Introduction

External design and hardware

Setting-up and firmware update

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

About a year ago our test lab reviewed ASUS RT-AC87U wireless router with the support of AC2400. Oh my, back then there were so many ironic comments about the number of its external antennae! After that we were really excited waiting for the upcoming model and wondered how many antennae it would have: five, six, eight... Now is the time to test the latest flagship device by ASUS, RT-AC3200 model. It's not hard to guess that the new model supports AC3200 wireless network, which means that its maximum possible transfer speed is of 3.2 Gbps. This is something really out-of-the-way! Actually, this model only has six antennae, but let’s takes our time and tell you about everything in parts.

External design and hardware

ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the following dimensions: 290х188х58 mm, not considering the antennae, and weight of a tad over one kilo. To work properly the device needs an external power adaptor with the following characteristics: 19V and 2,37А (comes in the box). External design of this model is very similar to that of RT-AC87U we had already reviewed.

On the upper surface there is a 3D brand tag as well as subscriptions to the device status LEDs located on the edge between the front and upper panels.

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

The rear panel of the model under review has two buttons located on it: LED and Wi-Fi, which are used for enabling/disabling LEDs and Wi-Fi, respectively. Apart from it there is a USB 3.0 port hidden behind a special plate.

The bottom side has four rubber legs used for table mounting of the device. ASUS RT-AC3200 can also be fastened onto the wall and therefore it has two mounting holes located on its bottom side. A sticker with the brief information about the model and a ventilation grate are located here, too.

The rear panel has sockets used for connection of four external antennae, power socket with a power ON/OFF button, WPS and Reset buttons, and five Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (four LAN and one WAN ports).

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case.

The electronic stuffing of ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router is one textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. The model under review is only fitted with a passive cooling system and that's why the card has huge radiators fastened to both of its sides. Unfortunately, all elements are covered with protective metal screen and are not accessible for review apart from a 128 Mbyte Spansion S34ML01G100TFI00 flash memory module.

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

Setting-up and firmware update

Upon first access to the web-interface of ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router the primary setup wizard will get launched. It is used to set the administrator password and specify the main operation parameters of the device: device operation mode, connection type to the service provider, settings of the wireless network.

And though the firmware update is not necessary to be carried out in order to prepare RT-AC3200 for fully-fledged operation, we strongly encourage all users to do it.

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. In order to perform the latter one needs to be connected to the Internet. Actually, the manual firmware upgrade mode is not that difficult as it only requires a firmware upgrade file that was previously downloaded from the vendor's web server. The whole firmware upgrade process takes about three minutes and does not require any technical proficiency from the administrator.

Since RT-AC3200 router firmware is fitted with Trend Micro software, the user (only upon installation of ASUSWRT firmware latest versions) can update the signatures in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item, too.

In case of a problem during the firmware upgrade process, the router may change to the rescue mode during which the Power indicator on the device front panel starts slowly flashing. Another thing that may indicate the transition to the rescue mode are changes in TTL field value in ICMP echo replies: TTL=64 in the normal mode and TTL=100 in the rescue mode. One can recover RT-AC3200, which has entered the rescue mode, in a couple of different ways: The recommended restoration method is by using Firmware Restoration utility.

Since Firmware Restoration utility only works in Microsoft Windows, some administrators may consider another restoration method, which is by using a web-server built-in in the loader. In order to use the second method one needs to enter 192.168.1.1, HTTP, using any modern browser and specify the file with the firmware. Using the web-server may come in really handy in case if there are any problems with the settings, which lead to a failure in loading the device correctly.

However, we can't help but mention the third firmware restoration technique. When in the rescue mode, ASUS wireless routers traditionally launch a TFTP server built-in in the loader. In order to restore the firmware using this method one needs to send the firmware file to the router using a TFTP client and reboot the device.

C:\>tftp -i 192.168.1.1 put c:\RT-AC3200_3.0.0.4_378_7838-gd7e6975.trx
Transfer successful: 39370752 bytes in 154 second(s), 255654 bytes/s

That is where we bring review of the getting started and firmware upgrade processes to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

We will not review all capabilities of the ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router web-interface, but only turn our attention to the new and most interesting features.

Network Map menu item features information about the connection to the WAN, the list of connected wired and wireless clients, essential settings of each of the three wireless ranges, as well as the RAM load and each of the two CPU cores.

One can receive detailed information about each of the connected clients, schedule the network access, block the access to the internet, and change the badge.

ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router supports up to three independent (in terms of frequency) wireless networks and that is why the administrator can create up to nine guest networks, three for every frequency band. Management of guest wireless networks is carried out using groups in Guest Network menu item.

AiProtection menu item provides the user a capability to manage network protection and parental control features. We will not review these capabilities in detail since we had already reviewed them in our article dedicated to ASUS RT-AC87U wireless router.

Adaptive QoS menu item lets the administrator manage the bandwidth distribution between the clients and application. Also, over here one can review the list of web pages visited by the users.

Traffic Analyzer menu item features not only the standard capabilities in traffic monitoring (Traffic Monitoring menu item) but detailed statistics, which is available in Statistics menu item, too.

By using Wireless menu item the administrator can carry out independent setup of each of the three connections: one in 2.4 GHz range and the other two in 5 GHz range.

A new feature that was added here is Smart Connect, which lets automatically distribute the clients between wireless connections in order to decrease their mutual influence. ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router will only announce one SSID upon enabling of Smart Connect feature.

Smart Connect feature parameters are located in Smart Connect Rule tab, Network Tools menu item. We believe that it was a bit strange to place Smart Connect Rule in Network Tools menu item. Most probably the vendor will transfer this tab to Wireless menu item in the near future.

ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router supports Dual WAN feature that lets the administrator get connected to two service providers at the same time; the corresponding settings are available in the same-named tab in WAN menu item. Internet Connection tab located in the same menu item lets one manage the connection to the primary and secondary service providers. It's worth noticing the appearance of DHCP query frequency feature, which allows specifying the frequency with which DHCP discover messages are to be sent out.

IPv6 menu item is used to manage the same-named protocol. ASUS RT-AC3200 supports several operation modes with IPv6. DHCP-PD feature came to be a nice addition; it lets one enable support of the prefix delegation by the service provider. One can read more about it in our article dedicated to IPv6.

Operation mode tab in Administration menu item lets the administrator choose one of the three operation modes of the device.

Appearance of the feedback form in the router web-interface came to be a nice addition. Now the user can inform the vendor about a certain problem directly from the device interface using Feedback tab in Administration menu item.

Also, we'd like to point out appearance of the feature that lets one scan a data carrier connected via USB, either once or on a regular basis.

 

That is where we bring a brief review of new and the most interesting capabilities of the device web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its command line. Those readers who would like to get more familiar with the device web-interface before buying it can use RT-AC3200 web-interface emulator made by ASUS.

Command line

Switching the access to the command line on and off is performed using System tab, Administration group in the web-interface. Support of SSH protocol, let alone the support of standard telnet protocol, came to be a nice feature. That's why we decided to use our PuTTY SSH client in order to access the router command line.

