Wireless network performance
Let's take a look at the apartment that was used in our testing and how it is set up. You can see that the router is placed in the living room. With most wireless routers, the signal strength is not that great in rooms like the Kitchen and the Medium balcony. During our testing we used a very fast Internet connection capable of downloads of 1 Gbps and of uploads up to 200 Mbps.
We used a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for all our measurements and several software tools. To get a better perspective of the performance offered by ASUS RT-AC88U, we compared it to its predecessor ASUS RT-AC87U, as well as ASUS RT-AC3200 and TP-LINK Archer C9 (the speed champion on our tests so far) and TP-LINK Archer C2600.
At first, we evaluated the performance of the 2.4 GHz wireless network that is broadcast by ASUS RT-AC88U. We started by measuring the signal strength offered in each room, using a tool named inSSIDer. As you can see below, in most rooms, ASUS RT-AC88U offered improved signal strength over its predecessor - ASUS RT-AC87U.
Next, we used SpeedTest to measure how fast the Internet connection offered by this router is when using 2.4 GHz wireless network. Unfortunately, the download speed offered by ASUS RT-AC88U is rather average and it tends to be lower than that offered by routers we compared it to.
The same was true when evaluating the upload speed with SpeedTest. Again, ASUS RT-AC88U was outperformed by its competitors.
Continuing our measurements on the 2.4 GHz wireless network, we used LAN Speed Test Lite to measure downloads and uploads when transferring a 350MB file between two computers connected to the network. In the download test, the general performance offered by ASUS RT-AC88U was closer to the average when compared to the previous test. However, the other wireless routers tended to outperform it in most rooms.
The same was true when measuring the upload speed with LAN Speed Test Lite.
Our tests have shown that 2.4 GHz wireless networking is a weak spot of ASUS RT-AC88U. It offers a good and stable network but it is not as fast as what its competitors have to offer, including its predecessor - ASUS RT-AC87U.
Next, we analyzed the performance offered by the 5GHz wireless network and we looked at the evolution of the signal strength, from room to room. We can clearly see that ASUS RT-AC88U offered better signal strength than its competition, in most rooms. This was a first indication of the strength of this wireless router, a strength which was confirmed by all subsequent measurements.
Then, we used SpeedTest to measure the speed of the Internet connection on the 5GHz wireless network. This is where ASUS RT-AC88U managed to impress us a in a big way: in the rooms that are close to the router, we have experienced the fastest wireless network that we ever used. Imagine an average download speed of 412.18 Mbps in the room where the router was placed. That's 40% of a Gigabit, on a WiFi network!
When it comes to the upload speed, ASUS RT-AC88U was no longer the fastest router even though it did manage to offer a fast Internet connection.
Lastly, we used LAN Speed Test Lite to measure downloads and uploads when transferring a 350MB file between two computers connected to the network. When evaluating the download speed, in the room where the router was placed, ASUS RT-AC88U was again the fastest we have ever tested. However, in other rooms, the download speed has lowered to a level that was similar to that of the other wireless routers.
The same trend was apparent when evaluating the upload speed too.
The strength of the ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router is 5GHz wireless networking. When it comes to broadcasting a wireless network that uses the 802.11ac standard, ASUS RT-AC88U may just be the fastest wireless router that you have ever used, at least in apartments and spaces that are not very large.
Wired network performance
In order to test the quality of the wired Ethernet connection, we used a desktop PC, equipped with an Intel Core i5 4460 processor, running at 3.20GHz, 16GB of RAM and a very fast Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with an Intel Core i5-4300U processor, running at 1.9 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and a fast 256 GB SSD drive from Samsung.
We started by measuring the download and upload speeds using SpeedTest. As you can see below, ASUS RT-AC88U has reached the maximum limits of our Internet connection: 1 Gbps for download and 200 Mbps for upload.
Then, we transferred an 883 MB file between the same two computers connected to the network, both of which were using an Ethernet cable. ASUS RT-AC88U was again very fast. However, it was outperformed by its predecessor - ASUS RT-AC87U.
ASUS RT-AC88U is capable of delivering 1 Gbps Ethernet connections for eight simultaneous users, which makes it stand out when compared to other routers.
