Fri
Jun 1 2012
10:58 am

rtn66admin.JPG

I was using my tablet on a public wifi network the other day and noticed the internets seemed a little snappier. So I decided to look in to replacing my NetGear WAP WN802T, which had been a little flaky anyway.

I surfed around the geek chat forums and read good stuff about the ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router and decided to give it a try. I got it from NewEgg with free two day shipping and UPS delivered it yesterday. It took about five minutes to set it up, and another 10 minutes or so to install it in its permanent home in the rat's nest behind our entertainment center. Performance so far is pretty excellent.


Out of the box it's configured as a wifi internet gateway/router with four gigabit ethernet ports for wired LAN connections. In this mode, most folks can hook it up to their cable/DSL modem, answer a couple of prompts and be good to go.

I use ours as a WAP, and once you finish the setup wizard you can click an option to automatically reconfigure it for that. The only thing I did was assign a static IP address so I can easily get in to the configuration pages from our network. Turning off automatic IP also means you have to assign the default gateway which is no big deal. I also assigned permanent DNS IPs because Microsft AD domain servers are picky about that. Most folks using it as a WAP would skip all that and just use the defaults and let their cable/DSL modem assign all that stuff automatically over their network.

Anyway, after all that gobbledygook it was up an running with just a few clicks on the admin pages. Note: be sure to hook up a PC or notebook directly to one of the ethernet ports and hook the WAN port to your cable/DSL modem (using the supplied CAT5E cable, thanks ASUS!) to run the first configuration. That way you can just launch a browser and navigate to 198.162.1.1 for the admin pages. No need to install the configuration software from the CD.

It has all the latest wireless protocols, speeds, radio frequencies, security protocols, features for guest networks, bridging, firewall, DDOS protection, VPN etc. etc. I kept the default settings for all that stuff and just entered a WPA access key. It seems reasonably secure.

If all that's not good enough, you can totally replace the ASUS firmware (which is actually pretty nice and the easiest I've ever used) with open source versions. (NOTE: Early shipping versions apparently had buggy to broken firmware. Mine came with version 3.0.0.3.112 which seems solid. If you get one with older firmware you might want to google up on how to download the latest and sideload install it before you get started.)

I also like that it has gigabit ethernet ports. This let me replace the NetGear WAP and an old hub/switch I had used to hook up wired ethernet connections to various internet enabled entertainment devices. Judging from the performance of the ASUS RT-N66U, though, I could probably just eliminate all the wired connections and go completely wireless. People in the geek chat forums claim it can handle as many clients streaming as much junk as anyone could reasonably expect to have in one household.

As for speed, I ran a wifi internet speed test on my tablet and got speeds similar to my wired desktop. (Tablet: 34ms ping, 28.60Mbps download, 4.48Mbps upload. PC: 22ms ping, 31.27Mbps download, 4.20MBps upload.)

Range seems pretty good. Even without the antennas attached I could get a couple of bars in another room. Once I attached the three external antennas I got four or five bars most places in the house, four on the patio and at least two or three all over the property and two out in the street. It seems much more powerful than the NetGear WAP it replaced.

It also has a radio power adjustment. I got the above results using the default 80mW setting. It looks like you can juice it up to 500mW (the FCC limit according to the admin page), but I don't want neighbors complaining or any more brain cells microwaved.

It has a bunch of other features that I will never use such as a DLNA media server, USB file/print sharing etc., which likely make it more expensive (approx. $180) than a typical wifi router, but it appears you get what your pay for in terms of performance. The build quality seems pretty solid, too.

So far so good. I'll update if any major problems surface or it turns out to be a dud. At this point I would recommend it as an upgrade/replacement wifi router or WAP with all the latest specs.

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Opinari's picture

DD-WRT

I've been considering this specific router for my own WLAN, but I have seen that it supports DD-WRT, but that the firmware for the time being is a bit buggy. I suppose I could get by with Asus' firmware (although in my experience, it isn't the most robust thing available). So the question for me then is does the N66U have a good implementation of WDS with encryption, HTTPS remote administration (I'd rather not use SSH unless I absolutely have to), reliable guest account access, DLNA (as you mentioned), and most importantly, whether or not it drops connections, as just about every consumer-grade router I've used does. I'll be interested to hear how the N66U is performing for you after a few weeks. Your experience might just force me to pull the trigger on buying one.

R. Neal's picture

Does not currently seem to

Does not currently seem to have HTTPS for remote administration. Don't know about WDS. Don't use the guest guest account feature so can't comment. I probably wouldn't bet money on the VPN either. (We have a Sonicwall for that and other stuff.)

The latest firmware appears to have resolved previously reported issues and I had zero problems, but I'm not using all the features.

Will let you know about maintaining connections. One thing I've noticed already is that connections "wake up" faster when a bringing a client device out of sleep mode. The NetGear was slow to establish connections and dropped them more than I would have liked.

Otherwise, from my limited experience so far it seems head and shoulders above the usual NetGear/Cisco/D-Link offerings in terms of features and performance, but then it costs about twice as much. We'll see if you get what you pay for. So far it seems so.

GDrinnen2's picture

I purchased the Asus-N56U

I purchased the Asus-N56U after getting frustrated with the lack of pep and slow connect after wake-up from our old netgear.

I don't use many of the features and its in a pretty basic set-up, but is really quick and has an awesome range. We don't have a ton on the network. It's usually anywhere from two android mobile devices, a laptop, a deskstop, and a couple rokus. Doesn't seem to bog down a bit.

yellowdog's picture

help for a nongeek?

