Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware update

Web-interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

We still remember the time when we were waiting for the first D-Link wireless routers with IEEE 802.11ac standard support to arrive in our test lab. Now it's the time to review a small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router that combines support of 802.11ac with a small case that one can easily slip into their pocket. A device like this is a winner for travellers or people who move around a lot and don't need the performance and functionality that common big routers possess. Let us get you familiar with DIR-516!

External design and hardware

Small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the following dimensions: 63x44x23 mm. The device is powered through connection to the USB port of a PC or notebook using a small special-purpose external slot. Also, one can use USB adapters meant for charging mobile phones in order to power the device.

The router bottom panel, if one can call it like this, has an indentation for placing the external USB plug that's fastened to one of its sides. One will also be able to find stickers with brief information about the device here.

The upper panel is not remarkable at all and there is only a 3D brand tag on it.

There is Fast Ethernet interface located on one of the device sides.

Choice of a wireless range is made using a special-purpose switch located on one of the device sides. Apart from it, there are WPS button used for facilitating connection of the wireless clients and RST button used to reset user settings located here.

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

Its electronic stuffing is one green textolite card powered by Realtek RTL8881AM microchip. The maximum theoretic wireless throughput for D-Link DIR-516 is 150 Mbps in 2.4GHz frequency range and 433 Mbps in 5GHz range. That's why we consider that the appearance of Wi-Fi AC600 words on the box is an exaggeration since unlike the common routers, DIR-516 doesn't support simultaneous operation of the two wireless frequency bands.

That is where we bring the D-Link DIR-516 hardware review to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware update

Firmware update is traditionally carried out in FIRMWARE sub-item, TOOLS menu of the web-interface. Firmware update may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. As a matter of course, firmware update in the semi-automatic mode is available only if the router is connected to the Internet.

Firmware update in the manual mode is only a bit more difficult. One simply needs to download the file containing the new firmware version and upload it to the wireless router by oneself. The whole firmware update procedure takes about 75 seconds (not including the firmware download time from the web) and does not require any kind of special technical knowledge from the user.

That is where we bring review of the firmware update process to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

The web-interface of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router is traditionally designed in orange and grey colors. By default, the IP address assigned to the device is 192.168.0.50. To log in the administrator must specify login and password (admin with blank password).

Upon successful authentication the administrator will find him/herself on LAN SETTINGS page, SETUP menu, where s/he can adjust the WAN connection. Unfortunately, there are only two connection types supported: with dynamic settings and with a statically assigned IP address. There's no tunnel support. But to tell you the truth, tunnel support is not really necessary in devices like this.

It'd be fair to mention that upon choosing Residential Gateway operation mode in the next menu item, the router will let the administrator connect to the service provider using both the dynamic and static IP addresses as well as PPPoE. In this case one will also be able to enable a DHCP server in the wireless network of the user. All above-mentioned settings are located in INTERNET and NETWORK SETTING sub-items.

Wireless module operation parameters are located in WIRELESS SETTINGS sub-item of the same menu item. DIR-516 may function in one of the three following operation modes: AP, Client, or Residential Gateway. In Access Point mode the device performs interchange of frames between the wired and wireless segments, allowing the wireless clients connecting to the wired segment of the network. Residential Gateway mode is really similar to AP mode with only one difference; routing is performed between the wired and wireless segments. The user may connect the wired segment to an available wireless network using Client operation mode. This operation mode will be sought-after in cases when one needs to connect a notebook with a broken wireless adapter or with no such adapter at all to the wireless network. Choice of the frequency range, 2.4 and 5 GHz, is made only using a special-purpose switch on the device case.

The user should not be confused by the absence of choice of the WPA2 wireless network security mode in the menu. This mode is supported by the device and the thing is that both WPA versions are located in one item.

WI-FI PROTECTED SETUP sub-item in SETUP menu is meant for facilitating connection of the wireless clients and its capabilities are almost equal to those of WPS button on the device case.

One can change the administrator password using ADMINISTRATOR SETTINGS sub-item in TOOLS menu.

SYSTEM sub-item in the same-named menu is used to create back-ups of settings, reset user settings, and reboot the device.

One can update the firmware and upload language packs for web-interface localization using FIRMWARE sub-item. It'd be fair to point out that when this article was being written, there were no language packs available for download from the vendor's official website.

Sub-items of STATUS menu are used to receive information about the current state of the device and connected clients.

All help information is located in sub-items of SUPPORT menu.

That's where we proceed to completion of the review of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router web-interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing it.

Testing

The first testing procedure we always begin our testing section with is measuring 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. This time we decided not to back out from our practices and performed the above-mentioned measurements. Small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router boots in 23 seconds. We believe that the 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. There were two open ports discovered. The most interesting data detected are presented below.

Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention 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
D-Link DIR-806A
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

We decided to begin the throughput tests with Residential Gateway mode. In this mode DIR-516 performs NAT/PAT translation of incoming and outgoing packets. Connection to the service provider is performed using the wired interface whilst all client devices are connected to the router using a Wi-Fi network. The tests were carried out with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent sessions.

After that we made performance measurements of the device in AP mode. The measurements were carried out for both wireless frequency ranges. It's worth mentioning separately that though D-Link DIR-516 supports two wireless ranges, 2.4 and 5 GHz, their simultaneous operation is not possible: one needs to choose the intended range using a special-purpose switch located on the device case.

Upon operation in Residential Gateway and AP modes, DIR-516 cannot completely unlock its wireless potential in 2.4 GHz range due to the usage of only one wireless channel instead of two. It's manifested in client connection speeds that cannot exceed 72 Mpbs. When the device performs functions of a wireless client, both channels are used in 2.4 GHz range. That's why the speeds are higher in this case. We used another wireless router, D-Link DIR-806A, which we had under review in our test lab, in order to test DIR-516 operation in wireless client mode.

As one can see from the diagrams presented above, upon operation in 2.4 GHz range, the bottleneck turns out to be the wireless module itself. However, when it comes to 5 GHz range, the system performance is capped by, as we think, the wired interface.

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

Conclusion

Generally, we are quite glad about small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router we have tested. The device under review may be very helpful for those people who travel a lot and use at least a couple of devices that require Internet access (notebooks, tablets, mobile phones, and so on). However, we cannot consider DIR-516 as a fully-fledged router that can become a substitution of its larger counterparts due to the absence of a variety of features.

The strength areas of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router are presented below.

  • Small size
  • Competitive price
  • Support of two wireless frequency ranges
  • Decent routing speeds
  • Support of several operation modes

Unfortunately, we cannot help mentioning certain drawbacks we have discovered.

  • Web-interface is available only in English
  • Absence of simultaneous support of two wireless frequency ranges

As of when this article was being written, the average price for D-Link DIR-516 wireless router in Moscow online shops was 1750 roubles.

Introduction

External design

Hardware

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

At almost any forum related to the network technologies there is a huge number of topics devoted to the questions of compatibility this or that wireless router with a particular model of 3G or 4G USB dongle: the devices can be incompatible or it can be just impossible to find a compatible model for sale... ASUS company met its users halfway and offered a wireless router with a built-in LTE modem – it’s enough just to insert a SIM card. Okay, welcome, today ASUS 4G-AC55U is in our testing laboratory!

External design

ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router comes in a black plastic case. We have already seen a similar design, for example, for RT-AC68U model. The dimensions are 220х160х84 mm. To work properly the model under review needs an external adapter (included in the box together with replaceable plugs) with the following characteristics: 19V and 1,75A.

The great part of the front panel is covered with mat ribbed plastic with LEDs indicating the status of wired and wireless interfaces of the router and operating of the whole device. Apart from that, names of the model and vendor are located here as well.

On one side there are two buttons Wi-Fi and LTE for managing wireless networks and a socket for inserting a SIM card.

The significant part of the rear panel is hidden by a ventilation grate. In addition, four LAN and one WAN Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, a USB 2.0 port, Reset button, a socket for a power adapter connection together with a power ON/OFF button and one for enabling/disabling Wi-Fi wireless network within both frequency ranges are placed here. Moreover, there is a sticker with brief information about the device here.

