 GHz.

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

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade may be performed both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. It is worth noting that during the automatic search of the new versions beta versions of a firmware also can be considered.

The whole firmware upgrade process takes about eight minutes and does not require any specific proficiency from the user.

In case of a failure during the firmware upgrade process, the router may change to the rescue mode, slowly flashing power indicator will show this. 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. One can restore the device firmware in traditional way (by using ASUS Firmware Restoration utility) or manually (without the named utility).

For manual restoration one of the two following methods can be used: using a web-server embedded into the bootloader, or with the help of TFTP. The restoration process by using a web-server built-in in the bootloader is very easy: specify the file with the firmware and press Upload.

The restoration process with the help of TFTP is not the least bit harder.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC5300_3.0.0.4_380_3341-g25420f5.trx
Transfer successful: 42557440 bytes in 138 second(s), 308387 bytes/s

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

Our story about the firmware for ASUS RT-AC5300 would not be complete if we did not mention availability of an alternative firmware version by Merlin. Transition to the alternative version is similar to the traditional update. To return to the original firmware one needs to go to Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item.

That is where we bring review of the firmware upgrade and restoration processes of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router to a conclusion and pass on to examining its capabilities.

Web-interface

The web interface of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router is very similar on that in RT-AC88U model, and the majority of functions is standard for ASUSWRT firmware therefore we will not consider explicitly all capabilities of the device, but only turn our attention to the most interesting features. The web interface of the device is available in 18 languages.

Network Map menu item features information about the list of connected wired and wireless clients, USB-devices, settings of each of the three radios, as well as information about the CPU and RAM usage.

ASUS RT-AC5300 has three radios therefore administrator can create guest networks for each of them independently (three for every module).

It is also worth noting that all other wireless settings are available for each of wireless modules independently, unless Smart Connect technology is used, which lets automatically distribute the clients between radios. Smart Connect technology can be utilized for all radios of the router, or just for those which use  5 GHz range. In our opinion, it is a very useful tool for those who want to have full control over the wireless network.

We must admit that we are a little bit surprised by placement of a page for Smart Connect rules settings in Network Tools menu item. Also fly in the ointment will be existence of a space limitation on operation of modulation of NitroQAM/1024-QAM or, more precisely, very strict requirements of modulation to quality of the received signal which can be satisfied only in the relative proximity to the router.

ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router has possibility of bundling LAN interfaces in LAG. The corresponding setting is available in Switch Control tab, LAN menu item.

All leading-edge ASUS routers support dual WAN feature. The corresponding settings are available in Dual WAN tab in WAN menu item.

IPv6 fans should definitely refer to the same-named menu item – firmware developers have added support of a new type of connection to providers.

Features of VPN menu item are traditional for ASUSWRT firmware: administrators can configure built-in VPN server/client with its help. Connections via PPTP and OpenVPN for the embedded server, and PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN for the client are supported.

The wireless router under testing allows filtering not only for IPv4 traffic, but also for IPv6 data. The corresponding setting is available in IPv6 Firewall tab, Firewall menu item.

ASUS RT-AC5300 can operate not only as a wireless router, but also as an access point and Media Bridge. Operation mode can be chosen using Operation mode tab, Administration menu item.

The main system settings are collected in the System tab in the same-named menu item. It is worth mention about the presence of «Enable Reboot Scheduler» option that enables users to reboot the device according to the schedule, of course, in case of time synchronization with the NTP server.

ASUS network equipment users can send the vendor their wishes and suggestions related to the devices of the vendor using Feedback tab in Administration menu item.

By means of Network Tools menu tabs the administrator can perform a number of diagnostic actions, set up Smart-Connect, and also turn on the computer remotely using WoL technology A nice addition to this function is automatic saving of MAC addresses of the devices connected to the local network segment.

That is where we bring a brief review of the device web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining its command line.

Command line

Switching the access to the command line on and off is performed using System tab, Administration menu item.

ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router allows carrying out connections not only with the use of the insecure telnet protocol, but also by means of SSH. 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 review is built on Linux 2.6.36.4 OS with BusyBox 1.17.4.