In order to access the device 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 2.6.36.4 OS using Busy Box 1.17.4.

login as: admin
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..1.1's password:
ASUSWRT RT-AC3200_3.0.0.4 Tue Aug  4 03:51:56 UTC 2015
admin@RT-AC3200:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@RT-AC3200:/# uname -a
Linux RT-AC3200 2.6.36.4brcmarm #1 SMP PREEMPT Tue Aug 4 12:09:58 CST 2015 armv7l GNU/Linux
admin@RT-AC3200:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2015-08-04 11:51:54 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-AC3200:/#

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. By using top utility one can obtain information on the current activity of the launched processes.

admin@RT-AC3200:/# ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 admin     6076 S    /sbin/preinit
 2 admin        0 SW   [kthreadd]
 3 admin        0 SW   [ksoftirqd/0]
 4 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:0]
 5 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:0]
 6 admin        0 SW   [migration/0]
 7 admin        0 SW   [migration/1]
 9 admin        0 SW   [ksoftirqd/1]
 10 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
 11 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:1]
 52 admin        0 SW   [sync_supers]
 54 admin        0 SW   [bdi-default]
 55 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd]
 117 admin        0 SW   [kswapd0]
 164 admin        0 SW   [fsnotify_mark]
 172 admin        0 SW<  [crypto]
 244 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock0]
 249 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock1]
 254 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock2]
 259 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock3]
 282 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:1]
 285 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock4]
 289 admin      664 S    hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
 365 admin     6056 S    console
 367 admin     1504 S    /bin/sh
 372 admin        0 SWN  [jffs2_gcd_mtd4]
 444 admin        0 SW   [kworker/1:3]
 470 admin     6064 S    wpsaide
 477 admin     6064 S    ntp
 485 admin     1500 S    crond
 486 admin     1148 S    /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
 489 admin     6068 S    watchdog
 490 admin     6064 S    watchdog02
 491 admin     6064 S    sw_devled
 496 admin     6064 S    ots
 497 admin     1376 S    rstats
 505 admin     1192 S    lld2d br0
 507 admin     6064 S    disk_monitor
 508 admin     6064 S    bwdpi_check
 629 admin        0 SW   [khubd]
 732 admin     6064 S    usbled
 734 admin     1220 S    lpd
 874 admin        0 SW   [dhd_watchdog_th]
 878 admin        0 SW   [dhd_watchdog_th]
 882 admin        0 SW   [dhd_watchdog_th]
 900 admin        0 SW   [kworker/1:0]
 930 admin     6064 S    /sbin/wanduck
 933 nobody    1080 S    dnsmasq --log-async
 986 admin      860 S    miniupnpd -f /etc/upnp/config
 1004 admin     3988 S    /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --
 1009 admin     4084 S    /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --
 1010 admin     1176 S    /bin/eapd
 1012 admin     1816 S    nas
 1013 admin     1620 S    /bin/wps_monitor
 1015 admin     1296 S    /usr/sbin/acsd
 1016 admin     6564 S    httpd
 1017 admin     1656 S    networkmap
 1019 admin     2196 S    u2ec
 1028 admin     2196 S    u2ec
 1029 admin     2196 S    u2ec
 1036 admin     2300 S    nmbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
 1037 admin     6364 S    /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
 1045 admin     6364 S    /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
 1046 admin     1792 S    mt-daapd -m
 1047 admin     1792 S    mt-daapd -m
 1048 admin     1792 S    mt-daapd -m
 1049 admin     2140 S    avahi-daemon: running [RT-AC3200-4BE0.local]
 1051 admin     1792 S    mt-daapd -m
 1053 admin     5752 S    minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1057 admin     5752 S    minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1058 admin     5752 S N  minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1066 admin     1488 S    /sbin/syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
 1068 admin     1488 S    /sbin/klogd -c 5
 1076 admin     1488 S    telnetd
 1077 admin     1020 S    dropbear -p 22 -a
 1116 admin     1072 S    dropbear -p 22 -a
 1117 admin     1508 S    -sh
 1123 admin     1492 R    ps
admin@RT-AC3200:/# top
Mem: 57784K used, 197816K free, 0K shrd, 500K buff, 8452K cached
CPU:  0.0% usr  4.5% sys  0.0% nic 95.4% idle  0.0% io  0.0% irq  0.0% sirq
Load average: 0.00 0.04 0.05 1/78 1124
 PID  PPID USER     STAT   VSZ %MEM CPU %CPU COMMAND
 1124  1117 admin    R     1496  0.5   1  4.5 top
 1016     1 admin    S     6564  2.5   0  0.0 httpd
 1037     1 admin    S     6364  2.4   1  0.0 /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
 1045  1037 admin    S     6364  2.4   1  0.0 /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
 1     0 admin    S     6076  2.3   1  0.0 /sbin/preinit
 489     1 admin    S     6068  2.3   1  0.0 watchdog
 732     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 usbled
 930     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   0  0.0 /sbin/wanduck
 477     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 ntp
 490     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 watchdog02
 508     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 bwdpi_check
 470     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 wpsaide
 496   489 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 ots
 491     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 sw_devled
 507     1 admin    S     6064  2.3   1  0.0 disk_monitor
 365     1 admin    S     6056  2.3   0  0.0 console
 1053     1 admin    S     5752  2.2   0  0.0 minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1058  1057 admin    S N   5752  2.2   1  0.0 minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1057  1053 admin    S     5752  2.2   0  0.0 minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
 1009     1 admin    S     4084  1.6   1  0.0 /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/

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-AC3200:/# tcpcheck
usage:  tcpcheck <timeout> <host:port> [host:port]
admin@RT-AC3200:/# tcpcheck 5 192.168.1.1:23
192.168.1.1:23 is alive
admin@RT-AC3200:/# tcpcheck 5 192.168.1.2:80
192.168.1.2:80 failed
admin@RT-AC3200:/#

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-AC3200:/# cd /proc
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# ls
1              1076           486            bcm947xx       misc
10             1077           489            brcmnand       modules
1004           11             490            buddyinfo      mounts
1009           1116           491            bus            mtd
1010           1117           496            cmdline        net
1012           117            497            cpu            pagetypeinfo
1013           1215           5              cpuinfo        partitions
1015           164            505            crypto         scsi
1016           172            507            devices        self
1017           2              508            diskstats      slabinfo
1019           244            52             dmu            softirqs
1028           249            54             driver         stat
1029           254            55             emf            swaps
1036           259            6              execdomains    sys
1037           282            629            filesystems    sysrq-trigger
1045           285            7              fs             sysvipc
1046           289            732            interrupts     timer_list
1047           3              734            iomem          tty
1048           365            874            ioports        uptime
1049           367            878            irq            version
1051           372            882            kallsyms       vmallocinfo
1053           4              9              key-users      vmstat
1057           444            900            kmsg           zoneinfo
1058           470            930            loadavg
1066           477            933            locks
1068           485            986            meminfo
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# cat uptime
2568.92 5064.50
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# cat loadavg
0.00 0.01 0.05 1/78 1217
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# cat cpuinfo
Processor       : ARMv7 Processor rev 0 (v7l)
processor       : 0
BogoMIPS        : 1998.84
processor       : 1
BogoMIPS        : 1998.84
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-AC3200:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal:         255600 kB
MemFree:          198072 kB
Buffers:             336 kB
Cached:             8000 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:            14576 kB
Inactive:           4272 kB
Active(anon):      11200 kB
Inactive(anon):      344 kB
Active(file):       3376 kB
Inactive(file):     3928 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:         10512 kB
Mapped:             6556 kB
Shmem:              1032 kB
Slab:              29708 kB
SReclaimable:       1812 kB
SUnreclaim:        27896 kB
KernelStack:         624 kB
PageTables:          720 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:      127800 kB
Committed_AS:      25880 kB
VmallocTotal:     516096 kB
VmallocUsed:       30476 kB
VmallocChunk:     438140 kB
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# uptime
 03:43:12 up 43 min, load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.04
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc#

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

admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [commit] [save] [restore] [erase][fb_save file] ...
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc# nvram show | grep admin
http_username=admin
size: 53278 bytes (12258 left)
http_passwd=admin
acc_list=admin>admin
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
admin@RT-AC3200:/proc#

That's where we proceed to completion of the brief review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first testing procedure we usually begin our testing section with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router boots in 92 seconds. We believe that this result is decent.

