If you’re like me, setting up your home router is as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Maybe that’s why I have a toothache and my home network is struggling with the 2.4GHz router that I installed 7 years ago. It was a pretty good router in its day, however, 7 years is more like 50 when it comes to technology. It’s currently running well below its optimum due to advances in WiFi standards, improved router technology and increased demands on WiFi from almost every new device I buy. I’m giving in and setting up a new router for my house. But which router should I get? At Blackfire Research, we are often asked for recommendations on which routers will best support whole home wireless streaming. I must mention that technology changes rapidly, so by the time you read this blog post, there may be an even better router on the market. With that in mind, reviews at Tom’s Guide and CNET are my two go-to references.
We do quite a lot of wireless demos and testing at our Blackfire office in San Francisco, which require high performing routers operating at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. Netgear and Linksys/Belkin make very fine routers, and the Apple AirPort Extreme is a popular choice, but, we’ve grown particularly fond of two from ASUS that are not only high performing, but reliable, easy to set up, and are now available at a much lower cost than when they were first launched. Those two routers are: the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U.
- Default settings out of the box are good for most situations
- Subjectively cope with noisy environments better than other routers we’ve tested
- Relatively low cost (for an 802.11ac router)
- Mobile phone app simplifies both setup and maintenance
- Mature design (launched in 2013) which is very reliable
- Large user community, offering plenty of online advice.
The ASUS RT-AC68U has all the features of the 56U, but adds:
- 1.3Gb/s (vs. 900Gb/s) data rate at 5GHz
- 600Gb/s (vs. 300Gb/s) data rate at 2.4GHz
- External antenna (for more flexible adjustment, tweaking and positioning)
We recommend that you upgrade to the 68U version if:
- you have a big home
- there are several walls between your router and your living space
- you have lots of family members all connecting at once
- your home internet connection is greater than 200MB/s
Further, here’s a breakdown of the tradeoffs between 2.4GHz and 5GHz:
- supports most WiFi devices; better range; less attenuation by walls and objects
- congested band due to Bluetooth, cellphones and lots of other non-standard wireless devices
- Fastest data rates; relatively uncongested frequency band at the moment
- Not suitable for many devices due to antenna, range limitations and power consumption
For my home, I purchased the ASUS RT-AC68U for the extra capacity for multiple users and flexibility in antenna positioning. For my next blog post, I’ll walk through how I setup my new router.