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With a street price ranging from $320 to more than $400, Asus' ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is expensive for a reason. It's the only router on the market that combines powerful hardware specs, eight Gigabit LAN ports and a ton of features geared toward gaming.
If online games are what you care deeply about, this is an excellent router. But that said, for most other home users, the Asus RT-AC88U or the RT-AC5300 will deliver the same experience for less money.
The GT-5300 looks exactly the same as the RT-AC5300 that came out some two years ago, with a large squarish design and eight antennas. It also shares the same Wi-Fi standard as its older sibling. Both are tri-band routers with two 5-gigahertz bands, each with a top speed of 2,167Mbps. A third 2.4GHz band tops out at 1,000Mbps. The router also supports MU-MIMO, allowing it to support devices on multiple Wi-Fi tiers without slowing any of them down.
In fact, the GT-AC5300 shares a common feature set with most previous Asus high end routers, including:
The GT-AC5300 is also very different from the RT-AC5300, with eight LAN ports instead of four. (The Asus RT-AC88U -- which is basically a dual-band version of the RT-AC5300 -- also has eight LAN ports.) More ports means you can connect more devices using network cables, something that works better for games than connecting via Wi-Fi. The GT-AC5300 also doubles the amount of system memory to 512MB and internal flash memory to 1GB.
What makes the GT-AC5300 really stand out is its support for online gaming. Most of the router's features have many preconfigured settings to support hundreds of popular games. For example, if you want Diablo 3 to have priority on your home network, you can just select it from a list, instead of having to program all the settings manually. Best of all, the router can work as a WTFast client, allowing it to automatically connect to the Gamers Private Network (GPN). With this in place, your entire home network is part of GPN and you won't need to run WTFast on your computer anymore. GPN automatically selects the best server for any game you're playing, allowing for the best possible connection with the lowest latency.
The support for games also brings about a drawback, however; specifically the interface. The GT-AC5300's interface is similar to that of the RT-AC5300 or the RT-AC88U. It's quite well-organized, and for the most part is easy to use, but the ROG (Republic of Gamers) theme, with bright red colors and tons of animated graphics, can, to the uninitiated, be confusing at best and daunting at worst.
The web interface also has too many preconfigured settings for games, and it's laden with gamer-specific lingo. If you want to program the router for something unrelated to gaming, you'll have hard time finding the right section to start with. For example, the built-in protection function of the router, which is normally aptly called AiProtection, is called Game IPS on the GT-AC5300's interface. Similarly, the QoS feature is called Game Boost, and so on.
The interface isn't the worst thing in the world, and you can probably get used to it after a while. Still, the router would be much more user-friendly if it had an option to change the theme to match that of other Asus routers.
With the GT-AC5300, Asus has also introduced a mobile app, called Asus Router, that's much easier to use and allows users to do most of what they can with the interface. However, this mobile app only works locally, when your phone is connected the router's Wi-Fi network.
The GT-AC5300 did well in my testing, registering a top sustained Wi-Fi speed of almost 750Mps on the 5GHz band. Its 2.4GHz performance wasn't as impressive, however, coming in at about 90Mbps. This is a normal for most recent high-end routers, where the 2.4GHz frequency is there only for compatibility. The router also delivered a Wi-Fi signal over a very long range. I was able to get a sustained speed of more than 100Mbps from 150 feet away.
The router passed my 48-hour stress test, during which I set it to transfer a large amount of data between multiple clients, and it didn't disconnect once.
I tried out most of the the gaming features with a few games including Diablo 3 and Start Craft 2, which worked as intended. It was impossible for me to test them all since the list of supported games is quite long.
If you play games often and you can afford it, the GT-AC5300 is the best router you can get. Just be prepared to handle its interface. On the other hand, if gaming is low on your priority list, many other routers, especially the Asus RT-5300, and better yet, the RT-AC88U, will give you a very similar experience at a lower cost.