The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) utility. The scanning has been carried out from the LAN direction. On the whole, there were 14 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Before getting down to 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 VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
ASUS EA-AC87
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

At first we measured ASUS RT-AC3200 performance upon traffic routing as well as upon execution of NAT/PAT translations. The measurements in NAT/PAT test were carried out both with enabled and disabled hardware acceleration.

Router performance if using VPN connection to the service provider is important to many users based in Russia or in ex-Soviet bloc countries. That's why we measured routing speeds through a PPTP tunnel with encryption and without it. ASUS RT-AC3200 doesn't only have a built-in VPN client but can also perform as a VPN server. The list of supported protocols includes OpenVPN and we decided to show the device performance upon operation with this protocol on the diagram below, too.

Certain modern service providers already offer IPv6 connectivity. As a matter of course, we couldn't help but review the device performance upon routing of IPv6 traffic. The measurements were made for a native connection to the service provider without using any tunnels.

ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router is fitted with two USB ports: one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0. We connected our test 750 Gbyte Transcend StoreJet 25M3 hard disk, which we successively formatted into three file systems, to the USB ports. It was formatted into NTFS, EXT2/3, and FAT32. We made two different measurements upon connection to the USB 3.0 port: with disabled and enabled Reduction of USB 3.0 noise feature located in Professional tab, Wireless menu item. Since frequencies used by USB 3.0 devices coincide with the one (2.4 GHz) used by wireless IEEE 802.11 devices, too little shielding of the cable or slots will make the process of data transfer via USB 3.0 have negative effect on the operation of the wireless network in the corresponding frequency range. Use the above-mentioned feature in order to minimize this effect.

In the near future we are going to change our 750 GByte test external HDD Transcend StoreJet 25M3 to a 256 GByte Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD. However, before we do so we decided to test the performance of both of them upon connection to our test PC directly as well as to ASUS RT-AC3200 router. The corresponding discrimination charts are presented below.

The received results make us believe that in the following reviews we will be able to see an increase in the data transfer speeds to an external data carrier not only due to the growth in performance of the equipment under review, but also due to the usage of a faster external data carrier.

Finally, it's time to show the measurement results of the data transmission speeds in the wireless segment. We decided to start with 2.4 GHz frequency range. ASUS PCE-AC68 NIC was used as a wireless client. The measurements were taken for two operation modes of the router: bandwidth chosen automatically (20 or 40 MHz) and manual choice of fixed bandwidth (40 MHz).

As one can see from the diagram above, wireless segment performance upon the fixed channel bandwidth of 40 MHz turned out to be higher. This can be explained by the presence of other wireless networks in the used frequency range, which made the router continuously decrease the channel bandwidth. We'd like to run ahead of the story a bit and mention that this effect was barely present in 5 GHz frequency range.

We used two different wireless clients for 5 GHz frequency:ASUS PCE-AC68 NIC and ASUS EA-AC87 access point and repeater, which we will review in one of our next articles. The measurements were made for the fixed bandwidth of 80 MHz and for the dynamically selected bandwidth of the wireless channel.

ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router is fitted with tri-band support. But what does it actually mean? The device operates in two standard frequency ranges: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, however in 5 GHz frequency range the router has two independent Wi-Fi modules. Availability of two modules in 5 GHz range lets clients get connected to them independently. We decided to test the speeds of wireless transfer of the user data when the clients get connected either to one radio or several radios. ASUS EA-AC87 NIC and a wireless NIC, which comes together with a motherboard ASUS MAXIMUS V EXTREME, were used as the wireless clients in this test. The above-mentioned NIC acted as 802.11N client. We didn't want to receive the highest possible speeds. However, we wanted to compare performance of the wireless network established by RT-AC3200 router that is operating in different modes. The diagram presented below shows the user data transfer speeds upon connection of only one 802.11N client, several clients to different frequency channels, several clients to the same frequency channels, and aggregate data transfer speeds for two clients upon operation of Smart Connect feature. Smart Connect feature lets intelligently distribute clients between the wireless modules of the router. One of our next articles will talk about this feature in more detail.

As one can see from the diagram above, performance of the wireless network upon using Smart Connect is similar to performance of the network in which the clients are distributed between the radios manually. Obviously, it's worth mentioning that manual client distribution is not an optimal solution since it doesn't consider the channel load dynamics. As of when the article was being written, we couldn't call Smart Connect function completely stable, but the vendor keeps continuously working on it.

That is where we bring the testing chapter of RT-AC3200 to a conclusion and pass on to summing it all up.

Conclusion

We are glad about ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router we tested. It showed excellent data transfer speeds both in the wired and wireless network segments. The model we have tested offers wireless speeds that no one could ever think of before, 3.2 Gbps, thanks to using three groups of frequency channels located in two frequency ranges: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The above-mentioned wireless speed is a theoretical value that can be achieved only by using at least three wireless clients at the same time. Enabling of Smart Connect feature lets one distribute the wireless clients between the radios of the router in the most optimal way, this way using the transmission media very efficiently. However, the high price of the device would probably make it something that only the telecommunications professionals and enthusiasts use.

The strength areas of ASUS RT-AC3200 wireless router are presented below.

  • Support of Tri-band technology
  • High traffic transmission speeds in the wireless segment
  • A powerful CPU
  • Advanced capabilities of QoS feature
  • Client network protection feature
  • Support of IPv6
  • Excellent IPv6 routing speeds
  • Availability of hardware acceleration of traffic upon carrying out of NAT/PAT translations
  • Support of two wireless frequency ranges
  • A built-in client and VPN server
  • Ability to create wireless guest networks
  • Good access speeds to the data which are stored on an external HDD

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

  • Relatively high price
  • The web-interface is not completely translated
  • Absence of the detailed description of newly added features in the user's manual

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS RT-AC3200 in Moscow online shops was 19500 roubles.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Setting-up procedures and firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Utilities

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

Our testing laboratory hosted one more device of D-Link company from the product line of wireless routers with the support of IEEE 802.11ac standard draft. The description of DIR-860L is slightly inferior to a leading device DIR-868L reviewed by us earlier. Okay, let’s get started!

External design and hardware

D-Link DIR-860L router comes in a cylindrical black glossy plastic case with the dimensions of 120x192x99 mm. The device is powered with the help of an external adapter (included in the box) with the parameters 12V and 2A.

The upper panel has a round ventilation cover with the model name.

The great part of the bottom panel is a ventilation grate. In addition, four rubber legs, a sticker with the model name and a variety of useful information, such as the serial number, SSID, firmware version and so on are located here. The Reset button is also placed here.