The bottom panel of the device comes as a stand with three rubber legs and a clip for facilitation of SIM card removing procedure.

Located on the upper panel of the router, there are sockets for connecting two antennae. The third antenna is also located here, but it is non-detachable.

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

Hardware

The hardware platform of ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless 4G router consists of two textolite plates: a motherboard and a wireless module used for connecting to mobile operator networks. The significant part of one side of the motherboard is covered with a radiator without a ventilator, behind which there are two metal screens. The only visible microchip is Qualcomm QCA8337N-AL3C.

On the opposite side there is Zentel flash memory module A5U1GA31ATS-BC of 128 Mbytes.

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

Web-interface

To get access to the web-interface one should go to 192.168.1.1 address with the help of any modern browser. It’s worth noting that the web-interface is available in 21 languages.

We will not describe all capabilities of the device web-interface in detail, but, as 4G-AC55U has the built-in LTE modem, let’s concentrate on the capabilities related to LTE connection.

If one inserted a SIM card to the device in advance, the corresponding connection would be detected immediately during the initial settings.

In the upper right corner of the web-interface there are two icons displaying the presence of a SIM card and LTE connection. The setting of connection to a mobile operator is performed with the help of Internet Connection tab of WAN menu item, one should just choose a corresponding type of a WAN port. Apart from the connection settings, one can set a limitation on the amount of user traffic and view the current amount of data usage here.

The connection is possible not only to LTE but also to networks of previous generations.

If necessary, an administrator can get access to status information by the set up wireless connection.

ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router supports DualWAN functionality, which allows switching to a standby channel in case of a failure of the main one. Dual WAN tab of WAN menu item allows the administrator to specify which channel is main and which one is standby. Despite the fact that the device under review has the built-in LTE modem, if necessary, a user can select as main and standby only wired links.

That’s where we bring the extremely brief review of the web-interface of ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router to a close.

Command line

Managing the access to the command line of ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router is carried out with the help of System tab, Administration menu.

Login and password used for the access to the command line interface are the same as for the web-interface access. ASUS 4G-AC55U router is built on Linux operating system with a kernel  version 3.3.8 using BusyBox of version 1.17.4.

4G-AC55U login: admin
Password:
ASUSWRT 4G-AC55U_3.0.0.4 Wed Jan  7 03:00:47 UTC 2015
admin@4G-AC55U:/tmp/home/root# cd /
admin@4G-AC55U:/# uname -a
Linux 4G-AC55U 3.3.8 #67 Tue Jan 6 14:11:03 CST 2015 mips GNU/Linux
admin@4G-AC55U:/# busybox
BusyBox v1.17.4 (2014-12-31 11:18:11 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, ethreg, 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, md, md5sum, mdev, mkdir, mke2fs, mkfs.ext2, mkfs.ext3, mknod,
 mkswap, mm, modprobe, more, mount, mv, netstat, nice, nohup, nslookup, pidof, ping, ping6, printf, ps, pwd,
 readlink, renice, rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, sed, setconsole, sh, sleep, sort, strings, swapoff, swapon, sync,
 syslogd, tail, tar, telnetd, test, top, touch, tr, traceroute, traceroute6, true, tune2fs, udhcpc, umount,
 uname, unzip, uptime, usleep, vconfig, vi, watch, wc, wget, which, zcat, zcip
admin@4G-AC55U:/#

With the help of ps command, let’s see what processes are currently running on the device. Top utility shows information on the current activity of the launched processes.

admin@4G-AC55U:/# ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 admin     4288 S    /sbin/init
 2 admin        0 SW   [kthreadd]
 3 admin        0 SW   [ksoftirqd/0]
 5 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:0]
 6 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
 7 admin        0 SW   [irq/10-ath79-gp]
 8 admin        0 SW   [sync_supers]
 9 admin        0 SW   [bdi-default]
 10 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd]
 11 admin        0 SW   [kswapd0]
 12 admin        0 SW   [fsnotify_mark]
 13 admin        0 SW<  [crypto]
 20 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock0]
 21 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock1]
 22 admin        0 SW   [ubi_bgt0d]
 23 admin        0 SW   [kworker/u:1]
 28 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock2]
 33 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock3]
 38 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock4]
 43 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock5]
 44 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock6]
 49 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock7]
 50 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock8]
 55 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock9]
 56 admin        0 SW   [mtdblock10]
 112 admin      800 S    hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
 197 admin     4260 S    console
 199 admin        0 SW   [ubifs_bgt0_6]
 200 admin     1832 S    /bin/sh
 204 admin     1816 S    syslogd -m 0 -S -O /jffs/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
 207 admin     1816 S    /sbin/klogd
 213 admin        0 SW   [khubd]
 279 admin     4268 S    usbled
 467 admin     1820 R    telnetd
 468 admin     4268 S    wpsaide
 476 admin     4268 S    ntp
 490 admin     1828 S    crond
 491 admin     1236 S    /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
 494 admin     4268 S    watchdog
 497 admin     4268 S    ots
 500 admin     1448 S    rstats
 507 admin     4268 S    lteled
 508 admin     1316 S    lld2d br0
 1012 admin     1304 S    lpd
 5112 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:2]
16108 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:0]
21077 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:3]
21668 admin        0 SW   [flush-ubifs_0_6]
23548 admin     3476 S <  /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
23549 admin     2636 S    nmbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
23552 admin     6768 S    minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
24260 admin     1232 S    hostapd -d -B /etc/Wireless/conf/hostapd_ath0.conf -P /var/run/hostapd_2g.pid
24263 admin     1232 S    hostapd -d -B /etc/Wireless/conf/hostapd_ath1.conf -P /var/run/hostapd_5g.pid
24269 admin     4268 S    /sbin/wanduck
24273 nobody    1152 S    dnsmasq --log-async
24622 admin      900 S    miniupnpd -f /etc/upnp/config
24748 admin     4308 S    /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --config config.ovpn
24756 admin     4400 S    /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --config config.ovpn
24761 admin     4164 S    httpd
24762 admin     1392 S    networkmap
24764 admin     4408 S    u2ec
27435 admin     1840 S    -sh
28466 admin        0 SW   [kworker/0:1]
28795 admin     1888 S    /bin/sh /usr/sbin/modem_status.sh sim
28807 admin     1812 S    flock -x /tmp/at_cmd_lock modem_at.sh +CPIN?
28808 admin     1820 S    /bin/sh /usr/sbin/modem_at.sh +CPIN?
28815 admin      792 S    chat -t 1 -e  AT+CPIN? OK
28816 admin     1820 R    ps
admin@4G-AC55U:/# top
Mem: 73184K used, 52516K free, 0K shrd, 8400K buff, 23888K cached
CPU:   9% usr   0% sys   0% nic  90% idle   0% io   0% irq   0% sirq
Load average: 0.16 0.18 0.17 1/64 28954
 PID  PPID USER     STAT   VSZ %MEM %CPU COMMAND
23552     1 admin    S     6768   5%   0% minidlna -f /etc/minidlna.conf -R
24764     1 admin    S     4408   4%   0% u2ec
24756     1 admin    S     4400   3%   0% /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --config config.ovpn
24748     1 admin    S     4308   3%   0% /etc/openvpn/vpnserver1 --cd /etc/openvpn/server1 --config config.ovpn
 1     0 admin    S     4288   3%   0% /sbin/init
 494     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% watchdog
 507     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% lteled
 476     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% ntp
24269     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% /sbin/wanduck
 279     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% usbled
 497   494 admin    S     4268   3%   0% ots
 468     1 admin    S     4268   3%   0% wpsaide
 197     1 admin    S     4260   3%   0% console
24761     1 admin    S     4164   3%   0% httpd
23548     1 admin    S <   3476   3%   0% /usr/sbin/smbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
23549     1 admin    S     2636   2%   0% nmbd -D -s /etc/smb.conf
27435   467 admin    S     1840   1%   0% -sh
 200   197 admin    S     1832   1%   0% /bin/sh
 490     1 admin    S     1828   1%   0% crond
 467     1 admin    S     1820   1%   0% telnetd
28954 27435 admin    R     1820   1%   0% top
 207     1 admin    S     1816   1%   0% /sbin/klogd
 204     1 admin    S     1816   1%   0% syslogd -m 0 -S -O /jffs/syslog.log -s 256 -l 6
 500     1 admin    S     1448   1%   0% rstats
 508     1 admin    S     1316   1%   0% lld2d br0
 1012     1 admin    S     1304   1%   0% lpd
 491     1 admin    S     1236   1%   0% /usr/sbin/infosvr br0
24263     1 admin    S     1232   1%   0% hostapd -d -B /etc/Wireless/conf/hostapd_ath1.conf -P /var/run/hostapd_5g.pid
24260     1 admin    S     1232   1%   0% hostapd -d -B /etc/Wireless/conf/hostapd_ath0.conf -P /var/run/hostapd_2g.pid
24273     1 nobody   S     1152   1%   0% dnsmasq --log-async
24622     1 admin    S      900   1%   0% miniupnpd -f /etc/upnp/config
 112     1 admin    S      800   1%   0% hotplug2 --persistent --no-coldplug
 3     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [ksoftirqd/0]
 44     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock6]
16108     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/0:0]
 5112     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/0:2]
21077     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/0:3]
 8     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [sync_supers]
 11     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kswapd0]
 22     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [ubi_bgt0d]
 213     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [khubd]
 2     0 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kthreadd]
21668     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [flush-ubifs_0_6]
 23     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/u:1]
 199     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [ubifs_bgt0_6]
 56     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock10]
 6     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [khelper]
 7     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [irq/10-ath79-gp]
 5     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/u:0]
 10     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [kblockd]
 55     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock9]
 49     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock7]
 20     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock0]
 21     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock1]
 12     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [fsnotify_mark]
 13     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [crypto]
 28     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock2]
 33     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock3]
 38     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock4]
 43     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock5]
 9     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [bdi-default]
28466     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [kworker/0:1]
 50     2 admin    SW       0   0%   0% [mtdblock8]

