Asus was one of the first companies to ditch the need for a CD setup, but surprisingly the DSL-N66U isn’t quite as straightforward to get going as recent offerings. Plug in and boot up the router and you can still connect to either of its ‘Asus’ and ‘Asus 5G’ SSIDs without a password. Once you do this it automatically opens a tab in your browser to begin setup.
Well that’s how it should work. Unlike the others you have another step here: logging into the router’s settings, a password the company bizarrely doesn’t supply. A quick web search revealed it to be username ‘admin’, password ‘admin’ which only goes to show how pointless this extra step is.
That said once in the 'ASUSWRT' settings UI is as intuitive and well laid out as ever, even if its dark colours are starting to feel a little angst ridden teenager in these days of whitespace inspired design. The setup wizards are also some of the best in the industry so those scared of setting up a modem for the first time shouldn’t be put off.
All of which means the DSL-N66U paints a pretty compelling picture and the good news is it doesn’t let the side down when it comes to performance either.
At our test distances of 2m and 10m line of sight and 13m behind two standing walls we recorded 5GHz speeds of 22MBps (176Mbps), 17.3MBps (138.4Mbps) and 7.39MBps (59.12Mbps). All three results top the speeds of the comparable BT Home Hub 4, Virgin New Super Hub and Fritz!Box 3390 making it the fastest 802.11n 5GHz router we’ve tested. Note wireless ac routers tend to bring significantly faster 5GHz wireless n speeds thanks to more powerful hardware and support for Beamforming.
Proportionately 2.4GHz performance was even better (graphs in the gallery). Speeds of 13.8MBps (110.4Mbps), 12.5MBps (100Mbps) and 7.27MBps (58.2Mbps) are 30 per cent, 70 per cent and nearly 100 per cent faster than this trio with the 10m result remarkably besting anything we’ve seen from an 802.11ac router.
Lastly network speeds over USB hit 9.53MBps (76.2Mbps), nearly 3x anything Fritz, Virgin or BT’s routers could manage and only left behind by Asus’ own 802.11ac routers.
Given the DSL-N66U gets its looks, features, (majority of) setup and performance right the answer is an overwhelming yes. But there’s an avoidable caveat: at £129.99 the DSL router strays into 802.11ac router territory and is in fact more expensive than Asus own modem-free RT-AC56U (£124.99). Furthermore another £30 will get you the RT-AC66U and, with ac capable devices now flooding onto the market, a good deal more future proofing.
As such if it was our money we’d advise everyone to invest only in 802.11ac capable routers. That said to bash the DSL-N66U for this would be like criticizing a family estate for not being a coupe. The DSL-N66U does everything it set out to do and for those determined to spend the extra for a single box solution it is by far the best 802.11n DSL equipped router we’ve seen to date.
While the merits of buying any router that isn’t 802.11ac compatible today can be questioned, the DSL-N66U fulfils every part of its mission statement expertly. The VDSL2 modem is future proof, the wireless performance is by far the fastest we’ve seen from any DSL equipped router, it is intuitive, well built and looks good. If you’re happy to stick with 802.11n and want an all-in-one solution this is the one to get.