RT-AC5300 login: admin
Password:
ASUSWRT RT-AC5300_3.0.0.4 Tue Aug  2 09:26:35 UTC 2016
admin@RT-AC5300:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC5300:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC5300 2.6.36.4brcmarm #1 SMP PREEMPT Tue Aug 2 17:35:28 CST 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC5300:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2016-08-02 17:26:33 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
admin@RT-AC5300:/#

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 the administrator find out whether a TCP port is open in a certain host.

admin@RT-AC5300:/# tcpcheck
usage:  tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-AC5300:/# tcpcheck 10 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC5300:/# 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 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.

admin@RT-AC5300:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# ls
1              4              553            735            execdomains    partitions
10             432            555            736            filesystems    scsi
11             434            556            737            fs             self
118            439            558            8              interrupts     slabinfo
165            443            559            9              iomem          softirqs
173            445            56             bcm947xx       ioports        stat
1989           5              563            bcm_chipinfo   irq            swaps
2              508            565            brcmnand       kallsyms       sys
2103           517            573            buddyinfo      key-users      sysrq-trigger
250            523            576            bus            kmsg           sysvipc
255            525            577            cmdline        loadavg        timer_list
260            53             578            cpu            locks          tty
265            540            587            cpuinfo        meminfo        uptime
290            542            595            crypto         misc           version
293            543            6              devices        modules        vmallocinfo
295            546            614            diskstats      mounts         vmstat
3              55             7              dmu            mtd            zoneinfo
380            551            733            driver         net
389            552            734            emf            pagetypeinfo
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# cat uptime
19845.37 39508.70
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# cat loadavg
0.00 0.01 0.05 1/62 2109
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# cat cpuinfo
Processor       : ARMv7 Processor rev 0 (v7l)
processor       : 0
BogoMIPS        : 2798.38
processor       : 1
BogoMIPS        : 2798.38
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult edsp
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x3
CPU part        : 0xc09
CPU revision    : 0
Hardware        : Northstar Prototype
Revision        : 0000
Serial          : 0000000000000000
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# uptime
 08:31:08 up  5:31, load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.04
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc#

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

admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
http_username=admin
acc_list=admin>password
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
size: 69244 bytes (61828 left)
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc#

So, for example, by means of nvram utility it is possible to disable STP for RT-AC5300 LAN ports.

admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=1
size: 69244 bytes (61828 left)
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram set lan_stp=0
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram commit
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# nvram show | grep stp
lan_stp=0
size: 69244 bytes (61828 left)
lan1_stp=1
admin@RT-AC5300:/proc# reboot

On top of that the user can obtain information from the thermosensors, installed next to the CPU and wireless modules using the command line.

admin@RT-AC5300:/# cat /proc/dmu/temperature
CPU temperature : 56 C
admin@RT-AC5300:/# wl -i eth1 phy_tempsense
48 (0x30)
admin@RT-AC5300:/# wl -i eth2 phy_tempsense
61 (0x3d)

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 usually 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-5300 wireless router boots in 84 seconds. We believe that this result is normal.

The second no less than standard test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using security scanner. On the whole, there were 16 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below. Naturally, we reported about the found and suspected vulnerabilities to the vendor. Technical experts of the vendor notified us that the found vulnerabilities (and even some other) are already closed in current versions of firmware. XSpider utility detects suspected vulnerability using software version number, reported by the system in a banner, no other checks are executed at the same.

Before getting down to the performance tests we would like to get our readers 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 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC88U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

The first test we done was throughput measurement in wired segment between LAN and WAN upon execution of NAT/PAT. In order to generate traffic we used JPerf utility, 2.0.2 version. The tests were carried out with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent TCP connections.

By default, all modern ASUS routers use a hardware acceleration of NAT translations, so in the diagram above transmission speeds are close to the wire speeds. We decided to find out what transmission speeds will be available to users in case of disabled hardware acceleration.

Device performance in this case is restricted to performance of its CPU: one of two cores was 100% utilized. It is also worth noting that in case of disabled NAT/PAT, i.e. when RT-AC5300 executes routing without translation, the received speeds will be comparable with those in the diagram above which is connected to the fact that during normal routing the hardware acceleration isn't used.

On the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries tunnels still remain one of popular methods of connection to providers. We couldn't help but test the Internet connection speed using PPTP. The router's performance using PPTP tunnel without encryption is presented on the diagram below. We need to admit that we were pleased with the received speeds during this test. We also managed to set up the encrypted VPN (PPTP with MPPE), however no data were transferred through it.

ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router can operate as VPN server and client. We decided to find out what speeds will be available to users on the basis of OpenVPN tunnels with the default settings.

It should be noted that these constraints are due not to the performance of the router itself, but due to OpenVPN client drivers, limiting the throughput of the virtual NIC installed in the user's computer.

Another wired test was QoS mechanism check. We limited the speeds for the inbound and outbound traffic and measured with the help of JPerf utility, version 2.0.2, with ten concurrent TCP streams. As can be seen from the diagram below, this mechanism is effective only for relatively small speeds up to 100 Mbps which will be more than enough for most of the users exploiting slow WAN connections.

We decided to present the performance of QoS mechanism for small transmission speeds on a separate diagram.

Apart from the support of IPv4, ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router also supports operation with the next generation protocol - IPv6. The device performance while using the new version of the protocol is presented below.

Now it's time to measure the wireless segment throughput of ASUS RT-AC5300. ASUS PCE-AC68 NIC was used as a wireless client. Unfortunately, ASUS PCE-AC68 is unable to utilize completely all the possibilities of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router in any of the wireless ranges. It should be noted that ASUS has already released an appropriate wireless NIC - PCE-AC88, we expect it appearance in our test laboratory in the nearest future.

Also we decided to find out what speeds will be available to users when using ASUS RT-AC5300 in Media Bridge mode. For carrying out this test we used ASUS RT-AC88U model as a wireless router.

The model under testing is fitted with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, which can be used not only for connection of a multifunctional device, but also for external drives with the appropriate interface. We connected 256 GByte Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD and measure access speeds to the user data stored on the SSD. Intel NASPT utility, version 1.7.1, was used for testing. Before measurement we have reduced the RAM volume available to OS to amount that is required by the utility vendor. Such reduction of RAM volume is necessary for mitigating of the local cache.

In conclusion, it should be noted that ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router has the ability to bundle LAN1 and LAN2 wired interfaces. Unfortunately, we could not get this option to work with Cisco access level switches. We have already discovered this issue in ASUS RT-AC88U model review.

We decided to measure the temperature of the device case during our performance tests using our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature that we managed to measure has been 41°С while average temperature in the room was equal to 23°С.

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

Summary

Overall, we were satisfied with ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router. The tested model has demonstrated extremely high speeds in the wired and wireless segments. The wireless formula AC5300 will provide     high access speed to network resources to all wireless clients. Obviously, such a high speed is possible to be utilized only by means of at least three clients who are connected to different radios and in close area to the device (for NitroQAM/1024-QAM modulation). Distribution of clients between wireless networks can be executed either in a manual mode or automatically with use of the Smart-Connect mechanism. ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router has another useful feature - MU-MIMO technology support. In the near future, after the appearance of wireless clients with MU-MIMO support, ASUS RT-AC5300 will be able to manage the transmission media even more efficiently, carrying out a simultaneous exchange of traffic with multiple clients within a single radio.

Among the strength areas of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router are the following:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • three radios;
  • port bundling ability;
  • high IPv6 routing speeds;
  • QoS feature presence;
  • MU-MIMO support;
  • high access speeds to the data which are stored on an external USB-drive;
  • high efficiency client and VPN server;
  • NitroQAM support;
  • powerful CPU.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention some of its drawbacks:

  • port bundling capabilities are very limited;
  • the web-interface is not completely translated;
  • relatively high price.

At the time of this writing, the average price in Moscow online shops was 24773 roubles.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS RT-AC5300 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was 415 euro.

P.S.

After the testing was fully completed and the review was published, we have received ASUS PCE-AC88 wireless NIC. Features of this model are higher transmission speeds and MU-MIMO technology support. Fortunately, the router was still in our laboratory therefore we requested from representatives of the vendor permission to carry out additional tests. Unfortunately, it is impossible to hold on testing of MU-MIMO technology using the single card therefore we have decided to test the performance of ASUS RT-AC5300 router wireless module with PCE-AC88. Testing was held for both wireless ranges. Results of measurements are presented on the diagrams below.

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

Also we decided to carry out one more test, but this time wired, - to measure RT-AC5300 L2TP throughput. Connections to the Internet via L2TP are no less popular in comparison with PPTP on the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries. Results of performance measurements of L2TP without encryption are presented on the diagram below.

This concludes our additional testing of ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router, it is time to finally return the equipment to the vendor.