If you want a router that has style, speed, security and great Wi-Fi coverage, the Asus Blue Cave AC2600 router is the one you want. At $175 or £180 (which converts to about AU$320), it's affordable and has all the latest 802.11ac features.
It's not average in any way -- especially with a gaping blue hole that lights up in the middle, making it look kind of like a speaker or subwoofer. You'll love the in-depth web interface if you really want to customize your settings, or you can use the Asus Router app to quickly establish a set-it-and-forget-it home network.
Yes, I'll say it: The Blue Cave is the hole package. Oh, there's more where that came from.
The Blue Cave is a small white box with a big, blue-rimmed hole in the middle that lights up. It's a far cry from the alien bug robot designs we've seen throughout the history of routers, but this weird-looking device is interesting enough to be a conversation piece.
It's lightweight and you can place it just about anywhere in your home (especially since you can see right through it). The back is populated with lots of ventilation holes, further adding to its eye-catching nature.
As for function, you get one gigabit WAN port for internet, four gigabit LAN ports for your wired devices and one USB 3.0 port for printers, network storage or charging your mobile devices. There's also a few smaller buttons for WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), reset and power. Asus did a great job designing a cool-looking device while incorporating all the ports and buttons you need.
Setting up the Blue Cave was easy from either the Asus Router app or its web interface. Just use an Ethernet cable to connect the router to your modem and you're ready to go. Setup should only take a few minutes with either method.
Now the real fun begins -- that is, if you like to customize every single one of your router settings. The Asus web interface gives you access to all the standard settings, such as changing your Wi-Fi password, setting up a guest Wi-Fi network and rebooting your router, but the advanced settings are insane. If you've used Asus routers before, you should be familiar with the interface. For newbies, get ready to take full control over your home network.
The Blue Cave offers in-depth quality of service (QoS) to prioritize which devices on your network can use the most bandwidth. It has both manual and automatic options for getting the most speed out of everything you own.
There's also AiProtection, which provides easy-to-use parental controls and bonus network security powered by Trend Micro. This free lifetime service detects malware and viruses, conducts a router security assessment, and prevents spam and DDoS attacks. Asus also offers a free one-year subscription for additional antivirus software, which you can install on up to four devices. Look for a postcard included in the retail box.
The menu is seemingly endless. Plus the app has all the standard settings, plus some advanced ones for security, USB network storage and parental controls. No matter what your level of networking knowledge, you should be able to get your devices connected without a problem.
The dual-band AC2600 Blue Cave has all the features you'd expect and more at this price point. It offers theoretical speeds of 800 megabits per second (Mbps) on 2.4GHz and 1,733Mbps on 5GHz. Its 4x4 antennas provide four spatial streams from each one as well as beamforming for fast long-range connections. The only thing missing is MU-MIMO, which would let the router send data to multiple devices at once. Asus said that this feature will be added in June, however.
It has band-steering, which lets the router choose the best network for your devices to connect to, support for IPv6 for added security and you can use it as a wired access point or wireless bridge to extend your network. In July, the Blue Cave will also support AiMesh, which will allow it to wirelessly extend your network by connecting it to other Asus networking devices.
You can easily use the USB 3.0 port for a printer, a 3G/4G wireless dongle for mobile internet or network storage to backup your data. Management through the web interface for network storage is comprehensive too. It even supports Apple's Time Machine backup.
Want more convenience? The Blue Cave works with Amazon Alexa and IFTTT (If This, Then That) for voice-controlled and automated smart features. Right now, Alexa can turn your guest Wi-Fi network on or off, pause your internet, reboot the router, turn on various network prioritization modes, check for firmware upgrades and connect new devices.
For something that looks like a square doughnut, it provides excellent speed and coverage. On 2.4GHz, it performed at more than 165Mbps from 50 feet (15 meters) and two rooms away. This is the fastest speed I've seen at that distance in CNET's Smart Home. That means you should get good coverage in a medium to large home.
The Blue Cave didn't disappoint on 5GHz either. It topped out at 902Mbps at close range, giving hope to the growing population of fiber internet customers.
The only complaint I have about the Blue Cave is that its network storage speeds were near the worst I've seen. I tested the USB 3.0 port with an ADATA SD700 256GB external solid-state drive, downloading and uploading 1GB and 2GB test files. Check out the results compared to other routers I've recently tested.
The Blue Cave intrigued me with its cerulean vortex and surprised me with its plethora of features and lightning-fast speed. Its menu might be overwhelming for many people, but the app is much more manageable. I'll take too many options over not enough any day -- the default settings should work just fine in most medium to large homes. The extra security from AiProtection is another standout feature that makes this router worth $175. I'd definitely recommend the Blue Cave to anyone who wants style, speed and security from their hole home network. OK, I'm done now.
|IEEE 802.11 Standard||a/b/g/n/ac||Class||AC2600|
|Speed (Mbps)||2,600 (800+1,733)||CPU Processor||Dual core 800MHz|
|Frequency||Dual band (2.4GHz+5GHz)||RAM Memory||512MB|
|Ethernet Ports||1 Gigabit WAN; 4 Gigabit LAN||Flash Memory||128MB|
|USB Ports||1 USB 3.0||Guest Wi-Fi||Yes|
|Antennas||4 Internal||Parental Controls||Yes|
|Spatial Streams||4 (2.4GHz); 4 (5GHz)||MU-MIMO||No (available June 2018)|
|Security||WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise, WPS support, Firewall with SPI intrusion detection and DoS protection, AiProtection||Setup||App or Browser|
|Size (in)||6.3 by 6.3 by 1.5||Weight (lbs)||1.8|