The front panel of the router has two LEDs indicating power and Internet access.

On the rear panel there are five Gigabit Ethernet interfaces: four LAN and one WAN ports. Moreover, a USB 3.0 port, power button, WPS button used for facilitation of wireless client connection and a power outlet are located here. Located on the sides of the case there are 3D brand tags.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the router. The hardware platform of the device consists of the only green textolite plate covered with a protective screen on one side.

The only accessible for review microchip is Spansion S34ML01G100TF100 flash memory module with the capacity of 128 Mbytes.

Now let's review the initial settings of the router.

Setting-up procedures and firmware upgrade

Firstly, it is necessary to plug the device in, after that to connect one of LAN ports of the router to a NIC of a PC. Then one should go to dlinkrouter.local or 192.168.0.1 address using any browser. Upon the first launch the system displays the setup wizard with the help of which one can configure the Internet connection, a wireless network and set some system parameters. On this page one can also see hardware and firmware versions.

By default, a session timer is enabled. If a user is not active for three minutes, s/he has to login again.

Firmware upgrade is not a necessary condition, but we strongly recommend performing it. One can do this in FIRMWARE menu item in TOOLS tab. Upgrade may be carried out both in automatic and semi-automatic mode. In the first case it’s enough just to download the latest firmware version from the vendor‘s web site, but in the second case one should upload a file with the firmware from the computer.

In addition to all this, the user has an ability to perform initial settings of the device with the help of a mobile application QRS Mobile.

After the initial settings procedure is completed, an interaction with the firmware is carried out via the web-interface.

Web-interface

All available settings of the router are rather convenient grouped into tabs, which in their turn have several items. Let’s review the most interesting of them.

Manual configuration of the Internet connection is performed in INTERNET menu item, SETUP tab. The user can choose the following types: Static IP, PPTP, L2TP, PPPoE and so on.

Settings of a wireless segment of the network are placed in WIRELESS SETTINGS item in the same tab. The user has an ability to enter the parameters of security and operation mode for 2,4 GHz as well as for 5 GHz frequency range. The router supports such security protocols as WEP, WPA and WPA2.

To configure the DHCP-server and to review the list of DHCP clients one should go to NETWORK SETTINGS menu item.

For organizing a cloud storage one should allow accessing to the USB storage plugged into the router. One can do it with the help of STORAGE menu item. In addition, one can enable DLNA and iTunes servers in MEDIA SERVER item.

The router supports IPv6 protocol. All parameters for IPv6 connection are located in the same item.

For more detailed settings of the device one should go to ADVANCED tab. The user is provided with such standard functions as creating of virtual servers, for example, FTP or a web-server, and MAC address filtering. PORT FORWARDING item allows the user to forward a range of ports from the external network to the internal one, but in this case public and private ports should match. For comparison, in case of creating a virtual server forwarding of a port also takes place, but the administrator has an ability to set external and internal ports as different.

One can change the rules of traffic service with the help of QOS ENGINE menu item. The user specifies a queue for the traffic of this or that application and sets the weights of these queues.

In FIREWALL SETTINGS item the administrator has an ability to configure DMZ for providing access from the Internet to the devices of the local network.

Detailed settings of the wireless network segment are located in ADVANCED WIRELES item. Here one can enable a mode of coexistence for channels with the width of 20 and 40 MHz for 2,4 GHz frequency range, and set QoS rules with the help of WMM function.

ADVANCED NETWORK menu item contains additional network settings. For example, an ability to specify WAN port speed or enabling multicasting for IPv4 or IPv6

One more interesting function available to the owners of the device is Guest Zone. In the item of the same name one can set the name (SSID) of the guest network and security mode. As DIR-860L supports two frequency ranges, one can configure no more than two guest networks working simultaneously. Clients of main and guest wireless networks obtain IP-addresses from different subnets, and Enable Routing Between Zones option allows enabling routing between guest networks and ordinary client hosts.

Now let’s pass on to TOOLS tab. It presents various system settings of the device, such as logging, saving and restoring settings and so on.

At last, SUPPORT tab contains rather convenient and detailed help information on working with the router.

That's where we proceed to completion of the review about the most interesting capabilities of the web-interface and pass directly on to no less interesting utilities for working with the router.

Utilities

Owners of D-Link DIR-860L wireless router have an ability to interact with the device with the help of their mobile device: a smartphone or a tablet. For this D-Link company offers several applications, which are used to facilitate the management process.

With the help of mydlink SharePort application the user can get access from any mobile device to his/her personal cloud storage created on the basis of the router and the USB driver plugged into it.

If it’s necessary to manage the device remotely, mydlink Lite utility is rather useful. With the help of it one can control the network from anywhere.

In overage, the utilities are a pleasant addition to the ways of management of the router. Now let’s pass on to testing of the router capabilities.

Testing

The first test our laboratory usually carries out 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. DIR-860L boots in 48 seconds that is a decent result.

The next test was a security scanning procedure of the router. To perform this we use Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) utility. There were eleven open ports discovered, the security of the services rises no criticism. However, on enabling SMB support there were several probable vulnerabilities discovered. The most interesting data of this test are presented below.

Before getting down to performance tests, we would like to get our readers familiar with the key parameters of the test stand we used.

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

 

At first, let’s review the performance of the wireless network segment. The router works within two frequency ranges: 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz. In addition, for the frequency of 2,4 GHz one can enable 20/40 Coexistence Mechanism technology. We have tested all possible ways, the results of measuring are presented at the diagrams below.

Let’s find out the performance of DIR-860L during performing NAT/PAT translations.

Not all routers can boast the support of MPPE, but DIR-860L can encrypt the traffic transmitted via a tunnel. So we cannot but test the work of the device with encrypted VPN connections.

The router can work not only with the current version of IPv4 protocol, but also with its next generation – IPv6. The results of tests for working in IPv6 network are presented below.

We didn’t disregard the capability of plugging an external USB storage drive into D-Link DIR-860L and used an external hard drive Transcend StoreJet 25M3 of 750 Gbytes for this.

Unfortunately, we have not managed to make DIR-860L detect the drive if it was not formatted with EXT2/EXT3 file systems that was a bit surprising for us, taking into account that Linux is used as OS with high probability. It’s worth noting that the vendor didn’t declare the support of the specified file systems, but we would like to have such support. Moreover, we would recommend users to plug additional power adapters into external hard drives if it’s provided by the user manual of the storage drive.

After the testing was completed, we decided to measure the temperature of the device’s case and used for this our lab pyrometer ADA TempPro-2200. The maximum temperature we have discovered was 39,8°C. We consider it a decent result.

That’s where we proceed to completion of the testing of the device and pass directly on to the conclusion.

Conclusion

On the whole, D-Link DIR-860L wireless router made good impression on us. The support of the IEEE 802.11ac standard draft, IPv6 protocol and impressive number of utilities for remote management of the device showed that the router is almost similar to its “elder brother” DIR-868L. Among the weak areas of the tested model it’s worth noting that the web-interface is not translated to Russian (the primary setup wizard is available in Russian) that may make detailed settings of the device more difficult for the users from the post-Soviet space.

The strength areas of D-Link DIR-860L wireless router are the following.

  • High routing-with NAT-speeds
  • Support of IPv6
  • USB 3.0 port
  • Support of two frequency ranges
  • Support of IEEE 802.11ac draft
  • Ability of remote management of the router via mobile devices

Unfortunately, we cannot help but to mention the discovered drawbacks.

