A router that’s bringing sexy back.
Yes you read that correctly, I just described a router as sexy. An inanimate object has officially given me the chills. When the Asus RT-N56U router arrived in our offices, I honestly thought it was maybe a fancy DVD case or some sort of press kit. There was no way that something that sleek could be anything but something pretty to look at, never mind a fully functional router. Well after using the device for the past week, I have to honestly say – I’m in love.
Build quality & Design
The Asus RT-N56U sports a beautiful black diamond design, with crossing lines and grooves in the front that completely skews what the device is designed for. This is one router that you won’t want to hide away, it looks that good. While it’s not wall-mountable, there is a small footstand that you can slide in at the base to hold the device upright, or simply lay the router on its side. The router is very lightweight yet sturdy, and its sharp profile is attributed to its mostly glossy plastic finishing. At the back are four Gigabit Ethernet ports and one Ethernet WAN port. There is also a tiny reset button and surprisingly two USB ports which allow you to share a printer or external hard disk. On the other side is a WPS button to connect supporting devices to the router, and hidden beneath the designs on the front is a column of blue LEDs that display various thing such as network status, internet connectivity, etc. Unlike other routers I’ve tested, the LEDs aren’t ridiculously bright, so this router won’t keep you awake at night if it’s setup in your bedroom.
Features & Setup
The biggest feature that the RT-N56U touts is that it is dual-band, which means it’s able to run a 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless network simultaneously. For the average user this might mean absolutely nothing, but for anyone who appreciates the value of a router that can broadcast to all areas of your home, this router certainly won’t disappoint. The router also has a feature called Ai Radar, which allows the router to focus its signal in the direction of connected clients to boost speed and connectivity.
Setting up the router was very easy – once powered up you can navigate to the slick web interface to set up the wireless networks and LAN configurations, as well as configuring any devices that are connected via USB. The inclusion of USB ports instantly wins some brownie points with me, as you can attach a USB drive to the router and utilize the inbuilt BitTorrent, FTP, and HTTP functions to save and access data. The router also performs very well at streaming media content from attached drives to various compatible devices, so there’s a whole host of things you can do with this router. My only observation is that though the web interface was very intuitive, it took a bit longer than expected to apply changes to the router, but maybe that’s my rather lofty standards getting the better of me.
Once setup, it was down to some serious testing. I’d like to think that my villa is a great testing ground for routers, as there are quite a number of dead spots around the house, so I have my main router downstairs and two repeaters upstairs. Setting up the RT-N56U on the ground floor and surfing on the 2.4GHz network I experienced more than adequate speeds when transferring files across the network or streaming media to my laptop. My experience did suffer a bit when I headed out into the garden, which is something that my current router also does. Upstairs the performance was slightly better with some dead spots having at least one bar of wi-fi connectivity. So as a 2.4GHz router, the RT-N56U gets the job done but doesn’t feel much different from any other standard router.
Hopping on to the 5GHz network however, and things took a different turn. My entire garden became a three or four bar area, and visions of a LAN party in my backyard floated in front of me. Standing a few feet away from the router I had really great transfer speeds, and upstairs I had no issues at all with connectivity except for one area near the guest bedroom where I think the signal was being cut off by the fuse box just outside. But walking around to all the rooms I was able to stay connected and continue browsing or watching content without any hiccups. At its worst performance with one bar of connectivity, transfer speeds on the 5GHz network were a little under 1MB/sec, but I was still thankful that I was able to remain connected to the router wherever I went. Heading downstairs things picked right back up and it was great to be able to sit in the garden and work uninterrupted (until I was assaulted by a dragonfly).
While the RT-N56U only supports cable Internet connections, you can connect it to an ADSL modem’s LAN port to boost your connectivity, or configure it as a repeater if you face issues with your wi-fi not reaching everywhere. It might sound a bit overwhelming as there’s just so much you can do and configure with this router, but trust me it never gets confusing. The web interface is so well designed that any novice can set this router up within minutes, and advanced users will certainly appreciate the many tweaks and tricks they can pull off with this device such as URL filtering, firewall options, and many more. If you’re in the market for a new router, then this would be one of the easiest purchases to make.