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ASUS RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Routers Review

AkG

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It has been a while since we last looked at wireless network routers but there really hasn’t been all that much movement in this field as of late. Now that 802.11AC has started to become mainstream, manufactures can no longer just market that “Wireless AC” designation as something special and unique. Rather, the standard is now enjoying widespread adoption and without a successor on the medium-term horizon, the networking market has somewhat stagnated.

ASUS hasn’t let stagnation take hold in their lineup and have been delving further into 802.11AC, ultimately pushing the boundaries of what it has to offer. That shouldn’t come as any surprise since their RT-series routers have almost always been at the forefront of technology while also offering good hardware, custom software that is feature rich, and doing both at competitive prices. This is a formula that has consistently worked for ASUS, and the new RT-AC3200 and RT-AC87U routers have not radically deviated from it.

Now you may be wondering why we are grouping the reviews of two different routers together in one article. Unlike previous generations when ASUS offered one flagship product and gradually cascaded select features into more affordable products, the RT-AC3200 and RT-AC87U almost cohabitate atop their lineup. We say “almost” since there are differences in pricing and some baseline features but regardless of the differences, both of these routers are supposed to offer class-leading performance.

One of the predominant reasons behind ASUS’ dual-wielding approach is the presence of two competing standards in the high end 802.11AC market. Both BroadComm's Xstream and the more traditional MU-MIMO standard are very different from one another and neither can offer the specialized features of the other. However, both are completely compatible with all 802.11AC devices, though at slightly different feature levels.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Networking/ASUS_3200/intro.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As the name suggests the RT-AC3200 has so much packed into its svelte frame that some naysayers have doubted its capabilities. Usually ASUS gives their routers a simple 7 alpha-numeric name, with the first two digits stating it’s a router ('RT'), then the networking protocol it offers ('AC' for 802.11AC), and the last three digits tell you where in the lineup a given model resides. The new RT-AC3200 is different since it hasn’t been parachuted directly into ASUS’ lineup since it meant to take up a parallel course with the typical AC routers. This might sound a bit contrived but the RT-AC3200 can actually be considered a new breed of cutting edge 802.11AC 'AC3200' router.

This is not the first time we have seen AC3200 devices, and just like the Linksys EA9200 the ASUS RT-AC3200 offers speeds of “up to” 3200Mps combined -thus the overly optimistic 'AC3200' moniker manufactures have settled upon. It is able to accomplish this partially due to reliance upon Broadcom's Tri-Band XStream technology instead of MU-MIMO like most new 802.11AC routers.

In basic terms this allows the RT-AC3200 offer consumers three networks that can all be accessed simultaneously instead of just two. In this case, the networks are broken down into two 5GHZ 802.11AC 1300Mbps access points, and one 802.11N 2.4GHZ 600Mbps point. This offers a level of performance previous generations of ASUS routers could never hope to match.

Offering clear broadcasting for a trio of networks is challenging to say the least since if the antennas cannot receive the packets at high enough fidelity, overall performance will be rather mediocre. This is why, unlike Linksys and their EA9200, ASUS has opted for <i>six</i> external high gain antennas. These give the router an extremely unique look, but should easily provide much better throughput than the typical internal/external configurations most other 'AC3200' routers offer. Of course, with an asking price of $285, the RT-AC3200 will need all the performance it can get in order to tip the price to performance scales back in its favor.

The RT-AC87U on the other hand is 'only' an AC2400 router….yeah only 2400Mbps. However the only reason this model is not ASUS' sole top of the line router is because it does not rely upon the bleeding edge XStream technology. Instead it uses the more traditional MU-MIMO specification. However, since this is considered a second generation MU-MIMO device, what it does offer is rather impressive. Unlike the RT-AC3200 which is a 3x3 router, the ASUS RT-AC87U is new breed of 4x4 router.

