Like motherboards, the hardware Asus is known for making, you can use many different third-party router operating systems (aka firmware) on the RT-N16. Equipped with an overclockable 480Mhz CPU and 128MB of RAM, the router performed great in our trials when it was running DD-WRT, one of the most well-known Linux-based open-source router firmware options.
When using Asus' stock firmware, the RT-N16 was buggy and didn't pass our wireless signal stress test; however, it had decent throughput performance.
If you don't mind using third-party firmware, the $100 RT-N16 is a great choice as it potentially offers a lot more features than other routers in the same price range. On the other hand, people who simply want to create a reliable wireless network for their home or office without too much tinkering should look for a more stable single-band Wireless-N Gigabit router.
Design and ease of use
The Asus RT-N16 has a traditional square router design with three removable antennae sticking up from the back. The router is about 30 percent larger than that of most similarly configured routers.
The back of the router has five Gigabit Ethernet ports--four for LAN connections and one WAN port to connect to a broadband Internet modem. Next to the WAN port are two USB ports that you can use to connect printers or external hard drives. There are also two tiny reset and WPS buttons; the former is to revert the router's setting to factory default and the latter is to activate its Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature, which allows other WPS-enabled devices to enter the wireless network automatically.
With so many ports and buttons, the back of the router is crowded. The router would have a better design had Asus moved some components, especially the antennae and the frequently used WPS button, to the side of the device.
The front of the router has an array of tiny LED indicators that show the status of the Ethernet ports, the Internet connection, and the wireless network. These LEDs could be larger to make them easier to see; especially since there's so much unused space.
The RT-N16 comes with a clearly illustrated Quick Start Guide that walks you through the simple setup process. Following the guide, we were able to get the router running in just a few minutes. After setup, we were able use the router's Web interface to customize its features. By default the router's IP address is 192.168.1.1 and the log-in name and password is admin.
The Web interface, which you can access by pointing a browser to the router's IP address, has a good look and feel to it, and it seems to be well thought out. For example, each time you apply a setting change it displays a message that shows the percentage of the process from beginning until the end. This is helpful as most routers leave you hanging and you only know the process is done when the interface becomes responsive again.
The Web interface has a nifty network map that show a schematic of all the devices connected to its network and USB ports. It also has a very easy-to-use quality of service feature called EzQoS that lets you quickly select what type of services, be it gaming, media streaming, VoIP, or Internet applications, that you want to prioritize network and Internet traffic for.
While the basic/simplified settings part of the interface works well, the interface's more advanced sections seemed buggy. For example, when we used the interface to switch between the simple storage sharing and sharing with accounts, the interface showed a message that read "Proceeding" and were stuck there and we had to restart the router. We also found that the router would randomly restart when we connected or disconnected a USB device--even when it indicated that the device was "safe to remove."
The router supports external hard drives formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS. However, in our tests the USB ports didn't provide enough power to use portable hard drives that are designed to draw energy from the host computer's USB port, such as the Seagate GoFlex Pro and the Western Digital My Passport. This means you can only use external hard drives that have a separate power adapter with the router.
As we mentioned, once the hard drive is connected to the router you can choose to share its entire existing content as public (simple share), meaning everyone can have full access to it; or you can share it with accounts. With the latter, you can create multiple user accounts and assign access privileges, (read only, read/write, no access), for each account to each of the share folders. We tried this and it worked as intended.