ASUS RT-AC66U Wireless 802.11ac Router Conclusion
Important: This section is a brief five point summary on the following categories; Performance, Appearance, Construction, Functionality and Value. Although the ratings and final score in this conclusion are as objective as possible, please be aware that every author perceives these factors differently, at various points in time. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. A high or low score does not necessarily mean that it is better or worse than a similar product that has been reviewed by another writer here at Benchmark Reviews. These are subjective ratings, and they’re unique to the individual who creates them. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusions, as they represent our product rating for the sample received, which may differ from the retail versions available when you are ready to purchase.
It’s appropriate to talk about performance first, as that is where the ASUS RT-AC66U really shines. The performance of the RT-AC66U is truly excellent, especially when used with an adapter that can utilize all three data streams, like the ASUS PCE-AC66 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless PCI-E Adapter. The performance barely tapered off with either distance or obstructions, in contrast to the 802.11n routers I compared it with. Part of the credit has to go to the new 802.11ac standard, but the teardown revealed top notch design and construction that undoubtedly contributed to the performance I observed. There is no doubt which router is top dog in my house right now, both for throughput and reliable signal coverage.
The ASUS RT-AC66U is absolutely number one in appearance among recent router products, at least from my perspective. The NETGEAR R6300 is one of the few that can compete with it, for appearance. The fact that it looks different from 99% of the routers on the market today is a good thing. At first, when I saw images online, I wondered what the textured diamond-like pattern on the top surface was all about. Now that I’ve had it set up in my office for about a month, it fits right in. Now, every matte black, or shiny white, or plain grey wireless router looks plain and ordinary to me.
The construction of the ASUS RT-AC66U is definitely a cut above the competition. The external design is well done, even if it is a repeat of a previous model. The internal design and construction is where ASUS really hit a home run, though. The PC board design looks much more like a finished product than what their competitors are offering at this time. The shielding on the board, so important for high-power RF devices like this, is also much more sophisticated and effective on the ASUS. The only room for improvement I saw was, I think the cooling could be improved by flipping the board around, so the heatsink is on the side of the case that has all the vents.
Functionality of the ASUS RT-AC66U gets top marks. ASUS takes full advantage of the two USB 2.0 ports to add NAS-like capabilities, and several Cloud-based features. You can also attach a 3G or 4G USB modem to the router for internet sharing. The automatic QoS settings are quick and simple, as is the rest of the setup. Managing the router settings is a pleasure, due to the excellent software ASUS provides. Naturally, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands both run concurrently, which allows you to maximize the available bandwidth. The external antennas offer an opportunity to use larger, or more directional antennas, but they will only be required for extreme cases. The combination of adjustable transmitting power and bandwidth, beam-forming technology, and three streams of 802.11ac work together to provide a greatly expanded useful range.
The ASUS RT-AC66U 802.11ac wireless router is available for $164.99 (NewEgg | Amazon | B&H). This product is definitely at the high end for wireless routers, but any router that has a similar feature set is going to have a similar price. In terms of value, I don’t know that the extra speed that you get with the RT-AC66U makes it a worthwhile investment. But I’ve got DSL service from my ISP instead of fiber and only a few users that need to connect wirelessly, so YMMV. For me, the increased coverage and the stability of the Wi-Fi connection in difficult locations is what makes it worth the price of admission. For the first time, I’m considering putting the downstairs office PC on a wireless connection, and getting rid of that 50′ length of CAT6 cable that snakes its way around every corner and crevice of the house. Ask yourself, “How many holes do I have to drill in the walls and floor before it makes sense just to buy a better wireless router?” I know my answer…
+ Very high throughput
+ 3 data streams on both bands
+ Expanded Wi-Fi range with 802.11ac
+ NAS-like features with USB storage
+ Cloud applications with ASUS DDNS service
+ Beam forming technology really works
+ Superior construction quality
+ Unique stylish looks
+ Flexibility of external antennas w/SMA connectors
+ Simultaneous Dual-Band (2.4/5GHz) operation
+ 3G/4G modems usable in USB 2.0 ports
+ Easy setup routine
+ Intuitive and well-designed UI
+ Extra-long PSU cable with Velcro cable-tie
– Only one available adapter that handles 3-Stream 802.11ac, PCIe only
– Setup process without internet connection is not well documented
– Parental controls use explicit Start-Stop times; daily usage limits might be useful
Final Score: 9.2 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: What benefit do you need most from IEEE 802.11ac, higher throughput or better Wi-Fi coverage?