  • The web-interface is not translated to Russian
  • No support of EXT2/EXT3 file systems

When this review was being written, the average price of D-Link DIR-860L wireless router in online shops of Moscow was 5100 roubles.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

Almost half a year ago our pages presented a review on NETGEAR R7500 wireless router, which allows user traffic transmitting via a wireless network at the speed up to 2,33 Gbps. Even then the vendor intrigued us with a new model that was just awaiting its arrival to Russia. And today we finally have the opportunity to acquaint our readers with a new wireless router, NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000, which can work within three bands simultaneously and raises the bar of wireless speeds up to the value of 3,2 Gbps. There are still two frequency ranges (2,4 and 5,0 GHz) supported by the device, but within the second range the transmitter works with two independent bands that allows decreasing the mutual influence of wireless clients on each other. Okay, let’s get started!

External design and hardware

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the dimensions of 296х227х55 mm (with folded antennae) and a weight of 1,1 kg. Frankly speaking, the size of the case is not small at all. The appearance of the router resembles a spacecraft of the future. To work properly, the device needs an external adapter (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12V and 5A.

The significant part of the router upper panel is a ventilation grate. In addition, six external folded antennae and eleven LEDs, indicating operating of the whole device, its wired interfaces, USB ports and wireless modules are located here. Apart from that, there are WPS and wireless network ON/OFF buttons located here.

The front panel and sides are not remarkable at all.

Located on the bottom panel of the router, there is a sticker with brief information about the device and four rubber legs for desktop mounting of the router. In addition, there are two holes used for mounting the device on the wall placed here.

The rear panel has five Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, a socket for a power adapter connection together with a power ON/OFF button, recessed Reset button, and a switch for turning on/off LEDs indication on the upper panel.

Now let’s have a look at the insides of the case.

The hardware platform of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router consists of two textolite plates: a motherboard and an auxiliary one responsible only for LEDs indication.

Unfortunately, all main elements are concealed under metal screens and are not accessible for review.

That’s where we proceed to completion of the review of the router hardware and pass on to its software capabilities.

Firmware upgrade

Changing the firmware version is performed with the help of Router Upgrade menu item of Administration group in WPS Wizard tab. Upgrade may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. To perform the procedure in semi-automatic mode, the device, certainly, should be connected to the global network. Manual upgrade is not more difficult: one should just select the upgrade file preliminary downloaded from the vendor’s website. The whole upgrade process takes approximately two minutes.

In fairness, it’s worth noting that not only firmware upgrade in semi-automatic mode requires Internet connection, but also this connection is necessary for changing the language of the web-interface. We consider this a bit strange, because Internet access appears after the router is configured, but localization is usually needed during the initial settings.

That’s where we draw the part devoted to firmware upgrade procedure to a close and pass on to reviewing the router web-interface.

Web-interface

We will not describe all capabilities of the device web-interface in detail, but focus our attention on the most interesting of them. We will also try not to miss new functions added to the web-interface since the review on R7500 was published.

The device web-interface is available to users in two modes: basic (BASIC tab) and advanced (ADVANCED tab).

Wireless menu item of the basic mode allows settings operation parameters for all three wireless modules: one works within 2,4 GHz and two others work within 5 GHz range.

The new feature is SmartConnect that allows automatically connecting users to different radio modules within 5 GHz range. So wireless users can see only one network within this range, their distribution to the frequency bands is performed automatically. Without using this function, the user discovers two different SSIDs in 5 GHz frequency range and selects SSID s/he wants to connect by her/himself.

The list of wired and wireless clients is presented in Attached Devices menu item.

Managing of a device connected via USB is carried out with the help of ReadySHARE item.

Internet Setup item of Setup group in ADVANCED tab is used for settings parameters for connection to a provider. Apart from static and dynamic connections, the following tunnel protocols are supported: PPTP, PPPoE and L2TP.

Additional settings of WAN port are collected in WAN Setup item of the same group.

Settings of LAN port of the router, DHCP server and RIP dynamic routing protocol are gathered in LAN Setup item.

Managing of the parameters for user access to an external USB drive is performed with the help of Advanced Settings and Media Server menu items of USB Storage group. To be fair, it’s worth noting that the testing router allows an administrator to specify which USB devices can be connected and which cannot (USB Settings item of Advanced Setup group).

Additional settings of the wireless network are collected in Wireless Settings item of Advanced Setup group. For example, here one can enable/disable BEAMFORMING function that manages the beam forming and allows increasing the coverage of the wireless network.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router supports VPN-concentrator function and allows remote users to connect to it via OpenVPN tunnels. Unfortunately, other types of tunnels are not supported. Corresponding settings are available in VPN Service menu item.

Like previous models, Nighthawk X6 supports working with IPv6. The parameters of IPv6 support are presented in the menu item of the same name.

If necessary, the administrator can enable a limitation on the amount of transmitting traffic or time for connection to the global network. Traffic calculations and limitations setting are carried out with the help of Traffic Meter item.

One of the novelties that came in the last firmware versions is the support of IPTV consoles. The described support means that a particular LAN port or wireless network is connected to a WAN port with the help of a bridge (switch), so the traffic between these ports is not routed but switched. If necessary, the administrator can specify a virtual network (VLAN) which traffic should be transmitted between ports.

That’s where we bring the brief review of the web-interface of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router to a close and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first test we traditionally begin this part with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. NETGEAR R8000 wireless router boots in 89 seconds. We consider this a normal result.

The second no less than standard test is a security scanning procedure of the device, performing with the help of a security scanner Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100). On the whole, there were eleven open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our readers familiar with the main parameters of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 ГГц Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 ГГц
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Гбайта DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Гбайт
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
NETGEAR A6200
OS Windows Server 2012 R2 Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

The first performance test we carried out was measuring throughput of user traffic during NAT translations.

The connection to most Internet providers in Russia and on the post-Soviet space is still performed via VPN. The diagram below presents the throughput of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router during its work with the use of PPTP. Only PPTP tunnels without encryption are supported.

Apart from connection to the operator via tunnels, R8000 has a built-in VPN server that allows performing remote connections of clients to the local network behind the device with the use of OpenVPN protocol. Naturally, we measured the throughput of the router during its operating in this mode.

Apart from IPv4, the testing router also supports the next version of IP – IPv6.

Finally, we came to measuring the throughput of the wireless segment. NETGEAR R8000 provides wireless clients with data transmission speed up to 3,2 Gbps. But it’s worth to mention that, at first, it’s the maximum theoretical transmission speed. Secondly, this is the total transmission speed available to several wireless clients working simultaneously. R8000 creates wireless channels within three bands: one connection within 2,4 GHz range and two others for 5 GHz range. The maximum transmission speed can be gained if one connects three wireless clients, each for its own band. A similar way of calculations we have already seen earlier for wireless routers working within two frequency bands, now there are three such bands.

At first, we measured the throughput of the wireless client working in 2,4 GHz range.

Similar measurements were also performed for 5GHz wireless range for two different clients.

Then we checked throughput with the same wireless clients during their simultaneous operating and connection to different SSIDs, so clients were working within different frequency channels in 5GHz range.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router supports SmartConnect functionality that allows separating wireless clients connected to the same SSID to different frequency bands for excluding their mutual influence. Naturally, we cannot help but test operating of this function.

