Home Reviews Networking Asus RT-AC5300 Router - the class leader (review)

Asus RT-AC5300 Router - the class leader (review)

It looks like something out of Star Wars and it is probably best not to accidentally fall on Asus’s eight antenna, super-fast, AC-5300 router.

Asus has decided to give us the kitchen sink as well as throw in the crockery and cutlery with this amazingly fully featured router. It is very fast, easy to set up and reasonably future proof.

But let’s not get too far ahead because if I have learnt one thing from copious router testing its about real world internet connection speeds and how you use the network – not about raw horsepower.

First let’s talk about the poor state of Australian internet broadband download connections.

  • ADSL, 2, and 2+ achieve a maximum of 20Mbps and users typically get around 10-12Mbps although if you live further away from the Exchange, or in rural and regional areas you will get less than 5Mbps.
  • Cable Broadband (typically BigPond) can go as high as 100Mbps but the vast majority are on a 30Mbps maximum plan (typically providing a minimum of 20Mbps).
  • If you are lucky enough to have NBN fibre you should get a guaranteed speed. Most consumers select 25Mbps.
  • Satellite is also available at up to 25Mbps although most only average 12Mbps.

What this means is that you will never get faster internet speeds no matter how fast your router. The real reasons for buying a fast router is for ‘coverage’ – large homes, mixed construction materials, more IoT devices to attach, and the need to make maximum use of the external internet speed you have.

AC routers have two bands – 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The former has three non-overlapping channels and the later 23, so it is faster but contrary to belief has a shorter range and cannot easily penetrate solid objects like walls and floors.

This router has an extra 5GHz band - a ‘spare’ that you can chose to separate out bandwidth intensive hogs like games consoles or streaming video. With the number of connected devices on the increase, this alone could make a significant difference in the quality of your Wi-Fi signal.

ASUS RT-AC5300 Router

The AC-5300 ‘speed’ comes from having three separate bands and while it can claim a speed record few end point devices support the newer proprietary Broadcom Nitro- QAM (1024-QAM Quadrature amplitude modulation) – in other words is it is a theoretical speed comprising:

  • 2.4GHZ          QAM 1000 Mbps (Wi-Fi N 600 Mbps)
  • 5.00GHz - 1   QAM 2167 (Wi-Fi AC 1734Mbps)
  • 5.00 GHz - 2  QAM 2167 (ditto)

If you have an older single band 2.4GHz endpoint, then the best you will get is 600Mbps. If you have a dual-band you may get 600-1734Mbps. And to be clear – there is no Wi-Fi Link aggregation (yet) that can give you 5300Mbps speeds from an end-point to the router.

Out of the box

You get a largish black router – 245 x 245 x 65mm weighing about 2kg, eight screw-in antennas, a 19V, 3.42A power pack and a short Ethernet cable.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – it is big and Star Wars Tie Interceptor shaped. Unless you are Darth Vader it is probably not a good lounge centrepiece. It is wall mountable but I suggest not – find a flat surface close to the centre of all your major computing needs and near the existing gateway/modem. The antennas need to be vertical – during the test laying them out like a starfish reduced performance.

The eight antennas allow for four to transmit and four to receive. This also allows multi-user, multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) that gives compatible MU-MIMO devices thier own dedicated full-speed Wi-Fi connection – they can connect at the same time without slowing down the Wi-Fi network unlike standard MIMO where only one device at a time can connect via a time share/splice system. There are not a lot of MU-MIMO endpoints yet to use this feature.

The router has four Gigabit Ethernet ports (1000Gbps), a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port and an Ethernet WAN port as it does not have an inbuilt modem. This is important as you must already have a cable gateway, NBN or ADSL modem.

Set-up

Amazingly easy – press the reset button to clear any old setup, log onto any of the three bands and you should see ASUSWRT open up in the internet browser. It will guide you through setting up passwords and basic stuff – that is it.

The router transmits three bands and you select the one that gives you the best overall performance.

When I mentioned the kitchen sink etc., the software includes:

  • Guest network – have a limited one for internet access when friends drop by
  • Router or access point and professional settings if required
  • Single or dual WAN including fall over and load balance
  • Network map and diagnostics (get the best speed for each network connection and device)
  • Adaptive QoS – intelligent bandwidth sharing to ensure the right allocation for video, VoIP, gaming etc.
  • AiProtection – a Trend Micro solution to help prevent device infection and block harmful sites as well as check the router’s security
  • Parental Control – web and app filters, time scheduling
  • VPN server and client support
  • AiCloud – Asus’s own public cloud
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports for external storage (up to 4TB), printers, or 3G/4G Wireless dongles
  • Mac Time Machine support for USB backup
  • Media streaming (DLNA)
  • FTP share
  • Remote smart access and sync (of files)
  • PC-free file downloads including Torrents
  • Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) support
  • Games Boost (I am not a gamer so this was not tested – refer to the web site)

This is a really comprehensive suite and it is one of this routers strengths. You can also control the router from an Android or iOS app.

Some specifications

It has a Broadcom BCM4709+BCM4366 (2.4GHz) + 2 x BCM4366 (5GHz) and 128MB flash and 512MB RAM.

In standard tests it performed as expected – like almost any other Wi-Fi AC MU-MIMO router such as the Linksys AC2600 or Netgear X4S AC2600. The key difference here is the additional 5GHz band to spread the load.

Band

Speed is Mbps

10-15m (line of sight -- same room as router)

20m (Office through reinforced cement floor and plasterboard walls)

30-35m (rear bedroom and ensuite through reinforced concrete floors and walls)

5Ghz Band 1 and 2

113

111

107

AC2600 2.4GHz

105

82

60

N600 2.4Ghz (comparison only)

35

25

4

There is a full 142-page manual here and its available in about 10 different languages.

Price and availability

Asus tend to sell via corner store computer retailers and I could not find the product at major retailers. Online stores have it for under $460 and many offer free freight.

Conclusion

It is not cheap but it is very good with maximum future-proof features. It offers that extra 5GHz band that in large homes with large families and lots of devices will make a difference – if you have the internet speed to support it. But in any case if you don’t have a Wi-Fi AC router then get one!

Its gets my recommendation for gamers, video/audio streamers, and those who know how to use all its features – as long as money is not the object.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!