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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

The Blue Cave is not Wi-Fi Certified. It was loaded with 3.0.1.4.383_19145-g19dd15f firmware and tested with the Revision 10 wireless test process . The router was reset to factory default, then set to Channel 6 for 2.4 GHz and Channel 40 and 20/40/80 MHz bandwidth for 5 GHz. WPA2/AES encryption was used for all connections.

The Revision 10 process uses 20 MHz bandwidth for 2.4 GHz tests for throughput vs. attenuation, but uses 40 MHz for peak throughput tests. These settings are enforced by the octoScope Pal test client.

The router body was centered on the test chamber turntable as shown in the photo below. The 0° position for the router had the front facing the chamber antennas.

ASUS Blue Cave in test chamber

ASUS Blue Cave in test chamber

We'll start by comparing average throughput to get an initial feel for how the BC ranks, including the RT-AC86U and Phicomm K3C for comparison.

Average 2.4 GHz throughput of 66 Mbps downlink and 64 Mbps uplink slotted the BC in third and fourth place in the charts.

2.4 GHz average throughput comparison

2.4 GHz average throughput comparison

We have to go deeper into the charts to get all three products for 5 GHz average throughput ranking. The BC's results of 197 Mbps downlink and 268 Mbps up, landed it in seventh and fourth positions.

5 GHz average throughput comparison

5 GHz average throughput comparison

I added the top-ranked NETGEAR R7800 for the throughput vs. attenuation plots. The R7800 has been our ranking champ since March 2016 and also happens to be a four stream router, so it's a fair benchmark.

The 2.4 GHz downlink throughput vs. attenuation plots shows the BC and AC86U with similar profiles and the Phicomm K3C with an advantage with strongest signals. The R7800 tracks under the Phicomm in the early going, but joins the crowd after the 15 dB test.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For 2.4 GHz uplink, the Blue Cave tracks very closely to the Phicomm. But the R7800 takes top position all the way out to the 27 dB test.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz downlink shows some work to be done for ASUS to optimize Blue Cave link rate adjustment algorithms, so that throughput doesn't fall as quickly with strong signals. I should note I had to do more runs than usual to get these downlink results, culling the best two runs to average for the displayed results. The culprit seemed to be low receive link rates, a mechanism that has been responsible for relatively low 5 GHz throughput for other products, like Linksys' EA9300. The R7800 is clearly the winner for this benchmark.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The 5 GHz uplink plot shows what the downlink curve should look like. The Blue Cave was well-behaved in this direction; I could have stopped at my usual two test runs.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

Peak Wireless Throughput

For our peak wireless performance tests, the octoScope Pals are configured as 4x4 AC devices and left to negotiate their best connection, with 10 dB of attenuation applied on 2.4 GHz. The latter is necessary so the 2.4 GHz Pal isn't overloaded. Since most devices support only one or two streams, most of us will not be seeing these speeds.

607 Mbps downlink and 593 Mbps uplink place the BC within the top five of all products tested for 2.4 GHz peak throughput. Our octoPal test client linked at the maximum 800 Mbps rate in both directions.

2.4 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

2.4 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

941 Mbps downlink places the BC within the top three, but 884 Mbps uplink ranks it tenth of all products tested for 5 GHz peak throughput. This time, the octoPal client reached only 1560 Mbps vs. the maximum 1733 Mbps possible for four streams with 256 QAM. This isn't uncommon and doesn't really matter, because the downlink result is the most you'll get from a TCP/IP connection anyway due to protocol overhead.

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

Closing Thoughts

With routing performance now properly tested, he Blue Cave moved up a spot to #6 in our router ranker vs. the #3 rank for its Intel-based competition, Phicomm's K3C. The Router Ranker performance summaries for the two products are side-by-side below so you can dig into the sub-rankings.

Ranker Performance Summary comparison

Ranker Performance Summary comparison

Despite the relatively low rank, the Blue Cave isn't that bad a router. Its wireless performance is as good or better than the RT-AC86U's and it's also less expensive. And although its wired routing performance didn't score as well as the AC86U's, it will probably do just as well for most buyers.

If AiMesh compatibility is high on your buying checklist, however, you'll need to give the Blue Cave a pass. It's currently not on the supported router list and it's doubtful ASUS will make the investment to bring a completely different software platform into the AiMesh fold.

In the end, if you're looking for a router with decent 2.4 and 5 GHz performance that doesn't look like a black spider, you could do a lot worse than the ASUS Blue Cave. But you could also do better for less money if aesthetics don't much matter.

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