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ASUS RT-N56U "Black Diamond" Wireless Router Review

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: ASUS

ASUS RT-N56U Router Conclusion and Wrap Up

 

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Color me impressed.  The ASUS RT-N56U exceeded my expectations in almost every way.  Considering this is one of the lower end offerings in ASUS’ Dual Band N Series, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.  ASUS offers a great looking piece of hardware with the N56U that would look nice on a desk or shelf with its clean lattice design.  The front facing blue LED’s are understated, yet let you view the router status easily with a simple glance.  Seemingly sturdily built, I would have liked to have seen mounting holes on the back of the unit for mounting to a wall if one wished to do so.  Regardless, the included stand gives the router a small footprint and shows off the great design and appearance of the router when standing up vertically.

At first glance the firmware was disappointing because it didn’t match the great UI I saw on the ASUS RT-N66U.  But fear not, before I could even finish the review, a new firmware version appeared and gave the UI an overhaul, bringing it up to the great interface from the N66U.  There are so many features built into the firmware that make this router much more than a simple device to handle networking tasks.  The options available to take advantage of the two USB ports alone really add to the router, throw in a VPN server, a fully featured firewall and Traffic shaping/monitoring and you have yourself an excellent and easy to use interface with enough under the hood to make any power user happy.  The only feature I noticed that wasn’t available that I would have liked to have seen would be the capability to add at least one guest network.

Looking at networking performance, one thing that keeps coming into my mind is how consistent the RT-N56U was across all the tests.  Often you’ll see a router that excels in Maximum uploads or downloads, only to tank in Average or Minimum speeds.  You won’t find that with the RT-N56U, and in almost every case, the Average, Minimum and Maximum throughput speeds were neck and neck with each other and usually within a few Mbps.

Wired connectivity was excellent as well.  The RT-N56U and it maintained the highest Minimum Download and Upload speeds we’ve seen to date (730 Mbps and 712.8 Mbps respectively.)  Average and Maximum speeds were impressive as well, beating the Apple Airport across the board and beating the RT-N66U in Average speeds while keeping right up there with the Crossover Cable tests.

Wireless networking was also solid for the most part with the ASUS RT-N56U.  I was originally concerned that the router didn’t have external antennas, and in some cases, I think the internal antenas may have hurt speeds in the Normal and Torture tests.  But in the Lab Tests, the ASUS RT-N56U beat the Apple Airport in most cases and traded blows back and forth with its bigger brother, the RT-N66U in both 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums. 

Moving to our Normal Use tests, there were a few bumps along the road where the RT-N56U couldn’t keep pace with the Apple Airport and N66U in Maximum speeds, but looking at the tests as a whole, the RT-N56U put up strong numbers, particularly with Average speeds.   Once again, consistency between Average, Maximum and Minimum test results impressed me.

The torture tests did put a hurting on the ASUS RT-N56U, as it did to all of the routers.  The RT-N56U performed adequately in the tests it could connect, and in some instances did better than its big brother the RT-N66U.

My only gripe about networking comes back to my pet peeve about vendors marketing speeds that are not accurate.  The ASUS RT-N56U is marketed as a 300x2 Mbps product that should be able to obtain speeds of 300 Mbps on the 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums simultaneously.  That fastest 5 GHz speed I was able to obtain on the RT-N56U was a 168.7 Mbps in the Lab Download test.  At 2.4 GHz, the maximum speed I saw was 86.4 Mbps, also in the Lab Download test.  I understand it’s not realistic to expect to get 100% of the theoretical maximum speeds.  But when we’re lucky to see 40-50% of the claimed speeds there’s a problem with the way all networking vendors are marketing these products and speeds to consumers.

All in all, I really like the ASUS RT-N56U.  The firmware alone gives this router capabilities and functions usually reserved for high end networking gear.  For $99 online you are not only getting a pretty solid Wireless router, you are getting an online file sharing tool, a FTP server, a Network Printer Server, backup internet protection, a torrent box, a DLNA media server, a NAS box, a firewall, and a VPN server all tucked into a nice little package.  The RT-N56U is a no brainer for anyone in the market for a good solid router.  While you won’t see the blazing wireless speeds you might get on some of the newer AC or even N routers, considering this router is probably $50 or $60 cheaper than those this is a great buy.  The ASUS RT-N56U just flat out exceeded my expectations in just about every area.  While I had been contemplating replacing my current router with an ASUS RT-N66U, I think the RT-N56U will be handling my networking needs in the near future.

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ASUS RT-N56U Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Gigabit Router

December 2, 2012 | 10:11 AM - Posted by razor512

Seems pretty good, especially with the VPN server. I wish more companies would do that. I have only experienced unstable implementations of routers functioning as a VPN server using pptp and openvpn was more trouble than it was worth because of all of the command line needed and also there being no decent tutorial that did not require you to read like 20 pages and still not get it working.

I like having a VPN that is easy to use so I can quickly login from my laptop, or from a Linux live USB if on a public computer.

While openVPN is more secure than the older PPTP, no one has made a GUI front end where you can do a few clicks and then if gives you all of the various config texts to turn the router setup part into a copy and pasture job, and automate the client setup process as much as possible.

