ASUS RT-N66U "Dark Knight" Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router Review


Our next line of business was to test the router's range and network file transfer performance. According to ASUS, the RT-N66U performs admirably when compared to its older relatives the RT-N53 and RT-N56U. The N66U adds 150Mbps and 90ft of range to the N56U, which is also a gigabit router and was highly-touted in the days since its launch. The addition of Multi-SSID, wall mounting, and IPv6 support gives the N66U added versatility as well. 


RT-N53 RT-N56U RT-N66U
Dual-Band Wireless N
2.4GHz/ 5GHz
2 x 2.4GHz/
5GHz Internal
2 x 2.4GHz/
5GHz Internal
1 x 5GHz internal
3 x 2.4GHz/
5GHz detachable
10/100 LAN
Gigabit Gigabit
USB 2.0 Ports
0 2 2
Max Data Range
300Mbps 300Mbps 450Mbps
Coverage Range (estimated)
300ft 360ft 450ft
Unique Features
CD-Free Installation
ASUSWRT (Graphical User Interface)
Air Radar
USB Print Sharing Support
Ai Disk
Key Features
URL Filter
Real-time Traffic Monitoring
DLNA Support
Parental Control



Wall Mount Support
IPv6 Support


*Specifications courtesy of ASUS.


For our attempt to verify the advertised 450ft coverage range, we placed the router in as far in the corner of our yard as we could (150ft) and we still showed a full signal.  A walk down the street with a multitude of walls and object in-between us and the RT-N66U put the rough range at about 350ft... remarkable.  You can cover some serious ground in an office, large public areas, or even large multi-floor houses.


We used the "Network" benchmark included in the Passmark Performance Test suite to test throughput between computers using several different adapters.  For wireless tests, we used a multitude of devices ranging from standard integrated laptop wireless G of a Dell XPS M1530, the ASUS N53 USB N300 adapter (2.4 and 5GHz), and ASUS' EA-N66 3-in-1 adapter (also 2.4/5 GHz-capable) and placed them in a number of rooms around our office to simulate a typical home or sprawled setup.  The router was placed on the top of a desk behind a monitor, and the test different locations are described below:

Location 1:  6 feet away (typical 2nd workstation location)

Location 2:  20 feet away, same room (large room/living room or office situation)

Location 3:  20 feet away, 1 wall and 1 half-wall separation (next room performance or cross-office performance)

Location 4:  40 feet away, 2 external insulated walls (through-floor or multi-unit usage)




Gigabit and 10/100 wired performance is fantastic. TCP/UDP transfers were  only ~5 Mbps below their theoretical maximum throughput for 10/100 ethernet connections with TCP transfers at 94.1 and UDP transfers at 93.4 Mb/s.  Gigabit connections showed a remarkably-solid 940 Mbps throughput for TCP transfers and a lower but still respectable 650 Mbps for UDP transfers.  The RT-N66U's performance also does not see very much performance degradation for the distances and obstructions given.  The trends are remarkably flat, and UDP transfers are nearly 350Mb/s with the EA-N66 N900 connected via ethernet to a Gigabit-equipped computer, which is phenomenal.  These go to show why the RT-N66U is great for large homes, home offices, or even medium-sized office buildings.  Great range, and great signal stability go a long way to making the RT-N66U an end-all for large environments, even for the power users out there.


For our attempt to verify the advertised 450ft coverage range, we placed the router in as far in the corner of our yard as we could (150ft) and we still showed a full signal.  A walk down the street with a multitude of walls and object in-between us and the RT-N66U put the rough range at about 350ft - remarkable.  You can cover some serious ground in an office, large public areas, or even large multi-floor houses.  Even large houses should be blanketed heavily by the RT-N66U without a very noticeable performance degradation. 





Serious gaming on wireless is a holy grail for many, especially LAN-goers and planners, and the 5GHz connection is a big step in that direction.  Latency can make-or-break a battle in fast-paced FPS' and RTS', so we wanted to see how our pings compared to wired performance.  Connection to a Speed Test server in Seattle, only 30 miles away from our office, the wired connection gave a 4ms ping, and was consistent through 5 tests.  At locations 1-3, the wireless 5 GHz ping was an incredible 5ms and only dropped to 7ms at Location 4 with both an N300 and N450 connection.  I've gamed wirelessly on the RT-N66U for a couple months now and have no real complaints, and the fact that it has often slipped my mind that I'm gaming wirelessly is a testament to its capability to deliver lag-free and low-latency gaming.  The 2.4GHz lead to a less-impressive 12ms ping at all locations, still doable but you'll stand a better chance of noticing the difference between wired and wireless. 



bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

The RT-N66U comes with some added functionality compared to other routers that add value to its already impressive performance. These include the AiCloud, Media Server, Download Master, QoS, VPN Server, Network Map, and Traffic Monitor utilities, which are accessed via the ASUSWRT Dashboard. The dashboard features the same eye-pleasing UI that ASUS puts into their overclocking utilities, with many shades of grey and blue making up the color palette. A large sidebar makes it very easy to find the settings that you are looking for, and statistics like web traffic data are presented in good detail. This makes the interface appealing to both novice and veteran networkers. I will readily admit that I belong to the former camp, so the ASUSWRT Dashboard is a welcome sight when all I want to do is setup a network printer without hassle and get back to work. 