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the operating system uptime, its average utilization, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. In general, one can discover the system uptime and its average utilization with the help of uptime command.

admin@4G-AC55U:/# cd /proc
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# ls
1                 23                33                6                 execdomains       nvram
10                23548             38                7                 filesystems       pagetypeinfo
1012              23549             43                8                 fs                partitions
11                23552             44                9                 interrupts        scsi
112               24260             467               athdebug          iomem             self
12                24263             468               athignoredfs      ioports           softirqs
13                24269             476               athnodefixedrate  irq               stat
16108             24273             49                athrtscts         kallsyms          swaps
197               24622             490               athversion        kcore             sys
199               24748             491               bled              kmsg              sysrq-trigger
2                 24756             494               buddyinfo         kpagecount        sysvipc
20                24761             497               bus               kpageflags        timer_list
200               24764             5                 cmdline           loadavg           tty
204               27435             50                consoles          locks             uptime
207               279               500               cpuinfo           meminfo           version
21                28                507               crypto            misc              vmallocinfo
21077             28466             508               device-tree       modules           vmstat
213               29009             5112              devices           mounts            zoneinfo
21668             29604             55                diskstats         mtd
22                3                 56                driver            net
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# cat uptime
272617.64 262952.43
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# cat loadavg
0.08 0.15 0.16 1/65 29714
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# cat cpuinfo
system type             : Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 rev 0
machine                 : Atheros AP135 reference board
processor               : 0
cpu model               : MIPS 74Kc V5.0
BogoMIPS                : 358.80
wait instruction        : yes
microsecond timers      : yes
tlb_entries             : 32
extra interrupt vector  : yes
hardware watchpoint     : yes, count: 4, address/irw mask: [0x0000, 0x07b0, 0x0238, 0x07e8]
ASEs implemented        : mips16 dsp
shadow register sets    : 1
kscratch registers      : 0
core                    : 0
VCED exceptions         : not available
VCEI exceptions         : not available
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal:         125700 kB
MemFree:           51968 kB
Buffers:            8400 kB
Cached:            23888 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:            18208 kB
Inactive:          21144 kB
Active(anon):       7320 kB
Inactive(anon):      304 kB
Active(file):      10888 kB
Inactive(file):    20840 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          7084 kB
Mapped:             4792 kB
Shmem:               560 kB
Slab:              21600 kB
SReclaimable:       2392 kB
SUnreclaim:        19208 kB
KernelStack:         552 kB
PageTables:          580 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       62848 kB
Committed_AS:      19400 kB
VmallocTotal:    1048372 kB
VmallocUsed:        1544 kB
VmallocChunk:    1034604 kB
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc# uptime
 06:43:58 up 3 days,  3:43, load average: 0.05, 0.14, 0.15
admin@4G-AC55U:/proc#

Contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin catalogues, as well as the output of sysinfo utility, are located in a separate file.

We cannot help but mention nvram utility that allows changing certain important device operation parameters.

admin@4G-AC55U:/# nvram
usage: nvram [get name] [set name=value] [unset name] [show] [save file] [restore file]
admin@4G-AC55U:/# nvram show | grep admin
http_username=admin
http_passwd=admin
acc_list=admin>admin
acc_webdavproxy=admin>1
size: 35762 bytes (25678 left)

That’s where we draw the brief review of the router command line interface capabilities to a close and pass on directly to testing the device.

Testing

The first traditional test we 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. ASUS 4G-AC55U boots in 40 seconds. We consider that it is 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). There were 18 open ports discovered. The most interesting data of this test are presented below.

During performance testing, we decided to measure the temperature of the device case using our lab pyrometer ADA TempPro-2200. The maximum temperature we have discovered was 41,5°C at air temperature of 25°C.

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our readers familiar with the main parameters of the test stand we used. JPerf utility of 2.0.2 version was used as a load generator.

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
Atheros AR8131
Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

This time we decided to change the usual order of performance testing and started with measuring performance of the wireless segment for both frequency ranges.

Then we decided to pass on to testing the performance of the wired segment and measured throughput in three operation modes of the device: simple routing, NAT/PAT with hardware acceleration and NAT/PAT without it. The measurement results are presented at the diagrams below.

Apart from IPv4, ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router also supports the next version of IP protocol – IPv6. At the diagram below, there is throughput of user traffic with the use of IPv6 protocol.

The connection to some Internet providers in Russia and CIS countries is performed via PPTP tunnels. Obviously, we cannot neglect the support of this protocol by the router.

It’s worth noting that for the connection of remote users to the router’s built-in PPTP server data throughput corresponds to the presented above.

In addition to PPTP, the connection with the help of OpenVPN protocol is supported.

ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router has USB 2.0 port, to which connections of external hardware drives with corresponding interfaces are available. We used our external hard drive Transcend StoreJet 25M3 of 750 Gbytes with a partition consistently formatted to the following file systems: NTFS, FAT32 and EXT3. The measurements were carried out with the help of Intel NASPT utility of 1.7.1 version.

Naturally, we cannot neglect the support of ASUS 4G-AC55U router to connect to mobile operator networks. Of course, we understand that measured throughput depends on many different factors: operator’s network utilization, distance from a cell tower (BSS), interference and reflections… However, we cannot help but share the estimating results in our office.

At the graph below one can see the channel loading during the performance testing.

Corresponding CPU usage is presented below.

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

Conclusion

On the whole, we are pleased with tested ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router with the built-in LTE modem. Such a binding of two devices can be very useful for users who want to organize a main or standby channel via a mobile operator, as it doesn’t require connection of an external USB dongle and its configuring. The availability of the high-performance CPU will allow organizing high-speed access via wired operators at speeds sufficient for a small local network with multiple users.

The strength areas of ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router are listed below.

