SmallNetBuilder

Follow SmallNetBuilder
Follow SmallNetBuilder on TwitterConnect On Facebook Google+Get the SmallNetBuilder RSS Feed
You are here: Wireless Wireless Reviews ASUS RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router Reviewed

ASUS RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router Reviewed

Print E-mail
Prev - Page 1 of 5 - Next >>
802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router
At a glance
ProductASUS RT-AC66U 802.11ac Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based simultaneous dual-band three-stream Draft 2.0 802.11ac router with USB drive and printer sharing and PPTP VPN server.
Pros• Capable of very high three-stream N throughput
• Supports router, AP, media bridge and WDS bridging/repeating
• A pair of them can provide superior 5 GHz range
Cons• Firmware still a work in progress

Typical Price: $157  Check NewEgg  Check Amazon

Introduction

Fans of ASUS' RT-N66U "Dark Knight" router have been chomping at the bit to know whether its first draft 802.11ac offering is a better choice. So let me cut to the chase and say that that the RT-AC66U is not the successor to the N66 that you are hoping for.

It's not that the AC66 is a bad router. It's just that it doesn't really provide enough benefit for most users (those with non-11ac devices) to outweigh the pain of its unstable firmware and higher price. Details, you say? Read on.

Physically, the AC66 is a dead ringer for its N66 sibling. If it were not for the labeling on the front and bottom panels, you would not be able to tell the difference between them. ASUS hasn't endowed the AC with a slick name either. Too bad, since I think "Dark Helmet" is available...

The callout diagram below taken from the User Manual shows the indicators, ports, connectors and switches, which are item-by-item the same as on the N version.

ASUS RT-AC66U panel callouts

ASUS RT-AC66U panel callouts

As before, all ports are 10/100/1000 Mbps and there are two USB 2.0 ports for drive and printer sharing. A select number of USB WWAN modems are also supported that lets the router use 3G/4G networks as primary or backup internet sources.

ASUS seems to have a preference for 19V power supplies. The same diminutive wall-wart with its tiny connector plug used on the Dark Knight also powers the AC.

Inside

ASUS has delayed the release of internal photos, so I decided to open the AC up, even though I pretty much knew what was inside component-wise. Table 1 holds a summary of the AC66's key components along with those of the two other draft AC routers I've reviewed so far, NETGEAR's R6300 and Buffalo's WZR-D1800H and WLI-H4-D1300 bridge.

All three use the same Broadcom BCM4706 CPU. At 256 MB, the AC66U has double the memory of the other two routers, but the same amount of flash. The same 7 port Broadcom Gigabit switch is used in the Buffalo router, but NETGEAR opted for a smarter version.

  ASUS RT-AC66U NETGEAR R6300 Buffalo WZR-D1800H
/ WLI-H4-D1300
CPU Broadcom BCM4706 Broadcom BCM4706 Broadcom BCM4706
Switch Broadcom BCM53125 Broadcom BCM53115 Broadcom BCM53125
RAM 256 MB 128 MB 128 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio BCM4331 - BCM4331
- SiGE SE2594L 802.11a/b/g/n
WLAN Front End (x3)
- BCM4331
- SiGE SE2594L (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz,
23dBm Power Amp
w/ Power Detector (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L (x3)
Table 1: Component summary

The same Broadcom BCM4331/BCM4360 radio SoCs are used in all three products. But the ASUS is the only one of the three to use dual-band external antennas vs. six internal single-band. This means the external circuitry connecting the radio SoCs to the antennas is different. It looks like the Skyworks 5 GHz amplifiers made it into ASUS' design. But the SiGE 2.4 GHz RF front-ends in the NETGEAR and Buffalo routers are replaced by other, discrete components.

The AC66 is as similar to the N66 on the inside as it is on the outside—at least the way it is constructed. The photo below shows the same full-width heatsink used on the N66 that is thermally coupled via thermal pads to two RF shielded compartments below it.

