Wi-Fi routers aren’t usually the most impressive products in any company’s arsenal, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re just beige boxes hiding underneath your desk. But this one is different — Asus’s RT-N66U is a Wireless-N Wi-Fi router the the company claims is capable of transfer speeds up to 900Mbps, with every feature under the sun built-in.
ASUS RT-N66U: Design, setup, and specifications
The RT-N66U is, for a wireless router, a very impressive-looking device. ASUS occasionally refers to the unit as the ‘Dark Knight’, and it’s not beyond the scope of our imagination to see Bruce Wayne hooking up his Gotham mansion with two or three of these squat, black, shiny boxes.
The top of the RT-N66U is finished in shiny black, cross-hatched pattern that curves down towards the front of the device. The front has various status lights, for wireless and wired connections and activity. Around the back, the router has four Gigabit Ethernet wired networking ports, another Ethernet port for connecting your ADSL or cable modem, and two USB ports for hooking up an external storage device, printer, or 3G/4G mobile broadband stick.
There’s a reset button and a WPS push-button-setup button in between all of these. You can set the RT-N66U up sitting flat, but it also comes with a stand — albeit slightly fiddly — that lets it sit upright. You can also mount the RT-N66U to a wall.
As you might have guessed, the RT-N66U doesn’t have an internal ADSL2+ modem, so you’ll need to purchase one of those for your home Internet connection if you don’t already have one.
The Web interface of the RT-N66U has an absolute treasure trove of options, which should keep even the most number- and stat-hungry tech guru happy. But for most users, the first port of call will be ASUS’s simple, easy-to-follow Quick Internet Setup wizard, which asks you a few questions about your Internet connection, and gets you up and running wirelessly within just a few minutes. The process is largely painless, and ASUS’s included documentation has explanations of each step that help out if you’re stuck at any point.
After that initial setup process, the router is installed and ready to go. It’s possible to just do this step and leave the rest of the router’s options in their default configuration, although we’re guessing if you’ve shelled out for this fully-featured a router, you’ll want to change a thing or two.
ASUS RT-N66U: Wireless performance, and configuration
We found that the RT-N66U performed generally excellently in our Wi-Fi transfer speed measurements, where we transfer files from a wired desktop PC to a notebook (with an ASUS USB-AC53 Wi-Fi adapter, to avoid any bottle-necking) at different distances from the router. The ASUS RT-N66U is a simultaneous dual-band router, capable of handling 450Mbps streams over both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands at the same time. This is what gives it its ‘N900’ rating.
From a short-range distance, where we set our notebook up 2m from the router, the RT-N66U averaged a transfer rate of 12.97MBps using the 2.4GHz frequency, and a slightly higher 15.12MBps using 5GHz. It strangely performed better at longer distances, with our notebook averaging 2.4GHz and 5GHz transfer rates of 13.80MBps and 17.12MBps — making it our speed champion over longer distances. These results are excellent and reflect the high quality of the ASUS RT-N66U’s internals.
The RT-N66U’s feature-set largely mirrors that of the ASUS DSL-N55U that we looked at recently; we’d recommend you read that review for an in-depth explanation. We love the graphical design of the N66U’s user interface, and the design and layout of its various Web pages. In terms of the most user-friendly and useful features, though, we’d be looking at the RT-N66U’s twin USB 2.0 ports, which can host a printer, USB hard drive or flash drive, or mobile broadband dongle.
Take the storage option, and you can share it locally to any Windows PC, or any mobile device through the Web interface. Added value comes from ASUS’s AiCloud feature, which lets you share not only the network-attached storage, but any shared folders on any PC on your home network, to any device anywhere you have Internet access. You can also sign up for ASUS Web Storage, and sync your USB-shared storage into the cloud and to any number of devices you want.
We did find out that the RT-N66U’s 3G and 4G mobile broadband dongle compatibility is diverse, but there’s no list of supported devices on the router itself, so you might end up playing a guessing game as to whether your 3G modem is supported or not.
All the usual features of other high-end routers are available in the RT-N66U. A FTP server, UPnP, DLNA, iTunes support and a VPN entrance make for a router that is perfectly targeted at the power user that might want to do one, two, or all of these things. BitTorrent support is excellent for those that want to use the service, although downloading is limited only to connected USB drives.
ASUS RT-N66U: Conclusion
ASUS’s current top router will soon be superseded by the RT-AC66U, which offers an even faster Wi-Fi speed thanks to the nascent 802.11AC standard, but until that’s out and available everywhere, we have no reservations about the RT-N66U. It’s expensive, but that is about our only concern.