Asus RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N Router
Price Range: $87.98 - $160.06
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The stylish and compact Asus RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N Router offers stellar 5Ghz performance, long range, and an intuitive Web interface. Its storage feature is well designed; the router is comparatively fast; and it offers a convenient way to access data over the Internet.
The bad: The Asus RT-N56U's Web interface takes a long time to apply changes and the router doesn't support the new three-stream 450Mbps wireless speed.
The bottom line: The Asus RT-N56U is arguably one of the best true dual-band 300Mbps home routers on the market.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
The compact and well-designed RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N Router is a major step up from its bulky and buggy predecessor, the RT-N16 . It offers the fastest 5Ghz speed to date and very good overall performance for both wireless and storage features.
The only two minor blemishes we find in the RT-56U are its Web interface, which, though intuitive and responsive, takes a long time to apply changes; and its lack of support for the new three-stream 450Mbps wireless standard, which competitor Cisco Linksys E4200 offers.
To make up for this, the Asus is much cheaper than the Cisco at around $130. If you're looking for a well-rounded true dual-band router that also offers decent built-in network storage features for your home, look no further than the Asus RT-56U.
Design and ease of use
Having previously reviewed the bulky and subpar Asus RT-N16, we found the new RT-56U a big pleasant surprise. It's one of the most stylish routers we've seen and is about two-thirds of the size of the also-stylish Linksys E4200. The RT-56U, however, is squarish and from the top it looks very much like a shiny black marble tile. It's also very thin.
The router is not designed to be wall-mountable but it comes with a detachable base to work in a vertical position. It can also be placed on its bottom, like all routers.
Despite the new compact physical size, the RT-56U packs a heavy punch. On the back, it has four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired devices) and one WAN port (to connect to an Internet source such as a broadband modem). Next to the ports, there are also two USB ports designed to host printers or network storage. This is the first router of this ultracompact size to come with two USB ports. Most compact routers we've reviewed don't have a USB port at all. Between the USB ports and the LAN ports is a tiny reset button that restores the router to its default manufacturer settings.
On top, the router comes with an array of tiny blue lights labeled with the function each displays the status of--the USB port, the wired network, the two wireless networks (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz), and the power.
It's very easy to get the RT-56U up and running. First, plug the router in and turn it on. Next, from a computer that's connected to the router via a network cable, open an Internet browser, such as Firefox. You will be greeted with a quick Web-based wizard that walks you through a few simple steps to set up the wireless networks and get connected to the Internet. In our case, this took less than three minutes. The setup is foolproof and probably the fastest way to set up a router we've seen--possibly even faster than the case of Cisco's E and Vale series, which are extremely easy.
After the wizard, you can use the router right away or stay in its Web interface to further customize its features. Later on you can log in to this interface again at any time by pointing a browser of a connected computer to its IP address, which by default is 192.168.1.1.
The RT-56U's Web interface is very similar to that of the RT-N16 but is much improved in terms of performance and utility. The new router also has more features. The only nag we had is the fact that the interface takes a long time to apply changes. It displays a countdown message that goes from 1 to 100 percent at a rate of about 2 or 3 percent per second, meaning almost every change takes close to a minute.
The interface has a nifty network map that show a schematic of all the devices connected to its network and USB ports. It also has a very easy-to-use quality of service (QoS) feature called EzQoS that lets you quickly prioritize what type of services--gaming, media streaming, VoIP or Internet applications--that you want the network to prioritize for each connected device. There's even a comprehensive "Traffic Meter" that shows the use of the Internet as well as wired and wireless networks in real time or in the past 24 hours.
The router's USB ports support external hard drives formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS, and its storage feature works very well. In our trial, the router could handle two bus-powered external hard drives, the Seagate GoFlex Pro and the Western Digital My Passport , at the same time. So without needing too many wires running around, the router can offer up to 3TB of network storage (with two 1.5Tb external hard drives attached, such as the Seagate GoFlex Ultra-portable)--not too shabby a number for a device of its size.
Once the hard drive is connected, you can choose to share its entire existing contents as public (simple share), meaning everyone can have full access to it; or you can choose to share it with accounts. Choosing the latter option lets you create multiple user accounts and assign access privileges, (read only, read/write, no access) for each account to each of the share folders. We tried all these different settings, via a section called USB Application within the router's interface, and they worked as intended.
There's no need to install software on any of the network computer to access the router's storage. You can just browse for it using a network browser, such as Windows Explorer, the same way you would to access another computer in the network. On a Mac, the router will appear automatically in the Finder. The RT-56U also supports media streaming and can stream digital content stored on the external hard drive to UPnP-compliant network media streamers.
What we liked the most about the RT-N56U is its DiskAid feature that allows for quick access to the router over the Internet, using Asus' free Dynamic DNS. Normally, to use a DDNS service, you have to create an account and associate it with a router--a pretty hard job for the uninitiated. In the case of the RT-56U, however, all you have to do is pick a unique name and then after three mouse clicks the service is up and running. After that you can remotely access the router via the Web address xyz.asuscomm.com, where xyz is the unique name. For example, you can access the router's storage at ftp://xyz.asuscomm.com. Or, to access the router's Web interface via the Internet, you can turn this feature on and then point a browser from a remote computer to http://xyz.asuscomm.com:8080.