Also liked the router performance improvements, it seems that they optimized the firmware a bit better, hopefully those optimization make their way to the N66U

December 3, 2012 | 05:06 AM - Posted by Dave (not verified)

I've been using one of these for almost 2 years now (ever since my old D-Link DI-624 died) and have been extremely pleased with the performance of the router.

I've not had a single dropped WiFi connection (and I generally have at least an iPad and 2 iPhones connected any time I'm home, and occasionally a laptop or 2) and the LAN speeds have always been solid.

In most cases, I take an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to my routers. But seeing that they've done a complete UI overhaul with the newest firmware, I just have to go and upgrade it now.

That was really the only downside I found with the router. I couldn't stand having to work through that old UI.

Great review and I also would highly recommend this router. I don't think you can do any better for under ~$100.

December 3, 2012 | 06:08 AM - Posted by Lord Binky (not verified)

I had a D-link gamerlounge (DGL-4500), it had good specs to go along with the marketing ;) , that I replaced with this when it had started to act up. I think it was running a Terraria server that pushed the D-Link over the edge.

This has held up much better than my D-link did, and was really impressed how well this performed without a myriad of antennas sticking out (my d-link had 3).

December 3, 2012 | 07:59 AM - Posted by Justin 150 (not verified)

I have this router - I must upgrade the firmware as pcper did - and it just works. Plug it in and off you go. It is fast, reliable has good wireless range what more could you ask for

Only one problem with the design is that the Cat cables stick out so you will need to invest in a set of right angle connectors to preserve the clean look - if that is important to you.

Highly recommended

December 3, 2012 | 09:23 AM - Posted by Serwei (not verified)

Have you tried the Padavan firmware? Google for it.

December 3, 2012 | 09:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

There is a RT-N65U at the egg for the same price. Looks like an updated version with USB 3.0 and more range being the big difference.

December 24, 2012 | 12:57 AM - Posted by BADMINTON (not verified)

Have lost my installation disc. Can anyone tell me have to get it on line ?

December 24, 2012 | 08:36 AM - Posted by David Henderson (not verified)

I have tried the new firmware and despit resetting/ rebooting etc, find it keeps dropping wireless connections. Have tried lots of different firmware for this over the last 16 months or so that alive owned it, including the Panamanian firmware, the only version to date that I've found reliable is 1.0.1.8f . All the rest are hopeless

December 24, 2012 | 08:39 AM - Posted by David Henderson (not verified)

Sorry about the typos. My ipad autocorrects everything incorrectly. Meant Padavan firmware

December 24, 2012 | 08:41 AM - Posted by David Henderson (not verified)

Don't need installation disc for asus router - just access via web browser at address 192.168.1.1. Can update firmware from here.

December 24, 2012 | 01:43 PM - Posted by David Henderson (not verified)

Also meant firmware version 1.0.1.7f. Not 8f!

January 6, 2013 | 07:46 PM - Posted by gclyn (not verified)

Currently using the firmware that shipped with my router - V1.0.1.8j and working solidly so far. This is a replacement router as the first one I got kept spontaneously rebooting and intermittently unable to connect to internet via wifi. I had upgraded the first one with the latest f/w xxxx.318...don't know if the upgraded firmware caused the problems, but I just returned for a new one through amazon.

January 6, 2013 | 07:47 PM - Posted by gclyn (not verified)

Currently using the firmware that shipped with my router - V1.0.1.8j and working solidly so far. This is a replacement router as the first one I got kept spontaneously rebooting and intermittently unable to connect to internet via wifi. I had upgraded the first one with the latest f/w xxxx.318...don't know if the upgraded firmware caused the problems, but I just returned for a new one through amazon.

January 23, 2013 | 11:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Had this router for about 2 weeks now. Updated to latest firmware and experienced the dropped connections I have read about. Just now downgrading to .7f. Haven't put it back online yet (using old router currently), but I do not see the Parental Controls. Is this only in the latest firmware?

February 10, 2013 | 04:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

One thing, does it support more than one printer at the same time?
I would like to connect 2 or 3 printers (with a usb hub)?

February 20, 2013 | 06:03 PM - Posted by Dirty (not verified)

I've been using it 2 weeks. It arrived with the 1.0.1.8j I updated the firmware to 3.0.0.4.342 while I was setting it up. I'm running the media server, two wireless g 2.47 subnets through it as well as the n on 5. Plus using the VPN, usb for a hard drive share and a printer. No dropped wireless connections and the VPN has been solid.

March 3, 2013 | 06:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Would you please share how to setup your vpn? I tried to setup VPN with my iphone 5, but unfortunately I always got the error " A connection could not be established to the ppp server" no matter I am at home or office.

thanks,

March 20, 2013 | 11:39 AM - Posted by Fakrul Alam (not verified)

Does any one have experience of using IPv6 in this router? I am planning to have one for IPv4 & IPv6 dual stack.

April 25, 2013 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Daveypoo (not verified)

hey i just updated my firmware to the most recent 3.0.0.4.342. Love this router, but with the old firmware u were able to block mac address, i cant seem to figure out how to do it on the latest firmware... i have neighbours whos kid is living with us... ftw... n they mysteriously obtained our network key, its easier just to block them rather than have to go thru the whole proccess on setting everything back up with the new network key... someone please show me the light, much appreciated

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