Although it is now getting a little long in the tooth, the Asus RT-AC56U is very reasonably priced, yet has enough processing oomph to handle VPN connections without slowing them down. It therefore makes an ideal “budget” VPN router. And when the router is flashed with DD-WRT, the Asus RT-AC56U becomes a very flexible and fully-featured router.
The Asus RT-AC56U is exceptionally similar to the previously reviewed RT-AC66U. While by name it may seem to be the “worse” of the two, it may surprise many readers that it compares a lot better in some aspects. The downside is that the AC66U allows for a larger wireless data rate – which shouldn’t make too much of a difference if you’re home isn’t filled with an excessive number of devices. On the upside, it has a much more powerful processor that not only helps increase transfer speeds but also allows more simultaneous processes. This means that if you’re looking for a fast and affordable home router, this could be your solution.
Internet speeds are, of course, limited by your broadband availability and package, but with this router you can shuffle files around your home or office LAN ridiculously fast. If you are lucky enough to have ‘super broadband’ access, then that will also benefit from the RT-AC56U’s super-fast connectivity and processor
The RT-AC56U comes equipped with two USB ports, which allow you connect hard drives and printers for family and friends to access. Unlike most other routers, one of these is a USB 3.0 port, which allows for even faster transfer speeds, should your device support this.
Without any external antennas, the Asus AC56U looks super slim and sleek. The connection ports are found on the back which allows for clear and easy cable management. Unfortunately for some, it doesn’t come with any mounting holes and, therefore, the only way to mount it is to have it sitting on a table.
The lack of external antennas does make it look nicer, but it does mean that you can’t adjust them to obtain a better coverage and transfer speeds. If you do wish to improve either of these factors, you can do so through the firmware and both BlackVPN and the DD-WRT forums can help you out with this.
We received our AC56U from BlackVPN and, therefore, it was installed with a modified DD-WRT firmware, which is optimized for VPN performance and usability.
The basic setup is simplified compared to other firmware. Once you log in to your account, you’re immediately greeted by your VPN and WiFi settings. Should you want to, from there you can navigate to the standard DD-WRT control panel. This will allow you to change every other setting from FTP, UPnP, NAS to almost everything else.
Note that because this is a dual-band router you can effectively run to two separate networks out of the same router (not to mention some guest networks). This means that you will, of course, have to set up names and passwords for all 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 Ethernet, 2.4GHz and 5GHz we were able to utilize all the of the speed provided to us by ISP.
Understandably VPN performance is a crucial issue for us. With BlackVPN, you are connected to the VPN out of the box, and everything is automatically set up for you. One of the downsides of DD-WRT, which BlackVPN has overcome is that if you choose to change your VPN location you won’t need to restart the router.
By default BlackVPN run an OpenVPN client on the router with a 256bit AES encryption – this is what we recommend and extremely commendable. They also allow you to switch quickly between UDP and TCP (both on port 443) should you need to due to your ISP or some other reason.
We tested the performance when connected to different locations. As expected the speeds were incredibly similar to what we achieved when using BlackVPN on our computer, as per stated in our review of their service. We also flashed the router with the standard AsusWRT firmware and found that VPN speeds were slower in this case.
On the whole, the Asus RT-AC56U is an extremely well-rounded router for home use. While it provides less coverage than newer models, it does so with the promise of increased speeds. Not only this, but it’s one of the most affordable routers that also support the new AC WiFi standard so that your newer devices will have a better connection.
Coupled with the BlackVPN and DD-WRT firmware we believe the AC56U to be a great home use router. If you’re interested in finding it more, or purchasing it today, then head over to the BlackVPN website.