Asus RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N Router Review
Without a doubt, wireless home networks have become quite a must nowadays, and for those of you who don't want to hide your routers away, in some obscure corner, out of the sheer shame that it won't fit your home decor, Asus has launched in late 2010 the RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N router, that not only sports an extremely attractive design, but also an array of features even experienced users will really find attractive.In fact, we'll have to admit that Asus really did manage to provide little something for everybody with their new wireless-N router, whether we're talking about a person looking for a networking solution whose design will complement that of their home entertainment center or one searching for a very versatile router, capable of delivering just about anyone might expect from it in terms of range and security, not to mention some very interesting extras.
So, without further ado, we'll move to our hands-on test, and talk a bit about what the router has in store, both in terms of design and functions.
Aesthetics and design
Overall design features
Right from the moment we've taken the RT-N56U out of its case, we were quite astonished by its overall design, its elegant, piano black finishing sporting a couple of tiles or small diamond-like surfaces that make this thing look quite elegant, in just about any lighting conditions (it's not nicknamed the Black Diamond for nothing).
We've also liked the fact that the plastic used for the router's case and the level of finishing were also very good, a whole lot better than the one we've encoutered on some of Asus' laptops (which leads us to believe that Asus really targets a premium crowd with this device).
Another interesting design decision is the placement of all the blue activity LEDs on the front side, the combined effect of the piano black material and the shiny blue lights creating quite a "ligth show", that will certainly draw one's attention (not to mention the fact that it will allow them to view just what networking options are active at all times).
Size and portability
The wireless-N router from Asus measures 172 x 145 x 60 mm and weighs 330g, but these cold, hard figures don't really manage to paint a good-enough picture of what the device "feels" like in real life.
Practically, as far as we're concerned, the RT-N56U is the most portable non-travel router we've ever come across, since users will have absolutely no problem carrying it around and placing it just about anywhere they might think of, the device having quite an inobstrusive presence wherever one might decide to install it around the house.
Controls and connectivity
Naturally, since we're talking about a wireless rouer here, its connectivity and networking options represent one of its main selling points, and rest assured, the RT-N56U provides plenty of ports for anyone's needs.
In terms of physical connectors, we've got four LAN Ethernet ports located on the rear side, complete with a fifth one, housing the main outside network connector.
Now, moving on to the wireless connectivity, we'll have to say a few words about the whole dual-band topic, that might somewhat of an "uncharted territory" for some of you.
LAN Ports - WAN x 1, LAN x 4 RJ-45 for 10/100/1000 Base T;
Supports - Ethernet and 802.3 with max bit rate 10/100/1000Mbps and auto cross-over function (MDI-X);
Antenna - 2 x internal antenna for 2.4GHz application with 3.8dBi gain;
- 3 x internal antenna for 5GHz application with 5.1dBi gain;
Memory - 8 MB flash and 128 MB RAM;
USB port - USB2.0 x 2;
Power Adapter - AC input: 100V-240V (50-60HZ);
DC output: 19V/1.58A;
Size - 172 x 145 x 60 mm (6.77” x 5.7” x 2.36”);
Operating Frequency - Simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz;
Data Rate - 802.11n: up to 300Mbps;
- 802.11a/g: up to 54Mbps;
- 802.11b: up to 11Mbps;
Encryption - Supports 64/128-bit WEP;
- WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK;
- WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise;
- WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup);
Management - Quality of Service and traffic monitor;
- DHCP server (up to 253 IP addresses);
- Web-based administration;
- Firmware upgrade;
- Save/restore configuration file;
Security - Firewall: NAT and SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection), intrusion detection including logging;
Logging - Dropped packet, security event, syslog;
Filtering - Port, IP packet, URL keyword, MAC address.
Beside being a real aesthetic gem, the Asus router also delivers an impressive level of versatility during use, regardless of your level of technical experience (in other words, both newbies and experienced network admins will certainly be able to find their way around the RT-N56U).
RT-N56U – main features
Although it looks like a shiny fashion accessory at the first sight (we're sorry for Asus, but the first thing that came to mind when seeing this device is that it's been designed to be used specifically by non-techies, who just want a shiny, piano black product to have around the house), the truth of the matter is that the RT-N56U is a whole lot more than a pretty face, and that will become quite obvious once you access its administration panel, and start discovering its many functions.
As mentioned before, the level of customization delivered by the RT-N56U is absolutely impressive, which means that advanced users will be able to easily tweak almost all of the network and Internet access settings they want (including Firewall and filtering, traffic control, etc.), while beginners will be able to only change some of the router's main settings and lest the its default settings handle the rest.
QoS prioritization also offers plenty of options, users being able to choose specifically what applications running on the computers connected to the network should get more bandwidth when accessing the Internet.
Equally interesting is the AiDisk function, that combines quick FTP server setting and free ASUS DDNS service.
In fact, the AiDisk function will most likely be extremely popular with users, since it allows them to attach an USB storage solution to their network, virtually turning it into a NAS.
Another function that we consider to be extremely useful is the Wireless Bridge (or WDS- Wireless Distribution System) that enables the router from Asus to be used as an access point for a computer, not to mention the fact that, when a 3.5G modem is attached to one of its USB ports, the router can be used to share the Internet connectivity with all of the other devices on the network.
RT-N56U – data throughput and performance
Beside providing users with plenty of interesting and useful features, the Asus RT-N56U also delivers quite an OK level of data troughput and performance, managing to attain roughly 318Mbps download speed in combined (2.4GHz + 5Ghz) mode and an 370Mbps upload speed in the same conditions.
Plus, the router supports up to 300,000 data sessions at the same time, which enables stable P2P downloading and video streaming.
So, during the test period, we've never recorded any network disconnections, software or hardware problems, etc., while the signal was quite strong all across a normal apartment (and 4-storey office building), which is not something many routers can deliver constantly.
- very attractive, stylish exterior design;
- built-in activity LEDs for all supported networks (wired or wireless) and the USB connectors;
- dual-band support;
- extensive set of available features;
- built-in Torrent download client;
- built-in AiRadar feature for improving beam pattern;
- very good data throughput in most conditions;
- friendly user-interface;
- very good level of reliability;
- doubles as access point;
- built-in UPnP and Samba servers;
- exterior case is a bit fingerprint-friendly;
- admin menu can prove to be a bit stuffy, in certain cases;
We'll start our final assesment of the router from Asus by somewhat quoting and adapting a popular saying, since we believe that, once you'll go for the Asus RT-N56U, you'll probably never go back to a regular router.
And that's because this thing can do just about anything you might expect from it, from providing seamless, strong Internet access to all of the conencted devices around the house, whether we're talking about computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, etc., to featuring a built-in torrent downloading engine and multiple additional features on the side.
To sum things up, the Asus RT-N56U can act as the central hub of one's entire home network, enabling users to control all of the Internet-capable devices in a very friendly and intuitive manner, while also maintaining a great level of security for one's data.
And last, but certainly not least, it will be able to do all of the things mentioned above (and much more) in style and elegance, something very few other similar products available on the market can boast about.
- RT-N56U Dual-Band Gigabit Wireless-N Router;
- User's Manual;
- Power Adapter;
- Flat Ethernet cable;