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Wireless Reviews

Wireless-AC5300 Tri-Band Gigabit Router
At a glance
ProductASUS Wireless-AC5300 Tri-Band Gigabit Router (RT-AC5300)   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based three-radio AC5300 4x4 router
Pros• 900+ Mbps throughput when bridged to RT-AC88U
Cons• MU-MIMO not supported
• Wireless bridge not supported
• Slow USB 3.0 performance

Typical Price: $320  Shop Amazon  Buy Direct

Introduction

ASUS' RT-AC5300 Wireless-AC5300 Tri-Band Gigabit Router is the second AC5300 router I've tested and ASUS' second based on Broadcom's new 4x4 radio (the RT-AC88U / RT-AC3100 was the first). The AC5300 has two 5 GHz radios vs. the AC88U's two and uses Broadcom's XStream technology.

Broadcom's 4x4 routers are supposed to support MU-MIMO, but none announced so far have shipped with this feature enabled, including the AC5300. As I was writing up this review. ASUS sorta released alpha firmware enabling MU-MIMO. If you click on the posted link, you get a PDF with this message:

Wi-Fi Alliance MU-MIMO certification standard is not final and MU-MIMO have compatibility issues between different chipset in this stage.
We will continually release new firmware to improve MU-MIMO performance.
If you want to get the alpha firmware for early stage testing, please send mail to router_feedback@asus.com and use "RT-AC5300 MU-MIMO firmware" as mail title.

I don't waste my time with alpha firmware, so MU-MIMO testing will wait until ASUS ponies up at least a beta quality release for MU-MIMO. By the way, I've never seen Wi-Fi Certification used as an excuse for a wireless product maker not releasing something, so I don't buy ASUS' explanation. I think the real reason is Broadcom hasn't fully baked MU-MIMO yet.

ASUS RT-AC5300

ASUS RT-AC5300

The AC5300 is big in both size and price. Both it and the R8500 list for $400. Size-wise, the AC5300 actually has a smaller footprint than the R8500 (photo below), even with its eight removable external antennas. There is a lot of plastic in those antennas, mainly for the sake of design coolness. But their weight made about half the antennas in my two review samples easily flop over if they were not set straight up or the router moved. This got really annoying during testing.

ASUS RT-AC5300 on top of NETGEAR R8500

ASUS RT-AC5300 on top of NETGEAR R8500

For cooling, the bottom of the router is mostly open except for a 2.75" x 2.75" solid square for the serial number label smack in the middle and triangular feet in four corners. The top has much narrower ventilation slits hidden in the maze-like design. There are no screw slots for wall / ceiling mounting.

The meager set of indicators lights sits on the front panel with tiny grey icons to indicate function. I really wish designers would use high contrast markings and larger print; I can hardly read the damned things, even using a flashlight! Note there's only one indicator for all four LAN ports. For $400 and the target audience, I'd expect link / activity lights on each port.

ASUS RT-AC5300 callouts

ASUS RT-AC5300 callouts

Inside

Short term confidentiality expired, so I was able to use the FCC photos for most component identification. The photos are from the original May 2015 filing; photos for the November 2015 Class II Permissive change have not been released yet.

ASUS RT-AC88U FCC Class II changes

ASUS RT-AC88U FCC Class II changes

The photo below shows the innards with the top cover removed. The Ethernet connector slot in the cover indicates it is vertically flipped 180°. It looks like the fan was positioned over the left side hole in the heatsink. According to the Class II change, the fan has been removed.

RT-AC5300 inside

RT-AC5300 inside

All key components are summarized in Table 1 and compared to the R8500 and ASUS' RT-AC88U, which has only one 5 GHz radio. Note the Realtek switch is clearly in the FCC filing photos and the Class II change letter doesn't mention removing it. But I'm puzzled why it would be included, given the Broadcom BCM4709C0 has its own built-in switch supporting aggregation.

  ASUS RT-AC5300 NETGEAR R8500 ASUS RT-AC88U
CPU Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz
Switch Realtek RTL8365MB or in BCM4709C0KFEBG in BCM4709C0KFEBG & BCM53125 4 ports in BCM4709C0KFEBG + four ports in Realtek RTL8365MB
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85201-11 2.4 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
5 GHz radio 1 - BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85605-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
5 GHz radio 2 - BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
N/A
PCIe ASMedia ASM1182e PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch N/A
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

The gallery contains more photos and commentary.

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