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ASUS RT-N66U, USB-N66, USB-N53 Router and Adapter Roundup

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: ASUS

Product Overview

Some computer components get all the glory.  Your normal lineup of FPS crushing GPU’s, Handbrake dominating CPU’s, and super-fast Memory end up with most of the headlines.  Yet behind the scenes, there are some computer components we use that are pivotal in our use and enjoyment of computers and receive very little fanfare.  Without networking we wouldn’t have file sharing, LAN parties or even the Internet itself.   Without routers and network adapters, we wouldn’t have networking.

ASUS recently sent a whole slew of networking components our way and we’ve decided to take them for a spin and see if they’re worth your hard earned dollars.  Our box of ASUS goodies included:

  • ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
  • ASUS PCE-N10 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
  • ASUS PCE-N15 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
  • ASUS USB-N53 - Dual Band Wireless N Adapter
  • ASUS USB-N66 - Dual Band Wireless-N900 Adapter

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Without further ado, let’s jump in and tackle each one.

ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900

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Routers are one of those components that most of us don’t really think about unless something goes horribly wrong.  Most people will buy one they find on a big box store shelf (or even worse, just use their ISP’s router), pull it out of the box, plug a few cables into it and then forget about it in a closet for a few years. 

Continue reading our roundup of the ASUS RT-N66U and accompanying adapters!!

There’s a lot of power and performance packed into today’s Wi-Fi routers and the ASUS RT-N66U is definitely no slouch.  Some highlights of the ASUS RT-N66U include:

  • 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Concurrent Dual-Band Transmissions for Strong Signal Strength and Ultra-Fast Connection Rates up to 900Mbps
  • Gigabit Ethernet Ports for the Fastest, Most Reliable Internet Performance
  • Download Master for Wireless Data Storage and Access to Router-Connected USB Storage Devices
  • Expanded Wireless Coverage with Detachable High-Powered Antennas
  • File Sharing, Printer Sharing, and 3G Sharing via Two Multi-Functional Built-in USB Ports
  • ASUSWRT Dashboard UI for Easy Setup, Signal Monitoring, and Network Application Control

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The specs sound a lot better than the aging Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 I have rocking in my networking closet.  A few items that immediately caught my eye included the dual USB ports and 900 Mbps Wi-Fi rates.

Editor's Note: Before jumping into the rest of the review, you should check out our video below where Chris and I discuss the testing methodology and general opinions on the ASUS products in question!

October 19, 2012 | 01:30 AM - Posted by TheBradyReport

Chris, nice review. Looks like a pretty nice router. I may have to pick one up to play with.

I had a few questions you might be able to answer:
- Can you lock down the admin page to only work over wired? I see a place to open WAN access to it but not WIRED/WIRELESS.
- Were you able to try DYNDNS?
- Any tests on parental control / keyword filters? I only ask because I know a number of routers in the past flat out didn't work. I know a lot of parents that struggle with this specific point :-)

The Network Services Filter looks like an interesting feature but looks like you have to custom create a rule if you want to do it by machine (IP).

I did kind of laugh at the "Famous Game List" on the port forwarding. Kind of surprised the Famous Server List didn't include IMAP or HTTPS. Not a huge deal.

I did notice on their demo that the QOS is system-wide so you can't select QOS rules but device which kind of stinks. I guess a bandwidth limit tool like on Tomato would be the better way to deal with that possibly.

Nice job. Look forward to more networking stuff on PCPer.

October 19, 2012 | 10:40 AM - Posted by Chris Barbere

Hey thanks!  Glad you enjoyed it.  To answer your questions, I don't recall seeing any way to lock the router admin down by Wi-Fi, just by WAN.

As for DynDNS and parental controls, I didn't actually get to dive too deep into them.  Due to the huge amount of tests and time constraints we couldn't dive into every available firmware option.  I do plan in future reviews that are for single adapters or routers I'll try to dig a little bit deeper into software/firmware options.

