Asus RT-AC88U AC3100 MU-MIMO Router Review

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Introducing The Asus RT-AC88U

A second wave of 802.11ac wireless routers have begun to appear, and the new must-have feature is MU-MIMO, short for Multiple User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. We already reviewed the first two MU-MIMO routers we could get our hands on from Linksys and Netgear, and now Asus has entered the fray with a dual-band AC3100 router dubbed the RT-AC88U. This is a flagship router that has all the bells and whistles one would expect at a $300 price point, but it differentiates itself from the competition by offering Link Aggregation and eight LAN ports, which are uncommon features in a consumer-class router. The Netgear Nighthawk X8 also supports Link Aggregation and has six LAN ports, but is a tri-band router.


Synology RT1900ac AC Wireless Router
Specifications & Features
WiFi Band Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi - 2.4GHz + 5GHz
Beamforming Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ethernet Ports Five (5) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 4 LAN
USB Ports One (1) USB port: 1 USB 3.0
Key Features

    Equipped with three powerful antennas and support for the latest 802.11ac wireless networking standard, Synology Router RT1900ac broadcasts both 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums for combined data transfer speeds of up to 1900 Mbps .

    Traditional routers broadcast wireless signals in all directions, regardless of the position of your laptop or smartphone. With smart Beamforming technology, Synology Router RT1900ac focuses wireless signals toward up to six supported devices, reducing latency, economizing power consumption, and improving wireless range.

    Synology Router Manager (SRM) is the operating system that powers the Synology Router RT1900ac. With the friendly interface, it makes managing your network and Wi-Fi settings super simple, while delivering robust tools for power users and professionals.

    Powered by a deep packet inspection engine, Application Layer QoS (Quality of Service) lets you see how much bandwidth is consumed by individual applications and devices. If someone is hogging too much bandwidth on non-essential applications — like YouTube or Spotify — you can restrict the amount of bandwidth the device can use for the specific application, without affecting the bandwidth available for other applications.

    Add-on software packages available on Synology's Package Center. Transform your Synology Router RT1900ac into a personal VPN server, professional RADIUS authentication server, 24/7 download hub, multimedia library, or add other handy features for use at home or the office

Security WEP, WPA/WPA2-Personal, WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise encryption, Mac filtering, SPI Firewall, DoS Protection, SSL certificate, Security Advisor.
Processor Dual core 1GHz processor
Memory 256MB DDR3 DRAM
Physical Specs Dimensions: 2.5 x 8.1 x 602in (66 x 206 x 160mm)  -  Weight: 1.12lb (.51kg)
Package Contents RT1900AC Router
3x antenna
Optional stand
Ethernet cable
Quick install guide
Power adapter
Price $149.99 currently on Amazon
box
The RT-AC88U has an updated design that resembles the last router we examined from Asus, the tri-band AC3200.  This new router features a 4x4 design that competes head to head with the Nighthawk X4S, but whereas the Nighthawk utilizes a Qualcom chipset this Asus product uses a Broadcom SoC with NitroQAM Technology. Though both routers offer a 4x4 design, the Nighthawk is capable of 1700Mb/s on the 5GHz band while the Asus can dish out 2100Mb/s on the 5GHz channel (theoretically, at least). The Asus router also offers up to 1000Mb/s on the 2.4GHz band while the Netgear router is capable of 800Mb/s. On the spec sheet, the Asus router has the upper hand, in other words. One interesting feature of this router is that is offers Smart Connect, which is a feature we've only seen previously on tri-band routers. It combines both bands into one SSID and intelligently connects devices according to their compatibility. This makes it easier to connect to the network in a house full of devices as the router does the "difficult" work of choosing a proper network for you. 
withantenna

Let's take a look at the specs, then at the router itself. 

Synology RT1900ac AC Wireless Router
Specifications & Features
WiFi Band Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi - 2.4GHz + 5GHz
Beamforming Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ethernet Ports Five (5) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 4 LAN
USB Ports One (1) USB port: 1 USB 3.0
Key Features

    Equipped with three powerful antennas and support for the latest 802.11ac wireless networking standard, Synology Router RT1900ac broadcasts both 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums for combined data transfer speeds of up to 1900 Mbps .

    Traditional routers broadcast wireless signals in all directions, regardless of the position of your laptop or smartphone. With smart Beamforming technology, Synology Router RT1900ac focuses wireless signals toward up to six supported devices, reducing latency, economizing power consumption, and improving wireless range.

    Synology Router Manager (SRM) is the operating system that powers the Synology Router RT1900ac. With the friendly interface, it makes managing your network and Wi-Fi settings super simple, while delivering robust tools for power users and professionals.

    Powered by a deep packet inspection engine, Application Layer QoS (Quality of Service) lets you see how much bandwidth is consumed by individual applications and devices. If someone is hogging too much bandwidth on non-essential applications — like YouTube or Spotify — you can restrict the amount of bandwidth the device can use for the specific application, without affecting the bandwidth available for other applications.

