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Wireless Reviews

Performance - File Sharing

I ran a file copy of our standard ripped-DVD test folder and measured write speed of 7.6 MB/s and 9.5 MB/s with FAT and NTFS-formatted drives, respectively. Reads came in at 13 MB/s for both formats. This performance is typical of embedded router file servers.

Performance - Routing

Routing throughput running the latest 1.0.1.2 firmware and our router test process established new Router chart highs of 802 Mbps WAN to LAN, 862 Mbps WAN to LAN and 1268 Mbps total with up and down tests running simultaneously. The Maximum Simultaneous Connections test maxed out our test capability at 34,925.

The IxChariot plot below (Figure 5) shows significant throughput variation. But that is more an artifact of test file size than the router itself.

ASUS RT-N56U routing performance

Figure 5: ASUS RT-N56U routing performance

Performance - Wireless

I used our standard open air test method to test the RT-N56U's wireless performance. As usual, I set the 2.4 GHz radio to Channel 1 and the 5 GHz radio to Channel 36. All tests were run using WPA2 / AES encryption.

The test client was an Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN mini-PCIe card in an Acer Aspire 1810T notebook running Win 7 Home Premium and Intel's Win 7 13.4.0.9 driver for the Intel card.

I skipped checking fallback to 54 Mbps link rates when using WEP 128 and WPA / TKIP because the RT-N56U is Wi-Fi Certified and the certification test suite confirms that.

To cut to the chase, check the 2.4 GHz wireless performance table with the RT-N56U compared to the Cisco Linksys E4200 and NETGEAR WNDR3700v2.

Highest throughput for a single stream was 84 Mbps running downlink in 40 MHz bandwidth mode in location A. I was able to measure 100 Mbps running simultaneous up and downlink tests in 40 MHz bandwidth mode in location A.

ASUS RT-N56U 2.4GHz Wireless Performance comparison

Figure 6: ASUS RT-N56U 2.4GHz Wireless Performance comparison

In general, the three routers are comparable in the strong-signal test locations A - C and the RT-N56U's performance in the transition location D and weak signal locations E and F tracked closer to the E4200 than the the WNDR3700v2. You can see this more clearly in the example throughput vs. location graph in Figure 7.

2.4 GHz throughput vs. location - 20 MHz mode, downlink

Figure 7: 2.4 GHz throughput vs. location - 20 MHz mode, downlink

The 5 GHz table in Figure 8 shows somewhat stronger performance for the RT-N56U in this band. But none of the routers were able to reach into my 5 GHz dead zone locations E and F. The RT-N56U seems to be a bit stronger in Location D for some tests. But the advantage isn't consistent enough to be reliable.

Highest 5 GHz throughput measured was 86 Mbps running downlink in location A in 40 MHz bandwidth mode. Running simultaneous up and downlink tests in 40 MHz bandwidth mode in location A was once again able to goose throughput above 100 Mbps to 111 Mbps.

ASUS RT-N56U 2.4GHz Wireless Performance comparison

Figure 8: ASUS RT-N56U 5GHz Wireless Performance comparison

Here are links to the IxChariot wireless test plots if you'd like to explore further:

Closing Thoughts

The RT-N56U is a worthy successor to ASUS' RT-N16. It has a solid routing section with more speed than even our friends overseas can use, Gigabit ports and two 11n radios that both support WDS bridging and repeating. But with its Ralink chipset, you won't be able to run DD-WRT or other alternate distros on it as you can with the RT-N16.

If you're comfortable with routers that don't have the name Cisco, NETGEAR or D-Link on them and are looking for a less expensive two-radio dual-band router that can also share a USB printer and drive at the same time, you might want to give the RT-N56U a shot.

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