The ASUS RT-AC88U WiFi router offers a long list of extra features that you won't find on many routers from its competition:
Guest networks - you can set up to six guest wireless networks that provide Internet access for your guests but restrict access to your network. You can enable up to three 2.4GHz guest networks and up to three 5GHz guest networks.
AirProtection - a feature powered by the Trend Micro security company, which includes two modules: Network Protection and Parental Controls. The Network Protection module allows you to block malicious websites for all your networked devices, prevent infected networked devices from communicating personal information and scan your router for any security vulnerabilities. The Parental Controls module can be used to block access to all kinds of online content, for any of the devices that are connected to your network.
Adaptive Quality of Service (QoS) - ensures bandwidth on both wired and wireless connections for prioritized applications and services, using pre-defined presets like gaming, media streaming, VoIP, web surfing and file transferring. This, coupled with the new Smart Connect feature, allows you to set in a very granular way, how your bandwidth is used. Imagine that you can do load balancing for each wireless network independently.
Game Boost - an exclusive gamer private network (GPN), which automatically performs route optimization, choosing the most efficient route for your game packets. The service is lifetime free for one device and multiple platforms are supported.
Traffic Analyzer - visual traffic statistics which give you a clear picture of how your network is used and by which devices. If you are managing a network with lots of devices, you will very much appreciate the data shown by the analyzer.
USB applications - designed to work with all kinds of devices that you can connect to the router using USB: external hard disks, printers and 3G or 4G dongles or modems.
ASUS AiCloud 2.0 - a mobile app that keeps you connected to your data wherever and whenever you have an Internet connection. With it, you can access the folders shared in your home network from your Android or iOS smartphone or via a personalized URL. The only downside is that there is no Windows 10 Mobile app available.
ASUS Router - a mobile app for iOS and Android, which allows you to monitor and manage your wireless router when you are away from home. Unfortunately the app is not available for Windows 10 Mobile.
Dual WAN - very useful for both small businesses and professionals who require always-on Internet connections. You can also use a dual WAN to improve the quality of your Internet connection and get the best possible performance. Gamers might also love this.
Smart Connect - this is an optimization feature which, when turned on, intelligently assigns wireless clients to the fastest band according to their signal strength, speed or band traffic.
VPN server - you can set the router to work as a VPN server and you can also use it to turn your network-connected devices into VPN-enabled clients via OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP protocols without additional VPN software required.
Network tools - for analyzing the network and identifying what's wrong. They are definitely useful when you need to troubleshoot problems.
Feedback tool - allows you to contact ASUS when you need to report problems and get help with your router. It can be very useful at times, as this tool automatically sends useful data like system logs and settings, which can be useful to ASUS in troubleshooting your problems.
ASUS RT-AC88U includes many useful extras which can be turned on when needed. Some of these additional features are aimed at gamers, like Game Boost, Adaptive Quality of Service (QoS) and Dual-WAN, and they promise to deliver always-on connections and the maximum speed possible with the minimum latency. However, many of this router's features are also useful to casual users, IT professionals and small businesses.
Pros and cons
Here are the pros we identified about using the ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router:
- Excellent speed when using the 5GHz wireless network. It is one of the fastest 5GHz wireless routers that you can buy today
- 8 true 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports that are very useful for LAN parties and small offices
- Very advanced firmware with lots of special features that increase the security of your network and improve its speed based on the criteria that you set
- It's one of the very few wireless routers that focuses on offering services and features that are useful to gamers
- Great multilingual support and help documentation
- Good looking design that's inspired by the Republic of Gamers brand
Here are the cons we identified about using the ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router:
- Average speed when using the 2.4 GHz wireless network
- While the area that it can cover is large, the speed it offers when you get far away from the router is less than what another premium wireless offers
- You cannot mount it on walls
ASUS RT-AC88U AC3100 dual-band is a premium WiFi router with a powerful hardware configuration and lots of useful features. Some of them are targeted at gamers while many of them are useful to all kinds of users, including small businesses. This wireless router also features great design and excellent performance when it comes to 5GHz wireless networking. It is a great choice for LAN parties, medium sized apartments and office areas where you want a fast, modern and secure wireless network. If you can afford it and you want one of the most advanced routers in the world, that's capable of managing many simultaneous network connections while offering very good performance, ASUS RT-AC88U is a great purchase that you won't regret.