Are expensive routers worth it? The Asus RT-AC87U review
I've never given much importance to routers as I've never had much use for a good one. I recently subscribed to Netflix and started streaming media to my PS4, AppleTV and PC. Unfortunately my 5-year-old router was simply not able to handle streaming HD content to multiple devices at the same time and it eventually died. So I went shopping for a replacement. To ensure that my home network would be future proof, I shelled out 14,000php (or ~ US$320) for the best locally-available model of consumer class router, the Asus RT-AC87U. The price tag may not appeal to everyone but it has some useful features that make it worth the money. There are higher end models available online, but I would have to order them from Amazon and risk the lack of local warranty support. No one wants a $300 paperweight, right?
At 289.5 x 167.6 x 47.5 mm, this thing is massive and occupies quite a bit of space. It comes in a matte finish, which is nice if you’re the type who gets turned off by fingerprints.
The router has plenty of ports: In addition to a USB 3.0 port, you get a USB 2.0 port (for 3g/LTE wireless dongles or a printer), a WAN port and 4 gigabit ethernet connections on the rear. But I find the placement of the USB 3.0 at the front of the router a bit off. Plugging an external HDD to the front USB 3.0 port would add a bit of clutter in front of the router which I don’t like.
Setting up this bad boy is quite a breeze — I kid you not, even a child could do it. Thanks to an easy-to-use wizard, it took me less than two minutes to get the router up and running. Good job Asus!
Once the router is set up, this is the main screen that greets you. It shows the current CPU + RAM usage of the router and the devices attached to it.
The Guest Network tab lets you configure guest networks, allowing you to limit the time as well as the access guests have to your local network. This is a nifty tool if you have some private data on your PC or NAS that you don’t want anyone to see. I haven’t really seen a feature to limit the bandwidth of the guest network but perhaps Asus might add this in a future update.
The AiProtection Tab lets the router manage the protection of your network. The description of each feature is on the picture below. Personally, I turned it off since I didn’t want to have additional load on the router. Great feature if you’re the paranoid type though.
Now on to the main reason why I bought the Asus RT-AC87U. The Adaptive QoS lets you manage how much bandwidth is allocated to each device on your network. You can monitor data use by individual apps for every connected device. The first screen gives you an overview of all devices in your network.
On the next tab, you have to specify your bandwidth and select what type of QoS you want. Here I selected Adaptive type QoS as I wanted the software to monitor all apps and to make sure the ones with highest priority got what they need.
After you are done with the step above, it will bring you to a list of categories that you want to prioritize. I set mine as gaming > video streaming > Voip > web surfing > file transfers. My local ISP has a very bad price per megabit ratio. I have an 8Mbps connection and when Steam is downloading, no one else can stream videos or game online. With these prioritization settings, the software makes sure the games get the minimum speed they need (which is less than 1Mbps) then follows video streaming for Netflix (3mbps). At the bottom of my list is file transfer (eg. Torrents) which means that whatever is left of my bandwidth (after games, streaming, VOIP and web surfing) is allocated to that category.
USB Application is something that a lot of people will find useful. It lets you manage connected devices and manage torrents if you have a USB HDD connected to the router. You can even use your phone to manage everything via the Asus AiCloud app.
The purchase comes with a year of AiCloud subscription with 100gb of data. You can sync your data automatically but I did not have any practical need for this feature so I just turned it off.
I did a test of how strong the signal was throughout the house. The first picture below shows the second floor and the router’s location while the second picture represents the first floor.
What do these numbers mean? Here is a graphic showing signal strength to a certain db.
In conclusion, is this router worth the money? For my needs, yes. If you live in a country that has very good internet (I’m pointing at you Singaporeans), you probably won’t find Adaptive QoS that useful. If you do a lot of content streaming on your home network, this is more than up to the task. The router definitely lives up to its FAST ideology - FAST EASY and STABLE.