I use Tomato at home as well and love their QoS and bandwidth monitoring capabilities, hopefully more vendors start expanding out on those.

October 22, 2012 | 03:18 PM - Posted by jgstew

I have the ASUS RT-N66U

It does support DYNDNS & DNS-O-Matic which is fantastic. With DNS-O-Matic you can have the RT-N66U update OpenDNS and any other DynDNS provider. DNS-O-Matic acts as a DynDNS forwarder in a sense.

You can see the interface here: http://event.asus.com/2012/nw/dummy_ui/en/Advanced_ASUSDDNS_Content.html

May 12, 2013 | 11:41 PM - Posted by Chassidy (not verified)

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October 19, 2012 | 04:24 AM - Posted by razor512

this will make a great addition to the site. Please test the WNDR4700 and if possible contact netgear and tell them to add idle spindown to the drives, I really want get one but am not sure since many storage routers in the past (cough... apple), have been so full of fail that it has given storage routers a bad image.

Also if possible cover info on 3rd party firmware (would like to avoid routers that have no hope of 3rd party firmware).

October 19, 2012 | 10:45 AM - Posted by Chris Barbere

I think we have a Netgear or two waiting to be testing, I just don't remember what model.  I'll check when I get back next week and if we don't have that I'll see if we can get one from Netgear.

Good idea on the 3rd party firmware.  I don't know if time would permit us to test a bunch of 3rd party firmware on routers, but I'll try to mention if it's an option on each router going forward.  Doing a bit of googling, it looks like the RT-N66U can take some versions of Tomato, but I'm not sure it'd be worth it since you'd probably lose all the other functionality that ASUS has built in.  Will really depend on your use case.

October 19, 2012 | 07:16 AM - Posted by Humanitarian

Nice review! And welcome aboard Chris! I really like the ASUS RT-N66U's style and performance, definitely considering replacing my current router.

Still disappointed with the data throughput on wifi compared to the advertised speeds, unfortunately it seems like common practice these days. I'm curious to see what the test environment and setup they use to get these benchmarks in the first place.

But as you said, gotta love that marketing. Big numbers = £££ apparently

October 19, 2012 | 08:34 AM - Posted by razor512

That has pretty much always been a problem with wifi and it gets worst each year, with the latest standard 802.11c they will claim 1.2 Gbit/s to 1.6 Gbit/s, but in reality, benchmark at around 170 mbit/s to 220 mbit/s.

Since 802.11b, the delta between advertised speed and actual speed has steadly grown, in the past you could get around 60% advertised speed as a best case, and now it is down to around 25% advertised speeds

October 19, 2012 | 10:49 AM - Posted by Chris Barbere

Yeah, this is kinda a pet peeve of mine honestly.  These advertised speeds remind me of the claims from the old broadband providers back in the day.  I mean, my car can travel 1000 mph too, assuming I drop it from low earth orbit, but I'll never see those speeds. 

I'm not really sure how they come up with the 300/450 Mbps 'up to' speeds when I couldn't even get close to half that with the router and adapter sitting right next to each other.  I think I'm going to see that with every vendor though.

October 19, 2012 | 05:31 PM - Posted by TheBradyReport

I have to admit some responsibility here... I was the Sr. Product Manager for the USR x2 consumer product line back in the 90's and the whole "56k" thing kind of started this.. :-)

As you said though, if you happened to live at the head end, and plugged your modem directly into the head end modem, you might be able to get 56k so who was I to say you didn't have that setup? ;-)

I do think for this crowd, focusing on the Tomato, DD-WRT and other "enthusiast" class stuff is a good fit. I could really care less about the latest EA4500/6500 from Cisco. I can read 10 reviews about those one from the candy-store reviewers out there.

