Asus RT-AC52U 802.11ac router - Asus RT-AC52U: Performance and Verdict

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Asus RT-AC52U – Performance

So the AC52U looks good, is priced aggressively and promises to bring 802.11ac to the masses but with all the cuts can it actually achieve it? Sadly the answer is a resounding no.

The first point to get out the way is testing. We’ve never had an 802.11ac router without a single Gigabit Ethernet port (or a dual band 802.11n router for that matter). This threw our usual test process out the window because a wired connection from the AC52U to a high speed NAS would be limited to roughly 10-12MBps by its 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports – roughly 802.11n 2.4GHz speeds which, on paper, are far slower than its wireless potential.

The agreed solution with Asus was to put the AC52U into bridge mode and connect it to a wireless ac-only signal from a premium 802.11ac router (we used the class leading Linksys EA6900), which in turn had a blazing fast Synology DS414 NAS wired to one of its Gigabit Ethernet ports.

From there we connected to the AC52U’s signal using Asus’ own top of the range PCE-AC68 802.11ac wireless receiver.

For testing purposes this ornate arrangement gets around the limitation of the AC52U being unable to receive data faster than it can send it out.

That said in reality output is dependent on input so the additional bandwidth of the AC52U’s 5GHz 802.11n or 802.11ac signals is wasted.

Despite all these measures we were still let down. With just a single 5GHz wireless antenna we weren’t expecting rocket speeds, but at our test distances of 2m and 10m line of sight and 15m behind two standing walls the AC52U managed 802.11ac speeds of just 13.3MBps (106.4Mbps), 11.3MBps (90.4Mbps) and 7.84MBps (62.7Mbps).

These are barely faster than 802.11n 2.4GHz, half what we’ve seen from 802.11n 5GHz and nearly 6x slower than the best 802.11ac routers such as Asus’ own RT-AC68U.

The tone was set and the AC52U’s 802.11n 5GHz performance was barely distinguishable from its 802.11ac results managing 13.1MBps (104.8Mbps), 10.9MBps (87.2Mbps) and 7MBps (56Mbps). Again less than half what we have seen from premium 802.11n 5GHz routers

The good news is 802.11n 2.4GHz speeds were strong at 11.4MBps (91.2Mbps), 7.3MBps (58.4Mbps) and 5.62MBps (44.96Mbps) but we doubt anyone will be tempted by the AC52U because it performs well using a three generation old wireless standard. That’s certainly not the pitch on the box.

As for USB 2.0 performance, it managed 7.53MBps (60.24Mbps) – a respectable score but not something that could change our overall disappointment at the AC52U.

Should I buy the Asus RT-AC52U?

On receiving this router and  hearing of its remarkable £72 price tag we thought it would be

impossible to say no – but unfortunately that is our answer. It may say

802.11ac on the box, but you aren’t getting a router that performs at

wireless ac or even 5GHz wireless n speeds. In fact even if it did those

wireless speeds would be hamstrung by its inability to receive data at

more than the 10-12MBps, which is the maximum input of data from of its

Fast Ethernet ports.

Taking a step back we can see Asus’ logic.

802.11ac is a marketing dream at this price point and perhaps if data

were being pulled over Fast Ethernet and USB simultaneously then

wireless ac could handle this circa 20MBps combined data, it may even

creep up a few more megabytes in a multi-user scenario. That said this

argument is weak and atypical of what most buyers will be expecting when

they lay down their money.

The long and short of it is

similarly priced dual band 802.11n routers will deliver better wireless

performance and come with a full array of Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Without sounding too cynical, that isn’t why 802.11ac was invented.

If you really want 802.11ac on the cheap, the TRENDnet TEW-812DRU is a much better bet. It costs just over £100, but the extra money is well spent.

Verdict

To

the casual observer the Asus RT-AC52U is an incredible deal. Unfortunately, it

is a façade. Ultimately the RT-AC52U is a router that cuts too

many corners and proves the old adage: you get what you pay for.

Score in detail

  • Performance 4
  • Value 6
  • Features 5
  • Build Quality 7
  • Usability 9
  • Design 8
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