The router's Web interface also comes with a very handy context-based help feature: each time you click on a setting to change something, a small part on the right of the interface will automatically display the detailed information of that setting. This makes using the router a really pleasant experience.
Other than the above, the router also supports all the standard features and security measures found in other routers. These include, but are not limited to, DHCP server, port forwarding, virtual server, all variations of wireless encryption methods, and so on.
We were very happy with the router's performance both for its wireless networks and its built-in storage feature.
For the 5Ghz band, in a throughput test where the router was set up to be 15 feet from the client, it scored 112.6Mbps. At this speed, it can blast through 500MB of data in just around 30 seconds, which is the fastest we've seen for a wireless router. When we increased the range to 100 feet, the router still scored 76.1Mbps, which is the second best score on that test, just a tad slower than the 79.1Mbps of the Linksys E4200.
The RT-56U didn't do as impressively on the 2.4Ghz, but still managed to stay among the top three routers we've reviewed. In the throughput test, it scored 57.2Mbps and in the range test it offered 34.4Mbs. Finally, in the mixed-mode test where it was set to work with both N and legacy wireless clients, the router scored 52.6Mbps, which is a very good number.
The router offers a very good range with both bands: around 280 feet in our testing environment. It also passed our 48-hour stress test for both bands. During that time it didn't disconnect once.
We didn't have high expectations for the RT-56U's storage performance, but it surprised us by being the fastest of all reviewed routers that have USB ports. The router scored 95.4Mbps for writing and 104.2Mbps for reading. While these numbers, as expected, are much lower than those of a dedicated NAS server, they are fast enough for casual backing up, data sharing, and media streaming.
Despite its tiny size, the RT-56U has good ventilation and therefore managed to stay cool and quiet even during heavy operation. It went though our testing without any problem at all.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Like with the RT-N16, Asus backs the RT-56U with a two-year warranty. At the company's Web site, you'll find downloads, FAQs, a manual, and other support-related materials. If you want to contact the company's tech support, however, it's better to do that via e-mail as there's no technical support phone number listed at the Web site.
Asus got it right with the RT-56U. This is an all-around great router for home users and it has a friendly price tag.
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 18
4 Star: 6
3 Star: 4
2 Star: 10
1 Star: 14
Outstanding wireless router
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on July 4, 2011
6 out of 8 users found this review helpful
Pros: Easy to set up, by far exceeds Netgear or D Link nonsense. Excellent range, rather than sending a broad 360 signal it "targets" each device.
Cons: Finicky with the web based setup but after some simple configuration practice, works great.
Summary: I have had 6 different routers, this router is by FAR the best for home office and gaming applications. Having dual band already built in, slim design and RELIABLE, cannot ask for more. Top notch well designed unit.!
One of the best routers today
Rating: 4 / 5
on September 14, 2011
4 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: Very long rage for the 2.4Ghz, and fantastic speed for the 5Ghz network. Allows you to customize almost every aspect of the system (DHCP, NAT, Virtual server and more). The USB ports add the functionality of a network printer and a NAS.
Cons: The web user interface could use some improvement (and an overview by a native English speaker...) and is a bit confusing.
Summary: Could have been perfect if the asministration web site was improved. Also, the first unit I bought was defective. It was easily replaced by a new one, but since I'm not the only user who complains about this, ut us important to notice this issue.
Great Router if you do not VPN
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on May 3, 2011
5 out of 7 users found this review helpful
Pros: Speed, style, ease of set up. Throughput is amazing.
Cons: No VPN support. So great appliance for the family not very good for the way I use it.
Summary: We have a mixed device environment; Multiple Rokus, Kindles, iTouch, iPhones, laptops, desktops all connecting through this device. The streaming through Roku or for our games is vastly improved (speed and picture quality). I spend alot of time working when I am at home so the lack of VPN support was a key miss for me. I purchased based on reviews on CNET and Amazon. Happy with the quality, but honestly would have bought something else so I could continue to be connected to work while at home.
Fast installation, easy security setup.
Rating: 5 / 5
on July 3, 2011
4 out of 5 users found this review helpful
Pros: Good steady online speed both wired and wireless. No need to go online and login thgrough a company website, as well as security setup was a breeze.
Cons: None as of now.(6 months usage)
Summary: Best wireless router that I have used bar none!
Great router but No blocks VPN
Rating: 2.5 / 5
on April 1, 2011
4 out of 5 users found this review helpful
Pros: Extreme speed at 2.4 MHz, reasonable speed at 5 MHz, great speed through wired connections. Used it also for Netflix and other IP based apps with may samsung TV and it works great.
Cons: No VPN services. It completely killed my ability to work remotely, and that is a major issue for me and probably for many others these days. Don't touch that router (for now) if you consider connecting via VPN.
Summary: Very frustrating, after wasting many hours, just to find that ASUS didn't chaeck something as basic as VPN. I hope that they wil fix it ASAP.
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