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Hands-On with the Asus RT-AC88U Router

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ASUS has a number of routers doing the rounds currently that are aimed at the gamer, with the ‘dead spider’ (or AC5300) being the iconic one in terms of design. While the RT-AC88U that we got our hands on does not have the looks of the aforementioned router, it is itself no ugly duckling, and does come with a hidden addition in the form of a built in WTFast client.

In Brief

The RT-AC88U is a dual-band router based on the AC3100 wireless standard and sports four antennas, eight Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN point for connection to your ADSL router. And yes, if you didn’t figure it out already, you will need a traditional router to accompany the ASUS router, as what you essentially have with the RT-AC88U is a gateway.

What the gateway brings to the party from the offset is an ease of setup as it automatically adjusts its own IP if it is in conflict with a router that it gets connected to. Alongside that is AiProtection (which is powered by Trendmicro) which runs the router through its configuration and checks for any vulnerabilities and then advising you to fix them due to potential security threats. It will also block browsing to sites that may - or do - contain malware, as well as blocking infected devices from communicating personal information to remote servers.

The Gateway Firewall features DoS (Denial of Service) protection, and can disable ping responses coming from the internet, as well as allowing for url blocking, keywords filter and timed network services blocking.

It’s all about the (Quality of) Service

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Of course, the catchphrase these days for network solutions is Quality of Service (QoS) and in this case, the ASUS boasts a number of options. Available is Adaptive QoS prioritization, as well as traditional QoS and Bandwidth Limiter.

QoS generally prioritizes bandwidth for specific tasks and applications so as to prevent other user from ruining the network by hogging all the bandwidth. The Adaptive QoS option makes it easier for an inexperienced user to control prioritization by offering the control via a number of pre-set options like gaming, VOIP and more. The traditional option for QoS requires the user to manually define the parameters by service or IPs on the network.

With the bandwidth limiter, you can limit the amount of bandwidth going to each connected device. To accompany this, the real-time bandwidth meter monitors and updates bandwidth usage in real-time across multiple machines, allowing the user to narrow down machines that might be causing issues for other users.

All this should allow the gamer in the household to lay claim to highest priority and force those wanting to watch videos of animals doing cute stuff to suffer a slideshow while their gaming experience is made to be infinitely more bearable.

Additional security options allow for guests to connect to your internet connection without gaining access to your local network.

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There is also support for creating a VPN server so that you can access your entire home network from anywhere - as long as you have an internet connection. You can also remotely access any files that you have setup to share from a hard drive connected to the gateway via AiCloud 2.0.

All these features are accessed via the control panel that – while comprehensive – does not feel that accessible to newer users. Maybe a little facelift or update to the software is in order, but considering the options on offer, that’s me being an aesthetic elitist more than anything.

What the… Fast

So what is WTFast then? Well, it is a private network for gamers aimed at optimising your game connection and theoretically reducing your ping for the games supported, which includes League of Legends, Counter-Strike, World of Warcraft, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and more.

Traditionally, WTFast is available as standalone software with both a free option and a multi-title subscription option, but with the ASUS RT-AC88U, the software is built-in, but you will still need an account. While the software has proven to reduce pings for PC titles in previous testing, we had high hopes that maybe console gamers would now be able to reap the same benefits via the router.

Sadly, we have to report that the router offers no support for console titles, and even for PC gamers, the number of titles available via the interface on the router is less than the number of titles supported via the traditional software.

If you’re looking to buy the RT-AC88U in South Africa just for WTFast, we really can’t recommend you do so.

No, it’s not all gloom now

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However, if you’re looking for a high performance router with good range, speed and stability, the ASUS comes up trumps with top Wi-Fi data rates, a long range (at least 50m) and a stable wireless signal.

If you’re in the need to do so, RT-AC88U's first two LAN ports can be aggregated to deliver a 2Gbps connection, while any of the first four ports can be used as a second WAN port.

There are also the router’s two USB ports which can be used for multiple purposes including external hard drives, cellular modems or USB printers. With the hard drive connected, the data stored can (as previously mentioned) be shared with syncing being an option too. And should you require a fall-back, the USB ports can support a USB cellular dongle too.

Specifications

  • Network Interfaces:
    1x Gigabit WAN port (connects to your ADSL router)
    8x Gigabit LAN ports
    1x USB 3.0 port
    1x USB 2.0 port
  • Wireless Interface:
    4x Detachable Dualband Antenna
    2.4GHz & 5GHz concurrent frequency bands
  • Wireless Data Rates:
    802.11b: up to 11Mbps
    802.11a/g: up to 54Mbps
    802.11n: up to 600Mbps
    1024QAM (2.4GHz): up to 1000Mbps
    802.11ac (5GHz): up to 1734Mbps
    1024QAM (5GHz): up to 2167Mbps
  • Wireless Encryption:
    64/128-bit WEP
    WPA/WPA2-PSK, WPA/WPA2-enterprise
    WPS (WiFi protected setup)
  • Management/Features:
    ASUSWRT (web based admin)
    AiCloud 2.0
    Adaptive QoS, Traditional QoS, Bandwidth limiter
    AiProtection
    3G/4G sharing/fallback
    HDD sharing
    SAMBA
    FTP Server
    Printer server
    Built in WTFast client
    IPv6 Support
    Parental Control
  • Device RAM:
    128MB Flash/512MB DDR3 RAM

In Closing

All in all, this is a very good gateway that comes packed with features. However, the concern might be that its cost may be a little high (it’s currently listed on Raru on R5,591) for the average home user, and while there are many options available, it is debatable on how useful they will all be for home use. It might very well find a home at gaming events or small offices that require a greater control over the use of the internet than their standard router allows.

Thanks to Ryno ‘SonZ’ Warwick for input with this article.

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