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ASUS RT-AC87U & RT-AC3200 Routers Review

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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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