Asus rt-ac66u 1

If you’ve been wondering why my posts have been somewhat sparse this month it’s because I’ve been moving and doing a lot of filming. One of the bad things about moving (besides packing and unpacking) is that your network setup completely changes. The layout of my old place allowed me to run dedicated cables to the file server and a few of my desktops through an unfinished section of the basement. I won’t have that kind of easy access in the new place so I’ve decided to give Gigabit wireless a try.

The latest revision of routers using wireless 802.11AC have started to show up on the market and they’re promising speeds of up to 1300 Mbps at 5Ghz AC mode and 450 Mbps at 5Ghz N mode. I took a look at the handful of 802.11ac routers on the market and decided to spend the extra on the ASUS RT-AC66U. Most of the new 802.11ac routers are based around the same Broadcom BCM4706 CPU, but the RT-AC66U has better cooling for the transmitters which allows ASUS to crank up the power output. That in turn means better signal penetration and better signal strength in the far reaches of the new place.

Asus rt-ac66u 3

Going with the ASUS RT-AC66U also gives you the option to install alternative firmware like Merlin or DD-WRT. I’m not hardcore enough to dive into DD-WRT, but merlin provides a few nice extra features and bug fixes without all the craziness and performance hits caused by hacks trying to perform too many functions with the limited processing power that a consumer router provides. The VPN and attached storage controls will probably be the most useful “extra features” for my use and some of the extra network monitoring options Merlin offers are nice to have.


I just got the router setup last night and used my laptop to test out connection speeds. My zenbook only supports 802.11N but I still saw a pretty decent improvement. At the furthest reaches of the new place my signal went from 2 bars and 72 Mbps with my old router to 300 Mbps and full bars with the ASUS RT-AC66U. The speed was even good enough to edit photos on the server in Lightroom without much refresh lag.

Asus rt-ac66u 2

The major downside to 802.11ac is the price. Even the lowest priced wireless ac routers are over $100 and the PCI-e cards are $90 a peace. Upgrade two computers, add in a router, and you’ve spent $300 or more. I was lucky enough to get the ASUS RT-AC66U used for $130, otherwise I probably would have gone with the cheaper TRENDnet AC1750. For a little bit of extra cost cutting I’m only upgrading 1 desktop with a $90 PCI-e card. Everything else (HTPC and so on) will be upgraded from the old 802.11G cards to $30 450 Mbps wireless N cards.

Hopefully more PCI-e and usb dongles will start to hit the market over the next few months and the prices will come down. Right now Asus is the only company offering a PCI-e adapter option, hopefully more adapters from companies like Rosewill will start to hit the market soon. I wouldn’t mind having these kind of speeds on everything if the price is right.  I’ll post some speed tests with full 802.11ac once the PCI-e adapter shows up. With luck I should be able to maintain close to the same backup speeds I was getting with a wired connect.

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