Reviewing ASUS RT-AC5300 - The WiFi router Spiderman would make
ASUS RT-AC5300 was unveiled at the end of 2015 and it is now being launched in markets worldwide. It's a wireless router that made the news mostly because of its looks. This massive, over-the-top wireless router looks as if it was designed by Spiderman. It also features the highest number of external antennas on a home router to date and very impressive specifications and a price to match. We were happy to have received it for testing and, after using it in our home network for more than a week, we would like to share our opinion of it, in this detailed review. Here's what you get when you buy the ASUS RT-AC5300 tri-band gigabit wireless router:
Unboxing the ASUS RT-AC5300 tri-band gigabit wireless router
The ASUS RT-AC5300 tri-band gigabit wireless router comes in a very large box which borrows the look from other networking products made by ASUS. On the front of the box, you will find a picture of the device, as well as a summary of its most important features.
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On the back of the box, you will find more details about how this router works, the kinds of connections and buttons you will find on its sides, as well as a comparison with other routers made by ASUS.
When you open the front cover of the packaging, you immediately see the router, which is large, heavy and impressive. You will immediately notice the graphical elements which are inspired by the ASUS's Republic of Gamers brand.
Inside the package you will find the following elements: the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router, a network cable, a support disc with the user manual in 28 languages and utility software which includes also a tool for the recovery of the router (very useful when dealing with a failed firmware update), the power adapter, the warranty card and the quick start guide. There's also a leaflet describing one of the unique features of this router, which is going to be covered later in this review.
The packaging of the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router is definitely worthy of its premium price-tag and so are the size and the looks of this networking device. The unboxing experience will be an exciting one, especially when you consider that we are talking about something rather boring: a wireless router!
After you unbox the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router, you have to mount the 8 external antennas (4 transmit / 4 receive with MU-MIMO technology), which is the highest number of external antennas on a home router to date. This alone creates the expectation of unparalleled performance.
The eight antennas are supposed to help deliver a total maximum bandwidth of 5334 Mbps: 1000 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz wireless network and 2167 Mbps for each of the two 5GHz wireless networks that are broadcasted by this router. Obviously, these impressive numbers are theoretical and they are not easily achieved in the real world with common networking hardware. If you want to get a good perspective on the bandwidth that you are likely to achieve, read the Wireless network performance section of this review.
It's a no brainer that this router, being so new and so powerful, offers support for all the modern networking standards, including 802.11ac, and all types of data encryption.
The size of this router is outstanding: 9.6 x 9.6 x 2.6 inches (width x depth x height) or 24.5 x 24.5 x 6.6 cm. It's also a heavy wireless router at 3.99 lbs or 1.8 kg.
On the front side of the ASUS RT-AC5300 there are 5 LEDs: one for power, one for the WAN, one for the LAN, two for the wireless networks and 1 for the WPS feature.
On the right side you will find a USB 2.0 port, a button for turning on/off the LEDs, a button for enabling or disabling the WPS feature and one for turning on/off the wireless network.
On the backside of the wireless router there are four Ethernet ports for connecting your own computers and devices and a fifth for connecting the router to the Internet. There's also a USB 3.0 port and a button for turning the router on and off.
If you turn the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router upside-down, you can see some of its insides. This router has very powerful hardware inside: a dual-core Broadcom BCM4709 C0 processor, running at 1.4 GHz, 512 MB of RAM memory and 128 MB of storage space.
If you want a detailed and complete list of specifications, go to this page: ASUS RT-AC5300 Specifications.
The ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router features some of the most powerful hardware you will find on a wireless router for consumers and the highest number of attachable antennas. It's also one of the biggest and heaviest routers on the market.
Setting up & using the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router
Before we start with what's it like to set up and use this router from a software and networking perspective, we would like to first cover a logistical aspect that might be relevant to some users: since this router is so large, with so many antennas and without a system for mounting it on walls, it needs to be placed on stable surfaces where there's enough room for it. It is not the kind of device that you can easily hide from view, somewhere safe. Once you find a good spot to place it, where there's enough room, plug the router into the power outlet, connect it to a PC and start it.
The ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router uses the same firmware that is found on other ASUS routers, with the difference that it includes several new features that are unique to this router. The setup wizard is easy to use and it starts by asking users to change the default router login and password, which is a good proactive approach from ASUS's part.
During the wizard, the type of Internet connection is detected automatically and the necessary details are requested of you, so that the router can connect to your ISP. At the end of the setup wizard, you get the chance to set the wireless networks which are broadcasted by the router. You can only set their name and network key.
However, after the initial setup is over, you can set things in detail, using the administration interface, which is available in 19 languages, which you can see below.
The administration user interface is well organized. On the column on the left there are two sections: General and Advanced Settings.
The General section includes many extra features, some of which are unique to the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router, like Game Boost. You access each feature by clicking on it and then you can turn it on and set the way it works.
In the Advanced Settings section you get access to all the settings for the standard features of this router. Things like the wireless network, the local area network (LAN), the VPN features of this router, the firewall and so on. After you are done with the quick setup wizard, we recommend you to go through all the advanced settings and set this router to work your own way. Also, you should turn on the extra features that you are interested in. They are disabled by default, which is good, because it frees up resources and the basics are delivered at very good speeds.
We mentioned this is past reviews for ASUS networking products - we really enjoy using their administration interface. It's nicely laid out, organized well and you won't have trouble finding the settings that interest you. Another positive is the fact that Help documentation is readily available. When you hover the mouse over most settings, a question mark is shown. If you then click on that setting, an explanation is shown for that setting, letting you know what it does. This is a good approach, which should be mirrored by other vendors.
We used the latest firmware version that was available during the time of our testing: 188.8.131.52.380_838. One new feature we discovered while using this version, is a Feedback tool that's found in the Administration section of settings. With it, you can report problems directly to ASUS, from your router's administration interface. This tool is great because it will also send extra information to ASUS, for debugging, like the router's logs and settings.
We actually used this tool to report the only issue we have found with the administration interface: if you use the Opera web browser to access it, the default settings are not prepopulated. All the drop-down lists are shown without any values. If you access the administration interface in other browsers, like Firefox or Chrome, there's no problem. You can view a quick comparison below.
Hopefully, this issue will be sorted by ASUS in a future firmware update. And speaking of firmware updates, another positive is that ASUS has already released three firmware versions since this router was released. Each new version fixes bugs and improves performance.
After purchasing the ASUS RT-AC5300 wireless router, you should always install the latest firmware available, to benefit from the best possible performance and user experience.
After setting up the router, we started connecting all our devices from the network: desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, consoles, smartphones and wireless printers. We had no issues connecting any of them and network sharing, media streaming and other networking-related tasks worked smoothly, without any issues.
We are happy with how easy it was to set up our network and the amount of control offered by the user interface for administering the ASUS RT-AC5300 router. The administration interface is easy to use and it offers a great deal of customization that is going to be loved by geeks and IT professionals. This router worked very well during our testing and we did not encounter issues with stability and performance.