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Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac router review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

1 of 9

Asus RT-AC66U
  • Asus RT-AC66U
  • Asus RT-AC66U 2
  • Asus RT-AC66U 3
  • Asus RT-AC66U 4
  • Asus RT-AC66U 5
  • Asus RT-AC66U setup
  • Asus RT-AC66U UI
  • Asus RT-AC66U 2.4GHz speeds
  • Asus RT-AC66U AC speeds

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Pros

  • The fastest wireless ac router yet
  • Excellent 802.11n speed and range
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Fast, simple setup and management

Cons

  • No USB 3.0 ports
  • Lacks true Cloud platform of D-Link/Linksys
  • Design not the most subtle

Key Features

  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless
  • Six amplified antennas
  • 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • AiCloud remote access
  • Manufacturer: Asus
  • Review Price: £159.99

What is the Asus RT-AC66U?

This is Asus’ first 802.11ac wireless router. While Asus is primarily known for its laptops, tablets and smartphones the company has also been carving out a niche for itself in the router market. Performance has been at the forefront of its success and consequently our expectations for the AC66U are high.

Asus RT-AC66U 4

Asus RT-AC66U - Design

The look of the AC66U can be described in just one word: imposing. This impression is given by the router’s three optional (and upgradeable) external antennas and its sharp angular design. Both elements fly in the face of recent router trends that veer towards internal antennas and smooth, curved finishes. As such the AC66U won’t subtly fade into the background of a room, but it will sit there declaring that it means business.

Asus continues to break trends elsewhere too. The usual plain matt and gloss finishes of most routers has been replaced by a textured tartan on the AC66U’s main body and the tendency to minimise flashing lights is spun on its head with the router featuring no less than nine separate blinking status indicators. There are (from left to right) power and activity lights for four Ethernet ports, Internet, 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi and USB.

Like all routers the AC66U is constructed from plastic so it won’t hinder wireless signal, but is well made and feels durable. The antennas also mean the router has flexible positioning, it is wall mountable and comes with a stand that lets it rest on its front edge to lift up those antennas even higher.

Asus RT-AC66U 3

Asus RT-AC66U - Features

While the antennas bring positional flexibility, one of the most interesting aspects to the AC66U is its functional flexibility since it can work as a router, wireless bridge and wireless access point. Of course the price for bridges (to bring wireless connectivity to wired devices) and access points (to extend wireless signal) are much cheaper than the AC66U, but it gives the router a welcome second life when you upgrade in the future.

But the real draw is the AC66U’s 802.11ac functionality and like other wireless ac routers it is also backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n and offers dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless n signals - all of which are bolstered by those three large antennas.

You’ll also find 4x Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet ports as is standard these days on any premium router (though we continue to cry out for more) and two USB ports for sharing printers and storage over a network. It is perhaps surprising to see Asus not include a USB 3.0 port like the D-Link DIR-868L or Linksys EA6700, but USB network performance has yet to test the bottleneck of the USB 2.0 standard in any case so it tends to be more for superficial bragging rights.

Internally, the AC66U ticks all the boxes: WPA/WPA2 wireless encryption, parental controls, UPnP, IPv6 support, traffic prioritisation, guest access, QoS and WPS. Curiously, though, for all the blinking activity lights on the router, there isn’t one for WPS, which is frustrating as you can’t see how long it is running when trying to connect to other devices.

Asus has yet to go down the D-Link/Linksys route of providing a full Cloud platform like SmartWiFi and mydlink, but it does offer a halfway house via a smartphone app. AiCloud lets users remotely access audio and video on their network and can be tied in with the the company’s WebStorage Dropbox-a-like service. The combination doesn’t add up to the power and flexibility of its rival’s offerings, but we would expect Asus to fold them into a more complete offering before too long.

Asus RT-AC66U setup

Asus RT-AC66U - Setup

While most router setups are slick these days Asus deserves great credit for making the AC66U one of the most enjoyable. Again this is because it bucks a trend.

Unlike rivals, the AC66U doesn’t encrypt its wireless signals by default so you connect without a password. Once you do this, however, your default browser automatically loads the router’s setup page where it walks you through setting Wi-Fi and router passwords and the SSID (router ID). This is clever because it means there is no need to print a key on the bottom of the router and everyone must choose their own password.