  • Built-in LTE modem
  • High throughput via PPTP tunnel
  • USB 2.0 port
  • IPv6 support
  • Hardware acceleration of IPv4 traffic during NAT/PAT
  • Support of both wireless ranges
  • Built-in VPN client and server

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

  • The web-interface is not completely translated

When this review was being written, ASUS 4G-AC55U wireless router wasn’t even officially announced, so it’s more than prematurely to tell about its price.

Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware upgrade

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

It’s been a long time since our lab tested a compact wireless device. Lately we most often review top routers of considerable dimensions and weight. But wait! The time to make up for it comes now. Please welcome, D-Link DIR-806А.

External design and hardware

D-Link DIR-806A wireless router comes in a black plastic case with two dismountable dual-band antennae that have the gain ratio of 5 dBi. The device has dimensions of 115x81x22 mm (not considering the antennae). To work properly the device needs an external power unit (included in the box) with the following characteristics: 5 V and 1.2 А.

The upper panel of the device consists of two parts, the one is opaque and the other one is glossy, and doesn't have anything remarkable on it apart from a ventilation grate and the model name.

The side panels also have ventilation grates located on them. There is also a microUSB port located on one of them, which is used only for connection of an external power supply unit.

On the front panel there are LEDs indicating status of the device and its ports as well as the WPS button meant for resetting the user settings and adding devices into a local wireless network in an easier way.

The largest part of the bottom panel of the router is a ventilation grate. Apart from it, there are a sticker with brief information about the device and four rubber legs for desk-mounting of the router. Wall mounting is not applicable.

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

Hardware stuffing of the wireless router is one green textolite card. The system is powered by Realtek RTL8881AQA SoC CPU. A RTL8192ER microchip of the same-named brand is charged with duties associated with wireless connections. Winbond W9751G6KB-25 chip with the size of 64 Mbytes performs functions of the RAM. The thing about the card that surprised us the most was the usage of an aerial cable. To tell you the truth, we see something like this for the first time.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of D-Link DIR-806A wireless router to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware upgrade

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade section, System group of the router web-interface. It may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. As a matter of course, firmware upgrade in the semi-automatic mode is available only if the router is connected to the Internet. In order to upgrade the firmware manually the user will need to download the firmware upgrade file from the vendor's website. The whole firmware upgrade process takes about four minutes and does not require any technical proficiency from an administrator.

Manual firmware upgrade can be done using Information item, Home menu, too. The administrator will need to click on the link that features data about the current firmware version in order to do this.

It's worth mentioning that the information about the current firmware version is located in the title on every page of the web-interface.

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

Web-interface

One can access the router web-interface using any modern browser. When this article was being written, the web-interface was available in seven languages. The admin password will have to be chosen upon the first login to the system.

And though the web-interface of DIR-806A is different from those we got used to, we will not review all of its capabilities in detail but only focus on the most interesting ones.

Upon successful authentication the administrator will find him/herself on Information page, Home group, where brief information about the device is presented.

Click'n'Connect item in the same group is used in order to launch the wireless network settings wizard for connection to the Internet service provider and help the user facilitate the primary configuration of the wireless network and IPTV.

One can choose the operation mode of the wireless module using Wireless network settings wizard item.

The other two items in Home group are used to configure port forwarding (virtual server) for providing access to a certain service located in the local network externally as well as specify the interface to which the set-top box is connected.

Monitoring menu item contains the current network layout and key settings.

Items in Status group feature statistical data, information about the current routing table, connected clients and their active sessions as well as data about multicast traffic.

Settings of the router LAN and WAN interfaces are located in Net group. Apart from the IP parameters that are statically and dynamically configured, the following connection methods to the provider are supported too: PPTP, L2TP, and PPPoE.

The main wireless network operation parameters are located in items of Basic settings sub-group, Wi-Fi group. Availability of information on wireless channel utilization came to be a nice feature.

Selection of the encryption mode and specifying the key for every of the wireless ranges can be done using items in Security settings sub-group in the same group.

Client filtering based on their MAC addresses is done using MAC Filter sub-group.

Items in Additional settings sub-group are used in order to manage transmitter power, channel bandwidth, and other auxiliary parameters.

Apart from performing functions of an access point for the wireless network, the model under review can act as a wireless client too and get connected to existing networks. The respective settings are located in Client item, Wi-Fi group. Upon adjusting DIR-806A (in the wireless router mode) as a wireless client the device can actually be considered a WISP repeater, performing translation of NAT/PAT addresses of the devices connected to the router. When DIR-806A functions as an access point, the activation of the wireless client mode will make the device perform functions of a wireless network client or wireless network repeater.

Management of virtual networks is carried out using VLAN item in Advanced group.

Specifying the preferred version of IGMP and selection of the supported protocols can be done using Miscellaneous page in Advanced group.

Parameters of the router automatic configuration using TR-069 protocol are located in TR-069 Client item.

Management of virtual servers as well as traffic filtration parameters can be done using items in Firewall group whilst URL filtration can be managed in Control group.

Items and sub-groups of System group let the administrator change the web-interface password, manage settings, obtain access to log information, upgrade firmware, manage date and time settings, check the availability of certain clients using ICMP, select the device operation mode, and enable or disable access via Telnet protocol.

It's also worth noticing that the most widely used commands are always available to the user, irrespective of what menu item is open at the moment, via System link located in the page title.

That is where we bring review of D-Link DIR-806A wireless router web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining the capabilities of its command line.

Command line

Access to the device command line using Telnet protocol is enabled by default. In order to access the command line one must use the same log-on information as for the connection to the device web-interface. BusyBox 1.19.2 library is installed in Linux OS with a 2.6.30.9 kernel on the router.

dlinkap login: admin
Password:
Welcome to
 _______          ___     __  ____   _  _   ___
 |  ___  \        |   |   |__||    \ | || | /  /
 | |   | ||  ___  |   |__  __ |     \| || |/  /
 | |___| || |___| |      ||  || |\     ||     \
 |_______/        |______||__||_| \____||_|\___\
 = Building Networks for People =
BusyBox v1.19.2 (2015-04-24 15:20:30 MSK) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.
$ busybox
BusyBox v1.19.2 (2015-04-24 15:20:30 MSK) multi-call binary.
Copyright (C) 1998-2011 Erik Andersen, Rob Landley, Denys Vlasenko
and others. Licensed under GPLv2.
See source distribution for full notice.
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
 or: busybox --list[-full]
 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, basename, brctl, cat, cp, crond, crontab, date, dd, echo, false, free, grep,
 gunzip, gzip, halt, hexdump, httpd, ifconfig, insmod, kill, killall, klogd, ln, logger,
 login, logread, ls, lsmod, md5sum, mkdir, mount, nc, nice, nslookup, ntpd, passwd, ping,
 pmap, poweroff, ps, reboot, renice, rm, rmmod, route, sh, sleep, syslogd, tail, tar,
 telnetd, test, top, touch, traceroute, true, umount, zcat
$ cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.30.9 (builder@rd) (gcc version 4.4.5-1.5.5p4 (GCC) ) #1 Fri Apr 24 15:18:22 MSK 2015

