ASUS RT-N56U "Black Diamond" Wireless Router Review
ASUS RT-N56U Router Conclusion and Wrap Up
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.
ASUS RT-N56U Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Gigabit Router