802.11ac Wi-Fi Router Round-Up: ASUS, Netgear, D-Link, and TRENDnet

Article Index

Our Router Summary and Conclusion

It's always easy to pick a winner and a loser in a roundup when performance between two or more products are in different stratospheres, but in this roundup that's clearly not the case. All of the routers performed similarly, as expected since they are all using the same hardware platform, so choosing one that is "best" is difficult. They are all very good, for the most part, so the main difference between them comes down to their firmware and how that impacts performance, feature set, and web interface.
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ASUS RT-AC3200 Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Router ($269.50)
The ASUS RT-AC3200 router is a very well-rounded router that isn't as "extreme" as the D-Link or Netgear, but has a bit of flash to it with its "stealth bomber" aesthetic. Its placement of the front USB port is puzzling though, and this router looks rather pedestrian next to the D-Link and Netgear routers. We see ASUS' upcoming AC5300 router will correct all that, but as it stands, this is a very good router that is hindered by weird placement of buttons and ports, and the fact that the antennae kept coming loose during testing. We would tighten them up and they still came loose, and this was not an issue we experienced with any of the other routers.

Its performance was solid though, and its web interface is filled with a lot of very useful features that are clearly laid out, even if many sub-sections and features have no explanation whatsoever. We appreciate the extra "free" protection it includes, as none of the other routers in this grouping offer something similar. Overall the ASUS RT-AC3200 is a very good router with plenty of features and excellent performance, but we look forward to seeing what ASUS does with the next iteration of its AC router technology.

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D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router DIR-890L/R ($287.99) - The D-Link certainly takes home the prize for "biggest router." It's absolutely huge, and borders on ludicrous. It measures more than 15 inches across and makes even the Nighthawk look tame, which is saying something. We're a bit torn on the paint job though. It's shiny and looks cool, but we still prefer our PC equipment to be black, so it would be nice if that was a color option. That said, we give D-Link major kudos for having the wherewithal to release such a crazy-looking router. It's also very easily the most well-rounded package in this group in that it has the most polished and easy-to-use web interface. It also has mobile apps for streaming content and remote management of the network. This D-Link router also offered extremely good performance, taking top prize in our 5GHz testing at both distances by a decent margin, so it's also a top-performer. The only major letdown we experienced with this router was its slower-than-average USB performance on the lone USB 3.0 port. In both of our 2GB file copy tests it placed dead last, by a decent margin, so perhaps a firmware update is needed. If it weren't for this shortfall the D-Link would arguably be the best router in this group. Since we use a dedicated NAS we're not hitting D-Link too hard on this one, but it's a flaw (at least currently) in an otherwise stellar product.

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Netgear Nighthawk X6 R8000 ($273.00)
If we were buying a router on looks alone, the Nighthawk would get the nod. It's big without being too big, and looks totally bad ass. We also like the retractable antennae design the best out of all the routers in this group, as it's easy to deal with them and we never had to worry about them falling off or looking askew. Its performance was consistently excellent in all of our tests as well, placing at the top or near the top throughout, making it an one of the fastest AC routers available. We really have no issues with any of its performance results, as it was always fast and never surprised us. We like the fact that it includes backup software (ReadySHARE Vault), but the Genie app that is included looks somewhat dated. The entire web interface for this router feels woefully out-of-date on such a modern-looking router, and it's our only real gripe. We didn't have any real trouble using it for basic setup, but it looks and feels dated in light of the competition, and one-click beyond the top-level interface puts you into screens that are difficult to navigate, with a lot of small text on white backgrounds. All that said, it is totally usable, and a small flaw in an otherwise extremely well-rounded router, and as such we are giving it our Editor's Choice award. The only thing to note before purchasing this router is Netgear has already announced a faster successor, and it looks sweet.

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Trendnet AC3200 Tri Band Router TEW-828DRU ($209.99)
As we entered this roundup we weren't sure if the Trendnet router would have what it takes to go up against bigger competitors like ASUS, Netgear, and D-Link. Now that the dust has settled, it's clear the Trendet TEW-828DRU has several compelling advantages over its competition. First, it uses the exact same hardware platform as the other routers, yet costs just $209 online as of this writing. That's a steal compared to the $275-ish price range the others are in, and a very good value considering how well the Trendnet router fared in our wireless testing. It's also the only router in this test to openly support the DD-WRT open source firmware (though builds are available for all of the others), which could seal the deal for many folks reading this. The other routers here do have support from the DD-WRT communnity as well, though they don't "officially" support it. Finally, the TEW-828DRU has the longest warranty of any router here as well, and that makes it quite the compelling package. Unfortunately, like the D-Link 890L/R it also performed comparatively poorly in our USB storage testing on both bands. So while it doesn't have a perfect record in our tests, its wireless performance was fantastic otherwise.

 
Netgear Nighthawk X6 R8000
 
 
DLink AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router

Trendnet AC3200 TEW-828DRU 
 
ASUS RT-AC3200

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