It's pretty clear that Asus' designers took one look at the technical notes for the RT-N16 and figured that the target market would probably "get" networking terminology. As such, there was no need to dress it up in fancy plastic moulding, and any old box would do.
It's been a while since we've seen a router that looked so much the part of a router, but beyond its rather garish and cheap-looking white box casing, there's utterly nothing distinctive about the RT-N16 at all in any way. That's no great drama to speak of — we've long talked about the perfect router being one that you could stash in a cupboard and forget about, and the RT-N16 looks like you might want to do exactly that.
The RT-N16 is an 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless router with four gigabit Ethernet ports. Given that we're still seeing plenty of routers that only support the older 10/100 standard, gigabit marks this out as more of an enthusiast/power user router than most. However, it's still nice to see that Asus hasn't left the casual crowd out either, with the same simplified set-up structure as the recently reviewed. And indeed, most of the same functions such as print serving, remote FTP to attached storage devices and simple QoS configuration based on common profiles for gaming, internet, FTP or VoIP are present on the RT-N16 as well.
Asus' claim for the RT-N16 is that it's optimised for P2P applications, with support for up to 300,000 sessions for faster downloading. If you've got internet pipes big enough for 300,000 sessions, we'd love to hear from you — and we suspect the NBN would as well. That aside, assessing P2P "speeds" comparatively is an almost impossible task, given you're at the mercy of everyone else in a torrent's connections and choices. Certainly in our tests the Asus RT-N16 was no worse than any other router in P2P terms.
Like the RT-N13U, configuration of the RT-N16 can either be performed with the supplied installation CD or via a fairly standard web interface, which splits the unit's functionality between a simplified interface, complete with its own animated guide. Asus' guide is called "Dr Surf", and frankly we found him pretty cheesy and not all that useful if you weren't already au fait with networking terminology anyway. And just like the N13U, we couldn't get a networked printer to set up properly, or find the documentation on Asus' websites as to which models of printer are in fact compatible.
Gigabit networking is a nice inclusion for the RT-N16 if you've got large files to shuffle around a cabled environment, but the RT-N16 also sells itself on its wireless-N capability, with the same predictable "up to 300Mbps" claim that networking vendors so love. We put the RT-N16 through our test environment for signal strength and throughput with a standard directory of files. As always, interference sources vary from place to place and results can vary in different locations.