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Wireless Reviews

Setup

The AC87 uses ASUS' Quick Internet Setup (QIS) that is built into the router. The router will redirect any attempt to contact the internet to http://router.asus.com or you can hit http://192.168.1.1 to start QIS. You can bail out of QIS early, but must at minimum set SSID and wireless security before QIS lets you go.

Speaking of wireless, ASUS uses default SSIDs of ASUS and ASUS_5G with no passwords. But given the auto-capture method and the fact that QIS forces you to set security before it lets you onto the internet, this isn't a real security risk. Like NETGEAR, ASUS prints everything you need to know to connect to the router's admin in teeny, low-contrast type on its bottom label.

Once you bail from or complete QIS, you'll hit the familiar ASUS admin GUI's Network Map page as shown below.

NETGEAR R8000 rear panel callouts

ASUS RT-AC87 Network Map

ASUS has been slow to get its act together on the AC87's home on its website. There is no product page yet, only this announcement. There is an RT-AC87R support page, with links for firmware and documentation downloads. Links to the Discovery, Printer and Rescue Windows utilities aren't there Manuals and utilities come on the CD in the box (it's under the flap under the lower antenna compartment).

Inside

RMerlin shared component details and some internal pictures of his development sample in this SNB Forum thread. The thread contains much more detail than I normally post and is well worth a read. I'll just stick to the highlights here.

The AC87 uses a multi-processor architecture, as the R8000 does. But, surprisingly, ASUS hasn't taken its lead from Broadcom and marketed the 1 GHz clock speed of the Broadcom BCM4709A main CPU and 500 MHz of the Quantenna QSR1000's embedded Synopsys ARC 700 32 bit RISC processor as a 1.5 GHz processor.

Merlin snapped the photo below of the main board with heatsinks over RF cans in place. The third heatsink at photo left most likely sits over the Broadcom BCM4360 that handles 2.4 GHz radio duties. The Quantenna device is at center and Broadcom BCM4709A on the right.

AC87 board top (courtesy R. Merlin)

AC87 board top (courtesy R. Merlin)

The two radios connect to four removable dual-band dipole antennas connected via RP-SMA jacks. ASUS told me the RT-AC87 is designed using the new FCC rules for 5G Band-I. So Tx power has been maximized against the new 30 dBm total conducted transmit power limits. It looks like ASUS buried the lines for the front USB 3.0 port on board inner layers for shielding.

AC87 board bottom (courtesy R. Merlin)

AC87 board bottom (courtesy R. Merlin)

Table 1 has a summary of the AC87's key components vs. the RT-AC68U and NETGEAR R8000. I am pretty sure external 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers are in the design and I'll add them once someone pops off the heatsinks and RF can tops and IDs them.

ASUS RT-AC87 ASUS RT-AC68U NETGEAR R8000
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4709A in BCM4708A in BCM4709A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4360 (3x3 ac) - Broadcom BCM4360
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz Power Amp marked 397 649e 230(x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- 2.4 GHz Power Amps (x3)
5 GHz radio - Quantenna QSR1000 (4x4 ac) - Broadcom BCM4360
- SiGE 5023L 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
Table 1: Component summary

NOTE: Part 2 contains some more interesting design details.

Features - QoS

ASUS routers are known for their broad feature sets and plenty of knobs to twiddle and reports / logs to peruse. The AC87 expands the feature set with two new features. I'll let RMerlin help explain (copied from his SNB Forum thread and edited a bit).

[RMerlin] The most visible change is the addition of AiProtect and Adaptive QoS. Both are powered by a DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) engine provided by Trend Micro. This engine allows traffic to be analyzed at the lowest level, based on the actual content, not just by the IP and ports used. That means that out of the box, if you enable Adaptive QoS, you won't have to start configuring rules. Your VoIP traffic will automatically get a bump, while P2P traffic priority will be dropped if anything else with a higher priority is detected.

The Bandwidth Monitor page screenshot below shows three devices, with the AcerAspireS7 and android devices running Netflix and YouTube respectively via the 2 GHz radio. Overall device priority looks like it can be adjusted by dragging its box position. I also discovered that the Highest, High, etc. buttons can be dragged onto the device boxes. Unfortunately, I have no idea what dragging this stuff around does, since there is no documentation for any of this.

Adaptive QoS Bandwidth Monitor

Adaptive QoS Bandwidth Monitor

Although intriguing, Adaptive QoS is a big undocumented mess at this point. I was able to enable Apps Analysis on the Bandwidth Monitor page at the same time I turned on "Smart QoS" and set its QoS Type to "Traditional". This brought up the old QoS controls. Setting the Smart QoS type to "Adaptive" yielded another page with big draggable buttons for application categories (Gaming, Video, etc.). The gallery below has additional screenshots and commentary.

[RMerlin] Another interesting thing to note: Adaptive QoS is compatible with hardware acceleration. That means you can keep hardware acceleration enabled (although only Level 1 is supported) while having iQoS enabled. I was able to confirm this when an iperf benchmark between LAN and WAN gave me a throughput result of 750 Mbps. So, that means that iQoS can be used even with high speed broadband.

I'll take Merlin's word on this. I don't want to draw any conclusions on Adaptive QoS until it is more fully-baked.

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