This 4x4 specification allows it to send and receive up to four concurrent spatial streams per network rather than the three of previous generations. Hence why the AC87U’s single 5GHz 802.11AC network is rated for a whopping 1734Mbps. Mix in a 600Mbps 802.11N network, include a generous “rounding error”, and you have how ASUS arrived at "AC2400". In other words take the Linksys AC1900 four antenna router, modernize it with better internal hardware, mix in ASUS flavored firmware and the end result is the Wave 2 ASUS RT-AC87U.

While there are basically no 4x4 devices out there for this router to talk to, by having four active antennas the AC87U does have the luxury of using the three (or two) antennas with the best signal strength at any given time. This is why it can boast a signal coverage specification of 465 square meters. In either case it will be very interesting to see how this $235 router stacks up against its more expensive sibling in our real world tests.



 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the RT-AC87U Router

A Closer Look at the RT-AC87U Router



The new AC87U bares only a passing resemblance to past ASUS routers. Even though it still uses a wedge-shape design, its squat and angular profile looks more like ASUS' interpretation of NetGear's NightHawk router than previous generations. Unlike the new NightHawk X6 which uses a combination of metal and plastic, the top of this router's chassis is solid plastic with no ventilation slits to let hot air escape. This is unfortunate as this is a passively cooled router and heat will need somewhere to go.

While technically ASUS does include vertical mounting holes for direct mounting to a wall the fact of the matter is this router is really meant to be laid flat. For many this will be a major downgrade from the AC68U as the amount of shelf space the AC87U takes up is rather extreme.


Interestingly enough ASUS has not really taken full advantage of this horizontal design. Instead, all the ports and switches are either located on the chassis’ front or back with both top sides devoid of anything, including ventilation slits. The only way for air to escape is through hidden side vents.


Considering most of the passive air movement has to come via the bottom of the unit, and the AC87U does have high performance controllers housed inside, it is rather odd to see the rather sparse number of ventilation slits. We were expecting it to be almost covered in cooling slits, but ASUS obviously feels their design will be more than sufficient to guarantee the components’ longevity. On the positive, side the base is held up off the ground via rubberized feet. This adds some needed height, as well as making the router less likely to slip around.

The AC87U’s front incorporates light bar with individual LEDs that glows blue, providing you with a very good status overview at just a glance. Of course, since the LEDs are on the underside of the front, and this area also has a very steep angular profile, you cannot really see the LEDs unless you crouch down and look up at them. This is an obvious design oversight that somehow managed to get past product testing.



In addition to the status LED cluster the left side has two large buttons. The leftmost is the LED button (which turns on/off the LEDs), and the one next to it is the wireless network on/off button which enables/disables both the 2.4 and 5GHz networks. Just like the LED bar these buttons are located underneath the front edge and are hidden from view. While they are different sizes, you need to remember which is which - or else when you try to turn off the LED bar you wind up disabling your wireless networks instead. We understand that sometimes functionality has to take a back seat to aesthetics but this could have been implemented a bit better.

On the rightmost end of the AC87U’s front is a hidden USB 3.0 port. To access it you first pull out the attached plug that hides it from view. Since USB 3.0 is keyed and will only accept devices in one orientation you really will want to squat down or lift the device up to see the port before trying to ram in a USB connector the wrong way.

On the positive side, by relocating the USB 3.0 port to the front ASUS has reduced the chances of interference with wireless connections as much as possible. Sadly ASUS still auto-sets the USB 3.0 port to USB 2.0 speeds and you will have to first change this default setting in the configuration menu before being allowed to use it as a full speed USB 3.0 port.

With this being a 4x4 router it comes as no surprise that ASUS uses four large external antennas. These antennas have been upgraded in the aesthetics department over previous models, but unlike most 4x4 routers all four have been crammed into the back of the device. With so much free space on the sides this was a wasted opportunity to space out the antennas, help improve range and reduce potential interference.


