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Asus DSL-AC68U review: This top-flight modem-router almost does it all

Typical Price: £199.00
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The Good Asus continues its strong showing with its high performing, extensively optioned router. Its VDSL capability could mean future-proofing for some.

The Bad The price will sting, and for those with USB plans, you only get one port.

The Bottom Line Asus brings its A-game with plenty of options and performance.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.7 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Support 9

Review Sections

Asus has made a name for itself in the router game, typically providing high-performance units with plenty of flexibility. The DSL-AC68U continues the tradition.

It's rated at 1,900Mbps -- that is, a single 802.11AC stream capable of 1,300Mbps, combined with a 2.4GHz stream rated up to 600Mbps. As these things go, no single device will ever see these speeds, but it does place the DSL-AC68U, at least at the time of writing and on paper, in the top performance bracket for modem/routers. This means it's quite pricey, coming in at around $319 in Australia, and £199 in the UK.

Design and ease of use

Asus' latest modem/router follows the same angular, black-on-black aesthetic of its predecessors. It combines a cross-hatched tactile pattern, faux-brushed-aluminium and matte black plastic that recalls a stealth fighter design, and is made to sit on a horizontal surface -- there's no wall mounting here.

asusdslac68u.jpg
Dave Cheng/CNET

The front has a range of useful status lights, showing individual 2.4 and 5GHz wireless activity, whether a USB device is plugged in, if there's an active Internet connection, whether there's DSL line sync and activity across the four Ethernet ports.

We should note Asus' power adapter here -- or "wall wart" as some call it -- it's incredibly small compared to its competitors, and I appreciated the extra room this gave at the power socket.

Asus includes a CD in the box that contains PDF manuals and tools for router discovery, printer setup and Windows-based firmware updating. My HP PhotoSmart 5510 was found quickly by Asus' utility, albeit with the confusing designation of CQ176A. Still, the test page printed fine.

Asus' web UI is attractive and simple to use, yet hides incredible depth. Its home page gives a quick glance of all the basic settings you need, including SSID, password and security settings; DSL status; connected clients and what USB device is connected. It even has a stats readout for the unit's CPU and RAM so you can see if it's struggling, although given the price we'd hope that'd never be the case.

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The UI of the AC68U. Screenshot by Craig Simms

Features

Asus includes the standard four gigabit Ethernet ports, and provides physical buttons for power and wireless on/off. While its competitors generally offer two USB ports, the DSL-AC68U only has one USB 3.0 port. The DSL-AC68U contains not only an ADSL2+ modem, but VDSL2 as well. Depending on broadband options in your region, this could be an attractive feature.

In its web UI Asus brings all the standard features we'd expect, and a bit more. You can activate up to six guest SSIDs, three on 2.4GHz and three on 5GHz. There's a traffic monitor for wired and wireless connections, and QoS settings cater for user configuration. The latter allows either IP or MAC identification, and five priority levels based on destination port, protocol or transmission size. Each priority level can be allocated a user-defined range of bandwidth availability for both uploads and downloads.

At first parental controls seem lacking with only time of day scheduling for Wi-Fi, but then you find the rest under the firewall category, offering URL and keyword blacklist options. An extensive set of system logs gives the user a better chance of identifying problems, while a mind-boggling array of manual wireless settings should keep even the uber geek happy.

asusdslac68u-3.jpg
Dave Cheng/CNET

Impressively for a consumer modem/router, the DSL-AC68U allows for dual WAN, either using the USB port hooked up to a 3G/4G modem, or an Ethernet port. It's able to use it in both fail over and load balance modes, which should be appealing to those for whom uptime is critical.

DDNS is supported, with Asus' own service, DynDNS, TZO, ZoneEdit, DNSOMatic, Tunnelbroker and No-IP making the list.

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