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

$ ps
 PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
 1 admin     1780 S    /sbin/init
 2 admin        0 SW<  [kthreadd]
 3 admin        0 SW<  [ksoftirqd/0]
 4 admin        0 SW<  [events/0]
 5 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
 6 admin        0 SW<  [async/mgr]
 7 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd/0]
 8 admin        0 SW   [pdflush]
 9 admin        0 SW<  [kswapd0]
 14 admin        0 SW<  [mtdblockd]
 19 admin     2300 S    resident[mngr]: building networks for people...
 137 admin      776 S    iwcontrol wlan0 wlan1
 149 admin      740 S    /usr/sbin/link_watcher 0
 151 admin     1176 S    klogd
 153 admin     1212 S    syslogd -S -m 0 -C32 -l 6
 232 admin     1184 S    httpd -p 80
 234 admin     1184 S    telnetd -p 23
 236 admin     2360 S    tr069
 238 admin     1028 S    miniupnpd -f /tmp/miniupnpd.conf
 240 nobody     972 S    dnsmasq --keep-in-foreground --conf-file=/tmp/dnsmas
 243 admin      972 S    dnsmasq --keep-in-foreground --conf-file=/tmp/dnsmas
 248 admin     2300 S    resident[wrkr]: waiting for something...
 3722 admin     1184 R    -sh
 4210 admin     1184 R    ps
$ top
Mem: 17512K used, 36212K free, 0K shrd, 1760K buff, 6088K cached
CPU:   0% usr   0% sys   0% nic 100% idle   0% io   0% irq   0% sirq
Load average: 0.00 0.00 0.00 1/24 4215
 PID  PPID USER     STAT   VSZ %VSZ %CPU COMMAND
 236     1 admin    S     2360   4%   0% tr069
 248    19 admin    S     2300   4%   0% resident[wrkr]: waiting for something
 19     1 admin    S     2300   4%   0% resident[mngr]: building networks for
 1     0 admin    S     1780   3%   0% /sbin/init
 153     1 admin    S     1212   2%   0% syslogd -S -m 0 -C32 -l 6
 234     1 admin    S     1184   2%   0% telnetd -p 23
 232     1 admin    S     1184   2%   0% httpd -p 80
 3722   234 admin    S     1184   2%   0% -sh
 4215  3722 admin    R     1184   2%   0% top
 151     1 admin    S     1176   2%   0% klogd
 238     1 admin    S     1028   2%   0% miniupnpd -f /tmp/miniupnpd.conf
 240     1 nobody   S      972   2%   0% dnsmasq --keep-in-foreground --conf-f
 243   240 admin    S      972   2%   0% dnsmasq --keep-in-foreground --conf-f
 137     1 admin    S      776   1%   0% iwcontrol wlan0 wlan1
 149     1 admin    S      740   1%   0% /usr/sbin/link_watcher 0
 14     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [mtdblockd]
 4     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [events/0]
 5     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [khelper]
 2     0 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [kthreadd]
^C  3     2 admin    SW<      0   0%   0% [ksoftirqd/0]

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.

$ cd /proc
$ ls
4244                  tty                   kpagecount            phyRegTest
3722                  bus                   kpageflags            br_mldsnoop
248                   sys                   crypto                phyPower
243                   irq                   diskstats             reInitSwitchCore
240                   misc                  partitions            mtd
238                   execdomains           gpio                  gc_overflow_timout
236                   ioports               usb_mode_detect       alg
234                   iomem                 load_default          hw_nat
232                   timer_list            rf_switch             url_filter
153                   modules               watchdog_reboot       qos
151                   buddyinfo             wlan0                 br_wlanblock
149                   pagetypeinfo          wlan0-vxd             br_igmpsnoop
137                   vmstat                wlan0-va0             br_igmpDb
19                    zoneinfo              wlan0-va1             br_mCastFastFwd
14                    vmallocinfo           wlan0-va2             br_igmpVersion
9                     swaps                 wlan0-va3             br_igmpquery
8                     slabinfo              wlan1                 br_igmpQuerierInfo
7                     filesystems           wlan1-vxd             br_mldQuerierInfo
6                     locks                 wlan1-va0             br_mldVersion
5                     cmdline               wlan1-va1             br_mldquery
4                     cpuinfo               wlan1-va2             br_igmpProxy
3                     devices               wlan1-va3             enable_dos
2                     interrupts            custom_Passthru_wlan  filter_table
1                     loadavg               rtl865x               fast_pptp
self                  meminfo               eth0                  pptp_conn_ck
mounts                stat                  eth1                  fast_l2tp
net                   uptime                custom_Passthru       fast_hello_reply
sysvipc               version               peth0                 fast_pppoe
fs                    kcore                 StormCtrl             fast_nat
driver                kmsg                  eee                   suspend_check
$ cat uptime
6155.48 6055.91
$ cat loadavg
0.00 0.00 0.00 1/24 4258
$ cat cpuinfo
system type             : RTL8881a
processor               : 0
cpu model               : 56322
BogoMIPS                : 519.37
hardware watchpoint     : no
tlb_entries             : 64
mips16 implemented      : yes
$ cat meminfo
MemTotal:          53724 kB
MemFree:           36248 kB
Buffers:            1760 kB
Cached:             6092 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:             4036 kB
Inactive:           5300 kB
Active(anon):       1484 kB
Inactive(anon):        0 kB
Active(file):       2552 kB
Inactive(file):     5300 kB
SwapTotal:             0 kB
SwapFree:              0 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:          1496 kB
Mapped:             1580 kB
Slab:               7468 kB
SReclaimable:        440 kB
SUnreclaim:         7028 kB
PageTables:          192 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:       26860 kB
Committed_AS:       3732 kB
VmallocTotal:    1048404 kB
VmallocUsed:         328 kB
VmallocChunk:    1045688 kB

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

$ ls
webs     usr      sys      root     opt      lib64    lib      etc      bin
var      tmp      sbin     proc     mnt      lib32    home     dev      VERSION
$ ls /bin
zcat            sleep           pppd            ln              igmpx           dd
wscd            sh              ping            l2tpd           iapp            date
urlfilterd      rm              nice            kill            gzip            cp
umount          resident_cli    mount           iwpriv          gunzip          chat
uboot.img       resident        modprobe        iwlist          grep            cat
true            ps              mkdir           iwcontrol       false           busybox
touch           pptp            ls              iwconfig        echo            auth
tar             pppoe-relay     login           ip              dnsmasq_script  ash
$ ls /sbin
tr069        reboot       lsmod        iwspy        iwconfig     halt         button_test
syslogd      poweroff     logread      iwpriv       insmod       event
route        miniupnpd    led_test     iwlist       init         ebtables
rmmod        mfc          klogd        iwgetid      ifconfig     dcfg
$ ls /usr/bin
udhcpc        tail          nslookup      logger        hexdump       [[
traceroute    renice        nc            killall       free          [
top           pmap          mtd_write     iptables-xml  crontab
test          passwd        md5sum        inadyn        basename
$ ls /usr/sbin
zebra             ntpd              iptables-restore  drop_caches       arptables
vconfig           notify_all        iptables-multi    dnsmasq
telnetd           link_watcher      iptables          crond
ripd              iptables-save     httpd             brctl

That is where we bring a brief review of the router command line to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing it.

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 protocol. D-Link DIR-806A wireless router boots in 31 seconds. We believe that the 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. On the whole, there were eight open ports discovered. The most interesting data of those we obtained are presented below.

Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention 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
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

We decided to start the performance tests with evaluating user data transmission speeds upon performing of NAT/PAT translations. The tests were carried out with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent TCP sessions.

Apart from performing translations, DIR-806A can carry out common routing too.

The most important tests for the users who live on the territory of ex-Soviet bloc countries are device performance measurements upon operation of tunnel connections. Our experience tells us that the usage of PPTP connections loads routers the most and that's exactly why we decided to make the measurements using this protocol. On the diagram below one can see the results of the measurements of user data transfer speeds upon a PPTP connection that uses neither encryption nor data compression.

Naturally, data compression and even more so encryption reduce the performance considerably. Upon using data compression in the tunnel without encryption we could not perform the measurements in a complete way because the VPN connection failed in both directions when 15 concurrent TCP sessions were established. That's why the diagram below only has data about ten concurrent connections. It's worth mentioning that usually service providers do not use data compression and/or encryption for PPTP tunnels in their networks and that's why we don't think that the detected problem is serious. However, we still notified the vendor about this and we were told that this bug will be fixed in the next firmware versions. But our readers can already use the diagrams presented below in order to review the obtained speeds.

Performance tests of D-Link DIR-806A router wireless segment turned out to be really interesting, too. Its wireless segment supports both frequency ranges: 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

After receiving results of these measurements it looked like the bottleneck was not the module itself but the wired network. That's why we connected two wired clients and performed simultaneous transfer of data between one wireless and two wired clients.

