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Design and performance distinguish the latest additions to the ASUS line of routers for home or office. Whether you’re looking to upgrade the speed and coverage of your current wireless network or set up a Wi-Fi and wired network from scratch, ASUS has a model that will accommodate your needs.
Focusing on its top-performing routers, ASUS makes the distinction between “Ultimate Performance” and “Ultimate AC Performance.” The choice comes down to the RT-N66U, also known as the ASUS RT-N66U Dual Band Wireless N900 Gigabit Router (“Ultimate Performance”) and RT-AC66U, also known as the ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Gigabit Router (“Ultimate AC Performance”).
First, the similarities: The two look nearly identical with three adjustable antennas rising from a book-size component with black-plaid finish. They each feature four Ethernet ports, one RJ-45 port for connection to a broadband modem and two USB 2.0 ports. Also, the estimated coverage range for each model is 450 feet.
The difference resides in wireless performance. The RT-AC66U represents the next generation of dual-band Wi-Fi with a total speed up to 1.75 Gbps. It incorporates the Broadcom 802.11ac Wi-Fi controller, working in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band pushes data at speeds up to 1.3 Gbps, which exceeds current Gigabit wired transmission and is three times faster than 802.11n. The RT-AC66U offers smooth lag-resistant multitasking and super-fast streaming, while ASUS AiRadar intelligently strengthens wireless device connections via powerful amplification, offering future-proof optimized performance.
Still, the previous-generation model, the RT-N66U, is no slouch. It features the same gigabit wired LAN speed and the same wireless range via the built-in AiRadar capability for expanded wireless coverage throughout a multi-level building. Also, with their twin USB ports, each sixty-six model takes on multiple roles. They each offer full Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compatibility, affording smooth connectivity with a variety of entertainment platforms, including game consoles, smart Blu-ray players, smart TV sets and media receivers. Each model can also serve as a dedicated FTP server and printer server so that users in a home or office are able to share resources for greater efficiency while reducing costs, compared to buying a separate network server or attaching a printer to each computer.
With a 450 Mbps maximum wireless data speed and 450-foot range, the RT-N66U and RT-AC66U are ASUS’s flagship wireless routers. However, the company also offers the RT-N56U Dual Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router and RT-N53 Black Diamond Series RT-N53 Wireless Router; each maxing out at 300 Mbps, with a range of more than 300 feet.
Comparing the RT-AC66U and RT-N66U to the other routers here is a bit more nuanced. While each of the sixty-six models offers gigabit Ethernet connections and two USB ports for print sharing or network-attached storage, only the RT-N56U matches them on these features. The RT-N53, on the other hand, comes with 10/100 LAN connections and no USB ports.
Based on capabilities, ASUS prices the routers in descending order: RT-AC66U, RT-N66U, RT-N56U and RT-N53. Meantime, B&H bundles the ASUS RT-N56U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router and ASUS USB-N53 Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Adapter in a kit along with an extension cable and 2-year Sagemax replacement plan. The USB adapter, also available separately as the ASUS USB-N53 Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Adapter with adjustable cable and WPA2/WPS security, provides owners of non-802.11n-enabled notebooks (802.11g/b) to get up to speed with the ability to, for example, stream high-def movies from an N-compatible router.
Beyond technical specs, ASUS routers are eye-catching. Carried across the exterior of the ASUS line from router to USB adapter is the same glossy black/dark gray/light gray tartan design suggesting an infinite bit stream. The three-level gray scale complements the triathlon antenna structure rising above the RT-N66U and RT-AC66U. The similarly plaid RT-N56U and Black Diamond Series RT-N53 Wireless Routers each incorporate two internal antennas but compensate vertically by standing upright on a base.
Striking out in a radically different design direction, the ASUS EA-N66 Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter is a multi-purpose adapter that looks like nothing else in this roundup. Between its hollowed-out pyramid with rounded edges and concentric pattern with blue LED accents illuminating the interior base, the model might have been conceived by a hallucinogenic Roger Sterling of Mad Men fame—that is, if network routers had existed in the sixties. (Okay, Roger would have mistaken it for a carry-around ashtray.) But the EA-N66 pyramid design is more than ornamental. It houses orthogonal antennas that boost coverage. The EA-N66’s selectable dual-band 450 Mbps data throughput can serve both normal and heavy data users with 2.4 GHz Internet surfing or email delivery while streaming high-definition video at 5 GHz for lag-free entertainment.
Functionally, the EA-N66 turns an Ethernet port into a Wi-Fi access point. The pyramid’s single Ethernet jack and included gigabit network cable enables you, for example, to endow a desktop computer or Ethernet-only smart TV with Wi-Fi reception. Unlike a USB Wi-Fi adapter, an Ethernet-to-wireless adapter needs a power source and the EA-N66 indeed includes an AC adapter. Another use for the EA-N66 is to extend the reach of a Wi-Fi network with ultra-fast speed. You could, for instance plug the EA-N66 into a wired Ethernet jack in a room near your backyard in order to extend the network outside. Considering all the new mobile devices that can take advantage of 5 GHz in addition to the traditional 2.4GHz frequency, you may be able to upgrade an older router, too, so that it supports your late-model tablet or smartphone more robustly. Besides the Ethernet adapter mode, the EA-N66 includes repeater and access point modes. With the wall-mounting design, the router can be hung on a wall to extend network coverage.
So, whether your challenge is to upgrade a home or office network with a state-of-the-art wired and wireless router, convert almost any Ethernet jack into a fast Wi-Fi access point or endow a computer with N-type Wi-Fi connectivity, ASUS has the solution.