I've been running Tomato for at least 5-6+ years. Originally on the WRT-54G then the 54GL. I have it on a Netgear 3500L right now. I've also been playing around with M0n0wall (on a WatchGuard Firewall), Untangle (on a PC), DD-WRT, OpenWRT, PFSense and a few others.. Still searching for a solution that fits my needs (3 kids, 10 computers, 2 servers, 2 rokus, 2 apple TVs, 2 google TVs, and more).. QOS, Bandwidth limits, parental control (that work), bandwidth monitoring, networking monitoring are all things I'm interested in.

Network Monitoring in particular is becoming more and more of an issue. With every device online and wanting to "phone home", I want a better idea of what is going on and who is talking to what. That may not be something average users want but done correctly, a powerful router with the right features would be a huge seller. Most of the stuff on the market has just sucked for the past 10 years with the only improvements really being new WiFi standards.

With the home network being the backbone for a huge portion of our life now, its crazy that more innovation hasn't come out in this space. If you let Comacast (intentionally spelled), AT&T and other ISPs have their way, they'll reach their greasy fingers all the way into the home and charge and monitor everything. No thanks. You can plug in your data pipe to my outside wiring and go away..

October 20, 2012 | 01:42 PM - Posted by razor512

I think when they make claims such as 450mbit/s they mean, provided you can harness the power of magic while transferring your data, then you will reach 450mbit/s

I don't even know how they get away with it, many companies (eg small net builder) have tried to set up best possible case scenarios for a wifi speed test (including disabling as many things as possibly that can lead to a bandwidth or processing overhead, and still never manage to come even close to the advertised speeds). Isn't it false advertising if advertised results are impossible to to achieve is real world or even laboratory conditions?

Imagine if wifi style claims were accepted in other ways of life.
Buy our large 18 inch pizza!for $12:(opens box and it only has one 4 inch slice of pizza)

Buy our overpriced high speed internet service: (ends up being comcast, which is Latin for authentic 9600 baud experience)

How would you like a 70 inch OLED 4K TV. (buys it and wonders how they were able to fit a 70 inch tv in a 20 inch box, you then open it to find another box containing a 10 inch 100ms response time TFT LCD display)

October 22, 2012 | 01:43 AM - Posted by TheBradyReport

Yes Razor it is however companies have done it for a long time. WAY back when, the whole monitor industry was taken to court over "Viewable" area. Claims that a monitor was 15" when it had 14 inches of viewable glass caused that.

At USR, we had to put an asterix on the box and tell people that 53.3 was the highest you could get because of FCC regs. In our case we were claiming connection speed and not throughput. Yeah, splitting hairs but there was a difference.

I think in the case of WiFi there is no possible way to put out a claim that would apply to everyone. Every situation would have different interference etc..

October 22, 2012 | 03:29 PM - Posted by jgstew

The numbers used for WiFi, like 450mbps and for LAN, 1000mbps are the maximum symbol rate for the interface, not the maximum throughput. You have to add in protocol overhead, packet loss and retransmission, and then you end up with a much lower maximum throughput. You also have to take into consideration that on WiFi the clients must check every once in awhile to allow others to talk so they don't step on each other. Also if the router is not in WiFi-n only mode, it must broadcast periodically at WiFi-b or WiFi-g speeds to let potential clients know that it exists, which will bring down the maximum even further.

A network standard can have a maximum, even if it is unreachable in the real world, but there is no way for the standard makers to know what typical performance will end up being, and it will vary for situation to situation.

It would be nice if router makers gave maximum and typical real world performance numbers on the box, but that seems like a mixed bag.

October 19, 2012 | 08:43 PM - Posted by scajjr2

I've owned the N66U for about 6 months now and it rocks. Data throughput on the wired computers on our home network (all are Gb LAN equipped)when transferring say a 1.5Gb movie are a sustained 105mbps. The wireless computers (2 story cape, 3 wireless computers in the upstairs bedrooms) stay at constant 150-200mbps (they have different adapters). With my daughter &son-in-law currently staying with us there are usually 3 computers (2 wired- my gaming rig & the HTPC, a wireless N 150 in a bedroom), 2 iPad 2's, 4 Android 4G phones and 2 printers all running thru the RT-N66U and it hasn't hiccuped once.
This forum on Tim Higgin's site has lots of info and alternative firmware--http://forums.smallnetbuilder.com/forumdisplay.php?f=37 .

