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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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