We didn’t set a goal to get maximum wireless transmission speed in this test. The only goal we set was to check that wireless clients (with enabled SmartConnect function) don’t influence each other.

NETGEAR R8000 wireless router has two USB ports: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, to which we consistently connected our testing external hardware drive Transcend StoreJet 25M3 of 750 Gbytes with a partition consistently formatted to the following file systems: FAT32, NTFS and EXT3. At the diagram below one can see measurements of access speed to user files located on the drive. Intel NASPT utility of 1.7.1 version was used for testing. For the time of performing the test we were decreasing amount of RAM available to the operating system with the help of msconfig utility to correspond Intel’s recommendations and avoid (or decrease) the effects of cashing.

That’s where we complete testing part and pass on to summing it all up.

Conclusion

On the whole, we are pleased with tested NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 R8000 wireless router that raises the bar for the speed of the wireless segment up to an unbelievable height of 3,2 Gbps due to three independent frequency bands and the support of AC3200 (IEEE 802.11ac). As we have mentioned before, 3,2 Gbps is the maximum theoretical transmission speed that can be gained only by simultaneous using of minimum three wireless clients: one works within 2,4 GHz range and two others have connections within 5 GHz range. One of the advantages of the presence of three wireless bands is SmartConnect feature that allows organizing one SSID for two independent in frequency connections. This function allows automatically spreading wireless clients to bands to minimize their influence on each other.

The strength areas of NETGEAR R8000 wireless router are listed below.

  • High user data transmission speeds in the wireless segment
  • Powerful CPU
  • Support of VPN server functionality
  • IPv6 support
  • Ability to create guest wireless networks
  • Good access speeds to data located on an external hard drive
  • Support of three independent wireless bands
  • High data transmission speeds via PPTP tunnel

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

  • The web-interface is not completely translated, and to change localization Internet connection is needed
  • Relatively high price
  • IPv6 and OpenVPN cannot be used simultaneously

When this review was being written, the price of Nighthawk X6 R8000 wireless router from NETGEAR’s authorized partners was 17990 roubles.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Command line interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

Our website regularly features reviews on various wireless routers with ultra-high traffic transfer speeds in the wireless segment. For example, our readers saw a few reviews on devices that support AC3200. And right now we'd like to reveal a little secret to you: soon the latest generation of such devices with even more powerful hardware will arrive to our test lab! Yet in real life the owners of these agile devices receive slower data transfer speeds. This usually happens because the equipment vendors specify the maximum total speed that one can receive only upon using several clients. This is why AC3200 devices we tested earlier supported tri-band technology that made it possible to independently connect three wireless clients thanks to operation with three independent radios. One client in 2.4 GHz frequency range (up to 600 Mbps) and the other two in 5 GHz frequency range (up to 600 Mbps each). However, today our laboratory hosts a completely different device. It's ASUS EA-AC87 wireless access point with support of AC1800, letting the user receive wireless speeds of up to 1734 Mbps. Usage of speeds as high as these became possible thanks to 4x4 antennae configuration. Apart from it, ASUS EA-AC87 access point supports MU-MIMO technology that allows low-speed clients, which do not support 4x4 configurations, to use the wireless environment independently. Let's have a closer look at ASUS EA-AC87 capabilities.

External design and hardware

ASUS EA-AC87 wireless access point comes in a black plastic case with dimensions of 160x160x40 mm (not considering the antennae). The device weighs 480 grams. To work properly ASUS EA-AC87 needs an external power unit (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 12 V and 1.5 А.

The upper panel is gilled and there are the model and vendor names as well as the device operation modes located on it.

The front panel has LEDs indicating the device status and the wired segment status as well as a scale showing the signal strength.

Four external dismountable antennae are fastened to the side panels (two on each panel). There are also three buttons and a switch that lets one choose the device operation mode located on one of the side panels. These buttons are used to enable or disable the LEDs located on the front panel, get the wireless clients connected using WPS technology, and reset the user settings. The switch is used to choose the device operation mode: access point or Media Bridge. In the latter mode, ASUS EA-AC87 will perform functions like a wireless client, establishing wired segment connections to the existing wireless network.

On the rear panel there are five wired Gigabit Ethernet ports, power slot, and ON/OFF button.

The largest part of the bottom panel is a ventilation grate. Also, there are four rubber legs used for desktop mounting of the access point and two X-shaped tooling holes used to mount the device on the wall. At the centre of the bottom panel there is a sticker with brief information about the device.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the ASUS EA-AC87 case.

All electronic stuffing of ASUS EA-AC87 is one textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, almost all of them are covered with protective metal screens and are inaccessible for review. The only module accessible for inspection was the flash memory Macronix MX25L12845EMI-10G module with the size of just 16 Mbytes.

Now let's pass on to reviewing of the software capabilities of the device.

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade tab, Administration menu item. Firmware upgrade process may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic modes. In case of the latter, it is obvious that the access point must be connected to the Internet. Upgrading the firmware manually is only a tad more difficult: the administrator will simply need to upload the file with the new firmware version to the device.

The whole firmware upgrade process takes about three minutes and does not require any technical proficiency from the administrator.

One can make sure that the upgrade procedure has been performed successfully by looking at any page in the web interface. The current firmware version will be shown at the top of the page.

In case of a failure during the firmware upgrade process, ASUS EA-AC87 access point changes for the rescue mode during which the power indicator on the device starts slowly flashing. A circumstantial characteristic of transition to this mode are changes in TTL field value in IP packets sent out by the device: TTL=64 in the normal mode and TTL=128 in the rescue mode.

Unfortunately, the bootloader of EA-AC87 does not have an embedded web-server. This is why one will be able to restore the firmware only using ASUS Firmware Restoration utility via TFTP. It is worth mentioning that the restoration procedure cannot be performed from any client, but only from the client with the IP of 192.168.1.100. The device bootloader uses 192.168.1.1 IP.

Another thing worth pointing out is that, if it is necessary, the administrator may switch ASUS EA-AC87 access point to the restoration mode by holding Reset button for 15 seconds while the device is switching on and booting.

That is where we bring the review of the firmware upgrade and recovery process to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the device web-interface. The last thing we would like to mention in this section is that currently there are still too fewer firmware versions available for download to the users.

Web-interface

The web-interface design is somewhat different depending on the selected operation mode: Access Point or Media Bridge. At first we switched EA-AC87 to the access point mode. The web-interface is available in 21 languages.

Network Map menu item features information about the most essential settings of the wired and wireless interfaces as well as offers information about the connected clients. Unfortunately, the current firmware version lacks Status tab, which provides information about the current utilization of the device resources. Neither the information about the client connection speeds can be received.

Guest Network menu is used to manage wireless guest SSIDs.

Tabs in Wireless menu item let the user to change the operation parameters of the device wireless module. Unfortunately, it was impossible to specify the wireless channel bandwidth manually when this article was being written.

LAN menu item lets the user specify the IP parameters of the device management interface. Unfortunately, there are no settings associated with the DHCP server over here.

Administration menu item lets the user change his/her login information, manage time sync, enable access to the device through Telnet protocol, upgrade the firmware, and manage user settings.

All log information is located in tabs in System Log menu item.

Network Tools menu item is used to perform a connectivity check using ping and nslookup utilities and receive information about the open sockets. Surprisingly, there wasn't tracert/traceroute utility over here.

