Amped Wireless RTA15 High Power Dual Band AC 700mW Wi-Fi Router review: High-power, long range, but poor signal quality

Like the R20000G, the RTA15's network storage feature is simple. Once an external hard drive is plugged into the router's USB port, its entire content will be shared across the network with everybody having full access to it. There's no way to customize this. In addition to this simple sharing method, you can set up an FTP server targeting the external drive. In my trials, the USB port worked with external hard drives formatted in either NTFS or FAT file systems and was able to handle drives that already contained data, quickly sharing a drive's content with the rest of the network.

The RTA15 comes with a good set of features, including a QoS feature where you can manually assign an Internet bandwidth cap for specific clients.
The RTA15 comes with a good set of features, including a QoS feature where you can manually assign an Internet bandwidth cap for specific clients. Dong Ngo/CNET

Performance
Despite the fact this is a dual-stream router, I had high expectations for its performance, especially in terms of Wi-Fi range, and for the most part the router didn't deliver.

It did show great range, slightly longer than that of other higher-end three-stream 802.11ac routers. However, the signal quality was generally subpar. Farther away from the router, at 120 feet or more, it was generally hard to get a client connected, and when connected, the connection was finicky -- sometimes fast, others time slow, at the same spot.

A bit of a disclaimer: I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are walls and many Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference that hinders the reviewed unit's stability. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

CNET Labs 802.11ac performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-868L
221 
271 
Netgear R6300
208 
331.32 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
192.4 
263 
Asus RT-AC66U
178.5 
339.2 
Amped Wireless RTA15
165.5 
205.5 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
144 
233.6 
D-Link DIR-865L
135.2 
199.2 
D-Link DGL-5500
113.8 
157.8 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
113 
244.5 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
57 
162.6 

At closer distances, namely 15 feet and 100 feet away, the router did better. Its data rates weren't impressive on the chart, but this is mostly, again, because it's a dual-stream router, while most other recently reviewed routers are three-stream. Read more about Wi-Fi standards here .

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-857
172.4 
214.6 
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6 
208.2 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
160 
195.3 
WD My Net N900 HD
74 
195 
Linksys EA4500
176.8 
186.8 
Apple Airport Time Capsule
117.7 
182.2 
Asus RT-N66U
155.3 
181.8 
Netgear R6300
144.8 
178.8 
D-Link DIR-868L
161.5 
178 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
120 
172 
D-Link DGL-5500
97.6 
156 
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6 
147.6 
Amped Wireless RTA15
64.8 
141 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
105.7 
124.6 

When used with AC-enabled clients, the RTA15 scored 206Mbps at close range, faster than the other dual-stream router, the D-Link DGL-5500, and a few other three-stream routers. Quite impressive. When I moved the distance to 100 feet, it did even better at 166Mbps, right about average.

With 802.11n devices, on the 5GHz band, the router did terribly: 141Mbps and 65Mbps for the short and long distances, respectively, which was about at the bottom of the charts. On the 2.4GHz band, it did better: 75Mbps for short range and 32Mbps for long range, well above the average.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance score (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Amped Wireless RTA15
35.2 
74.6 
D-Link DIR-868L
55.6 
63.3 
D-Link DGL-5500
41 
58.6 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
37 
52.8 
Netgear R6300
41.6 
51.2 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
33.6 
48.8 
D-Link DIR-857
29.6 
47.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 
Asus RT-AC66U
15.2 
36.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
9.6 
33.5 

In all the new router's data rates were acceptable. What was not, however, was its Wi-Fi signal quality. In my stress test, where it was working with multiple clients and transferring data between them constantly, the router failed the test, with clients selectively being disconnected after just few hours. This happened consistently on both bands. This doesn't mean the router is useless; the clients reconnected right away, but it does mean you'll be frustrated if you use real-time applications, such as video chatting or online gaming.

In the end, I found that for the router to be worth its cost, the signal quality needs to be significantly improved. There's no use for the long range if you can't connect to it and keep the connection stable. Hopefully it will be improved via future firmware upgrades.

As for the storage support via its USB port, the performance wasn't anything notable. Via a Gigabit connection, when coupled with a portable external drive, the router registered just about 4MBps for writing and just 5MBps for reading. These were fast enough only for casual data sharing; if you want more, such as movie streaming or sharing a large amount of data between computers, a dedicated NAS server is recommended.

Conclusion
The RTA15 is an interesting router with lots of potential and could be a great choice for those who need range more than data rates. Unfortunately its unstable signal quality and the high price make it not a great buy, at least for now. Those currently having problem with Wi-Fi range, however, should still consider it, especially when new firmware has been released.

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