ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 Review
Pros: Extremely easy to use, packed with features
Cons: Average range, throughput
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Asus claimed the top spot, with the TP-Link Talon being the next closest contender. The Talon isn't quite as easy as the Asus to use and has fewer features, but it does have a slight edge when it comes to throughput with its 5 GHz. network. However, the Talon was outmatched by the Asus when it came to 2.4 GHz. throughput testing and the Talon has a list price about $80 more than the Asus.
To determine which router came out on top, we bought the best available and tested them side-by-side, ranking and scoring their performance in five weighted metrics. These metrics are Ease of Use, Features, 2.4 GHz. Throughput, 5 GHz. Throughput, and Range, with the following sections describing how the Asus performed against its peers.
Comprising the most weight out of all of the testing metrics, our Features metric takes credit for 25% of the overall score. We awarded points based on if the router had certain features, notably the presence of MU-MIMO, beamforming, the ability to turn the indicator LEDs on and off, the number of LAN and USB ports, and if there is the ability to wirelessly reset the router. The Asus did very well, meriting it an 8 out of 10 for their performance, which compared quite favorably with the rest of the pack.
First off, the Asus earned some immediate points by having both MU-MIMO and beamforming capabilities. These features are explained more in-depth in our Buying Advice article, but these features act to dramatically increase the overall speed of your network, especially if there are multiple devices on your network.
The Asus is dual-band, having both 2.4 GHz. and 5 GHz. capabilities and conforms to the 802.11ac wireless specification, as well as supports IPv6. In terms of security, this router supports WPA/WPA2 Personal, WPA/ WPA2 Enterprise, WEP, TKIP and AES Encryptions and has 512 MB of DDR3 RAM. You can also set up an unsecured guest network if you have company over and the Asus has a built-in VPN network.
Next, we looked at if you are able to remotely reset the router. This is particularly handy if you are planning on stashing this product in an out of the way location, as cycling the power is the first step to solving most connectivity issues and doing it remotely allows you to leave the router in its concealed location. We also tested the ability to control the brightness of the indicator LEDs, finding that you can turn them all off, or on, with the press of a button on the front of the router.
All of these features can be managed from either a web browser interface or from its companion smartphone app. The Asus has a whopping 8 LAN ports, allowing you to have a plethora of wired connections.
In addition, there are also two USB ports — one 2.0 and one 3.0.
Ease of Use
For our next metric, we evaluated how easy it is to use each product. We unboxed each product, judging the difficulty of updating the firmware — if necessary — and the effort required to go through the initial network setup. We also looked at how intuitive and user-friendly the interface is, how easy it is to implement parental controls, and if the router had QoS capabilities. The Asus earned a 9 out of 10 for its stellar performance, absolutely dominating the field.While the Asus did require a software update out of the box, this was a relatively painless process. It was also very easy to go through the initial network setup process, though we did encounter an occasional issue with the automatic wizard. We found that we had a much better experience using the browser-based interface compared to the wizard, so this is something to consider if you do run into difficulties setting it up.
We did find this interface to be very straightforward and easy to use — definitely one of the best of the entire group. The Asus also has parental controls, which were relatively easy to set up, though it did take us a little bit of extra time to locate this feature in the menus.
We particularly like that the content controls gave you tons of versatility, allowing you to restrict content by genre, rather than having to try the accomplish the somewhat impossible task of entering the web address of every site that you want to block access to. You can also limit internet access by time and you can set specific devices for these controls to apply to, rather than applying them to everyone on the network.
The Asus also gives you the option to set up guest networks for this router. You can enable up to six networks, three per bandwidth. You also have the option of setting a password for each one or leaving them unsecured, as well as setting a time limit for how long the internet will be available through these networks.
Finally, this device does support QoS, or Quality of Service, and has one of the easiest to use implementations of this that we have seen. You can select between adaptive, traditional, or bandwidth limiter.
For adaptive, you select what mode best suits your uses, such as gaming, media streaming, or web surfing, and the router will automatically prioritize devices to optimize your network for your uses. Traditional lets you manually set the device priority and bandwidth limiter allows you to limit the maximum upload and download speed for each device.
2.4 GHz. Throughput
This metric accounts for 20% of the overall score and evaluates the Asus on how quickly it can transmit data over the 2.4 GHz. band. The Asus earned a 5 out of 10 for its performance — while this may seem on the low side, it actually tied for the second-highest score of the group.
To determine scores, we compiled the results of five different tests using the iPerf3 software. To start, we did a short distance test, with only about 10' between the router and the test computer. The Asus delivered an excellent performance in the line of sight version of the test, having an average throughput of 51 Mbits/s.
However, it did not do quite as well in the obstructed version of the test. This time, there was a wall between the computer and router, with the relative performance of the Asus dropping slightly, as highlighted in the following chart.
The Asus continued to perform quite well in the medium distance tests, again delivering a second-tier performance. The Asus averaged about 39 Mbits/s in the line of sight test, comparing quite favorably with the rest of the group.
This test was done with about 35' separating the router and the computer, with a wall and solid door blocking the signal for the obstructed version of the test. The Asus was relatively unaffected by this, clocking in at 38 Mbits/s.
Finally, the last test for this metric was the long-distance test. We separated the router and computer by about 70' with some walls obstructing the signal. The Asus measured in at an average of 27 Mbit/s.
This test is where the Asus really shined, putting down the fastest data rate of the entire group.
5 GHz. Throughput
Similar to the previous metric, this metric also is responsible for 20% of the overall score. We used the identical set of tests as the previous metric, this time conducting them using the Asus's 5 GHz. band. The Asus again did reasonably well, earning a 6 out of 10 for its performance.
The Asus didn't terribly impress us in the short distance, line of sight test, but it did do quite well in the obstructed version of the test, finishing at the top of the pack.
Moving on to the medium distance tests, the Asus did a decent job, though it finished roughly in the middle of the pack in both the line of sight and obstructed tests, putting up an average speed of 204 Mbit/s and 186 Mbit/s, respectively.
Finally, we did the long-distance throughput test. The Asus did very well, delivering an average rate of 37 Mbits/s — the fourth-fastest of the entire group.
Our final metric, Range, is responsible for the remaining component of the total score — 15%. The Asus finished out with a decent score of 5 out of 10, tying for the runner-up position.
To test this, we selected a 5-minute video on YouTube, then streamed it on our test computer at set distances away from the router in 720p and noted when the stream became interrupted. When using the Asus, we were able to play the video at a whopping 158'.
All in all, the Asus isn't a great value option. While it is a fantastic router, it is a little too expensive and probably has a lot of features and functions you don't need when shopping on a budget.
All in all, the Asus RT-AC88U is the top performing router that we have tested, earning the title of Best Overall Router and an Editors' Choice award. While this model didn't take home the top spot in our throughput or range tests, it should provide more than enough performance for most people and is extremely easy to use.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer