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You probably don't need such an advanced home networking device like the new Asus RT-AC68U Dual-band Wireless-AC1900 Gigabit Router, but you want it, and when you get it, you'll love it.
This router is an excellent upgrade to the already-excellent
In my testing it proved to be the fastest Wi-Fi router to date by a significant margin, and also a fun router to use. It basically has everything you'd want from an excellent router, for both homes and small businesses.
Yet, I find it not necessarily perfect for everyone, mostly due to its current high price of about $220, and the fact that you'll need equally high-end Wi-Fi clients to really take advantage of its new fast Wi-Fi speeds. But that aside, as far as Wi-Fi routers go, it's easily the fastest and most comprehensive home networking device to date. For more options on great 802.11ac routers, including those that are more affordable, check out this list.
New design, top hardware components
The RT-AC68U departs from the old design found in the previous models -- the
On the inside, it's completely different, boasting the new Broadcom BCM4709 Wi-Fi chipset, an Arm Cortex A9 dual-core 800MHz CPU, and 256MB of DDR RAM. This is the first router I've seen with these high-end specs, though I'm sure other vendors will soon introduce similarly featured products. The RT-AC68U also includes two USB ports, one of which supports USB 3.0.
The most interesting of the above components is the Broadcom BCM4709 chipset, which includes the proprietary TurboQAM technology. This chip offers 802.11ac up to 1.3Gbps, which is not new, but for 802.11n on the 2.4GHz frequency, it now offers up to 600Mbps (up from the old 450Mbps cap speed). (.) With TurboQAM, each 2.4GHz spatial stream can deliver up to 200Mbps instead of 150Mbps. Needless to say, this chip offers more benefits to the now aging 2.4GHz Wi-Fi than the newer 5GHz Wi-Fi, though you need a TurboQAM-compatible wireless client to really take advantage of it. Current and legacy clients will also see better performance, though not as significant.
On the front, the router has the usual array of LEDs that show the statuses of the ports on the back, the connection to the Internet, the USB ports, and the wireless networks. These lights are very helpful in case you want to glance at them to check on the router's condition. However, if you're bothered by them, you can turn them off via a button on the back of the router. This is really a nice design touch that helps make the router bedroom-friendly.
Also on the back, the router has four LAN ports for wired clients and one WAN port to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem. All of these ports are Gigabit Ethernet, which is a must for a fast local network with superfast Internet connection. In addition to being a router, the RT-AC68AU can be used as an access point or a media bridge (you can choose among these roles via its Web interface, in Wireless section under Advanced Settings), and when it's not working as a router, the WAN port can also be used as another LAN port.
On the side, the router has a Wi-Fi on-off button and the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button, which starts a 2-minute window in which other WPS-enabled clients can enter the wireless network. By default, the WPS function is disabled and can be turned on via the router's Web interface, also in the Wireless section.
Easy to set up, robust Web interface, familiar features
Very similar to the previous model, the RT-AC68U comes with a CD that contains setup software that guides home users through the process via a few steps. But you can skip this CD because once the router is plugged into a computer and turned on, the first time you run a Web browser, such as Firefox, it will take you to the Web-based wizard that does the same thing as the software, including picking an admin password for the router. After that you can always go back to the router's Web interface to do more customization by pointing a connected computer's browser to 192.168.1.1, which is the router's default IP address. The log-in credentials are admin for the username and the password you create the first time around. As with all routers, you can always restore it to default factory settings via the recessed reset button on its back.
The router's interface is also similar to that of previous models and offers similar features. There are three major parts of the interface that you access from the left part of the page. The top part is the Setup wizard, which you can use to rerun the initial setup process; the middle is for General items; and the bottom is the Advanced Settings.
General offers a Network Map for viewing currently connected devices, including those connected to the router via the USB ports. You can click on one of the connected devices to interact with it. For example, you can quickly block a Wi-Fi client or set up a network storage feature of an external hard drive. You can also find features such as a Parental Control, a Traffic Manager that also includes the QoS features, and management of the router's USB ports.
The Parental Control feature is very easy to set up; you can quickly add a device to the managed list and quickly pick time slots when these devices can access the Internet. Unfortunately, you can't refine the restriction beyond having or not having access to the Internet. For example, you can't control access to particular Web sites.
The USB ports can be used for a lot of functions. You can connect USB external storage devices or printers to these ports and turn the router into a storage or print server. These ports can also be coupled with a cellular USB dongle so the router can work as a mobile hot spot or host a USB storage device to offer PC-less download, AiDisk, Media server, and AiCloud features.
AiDisk allows you to share the connected storage device's content via an FTP server. Media server enables streaming content from the connected storage device to DLNA-enabled network media streamers and iTunes.
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.