Sam

November 30, 2012 | 10:11 AM - Posted by Rickmtl (not verified)

Great review Chris... I have a Rt-n66u up & running & cannot complain one iota. Well... maybe one. How in God's name did you ever get the stand clipped into the back wall mount holes. ?? For the love of me i tried, but am scared if you apply alot of pressure it will break. It will not stand securely with the stand. I rather have it standing so it will cool better. Any suggestions...? TIA Rick, Montreal Canada

January 3, 2013 | 10:13 AM - Posted by pinjoh541 (not verified)

I was able to snap the stand into the base. I inserted the tabs for the stand into the holes, then pressed up (towards the end with the connections) firmly on the stand at the point where the tabs were located. I held the router cradled in my hands with my thumbs resting on the stand right at the tabs. By gradually increasing pressure, the stand did snap into place without breaking. :-)

January 22, 2013 | 11:02 AM - Posted by Michael (not verified)

Yup, did the same thing!

I feared breaking the bracket by applying so much pressure, but it did snap into place eventually. Very sturdy.

January 12, 2013 | 12:21 PM - Posted by orvtrebor

Asus PCE-N15

I can confirm it's not just that you got a bad unit. I've owned this adapter for months and it seems to have an issue when used in an x16 slot.

It will work, but it sometimes "craps out".

Found this on the Asus site...

P8Z77-V PRO (FAQ)

Due to hardware limition of the Realtek chip on PCE-N15 wireless card, PCE-N15 wireless card will function in PCIe x1 slot only. Therefore, if you would like to use PCE-N15 wireless card in your system, please plug the card into PCIe 1x slot.

January 16, 2013 | 09:31 AM - Posted by Noel (not verified)

I just bought this router and personally like it except tha it can share locally the USB storage to a maximum 5 clients pc. Or am I missing something? please help. thanks.

April 12, 2013 | 04:24 PM - Posted by M.J. Lilley (not verified)

I just got the RT-N66U v.b1. This is an awesome router. The print server was the easiest set up I have ever had. My previous router started to have glitches through the switch so I replaced it with this one. I have never paid anything in the $200 range for a router before....but boy am I glad I did.
The web interface is fantastic! The Quick Set up was easy to follow and intuitive.
I did some product review before purchasing and decided to stay away from any of the routers that were AC (RT-AC66U)due to the lack of standards and available devices. This router was, in my opinion, the "best of the best" and affordable. I'm a little concerned about the heat management of the device as it does seem to run very warm. It does come with a 2 year warranty, so I would hope heat management was considered. I really think some type of small internal fan would have been a good idea.
Anyway, If anyone were to ask me about which wireless router to buy, this would be my first recommendation. Thumbs up to ASUS.

June 18, 2013 | 12:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hi can you test the ASUS RT-N66U agents de new apple airport extreme from june 10:th???

please do I would like to know wish is the best for a big house with 4 stories and every floor is 10 by 9 meters.

July 21, 2013 | 09:23 PM - Posted by MuddyWaterous (not verified)

Is there any way to setup a USB drive connected to the ASUS RT-N66U so that it appears to computers on the same network as a mounted drive with a drive letter? The idea is to use the USB drive as a network file share and also as network backup device. It doesn't look like the ftp or the media server options do that, but it's tantalizingly close. Any ideas you have are appreciated.

July 21, 2013 | 09:57 PM - Posted by MuddyWaterous (not verified)

Please ignore my question about mapping a drive letter for backup purposes. Got it going now.

August 15, 2013 | 03:45 AM - Posted by Chingchok (not verified)

Which DDNS-services does the router support? I can not find any picture of an opened popup "Server", where i could see the different entries.
Is there also one offering to use a custom DDNS-service?

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