Furthermore, by having all the antennas on the back, and the usual cluster of I/O ports the rear of the AC87U is rather cramped. From left to right there is the first antenna port, a USB 2.0 port, ultra-small WPS button, WAN port, second antenna port, the four (yellow) LAN ports, the third antenna port, the recessed reset button, a small power button, the power port for the external power brick…and then the final 4th antenna port. Yes that is a lot of stuff to shoe horned into one small area.


By taking off the external case we can see a very clean and quite cohesive internal design. To be honest this is the kind of refinement that the exterior lacks and shows that ASUS is not a newcomer to router designs. Each of the three main controllers has its own robust heatsink which reduces the overall cooling surface available to each controller but keeps one chipset from overheating another.

As with most high performance routers, the 87U uses the Broadcom 4709 System on a Chip. This 1GHz controller acts as the router’s brains and is a good step up from the previous generation's 800Mhz 4360 SoC. Interestingly enough the large central heatsink does not cover the SoC itself. Instead the central heatsink covers the Quantenna QSR1000 chipset which is responsible for the 5GHz network. This chipset consists of two parts: the QT3840BC for the Baseband and QT2518B for RF abilities.

The Quantenna setup is the one of the first 4x4 designs which allows for four spatial streams - with each stream having a maximum transfer rate of 433Mbps via 80MHz / 256-QAM. This grants a higher bandwidth of 1734Mbps versus the 1300Mbps of a typical AC1900 class router. Of course at this time there are no 4x4 capable NICs yet so the only way to hit this specification is to have two of these AC87U's talk to each other.


The 2.4GHz spectrum is handled via a fairly common Broadcom BCM4360 controller. This controller uses only three spatial streams but still includes a 600MBps connection via the 802.11N 2.4GHz spectrum. To obtain 600Mbps you need to use three spatial steams with 256-QAM modulation and encoding abilities on 40Mhz channels. QAM 256 modulation enabled 802.11N wireless devices are rare, but are available.

The rest of the internals are fairly mundane with 256MB of RAM and 128GB worth of NAND for onboard storage. While 256MB of RAM is the same amount as what previous generations came with, the fact of the matter is these devices simply do not need more than a quarter of a gigabyte of memory.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the RT-AC3200 Router

A Closer Look at the RT-AC3200 Router




The RT-AC3200 is literally a spitting image of the AC87U, minus two additional antennas and the chassis modifications required to add them. With the exception of the extra antennas sprouting from the sides, if you were to place both models next to each you would have a hard time telling them apart. Unfortunately, this means some of the same odd design choices are present here as well like the distinct omission of top ventilation.



From the front of the AC3200 you can now actually see the LED status bar since ASUS has slightly modified its location. Even from across the room you can tell by the whiteblinking lights what is happening with your AC3200.


Sadly the front two buttons and USB 3.0 port are still hidden from view. As with the AC87U the leftmost is the LED button (which turns on/off the LEDs), and the one next to it is the wireless network on/off button (which enables/disables both the 2.4 and 5 GHz networks).

Also not changed is the fact that the hidden USB 3.0 port still defaults to USB 2.0 mode and has to be manually set to actually run in USB 3.0 mode.


As ASUS needed to find room somewhere for the six external antennas it was not surprising to see them use the exact same rear layout and simply tack on an extra antenna to each side. This means the rear I/O area is just as cramped as the AC87U's and just as difficult to access properly

Oddly enough, the AC3200 does not make use of the same 6Dbi antennas which accompany the AC87U. Instead of those aesthetically pleasing antennas, the 3200 uses ones which are very similar to the ones on previous generations of RT-series routers. We are unsure why ASUS moved back to these antennas, but in either case they do get the job done.



The reason for the six antennas is its use of a tri-band setup. This means it has two separate 3x3 5GHz networks that can operate simultaneously. Basically take the router and cut it in half with one half connected to one 5GHz AC1300 controller and the other half connected to a second AC1300 controller and you have the basics on how it was designed. Of course there is only one 802.11N controller and network, but it simply doubles up on one side's three antennas.

