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Wireless Reviews

Storage Performance

The Broadcom CPU handles routing and storage functions in addition to 2.4 GHz radio support. So it's reasonable to expect results close to the NETGEAR R8000, which uses the same BCM4709A CPU. I assume the USB 3.0 port's relocation to the front panel is to eliminate interference with 2.4 GHz radio operation. But ASUS apparently feels that its necessary to default the "Reducing USB 3.0 interference" setting on the 2.4 GHz radio Professional tab to Enable, which limits the USB 3.0 port to USB 2.0 speeds.

For my testing, I set this control to Disable and also shut off the iTunes and DLNA servers in case they are set to automatically index whenever files are added. Our standard Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station [SATDOCKU3SEF] with a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive was used to test file copy performance. The drive was formatted with FAT32 and NTFS and tested both USB 2.0 and 3.0 performance.

Table 2 summarizes USB 2.0 performance and includes competitive top-of-line routers. FAT32 writes have improved vs. the AC68U and results essentially match the Linksys WRT1900AC's, which currently is the best router for storage performance.

Processor Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A Broadcom BCM4709A Marvell MV78230
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 26.4 11.8 18.5 28.7
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 30.1 24.0 28.9 31.0
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 27.3 23.7 27.2 30.1
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 30.4 24.2 29.0 30.8
Table 2: File copy throughput - USB 2.0 (MBytes/sec)

Switching to USB 3.0 results, it looks like the USB 3.0 port move has enabled true 3.0 speeds. The WRT1900AC is still the best at this point for both write and read. The AC87 has topped the NETGEAR R8000 for both FAT32 and NTFS writes, but still lags on read performance.

Processor Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4708A Broadcom BCM4709A Marvell MV78230
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 50.2** 11.7* 31.9 61.1
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 69.5** 21.6* 73.9 76.5
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 49.1** 23.6* 39.3 66.7
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 68.1** 24.3* 73.5 75.1
Table 3: File copy throughput - USB 3.0 (MBytes/sec)
* = "Reducing USB 3.0 interference" setting enabled
** = "Reducing USB 3.0 interference" setting disabled

ASUS says that storage performance will improve by about 20% in future firmware. So storage is on the retest list.

Routing Performance

Routing throughput was measured using our standard router test process with the router loaded with firmware. Table 4 summarizes the results and includes the Linksys WRT1900AC, NETGEAR R8000 and ASUS RT-AC68U for comparison.

All these routers have plenty of routing throughput and you would be hard pressed to find a difference among them in real-world use. I should note that routing performance was measured with the default Level 2 CTF NAT Acceleration setting on the LAN - Switch Control page. Router defaults also have Adaptive QoS and AiProtection features disabled.

The Maximum Simultaneous Connection value happens to be the highest in this group. But all four values were limited by the test technique we use, which isn't reliable above 30,000 sessions.

Test Description ASUS RT-AC87 ASUS RT-AC68U NETGEAR R8000 Linksys WRT1900AC
WAN - LAN 787.1 Mbps 754.5 Mbps 806.4 Mbps 631 Mbps
LAN - WAN 807.7 Mbps 824.6 Mbps 782.1 Mbps 926 Mbps
Total Simultaneous 1392 Mbps 1226.8 Mbps 1391.8 Mbps 975 Mbps
Maximum Simultaneous Connections 36,805 33, 263 34, 083 30,557
Firmware Version V1.1.7.160177
Table 4: Routing throughput

The IxChariot unidirectional composite plot below shows periodic spikes up to peak speeds near 950 Mbps for both down and uplink.

Routing throughput unidirectional summary

Routing throughput unidirectional summary

The simultaneous up/downlink benchmark plot shows some battling at the beginning, most likely due to IxChariot's Nagle's algorithm implementation. Once that settles down, throughput use diverges with uplink traffic favored over downlink.

NRouting throughput bidirectional summary

Routing throughput bidirectional summary

Closing Thoughts

Router geeks who have to be the first on the block have already scooped up the RT-AC87R from Best Buy shelves, paying $10 more than ASUS' $269.99 MSRP. And judging from some SNB forum posts, some have already returned it to wait for better firmware.

Like all too many routers these days, the RT-AC87 is currently an unfinished product, rushed to market when it should still be back in the lab having its bugs stomped out. Yes, it will function as a basic router and might even provide better wireless performance than the AC1900 router you bought not too long ago.

But its key new Adaptive QoS and AiProtection features are undocumented and Adaptive QoS is flaky. The router will do things like disable both radios for no obvious reason (I experienced this). You may be unpleasantly surprised if you depend on anything other than default settings. And wireless performance is still being tuned on both bands.

Buying the AC87 now gets you mainly bragging rights along with undocumented features to figure out and bugs to discover. And although its main innovation—MU-MIMO—is supposedly enabled, there are no devices that can use it. Its key innovation, MU-MIMO, isn't enabled and there are no MU-MIMO enabled clients anyway. Same goes for its 1733 Mbps 5 GHz link rate. The only thing that supports it is another AC87, for another $280, and only at very best signal strength.

I will say that my wireless testing so far hasn't revealed anything extraordinary in either maximum throughput or range in chamber testing. Nor have I been able to achieve a 1733 Mbps 5 GHz link rate between two AC87s six feet apart in open air. I am trying to sort this out with both ASUS and Quantenna and hope to have it sorted shortly so that I can post wireless performance and move on. Part 2 will tell you how all this turned out.

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