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Best choice in dual band 450 Mbps routers, and a few tips for optimum results
July 09, 2013
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Researched VERY carefully before choosing the Dark Knight as the foundation for home network upgrade. The primary goals for the upgrade were increased device to device speed and to enable a more robust file sharing and backup scheme. The Dark Knight reviewed the best, and has delivered on all these counts so far in my setup. BUT, you do have to master some aspects of the the configuration to get the most out of it. Specifically rejected the ASUS RT-AC66U and the draft 802.11AC devices generally as too immature. While I like *leading* edge and the promise of 802.11AC speeds (which will be fabulous when they are actually delivered reliably), it seemed that AC is on the *bleeding* edge right now based on device reviews and the status of the draft AC spec. So, Dark Knight it is!
Here is what I learned so far. Note that this is what works for me in my specific suburban home and neighborhood setting, and other environments will of course affect router function...
Who is this for?
*Tech savvy who want maximum performance at reasonable cost and with a pretty straight forward configuration process. I conclude this because, at the end of the day, I believe you have to dig into the configuration a bit to really get what you want from this router, BUT, fortunately, the Dashboard UI is pretty straight forward given the degree of flexibility built into this device.
*The less sophisticated user who still wants top performance. They can use the Quick Internet Setup to be up and running about as painlessly as is possible these days, and the defaults plus the raw capability of the device will give good performance. But they may not realize full benefits if they don't poke into the config, and at least run firmware updates.
TRENDnet 450 Mbps Dual Band Wireless N USB Adapter TEW-684UB (Black)
*Of course you have to pair the N66U with a similarly spec'd adapter, and the TRENDnet 684UB works great! Am getting full 450Mbps links speeds on 5GHz band, and 2.4GHz speeds in the 144-300 Mbps range despite the crowding in this band.
*Update Firmware. Obviously for this router, regularly updating the firmware is important, and Asus makes this super easy right from the top of the main device screen (i.e., the Dashboard). I think it's really cool how Asus is working the firmware constantly with a community of users, and also supports open source firmware as well. Asus is easily the most responsive and proactive firmware developer I've ever seen in 20 years of working with wireless networks and routers. To me, this is a competitive advantage vs. the "few updates then done" approach of other vendors who leave us stuck with firmware issues as they move on to the next device.
*Crank the power. Once I made my way to the >Advanced Settings/Wireless/Professional/Tx Power Adjustment< setting and maxed it out (200mW), link speeds and connection stability went WAY up in my home. 5GHz connections benefited the most, going right up to link speeds of 450 Mbps a 3 rooms away, and 2.4GHz link speeds increased 50%.
*Allow 40MHz band width on 5GHz. The total bandwidth of 5GHz wifi is much greater than 2.4GHz, AND it's less crowded so far, so setting the router to use the higher capacity of a 40MHz connection maximizes speed on this band. >Advanced Settings/Wireless/General/Channel Bandwidth/20/40< I find that my router + adapter combination regularly bumps the 5GHz connection up to 40MHz channel bandwidth with the resultant link speed of 450Mbps.
Connected Dual Drive RAID1 USB Hard Drive = Cheap NAS
Vantec Dual 3.5-Inch SATA to USB 3.0 and eSATA with JBOD/RAID 0/1 External Hard Drive Enclosure (NST-400MX-S3R)
WD Red 3 TB NAS Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache - WD30EFRX
Popped two Western Digital RED 3TB drives (optimized for 24/7 NAS use) into the Vantec 400MX dual slot RAID enclosure, configured for RAID1, formatted the resultant RAID drive through direct connection to PC, then attached this to the USB port on the Dark Knight, and it was immediately recognized. Kudos to ASUS for firmware that now supports connected hard drives larger than 2TB! Accessed the new shared drive through \192.168.1.1 as an address in a Windows Explorer window (not browser, the FILE explorer). Then added the USB drive as a Favorite in Explorer. Simple, fast access to shared file storage. Getting just 5MBps (40 Mbps) transfer rates to the attached RAID volume. Slowish, but useable. Tried streaming some AVCHD 1080p content from the drive and it worked perfectly, no stutters at all, so HD streaming from attached storage looks pretty good.
Summarizing Pros and Cons to date
+ Outstanding speed when combined with similarly spec'd adapter
+ Ability to bump up Transmit power makes for much better link speeds across typical house size.
+ Very powerful and flexible set of features/options, with an easy way to configure them through the Dashboard UI.
+ Easy storage attachment and access
+ Can stream HD from attached storage
+ Frequent Firmware updates with lots of user input to the process
+ Supports attached storage greater than 3TB, with GUID vs. MBR partitions.
+ Active user community online
- Slowish write speeds through network to attached storage. Wish for this to be de-bottlenecked somehow, either in firmware, QoS settings, or through faster connection from router to storage device.
Features I like but have not explored
* VPN, FTP, secure Internet access
* Apps for router
* Multimedia server/sharing
* UPnP integration, e.g., with DirectTV or AV Receiver
Will update as I learn more...
*******1/11/2012 update successful UPnP/DNLA access **********
Successfully connected to the attached drive on the router from both my AV Receiver Onkyo HT-S8409 7.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver/Speaker Package, and BluRay DVD player Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Integrated Wi-Fi 3D Blu-ray DVD Player. Accessed both videos and photos stored on the attached drive and displayed them on connected HD TV. So, the DNLA/UPnP features of the Black Knight router worked successfully with DNLA-enabled AV devices on my home network. Very handy!
Very Satisfied with this Router
June 20, 2013
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This is one of the best consumer router ever . There are no connection drop outs and excellent design to blend into any home .
April 21, 2013
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I have thousands of connections at one moment and the internet is always in use, either by my HomeServer downloading films or TV Shows or daily usage. Never had to reboot this router once! WiFi Coverage beats any router I have had including the RT-N56U!!!!!!!!
The router is capable of any tasks you need and the GRE port forwarding is welcomed!
I don't care how good you think your current router is, this router is still the best on the market!
I must mention though this is the first router I have spent more than £60, and I am now happy with my Home Network. Power line, WiFi and 10m of Cat Networking. (I don't dare rip the walls out of a 1700's listed building!!!!! And the house is to big for the WiFi signal to reach the hole building so Power Line must be used, although not as effective as it should be due to old wiring,
April 14, 2013
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Superb performance all round. Beats the pants off every other router I've used for wifi coverage.
Who needs design
November 16, 2012
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I've never really understood why ASUS made such a big deal out of the design - the way this router is performing, is outstanding!
So who really cares how it looks - I know I don't!
I used to have a DIR-855, and was happy with it, but this one - what an upgrade!
Maybe the article needs an update because my router does VPN and dlna without blinking :-)
The performance for me has greatly increased, both in speed and range!
Streaming TV and movies to my iPad is now without any glitches.
VPN tunneling works great, and allows for TV streaming from my home to my office.
There is approx 35 units connected at any given time, using either 2,4/5Ghz WPA-2 encrypted wifi or cabling.
And the best part!
ALL my neighbours also uses wifi, but none of them with anywhere near the signal power I have!
A really great purchase :-)
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