This extra high performance controller is why ASUS increased the number of cooling slits on the bottom. We still would have preferred top ventilation areas, but this in conjunction with taller feet should increase the airflow by a notable amount.



On first glance it may seem odd that the higher performance AC3200 seemingly has fewer heatsinks than the AC87U. In this case, it simply uses more common components; there are just more of them than usual. One heatsink covers the SoC and the first 5GHz controller, while the other covers the second 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz controller.

As to the specifics, just as with the AC87U, the AC3200 uses the 1GHz Broadcom 4709 SoC as its main controller. Instead of using two Quantenna QSR1000 chipsets for the dual 5Ghz spectrum networks, it has two Broadcom BCM43602 controllers for 5Ghz networks. This controller is a proven one and while it only is capable of AC1300 speeds, by using two of them ASUS was (theoretically) able to double the total bandwidth. It is also cooler running than the QSR1000 chipset.

Also unlike the AC87U one of these 43602 controllers pulls double duty as the controller for the 2.4GHz spectrum. Since it has to do double duty, this single controller gets a heatsink of its own, while the other 43602 has to share its heatsink with the 4709 SoC.


The rest of the internals are fairly commonplace with 256MB of RAM and 128GB worth of NAND for storage. The back does however have a tertiary heatsink to help keep these secondary components cool.
 
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AkG

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Setup and Installation

Setup and Installation



The setup process both routers follows the exact procedure. Why you can use the included CD and do things the old way, ASUS has streamlined the installation procedure and now all you need to do after plugging in the router and the various cables is either simply try to connect to any website or type in http://router.asus.com (or http://192.168.1.1 if you want to go old school) and you will be redirected to the Quick Internet Setup that is now built directly built into the firmware.


If you are worried about having to do this via a wired connection, don't be. These routers come with default SSIDs of ASUS_5G and ASUS, for the 2.4 and 5 GHz networks respectively (the second 5GHz connection also gets its own SSID with a '2' appended to the end). All default networks are open and thus no password is needed so all that’s necessary is to connect to one of these networks via a wireless connection. Of course the old fashioned wired connection works as well - but who has time for cables?


With literally half the battle won via pre-configured options, all that’s left is to go through the Quick Internet Setup before you will be allowed to actually connect to the internet. The entire process of finishing the QIS will take mere moments and when it is complete; you will have multiple working networks and most of the basics taken care of. ASUS claims a 30-second configuration, but this is being overly optimistic. A more realistic time frame is a couple minutes. However, if you do use more advanced features, configuring them should only take a few moments thanks to the these routers’ easy to navigate and clearly labeled interface. Once again, ASUS deserves to be commended for this.
 
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AkG

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RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface

RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface


The interface on these two routers is very similar so we will be going over it piecemeal while also calling out points of differentiation. For the purposes of this section, the RT-AC3200’s interface will always be the picture on the left.


ASUS’ interface has always been a straightforward and well implemented affair, two features that carry over into their newest generation of routers. This time however, it has been refined to near-perfection with just the right balance of user friendliness and enthusiast-oriented options.

When the browser’s built in administration page is opened, you will be greeted to a well laid out landing page which can be used to access the various features of these routers. This page has been broken down into two main columns with the right side taking up the lion’s share of space. This area is what will change and transform depending on which options are select in the left column’s navigation bar.

The default landing page is the Network Map section. Most users will never have to go beyond this point in the utility as it not only gives a basic overview of the network configuration but with a simple mouse click everything can be modified; from how the USB devices are configured to the wireless network setup. Essentially, there are four main areas: WAN, Wireless, Clients and USB.


For both units the next section is the Guest Network configuration area. As the name suggests this is where someone would go if they wanted to enable special ‘guest’ or limited access networks. Such options come in handy when the router is being used in an environment where you don’t necessarily want everyone to have access to your LAN but want them to be able to connect to the Internet.

There is however a pretty major difference between the two routers in this particular interface section. Basically the AC87U allows for six guest networks (3 on the 2.4GHz and 3 on the 5GHz network) whereas the AC3200 allows for nine.

