ASUS' RT line of routers has developed a reputation for outstanding speeds and high quality, and the company has made significant improvements with each generation. The $219 ASUS RT-AC68U is the current result of that refining process. Its fantastic throughput means you will have no trouble razing armies in Titanfall on your Xbox, while streaming the latest Criterion release in one room and Adventure Time in another — all in 1080p. That blistering performance, an attractive chassis, and extremely customizable and easy-to-navigate firmware make this the router to beat.
The ASUS RT-AC68U looks like someone took its sleek N-band brother, the RT-N66U, and stood it on its side. It's a tall, black wafer that stands upright, but with the same bright blue status lights, three 6-inch antennas and attractively textured black front that's best described as 3D plaid chic.
We like that the status lights are easy to see. We appreciate even more the easy-to-reach switch for turning off every light on the device, so that they're not distracting if the router isn't tucked away in a cabinet.
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The body of the router is small, but the three prominent antennas add considerably to its height. The ASUS measures 12 x 8.5 x 3.2 inches. The router has a smaller footprint than the Linksys WRT1900AC's 11.5 x 8 x 5 inches, but the ASUS' prodigious height could limit its placement.
The ASUS Quick Internet Setup helpfully pops up on any device attached to the router via Wi-Fi or Ethernet and guides you through a simple setup procedure. You create an SSID, connect to the Internet and you're off.
I especially like that the guide insists that you properly secure the router with a Wi-Fi password. In fact, after disregarding this note, I was bemused to find that eight other people logged into the router in our office building.
Very little has changed in the last few iterations of the ASUS RT router firmware. It's an easy-to-navigate interface with an attractive, blue-gray color palette. Major settings are well-labeled and readily accessible.
The first page you see when you log on is a particularly handy Network Map that can tell you at a glance which devices are attached to the router.
The RT-AC68U has one of the most customizable vanilla firmwares I've come across, with settings that are extremely comparable to those found in custom firmwares such as OpenWRT and Tomato. Diving into the Advanced Settings allowed me to fine-tune the built-in firewall with DDoS protection and a number of filters, ranging from URLs to keywords to Network Services. In other words, you can keep Facebook, Tumblr or adult-only content off of your network.
The AiCloud mobile app for Android and iOS is ASUS' method of accessing a local network while away from home. Compared with similar apps from other manufacturers, the iOS version of AiCloud is joyfully simple to use.
After installing AiCloud on my iPhone, all I had to do to have permanent remote access to my network was open the app while on my local Wi-Fi. This was much easier than on Linksys' app, which requires you to create a username and password and log into the router.
Yes, the app's user interface is outdated, and there aren't many settings to tweak, but I did get immediate and hassle-free access to both my Mac and Windows servers.
AiCloud has three aspects: Cloud Disk lets you access USB devices attached to the router; Smart Access provides access to shared files on your local network, and Smart Sync allows you to create your own Dropbox-like service on your network.
Cloud Disk and Smart Access are both simple tools that simply work. Smart Sync, however, requires an ASUS Web-storage account and a monthly fee. It also has a limit of 10GB on daily downloads and a file upload size limit of 10GB. However, paying $23 per year for 100GB of storage is quite reasonable. Dropbox has none of the limitations of ASUS but costs $99 per year for 100GB.
Due to the reputation of the ASUS RT line, I expected good things from the RT-AC68U, but the speeds it managed absolutely blew me away. The RT-AC68U is the fastest router we've tested on both AC and N bands at nearly every distance.
Using IxChariot and a laptop with an Intel 2 x 2 AC Wi-Fi chip, the RT-AC68U hit a category best 108.8 Mbps at 15 feet on the N band. That's a whopping 30 Mbps faster than both the average and the Linksys WRT1900AC.
The RT-AC68U is also blisteringly fast on the AC band at 15 feet. Its 346.1 Mbps was well above the category average of 319.2 Mbps and more than 20 Mbps faster than the WRT1900AC's mark of 321.6 Mbps.
Things were even better at 50 feet on the AC band, where the ASUS was one of only two routers tested to crack 300Mbps. Its throughput of 302.8 Mbps was also nearly 70 Mbps better than the category average of 233.8 Mbps and 50Mbps better than the WRT1900AC's showing of 251.5Mbps.
The RT-AC68U's crowning achievement was its throughput at 140 feet on the AC band. At 291.7 Mbps, the ASUS was 30 Mbps faster than the WRT1900AC and a blazing 80 Mbps faster than the category average of 211.2 Mbps.
Ironically, the only distance at which the RT-AC68U stumbled was 5 feet, where its 74.9 Mbps on the N band was neck and neck with the category average of 73.7Mbps and 10Mbps behind the $249 Linksys WRT1900AC's showing. It's possible that the N-band signal is so strong at 5 feet that it actually crowds the band.
For $220, the ASUS RT-AC68U offers the fastest speeds we've yet seen from a router, a svelte design and simple but powerful firmware. We also like that you can access your important files remotely via the AiCloud app. Those who want to install custom firmware may prefer the $240 Linksys WRT1900AC, but power users looking for great throughput should buy the RT-AC68U.