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AC1900 First Look: NETGEAR R7000 & ASUS RT-AC68U

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NETGEAR R7000 & ASUS RT-AC68U

Introduction

Some of the resident AC router fanboys over in the Forums are about to pop a blood vessel in anticipation of the first AC1900 class routers and trying to decide which to blow $200+ on. So I figured I'd better get something up sooner vs. later so that they have an alternative to the somewhat breathless reviews that other sites are posting. Rest assured that full reviews for NETGEAR's R7000 "Nighthawk" and ASUS' RT-AC68U will follow in the coming weeks.

As I explain in this short AC1900 primer, not many people will be able to experience the 600 Mbps link rates in 2.4 GHz that are the raison d'être for the AC1900 stew that Broadcom has cooked up. The only folks who will are those who spring for two routers and set the second up as a wireless bridge.

Even those who have the only AC1900 client device that exists—ASUS' PCE-AC68—will likely be disappointed. ASUS sent one along with the router and I was not able to get a link above 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz radio. So after wasting an afternoon trying to coax a 600 Mbps link, I fired off emails to ASUS and Broadcom to let them know of the problem and fell back to my trusty old PCE-AC66. Broadcom came back after a few days and confirmed that TurboQAM is not enabled by default in the PCE-AC68 driver. So ASUS is supposedly working on a new driver that will flip the proper bit.

The gist of this is that this first look tests both products as AC1750 routers. If you're looking for AC1900 results, you'll have to wait for another week or so. Most people don't even have AC580 or AC867 class devices anyway and buy AC routers for the folly of future-proofing or in hope of improving wireless throughput and/or range for existing G and N devices.

The other question on your mind is likely to be "where's the Linksys EA6900"? Well, it seems that Linksys has a copy of the Octoscope MPE-based test setup I use and didn't like the results they were seeing when they checked the first batch of routers before sending them out for review. So they missed the window to be included in this review.

Inside

Because there has been a lot of speculation about the innards of these beasties, I opened both of them up after testing was done. Table 1 tells the tale.

NETGEAR R7000 ASUS RT-AC68U
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A
Switch in BCM4709A In BCM4708A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz Power Amp marked 397 649e 230(x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- SiGE 5023L 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
Table 1: Component summary

The R7000 sports a Broadcom BCM4709A SoC, while the RT-AC68U uses the Broadcom BCM4708A. We've seen the second-generation BCM4708 in other second-round AC routers like the recently-reviewed ASUS RT-AC56U and Buffalo WZR-1750DHP.

Here's a look at the top of the R7000 board with its RF covers removed so you can see the two BCM4360 radios. The small devices to the left of the photo are the 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers that sit side-by-side to feed each antenna.

NETGEAR R7000 board top

NETGEAR R7000 board top

There are more internal photos in the gallery below. The last photo shows a very large heatsink that sits at the bottom of the router and that is directly thremally-coupled to the RF shielded compartment that houses the BCM4709 SoC, RAM and flash.

Here is a similar view of the ASUS board. It uses the same alternating arrangement for the outboard 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers. You can see one of the pads that thermally couple the amps to the RF compartment cover. All the devices have similar thermal coupling.

ASUS RT-AC68U board top

ASUS RT-AC68U board top

According to Broadcom, the main difference between the two processors is that the 4709 has a 1 GHz clock speed per core, vs. 4708's 800 MHz. The 4709 also supports faster DDR3-1600 memory and has "some other I/O" differences. So there is no overclocking involved, folks. NETGEAR simply chose a faster processor for the Nighthawk. Does NETGEAR (or ASUS for that matter) run the processors at full clock speed and do they enable access to all 256 MB? Who knows? All that matters in my book is performance, so let's get right to it.




Related Items:

AC1900 Router Wireless Retest
Is AC1900 Worth It?
AC1900 Router Retest Redux
TRENDnet TEW-818DRU AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router Reviewed
NETGEAR Joins The AC1900 Club

User reviews

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Average user rating from: 8 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.

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Overall: 
 
4.1 Features :
 
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3.9
 
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Asus AC68R rocks

Overall rating: 
 
3.7
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by svi
June 18, 2014
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With the 68R and new mac pro, the link speeds show 1300 and the throughput tops at 480mbps, that's nearly half a gig on wireless , impressive ! Enough said .

 

Perfect. No.1 Router

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by felizestis
February 16, 2014
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Perfect and Perfect.
When I was using ac66u. It gave me disappointment.
But, ac68u.. It was almost perfect.

Lan to Wan performance is 890Mbps (using ixchariot, 3.0.0.4.374.39 merlin)
Wireless performance is faster than R7000.