Our concerns proved to be right: the wired segment performance was the bottleneck.

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

Conclusion

We are glad about D-Link DIR-806A wireless router we tested. It has good performance, doesn't cost much, and is pretty small. We would call it a nice standard model that will be a perfect choice for the majority of common users of the Internet who don't need the highest speeds and performance results but neither want to have a slow connection.

Among the strength areas of D-Link DIR-806A wireless router are the following.

  • Good device performance upon operation with VPN
  • Small size
  • Great wireless speeds
  • Availability of information on utilization of wireless channels in the web-interface
  • Competitive price
  • Support of virtual networks (VLAN)

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention certain drawbacks of the model.

  • No IPv6 support
  • The device is pretty unstable upon usage of PPTP together with MPPC compression

As of when this article was being written, the average price for D-Link DIR-806A wireless router in Moscow online shops was 2288 roubles.

Introduction

External design

Hardware

Firmware update and auxiliary add-ons

Web-interface

Command line interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

The list of network equipment vendors that send their products for review to our test lab is getting bigger and bigger. Today we would like to get you familiar with QNAP TVS-463 NAS that has four bays for HDD mounting and is meant to meet needs of small to medium-sized businesses. Two built-in Gigabit Ethernet interfaces as well as the possibility to install an extra NIC will let network administrators get the most out of this device. However, let's take our time and tell you about everything in parts.

External design

QNAP TVS-463 NAS comes in a metal case with the following dimensions: 177x180x235 mm. The model under review is meant only for desk mounting and cannot be mounted in the rack without special-purpose shelves. Side and upper panels are not remarkable at all.

The bottom side of the device has four round rubber legs.

The front panel of the NAS features four bays for HDD mounting, LCD display and LED indicators that demonstrate status of the entire device and its separate parts, control ON/OFF and back-up buttons. Also, there is a USB 3.0 port located over here.

The biggest part of the NAS rear panel is a 120mm fan that cools down the HDDs and other device's hardware. It'd be fair to point out that there is another small fan installed on the back panel inside of the PSU. Two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, four USB 3.0 ports, expansion card slot, two HDMI interfaces, Kensington lock, power slot and antistatic wrist wrap slots are located here, too.

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

Hardware

QNAP TVS-463 is powered by quad-core 3.4 GHz AMD CPU.

The standard model (TVS-463-4G) is fitted with one 4 GBytes DDR3L 1600 Transcend RAM plate. It's worth noticing that the model TVS-463-8G with 8 GBytes of RAM is on sale, too. The RAM capacity may be increased up to 16 GBytes since there are two extra slots for RAM installation on the other side of the motherboard.

Device booting is done using Apacer flash card powered by 512 MBytes Toshiba TC58NVG2S0FTA00 flash memory chip and Apacer UCP333CLFG controller.

Two Intel WGI210AT chips answer for network support. Fintek F71869AD module performs functions of monitoring. ASMedia ASM1074 microchip acts as the USB hub. The second ASM1182e microchip made by the same-named vendor is a switch of PCIe expansion slot, allowing for connection of two PCIe x1 Gen2 devices to PCIe x1 Gen2 expansion slot.

The front panel of the NAS case features an LCD, buttons, and light indicators of the device status. Microchip PIC16F73-I/SO is used for managing all the above-mentioned elements.

Two Marvell 88SE9215 microchips are used for connection of the HDDs. The mentioned controllers support neither software nor hardware RAID and only allow for connection of SATA 3.0 disks to PCI-E expansion slot.

DELTA ELECTRONICS DPS-250AB-44D with the power output of up to 250 Watts was chosen as the PSU.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of QNAP TVS-463 to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware update and auxiliary add-ons

Firmware update is carried out in Firmware Update group, System Settings group of the control panel. Firmware update process may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. Obviously, firmware update in the semi-automatic mode is available only if the device is connected to the Internet.

If the standard functionality of QNAP TVS-463 NAS is not sufficient for the user, s/he can install third-party add-ons. Installation of these add-ons is done using App Center application. Also, one can use App Center to manage installed add-on licences if it is necessary. Add-on installation may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode, too.

One of such add-ons is Super Mario game that we improvidently installed on the NAS under review, which lead to a complete stop in the work process in our test lab for a half of the day!

Connection to the Internet may be necessary not only for firmware update or add-on installation but also for updating the database of antivirus signatures because QNAP TVS-463 NAS possesses a pre-installed antivirus module. One can access the module using Antivirus group, Applications menu item in the control panel.

It'd be fair to mention that apart from the standard antivirus software the administrator can install add-on pack from McAfee too, which is located in Utilities group, Partners item. However, McAffee requires one to purchase the license to use it. There are also other packs for antivirus security available like Malware Remover.

That is where we bring review of issues associated with update of the NAS software to a conclusion and pass to reviewing capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

One can access the web-interface of the QNAP TVS-463 NAS using any modern browser. We will not review all capabilities of the device web-interface, but will try to inspect the groups in the control panel in detail. The device had firmware 4.2 installed when we reviewed it. When this review was being written, the mentioned firmware was officially released and that's why now users can easily upgrade the NAS to this version.

QNAP TVS-463 NAS web-interface is a window software program, which helps the majority of users configure the device at ease.

The main menu is used to address the key applications of the system and manage the device.

The administrator's menu is used to switch off the device, reboot it, or put it to sleep. Apart from it, the user profile parameters are located here, too.

One should click on the button with three vertical dots in order to gain access to the extras menu. The menu is used to access help files, change the web-interface localization, and choose arrangement of the elements on the home screen.

We believe that we should point out three auxiliary buttons at the bottom of the page that let the user manage QNAP cloud services, gain access to PC and mobile utilities, and obtain expert technical support.

Now let's review the main capabilities of the system located in the Control panel where the elements are presented in four different groups: System Settings, Privilege Settings, Network Services, and Applications.

Using tabs in General Settings group, System Settings menu item, the administrator can change the device name, select ports used for connection, manage time sync, adjust login screen settings, and choose the complexity of the administrator's password.

Storage Manager group in the same menu item is used to review information about the installed internal disks and external data carriers, collect data on resource usage, manage the disk array and remote disks, and manage iSCSI targets.

Network settings are located in the same-named group in the Control panel. Using this group the administrator can change IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, bind services to a certain network interface, configure a proxy server, and manage DDNS. Management of a wireless adapter, if any, is done using Network group as well.

Management of users' connection parameters to the NAS is made using Security group. This group is used to specify what kinds of connections are allowed, set the time period during which the user gets blocked upon entering a wrong password repeatedly, and manage certificates and keys.

Hardware group is used to manage caching, fan operation, and sound signals.

One can enable scheduled switching on of the NAS and manage energy saving parameters using Power group.

The administrator can receive log information via email, SMS, and push notifications. The respective settings are located in Notification group.

Backup and settings restoration are done using Backup / Restore group.

One can connect external printers, external HDDs, flash cards, and UPSes to the USB ports of the NAS. Management of external devices is done using the same-named group.

Information about the hardware, resource usage, and system service data are located in System Status group.

One can access the log information using System Logs group.

One can set limitations on the usage of disk space for all users and group created in Users and User Groups groups, Privilege Settings menu item. This limitation is set using Quota group.

QNAP TVS-463 NAS can perform functions of a domain controller. Respective settings are located in Domain Security and Domain Controller groups.

Management of file access protocols for the three most widely used platforms is done in Win/Mac/NFS group, Network Settings menu item.

Here the administrator will be able to select what version of SMB protocol the device would use. However, the current firmware version has no support of multipath for SMB 3.0.

One should use FTP group in order to manage settings of the same-named protocol.

SNMP is often used for centralized collection of statistical information and its management. The respective settings are located in the same-named group.

Yet another group of Network Services menu item, Qsync Central Station 2.0, is used to synchronize files between the devices.