The web-interface lacks Guest Network and Wireless Network upon operation of EA-AC87 in Media Bridge mode. Instead of it, the administrator will be able to scan 5 GHz frequency range looking for accessible SSIDs or specify parameters of the network to which he/she needs to connect manually.

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

Command line interface

Managing the access to the command line is performed using System tab, Administration menu item in the web-interface.

In order to access the device 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 2.6.35.12 OS using Busy Box 1.10.3.

EA-AC87 login: admin
Password:
BusyBox v1.10.3 (2015-02-03 14:37:55 CST) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.
quantenna # uname -a
Linux EA-AC87 2.6.35.12 #2 Tue Feb 3 14:46:02 CST 2015 arc unknown
quantenna # busybox
BusyBox v1.10.3 (2015-02-03 14:37:55 CST) multi-call binary
Copyright (C) 1998-2007 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:
 [, [[, ash, awk, basename, cat, chmod, chpasswd, clear, cp, cut, date, dd, df, dirname, dmesg,
 echo, egrep, env, expr, false, fgrep, find, free, ftpget, ftpput, getopt, getty, grep, halt, head,
 hexdump, hostname, id, ifconfig, ifdown, ifup, inetd, init, insmod, ip, kill, killall, klogd,
 linuxrc, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum, mkdir, mknod, mktemp, modprobe, mount, mv, netstat,
 nslookup, pidof, ping, ping6, pivot_root, poweroff, ps, pwd, readlink, reboot, reset, rm, rmdir,
 rmmod, route, run-parts, sed, sh, sleep, sort, stty, sync, syslogd, tail, telnet, telnetd, test,
 tftp, touch, true, tty, umount, uname, uptime, usleep, vconfig, vi, vlock, wc, wget, which, xargs,
 yes
quantenna #

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. There is no top utility.

quantenna # ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 root      1512 S    init
 2 root         0 SW   [kthreadd]
 3 root         0 SW   [ksoftirqd/0]
 4 root         0 SW   [events/0]
 5 root         0 SW   [khelper]
 6 root         0 SW   [async/mgr]
 7 root         0 SW   [ruby_pm/0]
 8 root         0 SW   [sync_supers]
 9 root         0 SW   [bdi-default]
 10 root         0 SW   [kblockd/0]
 11 root         0 SW   [kswapd0]
 12 root         0 SW   [mtdblock0]
 13 root         0 SW   [mtdblock1]
 14 root         0 SW   [mtdblock2]
 15 root         0 SW   [mtdblock3]
 16 root         0 SW   [mtdblock4]
 17 root         0 SW   [mtdblock5]
 47 root         0 SWN  [jffs2_gcd_mtd5]
 304 root      1336 S    iwevent --syslog
 428 root         0 SW   [mlmestats]
 724 root      2848 S    hostapd -B /mnt/jffs2/hostapd.conf
 971 root      2200 S    init_services
 977 root      1504 S    syslogd -m 0 -S -O /tmp/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
 1275 root      1520 S    /bin/sh -l
 1276 root      1496 S    /sbin/klogd -n
 1282 root      1512 S    /usr/sbin/inetd
 1290 root      2312 S    myhttpd
 1292 root      2152 S    watchdog
 1304 root      1440 S    infosvr br0
 1306 root      1520 S    networkmap
 1308 root      2168 S    ntp
 1416 root      1584 S    dhclient -4 br0
 1496 root      2736 S    avahi-daemon: running [EA-AC87-2C00.local]
 1498 root      1504 S    /bin/sh /scripts/dhcpd_check.sh
 1510 nobody    1128 S    dnsmasq -z br0 -l /tmp/dnsmasq.leases -F 192.168.1.100,192.168.1.120,24h -A /bridge.asus.com/
 2802 root      1504 S    /usr/sbin/telnetd
 2803 root      1520 S    -sh
 2931 root      1496 S    sleep 5
 2932 root      1504 R    ps

We have placed the contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, and /usr/sbin below.

quantenna # ls /bin
ash        cp         echo       grep       login      mount      ping6      run-parts  sync       usleep
busybox    date       egrep      hostname   ls         mv         ps         sed        touch      vi
cat        dd         false      ip         mkdir      netstat    pwd        sh         true
chkimage   df         fgrep      kill       mknod      pidof      rm         sleep      umount
chmod      dmesg      getopt     ln         mktemp     ping       rmdir      stty       uname
quantenna # ls /sbin
ATE                            ipv6-mgmt                      qharvestd
arpstorm                       iwconfig                       qpm
avahi-daemon                   iwevent                        reboot
call_qcsapi                    iwgetid                        regulatory_database_bin_print
chpasswd.sh                    iwlist                         reset2
dhclient-script                iwpriv                         restart_wireless
get_rtl8367rb_link             iwspy                          restore_bootcfg_env
get_rtl8367rb_status           klogd                          rmmod
getty                          lsmod                          route
halt                           mini_httpd                     run_telnetd
hotplug                        modprobe                       show_access_points
htpasswd                       monitor_reset_device           show_rfcal_version
ifconfig                       monitor_wifi                   show_traffic_rates
ifdown                         myhttpd                        syslogd
ifrename                       myrc                           tc
ifup                           networkmap                     vconfig
infosvr                        ntp                            watchdog
init                           nvram                          webs_update.sh
init_services                  pivot_root                     webs_upgrade.sh
insmod                         poweroff                       wlcscan
ioctl_8367                     qevt_server                    writerfmem
quantenna # ls /usr/bin
[         clear     expr      ftpput    killall   readlink  telnet    uptime    which
[[        cut       find      head      logger    reset     test      vlock     xargs
awk       dirname   free      hexdump   md5sum    sort      tftp      wc        yes
basename  env       ftpget    id        nslookup  tail      tty       wget
quantenna # ls /usr/sbin
brctl           dnsmasq         flash_info      inetd           ntpclient       wpa_cli
chpasswd        flash_erase     hostapd         jffs2dump       telnetd         wpa_supplicant
dhclient        flash_eraseall  hostapd_cli     mkfs.jffs2      wdskey
quantenna #

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.