In either case, to set up one of these 'guest' networks all you need do is press the Enable button and the router will take care of the rest for you. If the default settings are not to your liking simply pressing in the details section will bring up a new window where numerous options can be adjusted including encryption, SSID, Intranet access, MAC filtering and access time length.


The next tab is new to this generation and is aptly called AiProtection. For all intents and purposes this is a Deep Packet Inspection engine that allows all traffic to be analyzed in real time and attacks stopped before they even reach the network. Both routers have this feature powered by Trend Micro and they scan each packet at the data level to block threats.

The upside to this is that protection starts the moment it is enabled, without first setting up complex rules like required by previous generations of ASUS routers. The downside is that deep scanning does add a lot of overhead for the processor to work through. Thankfully both of these routers have ample CPU cycles to spare, but even powerful processors are not able to do this without adding a certain amount of latency to your network. So be careful about using this feature if you are a PC gamer who needs the lowest latency possible.


The other new feature is Adaptive QoS. Much like AiProtection automatically protects you from attacks without first configuring rules, Adaptive QoS allows the router to automatically prioritize data based on its type. Once again this engine is powered by Trend Micro and actually bases its decisions on the data in the packets and not via IP, port or similar higher level rules. For example if you are watching Netflix on system A and there’s a data transfer to a NAS taking place on system B, the router will automatically give the Netflix stream a higher priority.

In testing AQoS did do a decent job but it would occasionally cause a few hiccups. In other words it is a good step in the right direction but is no substitute for good old fashioned rules. Thankfully both models allow you to turn off the 'adaptive' part and instead create custom rules for dictating what should be prioritized.


The AC87U's next tab is the USB Application whereas the AC3200 gets another tab before the USB Application tab called traffic Analyzer. As the name suggest this section allows for real time monitoring of what is happening on your network. There’s also a statistics page that can break down what data is used where and by what. This will come in handy for parents as they can see how much 'data' their children are actually using each day.
 
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AkG

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RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface Pg.2

RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface Pg.2



For both models the USB Application section deals with everything USB related. Unlike the more basic Network Map section this includes being able to set up a USB device as a Samba, iTunes, FTP based Network Attached Storage unit and allows for connecting to the USB storage device via the internet.

For non USB storage related tasks this page also includes the ability to configure a network printer via the Network Printer Server. Not all printers are supported so pay careful attention to the list of supported printers. However in a pinch the Line Printer Daemon tool can be used and will improve the chances of a non-supported printer actually working.


Now in its second iteration the AiCloud 2.0 section allows for remote connection to the network via an iOS or Android device no matter where you are located in the world. You can even stream video from your LAN – via Samba – to your phone as well as use custom ports for both web and streaming. Just be aware that you will be using upload bandwidth via your ISP and download bandwidth via your device’s data plan.


Much like the USB application section, the Wireless area under the Advanced Settings group is much, much more in-depth than what the Network Map section would lead you to believe. In addition to configuration of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz network(s) WPS can be configured, the router can be set to bridge mode, wireless MAC address filtering can be set up and there’s also an option for Enterprise orientated solutions such as a RADIUS configuration.

The Professional sub menu is also where you can further tweak and customize the wireless networks and control advanced features such as enabling 256-QAM (aka ‘Turbo QAM’) and even set up a basic schedule for when the wireless radio will be enabled and disabled.


The LAN section has the usual Local Arena Network configuration options including the IP range, DHCP server settings, route and whether or not to support Jumbo frames. The DHCP server abilities have been significantly beefed up over the AC66 and it is now very easy to hard set an IP to the MAC address of a given NIC.

Of special note is the IPTV section which allows you to connect your Internet enabled TV or set-top box directly to the router and have it access the internet. With connected TVs being more and more common this is a great addition.
 
