Review of ASUS RT-AC87U router

If you’ve been observing the Singapore’s fibre broadband market, the major players have been moving towards bundling top-end routers (for a price) with their 1 Gbs offerings. M1, Viewquest, Myrepublic all offer a variety of ASUS routers, Starhub offers Dlink routers, while Singtel offers a myriad of brands. No more crappy 2wire or Aztec routers from Singtel anymore. The consumers have spoken, and the providers have listened.

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The question is, is there a need to pay upwards of $250 (with the broadband plans) to get a high end RT-AC87U, or is the AC56U sufficient. GadgetReactor takes a look at the performance of the RT-AC87U in a typical 4 room HDB flat for a typical user.

Powerful Hardware

As their current high end offering, the RT-AC87U is pack full of features. It has a dual-core 500MHz Quantenna QT3840BC chip supporting the four stream 802.11ac wireless standard (see the 4 big antennas) on the 5Ghz band, and a dual-core 1GHz Broadcom BCM4709 supporting transmissions on 2.4 Ghz band. With such power chips (for a router) and 256 mb of DDR3 system memory, it means your router will not be hanging on you if you are having a lot of internet streams (torrents anyone?).

The router is big sized. So be prepared to give it lots of real estate. It comes with only 4 lan ports, but has 1 usb2 port and 1 usb3 port. Sufficient for you to connect up a network printer, as well as a storage device for sharing. Read write speeds to storage devices via the usb3 port is more than acceptable. (but not the fastest)

Having said that, I didn’t have any devices capable 4×4 spatial stream transmission. I didn’t even have any devices capable of 3×3 transmission. (Each antenna can theoretically transmit 150 Mbs, and 4×4 means you can transmit 600 Mbs on 2.4 Ghz. Looking at other reviews online( see here and here, the long range performance of the wireless for the RT-AC87U isn’t that fantastic. In fact, the RT-AC68U wireless performs appears to beat that of the RT-AC87U. (insignificantly for 5 Ghz, significantly of 15% for 2.4 Ghz)

Network Performance

What does this translate to for us in Singapore.

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This is a typical layout of a new HDB. The router placed in between the living room and bedroom 3 (in a centralised position).  My Nexus 7 2013 tablet gets zero 5 Ghz reception in the Main Bedroom. And I mean ZERO. Which surprised me, because I was testing things out in a fairly new neighborhood where I assumed network interference would be less. The reception for 2.4 Ghz reception was bad enough that my internet connection kept dropping. Portable devices (tablets and handphones) tend to have smaller antennas, but they are also the devices that tend to depend on wireless connections. Chances are you’ll need some sort of workaround if you need internet connection throughout your whole house.

Having said that, the wireless performance is still way better than other routers with internal antennas. (see diagram) Comparison was done with a wireless-n Aztec router from Singtel.

ASUS is the router's network, while SINGTEL-E619 is the singtel's router. Vast improvement
ASUS is the router’s network, while SINGTEL-E619 is the singtel’s router. Vast improvement

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Connection within the living room was strong though. On my One Plus One phone, I was getting 250 Mbps (limited by my phone hardware) internet connection without any problems. Desktop connection via Ethernet was letting me reach 950 Mbps without any problems.

If and when I do a comparison with another top-end router, I’ll post the results here.

User Interface and other functionality

The router was easy to set up. You can do it easily enough through a wireless connection. No need for any wired connections or the use of any cd-rom drive. Functionality include allowing you to create up to 10 guest networks, adaptive QoS, as well as Ai Protection. Adaptive QoS is supposed to be able to priorities the more important data. On top of a set of pre-set rules, the router allows you to manually input your own rules as well. I wasn’t able to test this, nor do I think you will max out your connection and require this function. But you never know. The capability of this router is targeted at the small corporations or the extremely discerning tech geek. Most people are only interested in the wireless range and speed.

One useful feature on the RTAC87U is the “app analysis”, which tells you what is consuming all your network. Lets you troubleshoot if necessary. The router also comes with its own virus protection, powered by Trend. Sounds useful to me too, although I wasn’t actually able to test out how useful it was. All in all, a very comprehensive list of functionality.

Conclusion

The RT-AC87U is expensive. While powerful (and definitely top-end) in many areas, most consumers won’t require it. In fact, in the area of wireless performance, it’s not good enough for the typical consumer. You are better off with the use of repeaters, or AP points. The cheaper RT-AC68U also has better wireless performance as well. Add on the fact that consumer 4×4 802.11ac devices are not available yet, means that you’ll won’t be making use of that theoretical top speed for now. I haven’t had a chance to add on larger antennas. If I ever do, I’ll update this post again.

Any further questions? Submit in the comments and we’ll try to answer.

tedfox

Zhaolin aka Tedfox owns both Nexus 7 (2012 and 2013), a Nexus 4, iNo Two, and the OnePlus One. He enjoys playing with the latest gadgets as well as software, – like Plex and Waze.

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