Wireless network performance
Before sharing the data from our measurements, 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 high in places like the Kitchen and the Medium balcony.
Our testing was done using a fast 1 Gigabit Internet connection that's capable of uploads on the internet of up to 500 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-AC86U AC2900, we compared it with ASUS RT-AC87U (a previous generation model from ASUS which proved very popular) and with TP-Link Archer C3200 (one of its top competitors).
At first, we evaluated the performance of the 2.4 GHz wireless network. We started by measuring the signal strength offered in each room, using a tool named inSSIDer. As you can see below, the signal strength delivered is good and it tends to beat that provided by ASUS RT-AC87U in most rooms.
Next, we used SpeedTest to measure how fast the internet connection offered by this router is when using 2.4 GHz wireless network. The download speed varied a lot from room to room, and ASUS RT-AC86U was never the fastest.
When evaluating the upload speed, ASUS RT-AC86U was in second place, after TP-Link Archer C3200.
Continuing our measurements on the 2.4 GHz wireless network, we used the PassMark Performance test to transfer data between two computers connected to the network. ASUS RT-AC86U delivered good download speeds, but it was not the fastest router.
Things improved a bit when measuring the upload speed, and ASUS RT-AC86U was the fastest in some rooms.
The 2.4 GHz wireless network offered by ASUS RT-AC86U is stable and reasonably fast. However, other routers can deliver faster wireless connections on this band.
Next, we analyzed the performance offered by the 5GHz wireless network. First, we looked at the evolution of the signal strength, from room to room. As you can see below, ASUS RT-AC86U delivers an excellent signal in most rooms.
We moved to SpeedTest, to measure the speed of the internet connection on the 5GHz wireless network. To see the maximum potential of this router, we used the world's only PCI-E network card with support for 4x4 MU-MIMO: ASUS PCE-AC88. When we used this network card, we obtained a maximum speed of 716.25 Mbps for the download and 521.70 Mbps for the upload speed. These are the fastest speeds we have measured so far on a wireless router, and they are imposing.
To get back to earth, and everyday devices people use, we took our Surface Pro 3 and measured the download speed with SpeedTest, in every room of our test apartment. ASUS RT-AC86U outperformed its predecessor ASUS RT-AC87U when looking at the download speed.
When measuring the upload speed, ASUS RT-AC86U was excellent. However, when we tested ASUS RT-AC87U, our internet connection was capped at 100 Mbps for the upload speed, and when we tested TP-Link Archer C3200, our internet connection was capped at 200 Mbps for the upload speed.
For the last measurements on the 5GHz wireless network, we used the PassMark Performance test to transfer data between two computers connected to the network. ASUS RT-AC86U delivered excellent performance when measuring the download speed, managing to beat its competitors in most rooms.
The same was true when measuring the upload speed in all rooms.
ASUS RT-AC86U delivers high-speed wireless network connections on the 5GHz band. This area is a strength of this wireless router.
Wired network performance
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 Lenovo Ideacentre 610s mini PC.
We started by measuring the download and upload speeds using SpeedTest. When we tested ASUS RT-AC87U, our internet connection was capped at 100 Mbps for the upload speed, and when we tested TP-Link Archer C3200, our internet connection was capped at 200 Mbps for the upload speed. Today, our internet connection is capped at 500 Mbps for the upload speed, and ASUS RT-AC86U reached this maximum speed. Downloads were very fast too, very close to the 1 Gbps that is promised by our internet service provider.
Then, we ran a network transfer between the two computers, using the PassMark Performance test. Here, we can see that ASUS RT-AC86U was faster than TP-Link Archer C3200 and a bit slower than ASUS RT-AC87U.
ASUS RT-AC86U delivers real 1 Gbps connections that you can count on when using its Ethernet ports.
We connected a portable SSD drive to the ASUS RT-AC86U, through the USB 3.1 port and then we used LAN SpeedTest Lite to transfer data to and from it and measure the speed. As you can see below, the USB port on the ASUS RT-AC86U is high-speed, delivering a download speed of 229 Mbps.
The USB 3.1 port on the ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router is very fast, and this will please many users.
As is always the case with premium wireless routers made by ASUS, ASUS RT-AC86U bundles plenty of advanced features that are not found on competing routers. On this specific models, there are quite a few features for gamers:
- WTFast GPN - You get the option to create a WTFast account, for optimized online gaming through a unique VPN service. You get access to some free features but, for the full service, you need to pay extra to WTFast.
- LAN Boost - a one-click optimizer that enables Adaptive QoS to optimize inbound and outbound traffic for online gaming. If you want the best online gaming experience, you will want to enable this feature.
- Real-Time Network Protection - it is a shortcut to the AiProtection module.
Security is a significant feature in ASUS RT-AC86U, and it is all provided by the AiProtection module, which includes several tools and options:
- A comprehensive Router Security Assessment tool which verifies where your router's settings are secure. When it finds problems, it proactively informs you and takes you where you need to fix things.
- Malicious Sites Blocking - a very efficient cloud-based module that blocks malicious websites on all the devices that are connected to your network.
- Two-Way IPS - an improved two-way intrusion prevention system that protects all your network from spam, DDoS attacks, network attacks and more. Additionally, it also scans the packets that are sent from your network to the internet.
- Infected Device Prevention and Blocking - if your network devices get infected, and they become zombies in malware networks, they are automatically blocked by your router, and you are informed about this problem so that you can fix things.
The ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router also includes many other features that you can find on other ASUS routers too:
- Guest Network - you can enable up to three wireless networks for each band, with individual security and access settings.
- Adaptive QoS - an intelligent QoS (Quality of Service) tool that you can use to analyze and prioritize network traffic efficiently.
- Traffic Analyzer - offers visual traffic statistics which give you a clear picture of how your network is used and by which devices.
- USB Applications - apps that are 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.
- 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
- IPv6 - modern support for IPv6 addresses that will soon become the norm, replacing IPv4.
- VPN - 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, without additional VPN software required.
- Network Tools - for analyzing the network and identifying what's wrong. They are useful when you need to troubleshoot problems.
- Dual WAN - excellent 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.
- DDNS - a service that allows you to connect to the router from the internet, even if your internet provider gives you a dynamic public IP address.
Another great extra is the availability of the ASUS Router mobile app for Android and iOS. With it, you can configure most of the features found on this router, straight from your smartphone or tablet. However, the app works only if the smartphone (or tablet) is connected to the WiFi that is broadcast by the router. It doesn't work from anywhere on the internet, and this limits its usefulness.
The ASUS RT-AC86U AC2900 wireless router packs many premium features and tools that will be useful to its users. Some of them are aimed at gamers, others at professionals, and many of them are useful to any user who wants more than just WiFi.
What is your opinion about ASUS RT-AC86U?
At the end of this review, you know our view of the ASUS RT-AC86U AC2900 wireless router. Before closing this article, we would like to learn your opinion about this router. Are you interested in buying it? Do you appreciate its features? Don't hesitate to comment below.