ASUS RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Routers Review


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 3×3 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 hastwo 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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