CodeMonkey

July 31, 2013, 8:46 pm

It's also worth noting (in these days of greater privacy awareness) that this model has a VPN server built in.

I upgraded a while back to the RT-N66U (the 'n' version of this router) and it's an absolutely fantastic bit of kit. The VPN server was a big draw for me as it offers me the ability to surf securely via my own ISP when on public wifi.
Asus also do an Android & iOS app that enables you to remotely access computer shares within your network, perform Wake on Lan operations remotely, etc.
Added to that N66U is the only router I've come across that will update firmware without kicking you off the network - surely a sign of the attention to detail.

Nate Ebner

July 31, 2013, 11:06 pm

Sounds good. Thanks for adding your comments.

Nate Ebner

July 31, 2013, 11:08 pm

Thanks Gordon. This was a well done informative review, not that I'd expect anything less.
Given if we get it, it will go in the loft (bungalow), flashing lights and looks are not a very big deal.

Gordon Kelly

August 1, 2013, 8:53 pm

Thanks! To be honest, while there are a lot of flashing lights they are quite small and not overly bright so they're not too much of an annoyance. Enjoy the new bungalow!

Ayman Sartawi

August 2, 2013, 11:05 pm

Hello,

if you had to choose between the AC66U and the EA6700 ! what would you choose ?
thanks

Gordon Kelly

August 3, 2013, 12:49 pm

One got an 8 the other got a 9, so it is the EA6700 for me, but both are excellent routers and you will not regret buying either.

Ayman Sartawi

August 3, 2013, 2:41 pm

the EA6500 also got a 9 !! would you go for that ?! i'm using the EA6500 now and it's the worst Cisco router i've ever used, and i've used a lot of Linksys, E3000 is a very stable one, Cisco routers have no DD-WRT support anymore which is also bad.

Gordon Kelly

August 3, 2013, 2:55 pm

All reviews are scored for their time. The EA6700 is a step up from the EA6500 in terms of performance, but the EA6500 is still a fantastic router. Not sure what problems you're having, I used the EA6500 as my own router for 6 months before switching to the EA6700 and never encountered a problem. It was rock solid and blazing fast.

To be honest if you're buying a Linksys router (Cisco sold Linksys to Belkin recently) in order to swap the Cloud-based Smart WiFi for DD-WRT that's a backwards step to me. Smart WiFi is an infinitely superior platform in my opinion - the best and most intuitive on any router currently - and I can see why Linksys wouldn't want it messed with.

But if you want DD-WRT I'd go for the Asus. It is slightly cheaper and there's very little to choose between it and the EA6700 in terms of performance.

Sedare

August 26, 2013, 7:45 pm

Hi,

I've been researching new routers the past couple of days and am stuck between the Asus RT-AC66U, the D-Link DIR-868L, and the Linksys EA6700. I'd like a reliable fast router but the thought of being able to access content on a USB connected hd is also pretty enticing. All 3 more or less do that as well. So it comes down to it, which one would you recommend? I've read all 3 reviews, and I still can't make up my mind.

Thanks.

wmike1503

September 16, 2013, 10:16 am

Reasonably fast - however, it cannot accept automatic website backups via ftp to be copied to my local NAS - Asus just tell me it can't do that. Manual ftp is fine - but a router that blocks automatic connections for website backups is pretty useless in my opinion.

Sent back for refund.

cybergibbons

October 3, 2013, 6:18 pm

What? FTP is FTP. If it's manual or automated, it's the same protocol.

Arjen de Jong

October 20, 2013, 1:47 am

I have a lan 2tb western digital mybookworld and with aicloud see it but asks for a login and password but nothing I put in works... I'm I missing something on the Asus rt-ac66u settings?

Linda Bissonnette

December 12, 2013, 12:56 am

Garbage the router is HOT to the touch can't even handle what I've got connected in the house without being hot. I e-mail ASUS customer support only to get an e-mail back with a phone number long distance on a warrantied product. The router sucks as well as the customer service. Last ASUS product garantee

Anonymous

March 14, 2016, 8:18 pm

Asus AC1750 is compatible with over 30 units

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