Almost perfect means..
ac68r has very high power consumption.
idle = 10w~11w
wireless full load = 17w..... :(

 

Not as promising on Wireless, Still wired it works 2x faster!

Overall rating: 
 
4.0
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by Fred
January 15, 2014
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I bought the R7000 instead of an Apple time capsule or ASUS AC68U to max my late 2013 rMBP's 802.11ac wireless performance.
My WiFi connection speed changes between 702 / 878 /1053 / 1170 or 1300, my computer is less than 1.5 meter away from the router. I am disappointed that I don't get a solid 1300 connection. I think when I tried a similar mac with an 802.11ac Time capsule at Apple store it stayed on 1300 always. Beware that the radio of a rMBP can't use the 2.4Ghz at the same time as the 5Ghz 802.11ac. So it will max at 1300 on 5G anyways NO AC1900! for you...

I did the tests below with a 7.5GB ISO file copy:

With Wireless 5G:
NTFS USB 3 HDD > Netgear USB 3 > rMBP : ~14MB/s write , 9:20 minutes
NTFS USB 3 HDD > Netgear USB 3 > rMBP : ~22MB/s read , 5:46 minutes

With ethernet cable:
NTFS USB 3 HDD > Netgear USB 3 > rMBP : ~22MB/s write , ~5 minutes
NTFS USB 3 HDD > Netgear USB 3 > rMBP : ~56MB/s read , ~2:15 minutes

My USB 3 hdd has a performance of ~70MB/s write when connected directly to my rMBP USB

I do feel a difference upgrading from my Netgear wnr2000 which was supposed to give 300 (which never did) over 2.4G. I think this new model does routing much more efficient and faster as I can access my NAS, USB HDD files and the net with less tangible delay. However, this is not what I expected from the wireless performance.

This is probably the fastest router available but still it won't deliver a 1300 connection unidirectional. It supports OpenVPN but not PPTP, and I didn't managed to define users, so I guess one solution is to use openWRT to get more features soon... Maybe better performance too!

Netgear R7000 Firmware Version V1.0.2.194_1.0.15
rMBP 15" 1TB, 16G, 2.6 Q Core i7,

 

Good so far

Overall rating: 
 
4.3
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by HoBoZ
January 12, 2014
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Just bought this router [R7000] to use with my NVG510 U-verse. The setup was really easy with the Netgear setup wizard. The only pain was setting the NVG510 to work in bridge mode which it does not do natively.

So far the router is working just fine. The GUI is a bit slow at times and a little cumbersome at times, but it will get the job done. I am a IT/network admin, so I know my way around net devices. I used the stock firmware on the R7000 for a little while, but found it lacking in some areas that I wanted control with.

I flashed dd-wrt on it and I couldn't be happier with the results. Now I have far more control than I could even hope for. The flashing of dd-wrt is painless and you will be well satisfiled with the results if you need this router to do more than just what the stock firmware will allow you to do.

Pros:
The speed is very good on the 2.4 ghz channel, but the 5ghz channel is somewhat lacking.
The range is a little above average on both channels
The setup is quick and easy with the stock firmware

Cons:
The speed on both channels is a little slow to be a AC1900 router
The size of this router is large and some may have a hard time with space to place.


Over all this is a very good router, even though the price in my opinion is a bit to much.

 

A router with Range.

Overall rating: 
 
4.7
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by EF
January 06, 2014
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I purchased this router in November. I love the range it provides as my prior router, a Netgear N750 WNDR4000, was okay but fell short in consistently providing a strong signal to the opposite side on the second floor of my house. I would get a signal, but it would be diminished by at least 20% from my ISP's listed speeds. With the r7000, I now get the same Speedtest site readings on the second floor of my house as I do from five feet away. I even live in a crowded subdivision with a lot of signal competition.

Reliability has been great, as I have yet to need to reboot the router due to a lock-up. My old router was requiring a reboot at least once a week.

The reason for my lower performance rating is due to the QoS feature, which about two weeks ago went to garbage. I noticed my iPhone was locking up on video and when I used the Speedtest site to assess the speeds I was getting a 187ms Ping and download and upload speeds of under 2Mbps.

I first updated to the latest firmware version (V1.0.2.194_1.0.15) which did nothing to change the issue with my iPhone. Not having an issue with my Windows based laptop, also using wifi, I thought the problem was with my iPhone 5s. So I spent the next week rebooting my phone and reinstalling the OS. After much frustration, I came across someone on the web mentioning an issue with QoS. So I went into the setup for my r7000 and unchecked/ turned off everything in the QoS Setup tab. Sure enough this fixed the issue and everything went back to normal with a 10ms Ping and ISP rated download and upload speeds.

I am now happy with the router again! Netgear just needs to fix the QoS feature.

 
 
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