Apart from performing its standard functions, storing user data and providing access to them, QNAP TVS-463 offers various auxiliary services too: multimedia servers, web server, VPN server and client, SQL servers as well as Syslog, RADIUS, and TFTP. Groups in Applications menu item are used to manage operation parametres of the auxiliary services.

Two HDMI ports on the rear panel of the NAS provide the administrator a possibility to use the multimedia features of the device not only on the web, but also offline by getting it connected directly to a TV set or projector. This way the device will function as a common video player.

We cannot help but mention the capability of antivirus check of all user data stored on the NAS. These settings can be managed in Antivirus group, Applications menu item. Obviously, we recommend our readers to update antivirus databases automatically. If access to the Internet is not available, it can be done manually by updating via a pre-downloaded file.

That is where we bring review of QNAP TVS-463 NAS web-interface to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its command line.

Command line interface

Managing the access to the command line of the device via Telnet and SSH protocols is performed using Telnet/SSH group, Network Services menu item.

In order to access the device command line one must use the same log-on information as for the connection to the storage web-interface. Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 3.12.6 OS using Busy Box 1.01.

[/] # uname -a
Linux TS251C 3.12.6 #1 SMP Sat Sep 19 02:09:50 CST 2015 x86_64 unknown
[/] # busybox
BusyBox v1.01 (2015.09.18-19:09+0000) multi-call binary
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
 or: [function] [arguments]...
 BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
 utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
 link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
 will act like whatever it was invoked as!
Currently defined functions:
 [, addgroup, adduser, ash, awk, basename, bunzip2, busybox, bzcat,
 cat, chgrp, chmod, chown, chroot, chvt, clear, cmp, cp, crond,
 crontab, cut, date, dc, dd, deallocvt, delgroup, deluser, df,
 dirname, dmesg, dos2unix, du, echo, egrep, env, expr, false, fdisk,
 fgrep, find, free, getty, grep, gunzip, gzip, halt, head, hexdump,
 hostname, hwclock, id, ifconfig, init, insmod, install, ip, kill,
 killall, klogd, linuxrc, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum,
 mkdir, mknod, mktemp, modprobe, more, mount, mv, nameif, netstat,
 nslookup, openvt, passwd, pidof, ping, ping6, pivot_root, poweroff,
 ps, pwd, rdate, readlink, reboot, renice, reset, rm, rmdir, rmmod,
 route, sed, sh, sha1sum, sleep, sort, strings, swapoff, swapon,
 switch_root, sync, sysctl, syslogd, tail, tar, tee, telnet, test,
 tftp, time, top, touch, tr, traceroute, true, tty, umount, uname,
 uniq, unix2dos, unzip, uptime, usleep, vi, wc, wget, which, whoami,
 xargs, yes, zcat

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. By using top utility one can obtain information on the current activity of the launched processes. We decided to present outputs of the utilities in an individual file.

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

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilisation, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. We deleted the information about other three 'CPUs' intentionally since it was equal to the information for the first core. Actually, system uptime and average system utilisation can also be learnt using uptime command.

[/] # cd /proc
[/proc] # ls
1/             15570/         32/            6817/          9828/
10/            1578/          32269/         6850/          9834/
100/           1604/          32287/         6857/          9835/
101/           1605/          33/            6858/          9839/
102/           16219/         330/           6862/          9909/
103/           16239/         331/           6871/          acpi/
108/           1625/          34/            7/             asound/
10889/         16355/         341/           7022/          buddyinfo
109/           16412/         354/           7177/          bus/
10912/         16417/         355/           7213/          cgroups
10933/         16418/         36/            7216/          cmdline
11/            16583/         37/            7217/          config.gz
110/           16586/         3798/          7220/          consoles
11013/         16596/         3800/          7221/          cpuinfo
11052/         17/            39/            7222/          crypto
111/           1741/          4141/          7485/          devices
11205/         18/            4253/          7583/          diskstats
11262/         19/            4690/          7593/          dma
11388/         2/             4866/          7688/          drbd
11427/         20/            4984/          8/             driver/
11445/         203/           5/             9/             execdomains
116/           20544/         5010/          92/            fb
11632/         208/           5069/          9278/          filesystems
117/           209/           5176/          9288/          fintek_cir/
11721/         21/            5448/          9290/          flashcache/
11780/         210/           5449/          9291/          fs/
11781/         21044/         5450/          93/            interrupts
11782/         214/           5509/          9301/          iomem
118/           215/           5512/          9302/          ioports
119/           2170/          5513/          9303/          irq/
12/            21878/         5516/          9304/          kallsyms
120/           22/            5517/          9305/          kcore
121/           220/           5518/          9306/          key-users
123/           221/           5723/          9307/          kmsg
1257/          2217/          5783/          9308/          kpagecount
1260/          222/           5938/          9313/          kpageflags
127/           224/           5939/          9316/          loadavg
13/            225/           5940/          9319/          locks
1353/          2252/          5975/          9322/          mdstat
1354/          226/           5988/          9325/          meminfo
1384/          227/           5990/          9328/          misc
1385/          2282/          5991/          9331/          modules
1387/          2290/          5994/          9334/          mounts@
14/            23/            5995/          9337/          mtrr
1429/          2310/          5996/          9357/          net@
1431/          24/            62/            9380/          pagetypeinfo
1433/          24088/         6223/          9381/          partitions
1435/          25/            6239/          94/            qnap_uvd_info
1441/          2582/          6241/          9409/          scsi/
1444/          26/            6243/          9428/          self@
1445/          2648/          6244/          9485/          slabinfo
1446/          269/           6248/          95/            softirqs
1447/          27/            6297/          9564/          stat
1448/          28/            63/            9580/          swaps
1449/          28048/         6325/          96/            sys/
1450/          2824/          6327/          9629/          sysvipc/
1451/          29/            6376/          97/            timer_list
1452/          3/             64/            9706/          tsinfo/
1453/          30/            6430/          9714/          tty/
1454/          30579/         65/            9720/          uptime
1456/          31/            6511/          9721/          version
1458/          31099/         66/            9728/          vmallocinfo
1463/          31105/         67/            9740/          vmstat
15/            3165/          68/            9826/          zoneinfo
[/proc] # cat uptime
37133.17 117285.85
[/proc] # cat loadavg
1.02 1.07 1.11 2/1079 2655
[/proc] # cat cpuinfo
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 22
model           : 48
model name      : AMD GX-424CC SOC with Radeon(TM) R5E Graphics
stepping        : 1
microcode       : 0x7030105
cpu MHz         : 2400.000
cache size      : 2048 KB
physical id     : 0
siblings        : 4
core id         : 0
cpu cores       : 4
apicid          : 0
initial apicid  : 0
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 13
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36
clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt pdpe1gb rdtscp lm constant_tsc
rep_good nopl nonstop_tsc extd_apicid aperfmperf eagerfpu pni pclmulqdq monitor ssse3
cx16 sse4_1 sse4_2 movbe popcnt aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm cmp_legacy svm
extapic cr8_legacy abm sse4a misalignsse 3dnowprefetch osvw ibs skinit wdt topoext
perfctr_nb perfctr_l2 arat xsaveopt hw_pstate npt lbrv svm_lock nrip_save tsc_scale
flushbyasid decodeassists pausefilter pfthreshold bmi1
bogomips        : 4791.02
TLB size        : 1024 4K pages
clflush size    : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes   : 40 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management: ts ttp tm 100mhzsteps hwpstate [12] [13]
[/proc] # cat meminfo
MemTotal:        7085624 kB
MemFree:          249588 kB
Buffers:            4808 kB
Cached:          2109124 kB
SwapCached:        14888 kB
Active:          4825296 kB
Inactive:        1703508 kB
Active(anon):    3811580 kB
Inactive(anon):   635636 kB
Active(file):    1013716 kB
Inactive(file):  1067872 kB
Unevictable:        3696 kB
Mlocked:            2276 kB
SwapTotal:        530108 kB
SwapFree:         183744 kB
Dirty:                36 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:       4406148 kB
Mapped:            29120 kB
Shmem:             30924 kB
Slab:             114608 kB
SReclaimable:      70984 kB
SUnreclaim:        43624 kB
KernelStack:        8648 kB
PageTables:        17948 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:     4072920 kB
Committed_AS:   12382924 kB
VmallocTotal:   34359738367 kB
VmallocUsed:      321464 kB
VmallocChunk:   34359343868 kB
HardwareCorrupted:     0 kB
HugePages_Total:       0
HugePages_Free:        0
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB
DirectMap4k:       11196 kB
DirectMap2M:     3072000 kB
DirectMap1G:     4194304 kB
[/proc] # uptime
 13:23:10 up 10:19, load average: 1.01, 1.06, 1.10
[/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. The first echo-reply is received after 136 seconds. However, TVS-463 makes a noise after it's booted. In this case, we will consider the booting time as the moment when the device makes the sound. QNAP TVS-463 NAS boots in 180 seconds. Also, we decided to measure how much it takes for the device to switch off. It turned out that TVS-463 model switches off in 175 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 7.8 (build 8.25.5.23382) network security scanner. On the whole, there were 25 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below.