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AkG

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RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface Pg.3

RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Router Interface Pg.3



The WAN section of these two routers allows for setting up a DMZ, port forwarding, NAT passthrough and most interestingly of all: Dual WAN. As the name suggests you can use one of the four ‘LAN’ ports as a second WAN port. While not all that important for most this will be a very nice feature for those who do need it.


IPv6 deals with enabling IPv6 abilities of both router but thankfully it has been set to off by default. Meanwhile, the VPN server section deals with setup and configuration of a Virtual Private Server and allows for some very decent configuration abilities such as encryption level and hard setting client IP addresses. Unfortunately it only supports a maximum of 10 clients at one time, but for most home users this should be more than enough.


The Firewall tab is also fairly robust and allows for filtering by keyword, URL or even by network services. Better yet you can either use a blacklist for the filters or a whitelist, the latter of which is much more secure but also more time consuming to properly configure.


Administration is where you would find all the usual administrative related tasks such as changing the login password, setting the router to repeater, Access Point, or Media bridge mode or even just where the routers go to update their clocks. It is also where you can update the firmware and even save or restore custom settings to and from the router.


As with previous generations both models come with a very complete System Log consisting of seven subsections. Each and every one is very self-evident and we doubt anyone will have problems figuring out which log to search for answers.

The last section – aptly labeled Network Tools – contains some very basic network troubleshooting tools that make chasing down issues a lot easier.
 
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AkG

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Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing wireless devices is not as easy as you would think. Yes you can simply connect to it and push a bunch of file across the network while timing it but this only tells half of the story and does not explain <i>why</i> speeds can vary. To obtain a more clear picture of how good – or bad – a networking device is, more is needed in the form of a multi-step testing approach.

The first step consists of accurately measuring signal strength. A good strong signal is a prerequisite of high performance. If a device can barely send or receive a signal, the speeds will be very low as both devices will opt for a slower connection speed to compensate.

To test signal strength we use inSSIDer, a program which can graph signal strength of all wireless signals being received by the computer’s wireless NIC.

The second step consists of synthetic bandwidth testing to show the potential performance of a given wireless configuration. For this test we have chosen Lan Speed Test. This free program can test both transmission and reception performance and do so in an easy to use and highly repeatable way. For clarity sake we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.

The last step is real world testing. This test consists of 10GB worth of small file and large file mixture which will be pushed from one wireless connected computer to a second computer connected via wired Ethernet. Testing will be done via MS RichCopy. For clarity sake we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.

If the device supports wired transmission, wired Ethernet to wired Ethernet real world performance will also be included using the same 10GB of data used for the wireless test.

If a given wireless device is labeled as “entertainment” or marketed as being entertainment centric, a secondary real world test will be included in the form of using the device for wireless HD media streaming. This test will be a pass/fail affair.

To test all sections, we have further created four unique and distinct scenarios in which all testing will be done. The first test is labeled “Zone 1” and it consists of a twelve foot ‘line of sight’ distance between the router and the wireless NIC with no walls or obstructions between the two. This replicates having the router in one end of a small room and the wireless device at the other. It is unlikely to be encountered all that often but it will test a best case scenario performance of the device being tested.

The second test consists of an eighteen foot separation with a single interior non-load bearing wall separating a wireless device and the router. We have labeled this “Zone 2” as it is much more common and is still a very optimal setup for a wireless home networking. This test replicates you having your wireless device in an adjoining room to the router.

The third test is labeled “Zone 3” and consists of having the router in the corner of the basement with the wireless device trying to connect in the second story room at the extreme diagonal end from the routers location. This is still a fairly common occurrence in home networks with numerous walls, floors, pipes, wires, etc. and even other electronic devices in the intervening distance. This is not an optimal configuration but a very common one none the less. This will test the abilities of both the router and wireless NIC to connect and communicate with each other.

The fourth test is labeled “Zone 4” and is an extreme test. While the router is still in the basement we have paced off 400 feet from it outside the testing facility. This replaces those times a person is outdoors and wishes to use his home network to connect to the Internet or other devices connected to the home network. With fewer walls but much greater distances this test is extremely demanding and many will not be able to successfully complete it. Thus it will separate the truly good from the merely adequate devices.

