Introduction

30 Jul 2015

Some areas of my home were having WiFi reception problems, so it was time to get another device to address that. After reading quite a few online reviews, two contenders emerged: Asus RT-AC68U and Netgear R7000 NightHawk. After speaking to absolutely hopeless Netgear pre-sales support staff on multiple occasions, I decided to get Asus instead.

The device build quality seems quite solid. It certainly looks like a premium product. Its three antennas and vertical placement make it look far more "technical" than my other access point.

The hardware of this router is pretty much standard stuff. Five gigabit ethernet ports in AP mode. Dual band WiFi (2.4 and 5 GHz, with AC support). Linux under the hood.

Setup

These days router setup is usually a pretty straightforward affair, especially when actually used as an access point. This device was no different.

However, my attempt to update the firmware automatically on this device ended in misery. The update never completed and the device was stuck mid process, effectively unusable. I called Asus support to find the way out of this mess. Although quite courteous and apologetic, the fix didn't actually come from them. I simply downloaded the firmware manually and applied it using the manual process.

I later discovered why I had this problem. Asus support site (http://support.asus.com/) probably got the name because it is in desperate need of support, not because it provides support. I visited their site on many occasions after this incident and most times at least some requests will end in a 500 error. Sad. And just to be clear, these 500s have been coming from Asus support site for over a month now. I've told them about this, but it still hasn't been fixed. Below is a screenshot of such an error taken on 30 Jul 2015.

So, doing automatic firmware upgrades is a big no-no here.

Firmware comedy

Never mind the failed automatic firmware update. There is more! :-)

The firmware that was marked stable when I upgraded to it (3.0.0.4.378_6975) has been removed from the support site altogether. Instead, there is a new beta version, with fixes for Japan only. WTF?

The support staff told me over the phone that users should not upgrade the firmware. The manual claims the opposite. Huh?

Seriously, Asus, get your support site, staff and story straight!

Updates

14 Dec 2016: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.380.4164, appears to work fine.

14 Jul 2016: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.380.3831, includes some security fixes and appears to work fine.

16 May 2016: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.380.3264, includes Samba security fixes and appears to work fine.

29 Jan 2016: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.380.1842, appears to work fine.

14 Dec 2015: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.380.1031, appears to work fine.

30 Oct 2015: New firmware, version 3.0.0.4.378.9313, appears to work fine.

30 Sep 2015: Two firmware versions were released in a relatively short time: 3.0.0.4.378.8258 and 3.0.0.4.378.9135. I am running the latter, which seems to work fine.

Functionality, performance

I don't really need anything overly complicated or sophisticated when it comes to WiFi. Basically, I just want it to work reliably (which is almost impossible with anything wireless - long live the humble cable!).

Given that criteria, this device is pretty solid. It did what I purchased it for - it made wireless signals in my home better.

The signals from the device are pretty strong, in line with what E4200v2 can muster. The ethernet does indeed reach gigabit speeds.

The web interface for managing the router is a bit confusing at times and many options are not properly explained. But, with enough persistence, it can be made to work well enough.

The built-in DLNA software (minidlna) is unreliable. Some perfectly valid MPEG2 files cannot be scanned and therefore do not appear in the database.

Conclusion

It seems that no matter which "premium" brand of wireless device one chooses, the support is going to suck. My experiences with Cisco, Netgear and now Asus all confirm that. If you are willing and able to provide your own support, then sure - the hardware seems decent enough.