Asus RT-N56U Dual Band Wireless-N Router £120
28th Jan 2011 | 16:17
Sexeh design and sexeh speeds too?
Asus RT-N56U - Overview
Asus has done the unthinkable with its RT-N56U Dual Band Wireless-N router, it's made it look beautiful.
As a dual-band 802.11n Wireless-N router the RT-N56U is designed to provide a complete Wireless-N networking extension to your existing wired network for both the standard 2.4GHz and newer 5GHz wireless ranges.
Asus has spared nothing in the design both technically and aesthetically, and you should be struck by both the shiny exterior case design and the shiny specification lurking below it.
Of key importance to the RT-N56U is the 5GHz 802.11n; AKA Wireless-N networking.
The theory being that using twice the frequency should boost speeds by two times too. The practical outcome however is far from that simple.
Despite the 5GHz range being far less crowded, along with the the availability of more free channels, the 5GHz frequency is hampered by being absorbed far more readily by objects.
Back it up with MIMO to compensate for that though and perhaps you'd hope for a 50 per cent increase in throughput over 2.4GHz.
Couple these abilities with its Gigabit LAN, cable-ready WAN port and full complement of security, management and easy-to-use web interface, this should be a winning combination.
So, is it?
Asus RT-N56U - Benchmarks
We tested the wireless performance in various scenarios to see how the Asus RT-N56U performed in typical real-world situations for both its 2.4GHz and 5GHz modes.
The first was a same-room configuration transferring a large file from the router to the laptop. The second involved the laptop being placed one brick-wall and a standard wooden floor away.
Finally we ran a distance test at 30m with a direct line of sight, to see how it coped with distance.
Same room transfer speed
One-room, one-floor away transfer speed
30m line-of-sight transfer speed
Asus RT-N56U -Verdict
At the heart of the Asus RT-N56U are two sets of 802.11n wireless antennas. These create the distinct spatial streams for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio frequencies.
Typically better 2.4GHz will offer three or four distinct antenna, as more spatial streams increase the MIMO effect, so increasing speed and workable distance.
The RT-N56U comes with two internal antennas for the 2.4GHz range and three for the 5GHz range.
Two antennas is something we'd expect to see on more modest Wireless-N-class routers, though we can understand the need to concentrate on the 5GHz performance.
Even so, same-room and medium-distance tests were excellent.
In some respects besting wired 100BaseT Ethernet speeds, with an average of 12MB/s and peaks just over 13MB/s. One room and floor away and speeds were maintained at 10MB/s.
It wasn't until we tried at distance that things tailed off to 1.1MB/s, which was our only disappointment with the RT-N56U, but at 5GHz its three antenna maintained a decent 3.8MB/s transfer speed.
Unusually for a router it manages to pull off the twin design goal of looking aesthetically pleasing and offering an aesthetically pleasing web interface.
In fact its interface feels more like a standalone app than a web-based interface. It's slick, well presented, easy to navigate and speedy to use.
This makes setting up what in effect are two routers in one an easy and quick job. It also includes a WPS fast-setup button that ties into Windows 7 which can eliminate entering WPA keys. If you trust that sort of thing.
A barrage of status LEDs is tastefully implemented, while the USB ports can handle storage, printers and compatible 3G adaptors. That USB storage ties in beautifully with the UPnP capabilities so it doubles as a media streamer, bittorrent, FTP and HTTP download server too.
There's an awful lot to like about the ASUS RT-N56U from the aesthetic design of both the chassis to the slick web-based interface to its actual performance.
There's a confident air about every aspect of it and you really feel the engineers have the designed knowhow to squeeze every drop of performance from their hardware.
The Ai Radar technology certainly overcome any limitations of the 2.4GHz twin antenna to provide leading-class performance and 5GHz speed are equally impressive.
With only a question mark over its long-range performance, at this price it's certainly full-steam ahead for this ASUS router.