quantenna # cd /proc
quantenna # ls
1                    2802                 carrier_id           misc                 softirqs
10                   2803                 cmdline              mlmestats            stat
11                   3                    config.gz            modules              sys
12                   304                  cpuinfo              mounts               sysrq-trigger
1275                 3142                 devices              mtd                  sysvipc
1276                 3143                 diskstats            net                  temp_sens
1282                 4                    driver               ocac                 timer_list
1290                 428                  execdomains          pagetypeinfo         topaz_busmon
1292                 47                   filesystems          partitions           topaz_fwt
13                   5                    fs                   phy_pw0              topaz_fwt_if
1304                 6                    hbm_bufs_emac        phy_pw1              topaz_fwt_ipff
1306                 7                    hbm_bufs_wmac        pm_interval          topaz_hbm
1308                 724                  hw_revision          pulse                topaz_hbm_if
14                   8                    interrupts           qdrvdata             topaz_tqe
1416                 9                    iomem                qtn_skb_recycle_max  tty
1496                 971                  ioports              qvsp_ctrl            uptime
1498                 977                  kallsyms             radar                version
15                   arasan_emac0         kcore                ruby_cpumon          vmallocinfo
1510                 arasan_emac1         kmsg                 ruby_health          vmstat
16                   bootcfg              loadavg              self                 zc
17                   buddyinfo            locks                slabinfo             zoneinfo
2                    bus                  meminfo              soc_pm
quantenna # cat uptime
1609.82 1545.98
quantenna # cat loadavg
0.02 0.05 0.05 1/39 3165
quantenna # cat cpuinfo
Processor Family: ARC 700 [0x33]
CPU speed :     500.00 Mhz
Timers:         TIMER1 TIMER0
Interrupt Vect Base:    0x88027000
Peripheral Base: NOT present; assuming 0xCOFC0000
Data UNCACHED Base (I/O): start 0xc0 Sz, 1024 MB
Bogo MIPS :     248.21
ARC700 MMU Ver [2]
 PAGE SIZE 8k
 JTLB 128 x 2 = 256 entries
 uDTLB 8 entr, uITLB 4 entr
TLB Refill "will NOT" Flush uTLBs
Detected I-cache :
 Type=2 way set-assoc, Line length=32, Size=16K (enabled)
Detected D-cache :
 Type=4 way set-assoc, Line length=32, Size=16K (enabled)
Extensions:
 MPY: 32x32 with ANY Result Reg   MAC MPY: Dual 16 x 16 and 32 x 16
 DCCM: N/A  ICCM: N/A
 CRC: N/A,   SWAP: Present   NORM: Present
 Min-Max: Present,   Barrel Shifter: Present
 Ext Arith Insn: Present
Floating Point Extension: N/A
quantenna # cat meminfo
MemTotal:          53288 kB
MemFree:           19016 kB
Buffers:               0 kB
Cached:            23072 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:             9952 kB
Inactive:          16128 kB
Active(anon):       3128 kB
Inactive(anon):      152 kB
Active(file):       6824 kB
Inactive(file):    15976 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          3024 kB
Mapped:             2512 kB
Shmem:               272 kB
Slab:               5744 kB
SReclaimable:        768 kB
SUnreclaim:         4976 kB
KernelStack:         312 kB
PageTables:          680 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       26640 kB
Committed_AS:      15976 kB
VmallocTotal:      49152 kB
VmallocUsed:       33584 kB
VmallocChunk:       8240 kB
quantenna # uptime
 03:27:19 up 27 min, load average: 0.01, 0.04, 0.04
quantenna #

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

quantenna # nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [save file] [restore file]
quantenna # nvram show | grep admin
size: 20301 bytes (45235 left)
acc_list=admin>admin
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
http_passwd=admin
http_username=admin

That's where we proceed to completion of the brief review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

The first testing procedure we usually begin our testing section with is estimating the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. ASUS EA-AC87 boots in 65 seconds. We believe that this result is decent.

The second test, which was no less traditional, became a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider network security scanner. On the whole, there were five open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below. We believe that the vulnerabilities discovered are not critical.

 

During the tests we are occasionally spying on the devices using Wireshark network analyser. That was what we did this time, too. This kind of spying turned out to be helpful in finding out the address from which the access point allows performing the firmware recovery. Apart from it, we also found out that EA-AC87 sends outs several IPv6 packets upon booting, but the interface has no mention of the IPv6 support at all. Also, EA-AC87 is detected by the local PC as an IPv6 neighbour. The MAC address of our EA-AC87 device is 10-c3-7b-98-9e-80. The device Link-local address is established based on its MAC address using EUI-64 mechanism, which we told our readers about in the article on IPv6.

netsh interface ipv6>sho nei
Interface 79: Test
Internet Address                              Physical Address   Type
--------------------------------------------  -----------------  -----------
fe80::208:9bff:feef:1bc8                      Unreachable        Unreachable
fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80                     10-c3-7b-98-9e-80  Stale
ff02::1                                       33-33-00-00-00-01  Permanent
ff02::2                                       33-33-00-00-00-02  Permanent
ff02::c                                       33-33-00-00-00-0c  Permanent
ff02::16                                      33-33-00-00-00-16  Permanent
ff02::fb                                      33-33-00-00-00-fb  Permanent
ff02::1:2                                     33-33-00-01-00-02  Permanent
ff02::1:3                                     33-33-00-01-00-03  Permanent
ff02::1:ff8d:6ee1                             33-33-ff-8d-6e-e1  Permanent
ff02::1:ff98:9e80                             33-33-ff-98-9e-80  Permanent
ff02::1:ffef:1bc8                             33-33-ff-ef-1b-c8  Permanent

For example, the detected Link-local address may be used to check the accessibility of EA-AC87 from the network local segment by ICMP. Unfortunately, the device web-interface was not accessible through IPv6 as of when this article was being written.

C:\>ping fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80
Pinging fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80 with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80: time=1ms
Reply from fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80: time=1ms
Reply from fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80: time=1ms
Reply from fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80: time<1ms
Ping statistics for fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80:
 Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
 Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 1ms, Average = 0ms
C:\>telnet fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80 80
Connecting To fe80::12c3:7bff:fe98:9e80...Could not open connection to the host, on port 80: Connect failed

Before getting down to 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 VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
ASUS RT-AC66U
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

We decided to begin the throughput tests with measuring ASUS EA-AC87 performance upon operation in the access point mode. ASUS PCE-AC68 wireless NIC was used as the client. We used JPerf utility, 2.0.2 version, for tests with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent TCP connections.

We believe that the PCE-AC68 wireless NIC cannot fully utilize the potential of ASUS EA-AC87 access point since it does not support MU-MIMO and has the 3x3 antennae configuration. This is why we asked the vendor to provide us with the second EA-AC87 device, which we used as the wireless client (in the Media Bridge mode). We also decided to increase the number of concurrent connections up to 25 for this test.

Then we though it would be interesting to use EA-AC87 as the wireless client and get connected to ASUS RT-AC66U router. At first the router was set to automatically choose the channel bandwidth of 20, 40, or 80 MHz, but then we manually specified the bandwidth equal to 80 MHz.

Eventually, we decided to measure the performance of a pair of devices upon operation in a wireless bridge (WDS) mode.

Unfortunately, we could not measure the device performance upon operation with clients that support MU-MIMO because at the moment there were no devices like that in our laboratory.

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

Conclusion

We were left with mixed feelings about ASUS EA-AC87, which can act as the access point and the wireless client. On one hand, this is a good high-speed wireless device. Still on the other hand it seemed to us that the model lacks certain functionality. For example, it would have been great to see a built-in DHCP server, possibility to review detailed information about the connected clients, and obtain IPv6 support. Support of the wireless network operation in 2.4 GHz frequency range would become a nice addition too. As of today, we can recommend ASUS EA-AC87 to network geeks and enthusiasts who would like to make the most of the frequency range, which is still not loaded too much, and pay a relatively high price for this device. We believe that ASUS EA-AC87 will turn out to be quite sought-after after the coming and spreading of devices that support MU-MIMO technology.

Strength areas of ASUS EA-AC87 are presented below.

  • High speeds even with one wireless client
  • Support of three guest networks
  • Gigabit Ethernet switch with five ports
  • Support of MU-MIMO
  • Ability to operate in two modes
  • Availability of the signal quality meter on the case

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

  • Incorrect time zones for Russia
  • Support of only one wireless frequency range, 5 GHz

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS EA-AC87 in Moscow online shops was 9800 roubles.