Asus RT-AC68U Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router review: A cutting-edge Wi-Fi router that has it all

AiCloud allows users to access to not only sharing/streaming content stored on the connected external drive from iOS and Android mobile devices (or computer via a browser), but also content on the computer connected to the router. This means you can easily share data stored on any computer in the network to remote users. For this feature to work, you need to know how to set up a DynDNS account, which can be done in a few steps within the router's Web interface.

In addition to the two main Wi-Fi networks, one for each band, the new router also offers up to six guest Wi-Fi networks, three for each band. While most of the time only two guest networks are needed, having more means you can set up each network for certain type of guest or certain Wi-Fi standards.

Dual-WAN and other business features
In addition to the aforementioned features for home users and the built-in VPN that's been available in previous models, the RT-AC68U comes with a few new business-oriented features from Asus, including support for dual-WAN and a set of network tools. (Note that these new features have also been made available to previous models, both the RT-AC66U and the RT-N66U, via firmware updates.)

The Dual-WAN is just one of many cool features you can expect from the router.
The Dual-WAN is just one of many cool features you can expect from the router. Dong Ngo/CNET

When turned on, the Dual-WAN feature allows you to use one of the router's LAN ports as a secondary WAN port. Or you can also use the router's USB port for this feature if you want to use a cellular dongle. This feature allows you to use two Internet sources, such as Cable and DSL, at the same time, for either load balancing or failure contingency purposes. For those who need to be online all the time, this is an excellent feature.

The network tools offer a few utilities for advanced users to check the detailed status of the network. What I like the most is the included Wake on LAN function designed to wake up a computer in the network from sleep or turn it back on from off mode.

Performance
The RT-AC68U was the fastest Wi-Fi router I've tested to date, by far. With the TurboQam technology, I expected to see improvement only with legacy 802.11n clients and only on the 2.4GHz frequency band, but the router was excellent throughout. I tested it with Asus' PCE-68U add-on Wi-Fi adapter, which supports TurboQam, and the numbers were through the roof.

For 802.11ac, which is only available on the 5GHz band, the router offered the sustained real-world speed of some 65MBps (521Mbps) at a close range of 15 feet -- almost double the speed of the second fastest on the charts. This is about 8 times the speed of a regular Ethernet connection and very close to the speed of Gigabit Ethernet. At 100 feet away, this was reduced to about 42MBps (336Mbps), still superfast.

CNET Labs 802.11ac performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput
Asus RT-AC68U
336
521.4
D-Link DIR-868L
221
271
Netgear R6300
208
331.32
Asus RT-AC66U
178.5
339.2
Amp Wireless RTA15
165.5
205.5
D-Link DIR-865L
135.2
199.2
D-Link DGL-5500
113.8
157.8

On the 5GHz band, the 802.11n clients remained about the same speed as with the RT-AC66U, just slightly faster, averaging about 203Mbps and 176Mbps for short and long range, respectively.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N Performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput
Asus RT-AC68U
176
202.8
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6
208.2
D-Link DIR-868L
161.5
178
Netgear R6300
144.8
178.8
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6
147.6
Cisco Linksys EA6500
105.7
124.6
D-Link DGL-5500
97.6
156

On the 2.4GHz, where generally the speed suffers the most from signal saturation, the Asus RT-AC68U offered a huge improvement, with 225Mbps at close range and 211Mbps at long range. This proved that the TurboQAM technology really works. I tried the router with some with existing non-TurboQAM clients, and I saw some improvement there, too.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range
Throughput

The router also offered exceptional range in my testing, with the effective range of about 200 feet. In my trial I could even connect to it from more than 300 feet away. Note that 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 a Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

The RT-AC68U also passed my 48-hour stress test easily on both bands. It didn't disconnect once during this time.

For the router's network storage feature, I used a fast portable drive with its USB 3.0 port and the router was also very impressive. Via a Gigabit Ethernet connection, it offered a write speed of 41MBps and a read speed of 53.86MBps, the fastest I've seen among routers that support this feature. In fact, it was faster than even some dedicated NAS servers. At these speeds, all you need is a sizable external hard drive and your home network storage is set.

NAS performance via wired Gigabit Ethernet (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
Asus RT-AC68U
53.86
41.2
Seagate Central
74.4
39.5
Asus RT-AC66U
9.6
16.7
Asus RT-N66U
11
16.5
D-Link DIR-868L
12.81
12.5
Asus RT-56U
13
11.9
Belkin N900 DB
17.6
9.1
D-Link DIR-827
15.8
8.5
Belkin N750 DB
6.9
2.7

Conclusion

The new Asus RT-AC68U Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router marks a new milestone in what you can expect from a home router. In addition to excellent Wi-Fi coverage, the router offers fast wired speed and has enough power to work as home server for media streaming, data sharing, and even personal cloud services.

The unique features, such as built-in VPN, Dual-WAN, and the advanced network tools also means that the router will also serve well as gateway for a small business. So far, of all the routers I've reviewed, this is the most impressive.

Note, however, that this is just the beginning; soon there will be more routers supporting the Broadcom BCM4709 chipset as well as more and more Wi-Fi clients that share the same TurboQAM technology. It will be interesting how the RT-AC68U will stack up against them. For now, if you're looking for a router that has it all, and can afford the $220 price-tag, this is it.

Editors' Top Picks

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 22.4 oz
  • Data Transfer Rate 1900 Mbps
  • Connectivity Technology wireless
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.