Review

Asus RT-N66U “Dark Night” Dual-band Gigabit Router Review


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Asus_RT_N66U

Price: $299 (new)

Frequency bands: Dual, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz (simultaneous)

Wireless standards: IEEE 802.11 a/ b/g/n

Wireless data rate: N900 (450+450Mbps)

Ports: 4 x Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000Mbps), 1 x WAN, 2 x USB 2.0

Antenna Type: 3 x external

Processor speed: 600 MHz

Memory: 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Flash

(Full specs available here)

The Asus RT-N66U is the older brother of the previously reviewed RT-AC66U. Similarly it is a beast with the major difference being that it doesn’t support the new 802.11ac wireless standard but most older devices can’t utilise this anyway. Speed tests on the older standards come out near identical for the two with the N66U actually being faster in some cases. It is able to broadcast on both the common 2.4GHz frequency as well as the less busy 5GHz one with a maximum theoretical transfer speed of 900Mbps.

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Internet speeds are of course limited by your broadband availability and/or package, but with this router you can shuffle files around your home or office LAN ridiculously fast, and if you are lucky enough to have ‘super broadband’ access,  then that will also benefit from the RT-N66U’s super-fast connectivity.

The RT-N66U comes equipped with two USB ports, which allow you connect hard drives for use as NAS (Network Attached storage) devices, so all your family or office members can easily access and stream a shared pool of files from anywhere within range of the router. You can also attach a printer, so that it can be wirelessly shared by everyone in range

Looks

The RT-N66U has exactly the same design as the AC66U with three removable antennas which help with getting the best coverage as possible but they don’t exactly fit the style of the router itself which is a shame.

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Getting the best coverage and network speeds does depend on a number of variable and vary from person to person and location so you will have to play around with not only your antenna settings but your network settings. The default settings are however adequate enough for the normal person. The router can be mounted vertically – using the provided stand or on the wall. We would recommend using the stand as it runs a little bit hot and this helps optimise air/heat flow.

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Setup

We received our N66U from Sabai Technology and so our router came with the Sabai OS (an advanced Tomato build) which is optimised for VPN usage and their exclusive ‘Gateways’ technology allows you to have some devices using the VPN while some running normal.

Basic setup – just like with most other firmware – is straight forward and straight away we’d recommend changing the security settings. We recommend keeping the 2.4GHz and 5GHz separate as it helps reduce interference and improve speeds. Sabai Technology provides great guides for basic set-up – inc. VPN – and their support service is more than adequate for dealing with any other issues.

Sabai_Technology_Client
Note that because this is dual-and router you can effectively run to two separate networks out of the same router. This means that you will of course have to setup names and passwords for both networks.

Out of the box performance

We have a 30/3Mbps connection by default and our router is connected directly to our modem. Unsurprisingly using ether, 2.4GHz and 5GHz we were able to utilise all the of the speed provided to us by ISP.

VPN

Clearly VPN performance is a very important issue for us. Sabai Technology has an exclusive 3-step OpenVPN set-up process and is substantially easier than using DD-WRT or Stock but this does limit it to some extent with what VPN providers you can use with it. The PPTP set-up is not much different to other firmwares but we do not recommend it much as it is highly insecure. A let down is that it doesn’t allow L2TP set-up which is somewhere between OpenVPN and PPTP.

Sabai_Technology_OpenVPN_Setup

We tested the VPN performance using VyprVPN connected in the Netherlands using both the Sabai OS and the Stock firmware and as we can see from the below table the speeds (though less than the pure speed or running it on the PC) we’re substantially better for Sabai. These speeds will vary mainly on the CPU of your router so we suggest purchasing the highest speed router you can get.

 PC_OpenVPN_Speed Sabai_Technology_OpenVPN_Speed Asus_OpenVPN_Speed
 PC OpenVPN Speed  Sabai OS OpenVPN Speed Stock OpenVPN Speed

Conclusion

Although not as good as the AC66U the N66U is definitely a great cheaper contender and since the speeds do not vary much on the older standard you won’t even notice much difference if you have very few AC devices.  Using Sabai OS on it is definitely a great plus on the VPN speed front and we will shortly be doing a full in-depth comparison of the main router firmwares to see how it fairs against DD-WRT or a pure Tomato build.

Some material obtained from Douglas Crawford – writer at BestVPN.com


Peter Selmeczy I am an engineer by trade and tech geek by night, who's passionate about sharing his knowledge with the people. Find me on Google+.

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4 responses to “Asus RT-N66U “Dark Night” Dual-band Gigabit Router Review

  1. Hi Peter,

    thanks for the review. I’m still trying different settings, because OpenVPNs CPU usage is quite high on the RT-N66U and measly 12-14 MBit/s over a 100MBit/s connection is … meh.

    Here’s a quote from http://security.stackexchange.com/questions/35471/is-there-any-particular-reason-to-use-diffie-hellman-over-rsa-for-key-exchange/35521#35521

    “[…] choosing “DHE_RSA” instead of “RSA” kind-of doubles the CPU bill […]”

    I’m currently using Merlin, a stock-ish firmware which provides OpenVPN 2.3.4. By default it uses the following settings when connecting to another OpenVPN 2.3.4 server:
    cipher: Data Channel Encrypt: Cipher ‘BF-CBC’ initialized with 128 bit key
    tls-cipher: Control Channel: TLSv1, cipher TLSv1/SSLv3 DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA, 2048 bit RSA
    auth digest: Data Channel Decrypt: Using 160 bit message hash ‘SHA1’ for HMAC authentication

    Switching the tls-cipher from RSA-AES256-SHA to TLSv1, cipher TLSv1/SSLv3 AES256-SHA, 2048 bit RSA yielded no performance gain. Changing the auth digest from SHA1 to SHA512 decreased the throughput to 9-10 MBit/s (no-brainer).

    Do you recall which ciphers/tls-ciphers and auth digests have been used during your tests? I’m curious whether the difference in speed Sabai vs Stock comes from different ciphers and/or auth settings.

    Thanks and best regards
    Mo

    1. Ho Mo
      The upside of Sabai is that you don’t need to mess with any settings and it does it itself so I’m not sure what those settings were. The import on stock works similarly to Sabai so not sure.
      I did a comparison of different firmwares here and Tomato/ Sabai pretty much topped it. When I get the time I’ll have an in depth look at the link you’ve sent and see if I can achieve better speeds.
      Peter

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