QNAP TVS-463 model under review possesses two HDMI ports, letting one turn this common NAS into a multimedia device. These ports may be used to output images and sound to a TV set or projector, making TVS-463 a base for home cinema. In order to make it happen one can use such packs as Photo Station, Music Station, and Video Station. Apart from them, HD Station service includes many other apps that let the user talk over Skype or social networks, browse the web, and so on. The following peripheral devices may be connected to the storage for a more convenient browsing and entertainment experience: keyboards, mouses, web-cameras, and remote controls.

As a matter of course, we couldn't help but try it all. We uploaded photos and video taken by our tourist group during a trip to the Kola peninsular as well as a couple of movies downloaded from the web to the device.

Watching photos and listening to music didn't load the device in any noticeable way. However, transcoding of some videos in real time consumed the largest part of the device CPU resources.

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

Component PC
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
Intel X540-T2
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus
Windows 2012 R2

We decided to begin measuring the performance of QNAP TVS-463 NAS with measuring access speeds through SMB/CIFS and iSCSI protocols upon connection via the built-in Gigabit Ethernet interface. The measurements were taken for all types of supported RAID arrays.

Before getting down to the measurements we intentionally reduced the size of RAM available to the system on our test PC. This was done for reducing the influence of local caching according to the Intel recommendations. Unfortunately, DirectoryCopyToNAS test results were still coming out weird and that is why we decided not to include them in the diagram.

On the diagrams presented above one can see that the obtained speeds were limited by the throughput of the network interface. Since the model under review possesses a capability of establishing several simultaneous iSCSI (iSCSI MultiPath), we decided to use both Gigabit Ethernet ports. Also, we asked the vendor to provide us an extra NIC with 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface. Results of the measurements for the three connection methods that we mentioned are presented on the diagram below.

We repeated all measurements that we had made with the only difference, now our test PC and the NAS were connected by a 10 GE network. All further measurements, if not specified otherwise, use a 10GE connection.

Apart from IPv4 support, the model under review also supports the next version of Internet Protocol, IPv6.

As one can see from the diagrams above, TVS-463 performance upon operation in IPv6 is quite high and in some cases it's even higher than that of IPv4.

Unfortunately, the chance of an HDD failure is not as low as zero. This is why we decided to find out how the process of RAID array rebuild influences the overall performance of the device.

To our great surprise, the rebuilding procedure doesn't affect the performance of QNAP TVS-463 NAS.

QNAP TVS-463 NAS can perform functions of a VPN server. The diagram presented below shows the performance of the device when a user is connected to it using three tunnel protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and OpenVPN.

The partition connected through iSCSI protocol can be formatted into any file system that is supported by the client OS. Since we used a PC with Microsoft Windows 2012 R2 OS for testing, the following file systems were available: NTFS, ReFS, FAT32, and exFAT. As a matter of course, we understand that the performance of each of these file system mainly depends on how its support in this or that OS is performed. However, still we decided to provide the readers with the results of our measurements.

Upon creating an iSCSI target the administrator will need to choose how this target is to be created: as a file on the existing or new partition or as a separate object located directly on the disk array. Placing of the target as the object directly on the disk array ensures high access speeds to the user data (according to the built-in info wizard). We decided to find out the difference between the obtained speeds in both cases. According to the results of our measurements, access speeds to the iSCSI target turned out higher upon placing as the file on the existing partition.

QNAP TVS-463 NAS possesses USB 3.0 ports, which we used to connect our external 256 GBytes Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD. The measurements were carried out in two modes: when the test PC is connected to the NAS through Gigabit Ethernet interface and when it is connected to the NAS using 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface.

As one can see from the diagrams above, the device under review can provide significantly higher access speeds to the data located even on an external device upon connection through a higher speed network.

Since TVS-465 model is produced in two versions, with 4 and 8 GBytes of RAM, we decided to find out whether increasing the RAM capacity influences the device performance and we asked the vendor to provide us an extra RAM module.

And though we didn't see a considerable increase in the device performance after increasing the RAM capacity, installing another RAM plate will make a whole array of new auxiliary features available to the administrator. QNAP NASes possess Virtualization Station add-on, which is a second type hypervisor that lets the user launch guest OSes. Naturally, the hardware resources that TVS-463 features cannot be called powerful enough for performing virtualization tasks, but still they do well for a whole array of standard tasks that don't have high hardware requirements. Virtualization Station lets the administrator clearly specify the amount of RAM and the number of CPU cores that guest OS will be allocated. We installed Microsoft Windows 7 x64 as the guest system and allocated it 4 GBytes of RAM and all 4 CPU cores. The above-mentioned OS has a mechanism of OS performance assessment built-in and we decided to use it. Results of the measurement are presented below.

For purposes of comparison we decided to include the performance result of our test PC whose key specifications we presented earlier. A considerable difference in performance of the disk sub-system may be explained by the usage of SSD in our test PC while QNAP TVS-463 NAS was fitted with common HGST HDN724030ALE640 HDDs meant to be used in NASes.

Probably the most interesting test associated with virtualization is measuring access speeds to data stored on the disk array from a guest OS. In order to do this we launched Intel NASPT 1.7.1 directly in our Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 x64 guest system. Results of the measurements are presented below.

And, as a matter of course, we decided to find out what speeds HGST HDN724030ALE640 HDDs, which were used in the tests, are capable of showing.

We couldn't keep away from the capability of antivirus check of the user data. This check may be performed using ClamAV or McAfee (available under license) antivirus modules. Unfortunately, system files check is not supported by the modules. It wasn't our aim to compare these antivirus engines or measure the exact speed values since in this case they would depend on a variety of factors: antivirus signature database version, type and size of the user files, and so on. During our tests we performed the check of file sets (FileCopyFromNAS and DirectoryCopyFromNAS) used by Intel NASPT utility. Results of the measurements are presented on the diagram below.

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

Conclusion

Generally, we are glad about QNAP TVS-463 NAS we tested. It supports up to four SATA HDDs or SSDs. Irrespective of the small size of the device case and desk-mounted design, the NAS performance turned out to be almost equal to that of the rack-mounted NASes. Availability of two versions of the device, which are different in RAM capacity, will improve buying experience of the prospective customers.

Among the strength areas of QNAP TVS-463 NAS are the following.

  • Ability to install an extra NIC
  • Support of IPv6
  • Ability to aggregate network interfaces
  • High access speeds to the user data
  • An HDMI port
  • Ability to launch guest OSes
  • Presence of USB 3.0 ports
  • Ability to hot swap HDDs
  • A built-in VPN server and client
  • Ability to install auxiliary add-ons
  • Availability of an antivirus engines

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention certain drawbacks of the model.

  • A small fan in the PSU
  • Poor translation of the web-interface
  • Relatively high price

As of when this article was being written, the average price for a QNAP TVS-463-4G in Moscow online shops was 91200 roubles. Whilst TVS-463-8G model cost 96500 roubles. The prices do not include HDDs.