ASUS RT-AC66U board top with heatsink

ASUS RT-AC66U board top with heatsink

Slipping the assembly out of the case and flipping it over shows the bottom covered by a large plate similar to the one covering the N66's underside. I assume this plate serves as a heatsink since it was pretty warm, as was the outside bottom of the router.

ASUS RT-AC66U board bottom with plate

ASUS RT-AC66U board bottom with plate

Removing the bottom plate revealed 128 MB of Samsung flash (K9F1G08U0D) and 2 MB of Macronix serial flash (25L1606E). There are no thermal pads connecting the plate to the board, so thermal connection must be made from board inner layers through the six metal standoffs that connect the plate to the board.

ASUS RT-AC66U board bottom without plate

ASUS RT-AC66U board bottom without plate

It took some work to remove the top heatsink and pry off the tops of the two RF "cans" to get the photo below. But was worth it to see the construction details. The left-side can in the photo below holds the CPU, RAM and switch, while the right can houses the radios and their associated parts. The BCM4360 5 GHz radio is toward the top of the photo; the BCM4331 2.4 GHz radio is toward the bottom.

ASUS RT-AC66U board top without heatsink

ASUS RT-AC66U board top without heatsink



Related Items:

ASUS RT-AC66U Wireless Retest
Cisco Linksys EA6500 Review - Part 2
ASUS RT-N66U and Linksys EA4500 / EA4200v2 Wireless Retest
NETGEAR R6300 Wireless Retest
Slideshow: Netgear WNDR3300 RangeMax Dual-Band Wireless N Router

User reviews

View all user reviews

Average user rating from: 10 user(s)

NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.

User Rating    [Back to Top]
Overall: 
 
3.5 Features :
 
3.9 Performance :
 
3.3 Reliability :
 
3.4
 
Ratings (the higher the better)
Features*
 
Performance*
 
Reliability*
 
Comments*
    Please enter the security code.
 
 

Great router with Merlin FW

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by Jerry
April 15, 2014
Report this review
 

Steady as a rock , reaches every corner of the house including basement . Merlin fw works really well . Updates are a breeze , I do them over wireless network , not 1 problem yet in over 1 year of use and lots of updates . Great throughput over 5 ghz steady 7-9 MBPS transferring files from laptop to NAS . AC works well but I think the client is flaky ,an Edimax usb 3.0 .
Overall good router , not sure the AC router offers much over the N-66 , yet .

 

Merlin firmware

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by Håkan
January 29, 2014
Report this review
 

I try many different wifi routers and this is the best i tester, I use the merlin build firnmware.

 

Asus Network products s*cks

Overall rating: 
 
1.0
Features:
 
1.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Bharath
October 08, 2013
Report this review
 

I had this product for atleast 5 months now having issues. I did contact Asus for help on transfer rate and buggy firmware, transfering a file of 1GB used to take approx 1hour from the storage attached to the router, signals on 5GHZ is not that great. Asus took over remote access to the router and were not able to find out what was the problem as well. I did move the router to the service center and there they could not as well fix it, but a refund was offered on the product exclusive of tax that was paid.

Anyone who wants to buy this product please think twice it is not worth the price.

 

Cannot seem to get dual-band working

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
3.0
Reviewed by Bob
May 31, 2013
Report this review
 

I only get ~11MB/s bandwidth shared between both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies.

With two separate wireless n devices, I would expect to get about 10MB/s on each channel. However, very disappointingly, I only get 5MB/s for each device on each of the two frequency ranges.

Is my device broken or is this to be expected?

N.B. I have the device in access point mode.

 

NOT STABLE !!

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
2.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Claus Christiansen
February 21, 2013
Report this review
 

It's was a great router, but and there are a BIG but. It is not very stable. The first couple of weeks the range and speed are excellent. Then it suddenly begin to loose both range and speed, especially on the 5 GHz band, but there are also loads of examples that it has the same problem on the 2.4 GHz band.
One solution, for me at least, has been to restart the router every day.

 
 
View all user reviews

Amazon Top-Selling Wireless Routers