For all tests, four runs will be completed and only the averages of all four will be shown.

When possible both 5Ghz as well as 2.4GHz Bands will be used for all tests with each getting their own separate results.

All tests will carried out via a “clear” network in order to maximize repeatability and minimize factors outside of our control.

For information purposes here is the theoretical maximum each network connection is capable of:

10Mbits/s = 1,250 KBytes/s
100Mbit/s = 12,500 KBytes/s
150Mbit/s = 18,750 KBytes/s
300Mbit/s = 37,500 KBytes/s
450Mbit/s = 56,250 KBytes/s
1000Mbit/s = 125,000 KBytes/s
1300Mbit/s = 162,500 KBytes/s
1734Mbit/s = 216,750 KBytes/s
2334Mbit/s = 291,750 KBytes/s
2400Mbit/s = 300,000 KBytes/s
3200Mbit/s = 400,000 KBytes/s


System Used:
Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory
: 16GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR4
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel 1.2TB NVMe 750
Power Supply: XFX 850
 

AkG

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USB & Signal Strength Results

Performance Testing USB 3.0


While USB has indeed be a mainstay of ASUS routers for as long as we can remember, the AC68U is the first high performance router that also provides USB 3.0 and not just USB 2.0 ports. As most consumers know USB 3.0 brings numerous enhancements to the table including higher bandwidth potential and increase power over USB capabilities. As we have seen many times in the past reality sometimes can wildly differ than theory and there are numerous ‘USB 3.0’ devices which actually perform at the same levels as their previous USB 2 counterparts.

To see exactly the capabilities USB 3.0 adds to these routers we devised a very simple test. Using an empty Seagate GoFlex Slim 320GB device we connected it to the USB 3.0 a port of the router. We then configured it as a network drive and using MS RichCopy measured the performance via wired, 2.4GHz wireless and 5GHz wireless.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Networking/ASUS_3200/usb.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Both models are equally impressive when it comes to USB performance, and we honestly would not be able to choose one over the other.


Signal Strength tests


<i>A good strong signal is a prerequisite of high performance wireless networking. If a device can barely send or receive a signal, the speeds will be very low as both devices will opt for a slower connection speed to compensate. To test signal strength we use inSSIDer, a program which can graph signal strength of all wireless signals being received by the computer’s wireless NIC.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Networking/ASUS_3200/sig2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Networking/ASUS_3200/sig5.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Since there are no 4x4 networking devices available right now the AC87U is at a distinct disadvantage here. However, because it does have four antennas to choose from its longer distance performance is rather impressive.
 
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AkG

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Real World & Synthetic Results

Synthetic tests


For synthetic performance testing to show the potential performance of a given wireless configuration. For this test we have chosen Lan Speed Test. This free program can test both transmission and reception performance and do so in an easy to use and highly repeatable way. For clarity sake we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.





Real World Tests


For real world testing we have taken 10GB worth of small file and large file mixture and pushed from one wireless connected computer to a second computer connected via wired Ethernet. Testing will be done via MS RichCopy. For clarity sake we have averaged both the transmission and reception performance into one aggregate number.

If the device supports wired transmission, wired Ethernet to wired Ethernet real world performance will also be included using the same 10GB of data used for the wireless test.





This is a perfect example of what each of the two competing wireless standards has to offer consumers. The XStream-based AC3200 offers better performance at shorter distances than the MU-MIMO AC87U right now. However, the AC87U has the potential to be even better….but that is a more long term gamble.

Neither are perfect and both do have a lot to offer consumers. It is just unfortunate that consumers have to choose one over the other.

In either case, the AC3200 is the better choice in the short term and long term if you have heavily congested networks as it can balance the load across two different networks, whereas the AC87U has to place all its 802.11AC devices on its one network.
 
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