Asus RT-N56U review
A high-speed router that looks good and is easy to use. All that, coupled with a reasonable price, makes this Asus a tempting buy
Review Date: 9 Dec 2011
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £75 (£90 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
In the staid world of routers, Asus’ RT-N56U is a diamond in the rough. Its design really stands out, with its shiny, jauntily angled front fascia, and sparkling cool-blue LEDs are the very antithesis of standard router styling.
If you were expecting this style to come at the expense of power and features, however, you’d be wrong, because the Asus is the equal of all but the most expensive routers. Those with ADSL connections will be disappointed to hear the RT-N56U is a cable-only router, however.
The router offers concurrent dual-band operation, which means it can maintain two networks at the same time – one in the 2.4GHz frequency band and the other in the 5GHz space – and channel bonding is available on both.
It also has four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the rear, and a pair of USB 2 sockets for sharing storage across your network and connecting printers.
Notably, it’s also one of the friendliest routers to administer, with the onboard web pages offering a network map with pictograms representing devices connected to the router, and a clearly laid-out, easy-to-understand user interface.
There’s a scattering of useful extras, too, including a real-time traffic monitor graph, a BitTorrent client, the option to use the router in WDS bridge mode to extend an existing wireless network, plus the ability to use the router as an access point.
The latter is a useful option for ADSL users in particular, who can use it to hook into an existing ADSL modem router to provide fast wireless performance.
Speed is one thing this diminutive router has in spades; in our tests, its results placed it at or near the top in most categories. Over 2.4GHz we measured its average speed at 14.4MB/sec, and it peaked at 18MB/sec when transmitting large files to the router at close range.
Over 5GHz at close range, it delivered a stunning average speed of 23.8MB/sec, peaking at 29.3MB/sec – among the fastest results we've seen in this test.
It put in a weaker performance over long-range, achieving an average speed of 4.6MB/sec over 2.4GHz, and a disappointing 1.4MB/sec over 5GHz, but at least it connected and transferred the files we asked it to.
And things picked up again in the NAS test. With our test hard disk drive connected to one of the Asus RT-N56U’s USB ports and our laptop hooked up via Gigabit Ethernet, we measured an average transfer rate of 7.2MB/sec. It can't match a dedicated NAS box, but it's quick for a router of its type.
With such sterling performance in all but one area, ease of use and a design that won’t stick out like a sore thumb, Asus’ RT-N56U is an excellent all-round router. But the best is yet to come. The price, at only £75, is about as reasonable as it gets for a concurrent dual-band router, and for one as fast as this it’s an absolute steal.
Author: Jonathan Bray
Looks good but....
..can you clarify what you mean by "close range" and "long range"?
By barrettj on 9 Dec 2011
They really should make a version with ADSL built in.
By james016 on 9 Dec 2011
Its not £75, though, is it?
Since it's far more likely that this router will be used in private homes than commercial premises, surely it would be more appropriate to quote the VAT inclusive price of £90?
By Noghar on 9 Dec 2011
It has been a frequently-commented-on 'foible' of PC Pro to quote prices without VAT in the body of articles, regardless of the fact that almost every other source quotes VAT-inclusive prices.
Those few businesses which work with VAT-free prices in the readership are tiny in number compared with the greater number of home users which have to pay VAT, and for whom a VAT-inclusive price would be more appropriate - as you say.
No, I have no idea why they do this - it defies reason.
By JohnGray7581 on 9 Dec 2011
VAT exclusive prices may be an historical hangover from when PCPro was aimed at the more professional end of the PC market. Over the years, unfortunately, it has moved more into the commercial / home user segment. Thankfully our wonderful government have made VAT calculations very easy.
By Pantagoon on 12 Dec 2011
I agree. I want the modem built in too. ALL women hate cabling, but I can make a case for one unit. Not two.
By Alperian on 14 Dec 2011
Wot! no modem
I could tolerate the lack of a modem if there were reasonable options for a separate unit. However searching for them on the web shows very few available. The maker of my current integrated router has dropped the modem part on their current equivalent product yet only offers a bought in modem from another supplier.
By MIssingLink on 15 Dec 2011
Bought this router primarily because of this review. I'm now sending mine back to Amazon for a refund.
There's something very broken in the router that causes certain modems to drop the WAN-side connection. As yet, no fix from Asus:
By DanJ_UK on 26 Dec 2011
Highly useful and user friendly
I too bought mine from Amazon, although in late Janaury. Had no problem setting it up, whilst still using my old Netgear DG834 router solely as a modem (it deals well with my limited stretched ADSL line, and it has a pretty useful firewall function).
The Asus paired with it's own USB-N53 dongle works fine throughout my house, varying from full 300Mbps down to around 216-243.
I did read that the Asus trains itself to acquire and setup the best possible signal reception and speed. This is borne out when moving locations, and also when using rival dual band dongles.
Occaisionally I get what seems like a traffic jam and a webpage takes ages to load, and when looking at the 'status' of the connection, I see a connection speed of just 13.5Mbps. This action though seems to prompt the router to pick itself up and full speed is very quickly regained and not lost again.
I bought the unit not just for it's looks, but it's Gigabit ethernet switch for my NAS drive. Oddly, a wi-fi network analysis tool reports the 2.4G network as 300Mbps, but the 5G network as 450 Mbps. Now if I could just get the networks working concurrently I could have a near 750Mbps wireless network!
By mduncan on 28 Feb 2012
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