ASUS RT-AC66U Wireless Router Setup
So now that we’ve had the grand tour of the RT-AC66U hardware, it is time now to look at the software side of things. Setup is as simple or as hard as you want to make it. There are no drivers or software to install, you can simply connect your modem to the WAN port and connect your PC to any of the four LAN ports. The configuration of the RT-AC66U is browser based and the browser will be automatically redirected to the Quick Internet setup screen. It’s fairly easy to follow the steps in this process, as there are a minimum of choices and a lot of them are defaulted to the most reasonable choice. The emphasis with this setup mode is to get you up and running as quickly and easily as possible.
During the setup process your internet connection type is normally auto-detected; after that are screens to enter wireless security settings and that’s it. If that seems too easy, then login to the router again, and you start out with the network map and menu screen shown below. While it may look like a simple menu-driven command structure, keyed off the selections in the left hand pane, each of the boxes in the middle of the screen can be selected and related menus will pop up in the right hand pane. It’s a very advanced layout, compared to many of their competitors, and happily it doesn’t make basic tasks more difficult. It may look complicated at first glance, but it’s actually very intuitive once you start using it. I’m a firm believer in simplicity when it comes to design – all types of design. Too many teams spend 80% of their time and energy designing things that only need to be used 20% of the time, or things that only 20% of users need. That only leaves 20% of their time, to get the parts right, which people need to use 80% of the time. Apple is one of the few design teams that turns the Pareto principle around; they spend most of their efforts getting the parts right, that people use most of the time.
The External USB disk status screen below shows how well this interface works. Just click on one of the clients shown on the network device map in the middle, and the right hand pane shows the status. The most common tasks you might want to perform are there in the right hand pane, as well. There are buttons to enable Media Server and the AiDisk Wizard, as well as a button to safely remove the USB device. I know that seems like a throwback to XP, but it’s unlikely that most users are going to be popping thumb drives in and out of the router on a regular basis. These two features are more in line with emulating a NAS, using the router and an external disk drive. If you need to dive deeper into management of any device, you click on one of the tabs in the left hand pane; in this case click on the one marked “USB Application”.
You can set up six guest networks on the RT-AC66U, three each on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Each guest network has its own unique SSID and security settings so you can set up limited connectivity on a guest network that has a low barrier to entry. You don’t want to have Grandma getting all cranky when she has trouble connecting her iPad to your internet connection. Each Guest network also has simplified parental controls that allow the administrator to set specific access times, or to shut off internet access completely off.
The next tab on the menu is Traffic Manager, which is really geared more towards Quality of Service management. There are two modes, Automatic and User-Defined, which are selected using the drop down box in the upper right. Any time you have a mixture of P2P, Online Gaming, VOIP, and Video Streaming, some level of QoS management is called for. The automatic setting only needs you to input the upload and download speeds for your ISP, and it applies a typical hierarchy to the various services. The User-Defined screens offer much more granular control for each type of service. There is a Traffic Monitor tab in this section which helps you to monitor the following types of network traffic: Internet, Wired, 2.4GHz Wireless, 5GHz Wireless. Incoming and outgoing packets are tracked separately and displayed on a scrolling line graph for each of the four categories of traffic mentioned above.
The parental control screen shown below allows you to set specific internet time blocks for individual connected devices. This can be used for guest networks, and for any individual client connected to the router. You can pick and choose which clients to apply controls to from the network map screen or you can enter specific MAC addresses that you want to limit.
The USB application and AiCloud menus open up a wider set of possibilities which I’ll address in the next section on WAN/Cloud Features. Directly below the six General menus on top, are the advanced settings tabs for the RT-AC66U. The best way to dive into these advanced configuration settings is to download the 130+ page User Manual from the ASUS website. There are plenty of options to keep the power users happy, and too many to discuss here. For now, let’s take a look at the features that are focused on expanding access to your network, both internally and externally.