Router Charts

Router Charts

Router Ranker

Router Ranker

Router Chooser

Router Chooser

NAS Charts

NAS Charts

NAS Ranker

NAS Ranker

More Tools

More Tools

Wireless Reviews

NETGEAR R7000 & ASUS RT-AC68U

Introduction

Some of the resident AC router fanboys over in the Forums are about to pop a blood vessel in anticipation of the first AC1900 class routers and trying to decide which to blow $200+ on. So I figured I'd better get something up sooner vs. later so that they have an alternative to the somewhat breathless reviews that other sites are posting. Rest assured that full reviews for NETGEAR's R7000 "Nighthawk" and ASUS' RT-AC68U will follow in the coming weeks.

As I explain in this short AC1900 primer, not many people will be able to experience the 600 Mbps link rates in 2.4 GHz that are the raison d'être for the AC1900 stew that Broadcom has cooked up. The only folks who will are those who spring for two routers and set the second up as a wireless bridge.

Even those who have the only AC1900 client device that exists—ASUS' PCE-AC68—will likely be disappointed. ASUS sent one along with the router and I was not able to get a link above 450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz radio. So after wasting an afternoon trying to coax a 600 Mbps link, I fired off emails to ASUS and Broadcom to let them know of the problem and fell back to my trusty old PCE-AC66. Broadcom came back after a few days and confirmed that TurboQAM is not enabled by default in the PCE-AC68 driver. So ASUS is supposedly working on a new driver that will flip the proper bit.

The gist of this is that this first look tests both products as AC1750 routers. If you're looking for AC1900 results, you'll have to wait for another week or so. Most people don't even have AC580 or AC867 class devices anyway and buy AC routers for the folly of future-proofing or in hope of improving wireless throughput and/or range for existing G and N devices.

The other question on your mind is likely to be "where's the Linksys EA6900"? Well, it seems that Linksys has a copy of the Octoscope MPE-based test setup I use and didn't like the results they were seeing when they checked the first batch of routers before sending them out for review. So they missed the window to be included in this review.

Inside

Because there has been a lot of speculation about the innards of these beasties, I opened both of them up after testing was done. Table 1 tells the tale.

NETGEAR R7000 ASUS RT-AC68U
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A
Switch in BCM4709A In BCM4708A
RAM 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz Power Amp marked 397 649e 230(x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- SiGE 5023L 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
Table 1: Component summary

The R7000 sports a Broadcom BCM4709A SoC, while the RT-AC68U uses the Broadcom BCM4708A. We've seen the second-generation BCM4708 in other second-round AC routers like the recently-reviewed ASUS RT-AC56U and Buffalo WZR-1750DHP.

Here's a look at the top of the R7000 board with its RF covers removed so you can see the two BCM4360 radios. The small devices to the left of the photo are the 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers that sit side-by-side to feed each antenna.

NETGEAR R7000 board top

NETGEAR R7000 board top

There are more internal photos in the gallery below. The last photo shows a very large heatsink that sits at the bottom of the router and that is directly thremally-coupled to the RF shielded compartment that houses the BCM4709 SoC, RAM and flash.

Here is a similar view of the ASUS board. It uses the same alternating arrangement for the outboard 2.4 and 5 GHz amplifiers. You can see one of the pads that thermally couple the amps to the RF compartment cover. All the devices have similar thermal coupling.

ASUS RT-AC68U board top

ASUS RT-AC68U board top

According to Broadcom, the main difference between the two processors is that the 4709 has a 1 GHz clock speed per core, vs. 4708's 800 MHz. The 4709 also supports faster DDR3-1600 memory and has "some other I/O" differences. So there is no overclocking involved, folks. NETGEAR simply chose a faster processor for the Nighthawk. Does NETGEAR (or ASUS for that matter) run the processors at full clock speed and do they enable access to all 256 MB? Who knows? All that matters in my book is performance, so let's get right to it.

Amazon Top-Selling Wireless Routers

More Wireless

Top Performing Routers

AC3200
AC2350
AC1900
AC1750
AC1200

Top Performing NASes

1 drive
2 drives
4 drives
6 drives
8 drives

Over In The Forums

  • site with updated guide



    I used this two guides 1 & 2 (credits to ULI and...

    [TUTORIAL]pyLoad Download Manager through Optware" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">[TUTORIAL]pyLoad Download Manager through Optware
    New site with updated guide



    I used this two guides 1 & 2 (credits to ULI and...

    [TUTORIAL]pyLoad Download Manager through Optware
  • Fix for Erratic Windows 7 Ping" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">Fix for Erratic Windows 7 Ping
    I was setting up a new PC, and ran into problems with the wireless with very erratic ping times and slow transfer rates. After banging my head against the wall for a while, I realized I forgot to apply the change to force Windows to use a single system clock. Posted as a reminder...data and fix below.....

    Before Fix
    (C:\)
    ping -n 10 ACER-E3FC0000

    Pinging ACER-E3FC0000.lan [192.168.1.123] with 32 bytes of data:
    Reply from 192.168.1.123: bytes=32 time=383ms TTL=64
    Reply...

    Fix for Erratic Windows 7 Ping
  • www.vpn-wise.com and I really like the look of the website and found it interesting. It says it can unblock blocked websites especially streaming...

    VPN recommendations" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">VPN recommendations
    Hi guys,

    I am not sure if this is the right discussion to post and ask for a VPN recommendation so kindly direct me to the right link if I'm wrong. I've been using Cyberghost for months now and still can't decide to get the paid membership as I'm always looking for a good VPN provider. Recently, I've stumbled upon another VPN website VPNWise www.vpn-wise.com and I really like the look of the website and found it interesting. It says it can unblock blocked websites especially streaming...

    VPN recommendations
  • In need of stable..." class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">In need of stable router
    I recently retired my old Cisco 891-w which had served me well for years. I now have a 300mb connection and the cisco did not have gigabit ethernet ports which was a problem. I know that the 891-w was an enterprise class router and I will likely not find anything like that stability in my price range of 100-200, but stability is my number one priority. Time Warner gave me an Arris Dg160a which has been nothing but trouble with constant dropped connections.

    My environment is all wired or...

    In need of stable...
  • OVERWHELMED AND NEED HELP" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">OVERWHELMED AND NEED HELP
    I am currently renting a modem/router from Comcast (arrisTG862) for $7/month. we get the 50mb service. We have a 2 story home with a basement and the router is on the main level. Our laptop is basically a fixture in our living room on the main floor. We have a smart tv on the main floor and I'll eventually finish a secondary living room/entertainment room downstairs. We don't do much technology wise. Just wifi right now....not even Netflix or a printer, but that could change in the...

    OVERWHELMED AND NEED HELP