    Add-on software packages available on Synology's Package Center. Transform your Synology Router RT1900ac into a personal VPN server, professional RADIUS authentication server, 24/7 download hub, multimedia library, or add other handy features for use at home or the office

Security WEP, WPA/WPA2-Personal, WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise encryption, Mac filtering, SPI Firewall, DoS Protection, SSL certificate, Security Advisor.
Processor Dual core 1GHz processor
Memory 256MB DDR3 DRAM
Physical Specs Dimensions: 2.5 x 8.1 x 602in (66 x 206 x 160mm)  -  Weight: 1.12lb (.51kg)
Package Contents RT1900AC Router
3x antenna
Optional stand
Ethernet cable
Quick install guide
Power adapter
Price $149.99 currently on Amazon


Synology RT1900ac AC Wireless Router
Specifications & Features
WiFi Band Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi - 2.4GHz + 5GHz
Beamforming Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ethernet Ports Five (5) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 4 LAN
USB Ports One (1) USB port: 1 USB 3.0
Key Features

    Equipped with three powerful antennas and support for the latest 802.11ac wireless networking standard, Synology Router RT1900ac broadcasts both 2.4 and 5 GHz spectrums for combined data transfer speeds of up to 1900 Mbps .

    Traditional routers broadcast wireless signals in all directions, regardless of the position of your laptop or smartphone. With smart Beamforming technology, Synology Router RT1900ac focuses wireless signals toward up to six supported devices, reducing latency, economizing power consumption, and improving wireless range.

    Synology Router Manager (SRM) is the operating system that powers the Synology Router RT1900ac. With the friendly interface, it makes managing your network and Wi-Fi settings super simple, while delivering robust tools for power users and professionals.

    Powered by a deep packet inspection engine, Application Layer QoS (Quality of Service) lets you see how much bandwidth is consumed by individual applications and devices. If someone is hogging too much bandwidth on non-essential applications — like YouTube or Spotify — you can restrict the amount of bandwidth the device can use for the specific application, without affecting the bandwidth available for other applications.

    Add-on software packages available on Synology's Package Center. Transform your Synology Router RT1900ac into a personal VPN server, professional RADIUS authentication server, 24/7 download hub, multimedia library, or add other handy features for use at home or the office

Security WEP, WPA/WPA2-Personal, WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise encryption, Mac filtering, SPI Firewall, DoS Protection, SSL certificate, Security Advisor.
Processor Dual core 1GHz processor
Memory 256MB DDR3 DRAM
Physical Specs Dimensions: 2.5 x 8.1 x 602in (66 x 206 x 160mm)  -  Weight: 1.12lb (.51kg)
Package Contents RT1900AC Router
3x antenna
Optional stand
Ethernet cable
Quick install guide
Power adapter
Price $149.99 currently on Amazon
Asus RT-AC88U Wireless Router
Specifications & Features
WiFi Band Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi - 2.4GHz + 5GHz
Beamforming Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
Ethernet Ports Nine (9) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 8 LAN
USB Ports One (1) USB port: 1 USB 3.0
Key Features
  • Ultra-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi router with a combined dual-band data rate of 3167 Mbps for low latency online gaming, smooth 4K streaming and extremely fast file-sharing
  • Broadcom NitroQAMTM technology boosts 5 GHz data rates up to 2167 Mbps and 2.4 GHz up to 1000 Mbps
  • 4x4 antenna design with AiRadar universal beamforming for unbeatable wireless signal coverage
  • 1.4 GHz dual-core processor improves USB and WAN/LAN speed
  • Link aggregation supports close to 2 Gbps wired transmission for more devices to enjoy faster access speed
  • Multiple capacity Wi-Fi with revolutionary MU-MIMO technology
  • AiProtection for total security and privacy
  • 8 Gigabit LAN ports for 2x the number of wired ports typically provided
  • Parental Controls let you manage your family’s web activity and ensure a safe environment for younger users
Security 64-bit WEP, 128-bit WEP, WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise , WPA2-Enterprise , WPS support
Processor Dual core 1.4GHz processor
Memory 512MB DDR3 DRAM
Physical Specs Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.4 x 3.3in 
Package Contents RT-AC88U Router
4x antenna
Ethernet cable
Software CD
Quick install guide
Power adapter
Price
$299.99 currently on Amazon

As stated above, this is an 802.11ac dual band router with link aggregation, a ton of LAN ports, and MU-MIMO. For both link aggregation and MU-MIMO you need additional compatible hardware to take advantage of these features. For link aggregation you need a NAS or switch that supports it, and for MU-MIMO you need a laptop or wireless network adapter that supports MU-MIMO, and these are still somewhat rare. We should also mention that the router includes a two-year warranty.

Here's what it looks like coming out of the box:

inbox
The RT-AC88U ships in a huge box that reflects its equally large price tag. 

nakedfront
Here it is taken out of the box, sans antennas. The panel on the lower left is for the USB 3.0 port, and the two buttons on the right toggle Wi-Fi and the front LEDs.

rightside
The right side sports just one antenna port. 
back
This is where the action is, as we can see buttons for reset and WPS, a USB 2.0 port, eight Gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port, power, and two antenna ports. 
leftside
There's one more antenna port on the left side. 
withantenna
This is with the antennas attached. You can tighten them up well, so that they don't droop like some other routers.

bundle
Here's the bundle—router, network cable, power adapter, software CD, and paperwork. 

This router is currently listed on Amazon for $299, making it one of the more expensive consumer-class routers you can purchase at this time. This is truly a flagship router though, with top of the line everything and advanced features, so its price is not surprising. In comparison the Netgear Nighthawk X4S is $249, and the Linksys EA8500 is $197, so as far as dual band, 4x4 MU-MIMO routers go the Asus RT-AC88U is as expensive as they come. Let's find out if it's worth it...

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