The added features also follow the same trend we've found through a couple months of usage of the RT-N66U, which is that using them is easy, easy, easy.  The dashboard also allows you to prioritize connections with QoS (quality of service) for gaming optimization.  VPN servers, network mapping, traffic monitoring, and the addition of several guest SSIDs and varying keys make for robust, flexible, and yet dead simple operation.  All of the advanced operations that admins or networking gurus would want access to are there, and if it's not quite what you're looking for, ASUS uses open-source DD-WRT firmware so you can find a solution that works for you, with Tomatoe being a popular one.





These are two pretty awesome features, but we'll start with AiDisk, as it's the most straight forward.  Turning AiDisk on allows you to discover USB devices over the network.  I have several drives that I've mapped, so they readily show up in my computer as a drive.  This is super handy and invaluable for anyone managing a single file store with multiple computers.  It's great to save straight to the USB disk over the network on a test machine, and removes alot of the tedium of sharing between computers.  It's also a great way to share data if you don't necessarily want to share you computer.  It's fantastic for collaboration and/or as a data repository, and that's been fantastic for me personally, and small to medium businesses could probably use this to its full potential.   An iTunes server can be setup to offer you another way to quickly and easily access your media, which can be especially tough to do with iTunes.  The Network printer server also works in a similar way, and is great if you don't have a Wi-Fi or ethernet-enabled printer.  We also saw very good transfer performance, with large file transfers from the USB network disk averaging around 10 MB/s, and has been more than enough to seamlessly stream video and music directly from the device from my phone and other computers.  The fact that you can basically setup a NAS as a default feature is simply awesome, no matter how you slice it.  The logical complaint here is that the USB ports aren't USB 3.0, but I'm sure we'll be seeing that soon.  The USB transfer performance still rocks compared to many routers out there.


ASUS' brand-new AiCloud also is super handy and easy to use, bringing cloud storage and connectivity to your mobile devices integrated into your router which allows remote control of your computers from your phone or tablet, a feature we've also seen and thouroughly enjoyed on ASUS' latest motherboards.  In some ways it's similar to AiDisk, but its functionality is far more vast.  Using a computer or the ASUS AiCloud application downloaded from iTunes or Google Play for your respective mobile device, you can access any device on your network remotely.  Using the AiCloud login service with your own (free) custom domain, for instance, "" will bring you to your AiCloud login.  From there you can access the devices you have setup for AiCloud access, and can stream directly from them, download, edit files directly, and it all runs on your device as though the files are on your own computer. 


Of course, streaming videos can be limited by either the host or your internet connections.  This becomes a great way to store files you'd like to access remotely, and you could even use it to play media while on-the-go, say on a capacity-limited device like a phone or tablet.  If you have media attached to the RT-N66U via USB, you've basically got your own personal cloud at your fingertips.  ASUS also offers web storage as another option.  At work and forgot to bring your presentation files from your workstation?  Normally this would require a trip home, which may not even be feasible, but if you've got AiCloud setup and Wake On LAN enabled for your workstation, you can even wake your computer up to retrieve your files.  Pretty awesome to say the least.


AiCloud's application is smooth, refined, and works very well.  It's really in Beta form at the moment, so the couple force closes are excusable, but for the most part the interface is intuitive and looks great.  It works fast, and I was streaming media directly from computers and USB devices literally in minutes.


What these two services do it to roll the idea of a "connected home" into one sleek and simple package.  Anyone can setup streaming and file sharing with this without any previous experience.  It's the easiest implementation I've found, and it's truly fantastic, and really changes how you use and interact with all of your data.  No DLNA streamers coupled with this and that and hunting IP addresses and forwarding ports like you have to with many solutions.  With this, you can get networked printing, networked storage, streaming, personal cloud, and awesome transfer speeds and performance all in one.  It's one of those things that makes you feel like you're life is truly more convenient, and becomes a staple of how you interact with your technology.


Ontop of the idea of the "connected home," it also goes to making a "connected life."  The busy individual, say with an ultrabook or even a tablet, who doesn't have a lot of storage space to spare, but has videos, music, media, large file stores, you name it, can have access wherever they find an internet connection.  Additionally, the Android application as well as the web interface has a number of options to share quickly and easily share files and folders, similar to how you would with a Dropbox account.


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