I cannot get DSL or U-verse or cable (too far from the road) and use an air card for "high speed" internet access. We need to distribute the signal to two desktop computers (right now one is on the aircard and the other on dial-up (yes, right here in the metropolital area,,,,)

Would this do that?

R. Neal's picture

@yellowdog

It's not really designed for that. It needs a wired ethernet connection to a cable/DSL modem or your network (if using as an access point).

It sounds like what you need is a mobile hotspot. Who's your carrier?

Verizon has "Jetpack" and "MiFi" hotspot modems that connect to 3G/4G and serve up to five wifi client connections. They have a few different models ranging from free up to $50 or so on a two year contract. I'm sure AT&T and others have something similar.

You are probably already paying for a data plan for your aircard, but it's probably for only one device. They charge a little more for the "hotspot" feature to support multiple wifi connections, but it sounds like it would be worth it in your situation.

I have the mobile hotspot feature on my Android phone which can act as a hotspot modem and it works pretty great. I imagine a dedicated hotspot modem would give better performance and stability, though. And you can still take it with you on the go.

It may also be possible to configure the PC with the aircard to share the connection over WiFi. (I think Win7 has this built in.) But, the aircard drivers etc. may block that so they can sell you the multi-user hotspot feature.

trobinson's picture

I'm in the same fix, in Knox

I'm in the same fix, in Knox County but too far away from the road for broadband. I suffered with ISDN for years!

What kind of "air card" do you have? If it's mifi you can connect up to 5 wifi enabled computers.

If not, get a mifi, jetpack or use your smart phone as a hot spot. But before you sign a contract (mifi and jetpack require a 2 year contract, smart phone hot spot is month to month) you should test speeds (Verizon vs AT&T) by enabling a smart phone. I bought verizon mifi but it was really slow, it seems there's a dead spot where I live. I enabled my iphone as a hot spot and AT&T is much faster. Trouble is, I now get very close to my 5gb limit in a month. Just a few videos and some heavy surfing can eat up the 5gb limit quickly. (Verizon offers 10gb for $80) I guess it's the price we pay for living in an isolated place!

Down side to using your smart phone: It really eats up the power. If I use the iphone as hotspot with wifi enabled battery life is about 1 hour so I have to keep it plugged in.

I'm thinking about getting an ipad (on AT&T) and using it as a hot spot (up to 5 connections) so I'll have the ipad for travel and a home internet hub.

If anybody has better ideas for us isolated hillbillies I'd love to hear about it.

Andy Axel's picture

I was having all sorts of

I was having all sorts of problems with WDS to extend the range of the wireless in my house using Apple's solution (the little Express units are simply not reliable as bridges) and got really tired of fighting issues related to latency specifically on the wireless network. I tried a couple of other residential offers from NetGear and Belkin and finally gave up and put in some enterprise-class gear that's perfectly serviceable if not a bit behind* from a tech life cycle perspective.

My solution: I turned off the wireless function of the Airport Extreme that I have, making it a glorified 4 port gig switch, and installed a couple of used Cisco 1231G APs with some 5dbi dipole antennas from L-Com on each one. (Downside: they require power from an injector or from a POE port, but neither of those are terribly prohibitive anymore.)

Better range, no dropped packets, consistent throughput that doesn't bottleneck with my cable connection. Even with the i-devices that I hook up to wi-fi. I even saw a bigger improvement when I put in a Cisco 2950 switch to aggregate the wired and wireless connections in the house. The only problem with it was that the fans were a little loud, so it probably wouldn't work in a home entertainment type scenario.

* For home use, I'm simply not sold on N. Until Comcast can offer me fiber-to-the-node sorts of speeds, the throughput on a G access point is more than ample. Peak download speed is about 30MB/sec on cable and even that is adequate to have two simultaneous Netflix streams going to separate iPads off of a single Cisco 1231G. Yeah yeah MIMO yeah yeah beam forming blah blah. Makes more of a difference for a wireless-to-wireless file transfer, but insignificant for mostly outbound internet traffic.

kirkdj's picture

How Can I use my ASUS RT-N66U on a Verizon Hotspot?

I will soon be moving to an area where it looks like my fastest internet option will be Verizon Mobile Hotspot plan. I have a new Asus RT-N66U router. Is there anyway to still use this router in my home network? Have almost $200 invested here. Can it be used as an access point or bridge or anything that will improve my network? I will receive this with the account, Verizon 4620 MiFi. Is there anyway to connect this MiFi to this router? Or must I get one of the Pantech UML290 modems and switch the SIM cards? But I've read this ASUS router can use a USB mobile dongle, but would I get 4G speeds going USB? If you have a method this router can still be used please point me to some help on web on how to set it up if possible?

R. Neal's picture

I believe you can use the

I believe you can use the Asus RT-N66 as a bridge/repeater with your Verizon Mifi. Look under the "advanced settings" options, "wireless," and then the "bridge" tab. (I think I stated this incorrectly in response to Yellowdog earlier.) Not sure what the benefit would be except maybe range?

P.S. As an update to the original post, after six months the RT-N66U has been rock solid and still as fast and stable as they day I installed it. (Knock on wood.)

It gets mostly light duty, though, serving tablet and smartphone clients and an occasional notebook. I don't use it for media streaming or anything like that, but I'm guessing it would handle it fine. I recently setup a new notebook computer over wifi which involved downloading massive SQL Server setups without so much as a hiccup and just as fast as wired ethernet (being bound by the cable modem speed and whatnot).

The only time it gets rebooted is when the power goes out, except for one time when I got my main gateway/DNS server all screwed up and went around rebooting everything before I figured out the problem.

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