ASUS RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R

August 2014 The Best 802.11AC Router – RT-AC87U & RT-AC87R

If you are looking for the proverbial “best” high performance wireless router on the market look no further than the ASUS RT-AC87U or AC87R. With that noted wireless is a complex technology and requires many points of consideration including environment, connected devices and usage. In addition there is no “one fits all” solution. With that noted when considering real world performance and features and functionality more often that not the 87U will be at the top of the list when it comes to what you can experience with a high performance router. The new RT-AC87U has risen to the titles of best range, fastest throughput and best storage performance of any current 802.11AC consumer router. It features many first to including the first 4×4 ( 4 stream ) and MU-MIMO ready 802.11AC router. The AC87U and the AC87R routers are identical when it comes to their hardware and design, the difference in their naming comes in where they can be purchased ( the 87R being a BestBuy specific sku ) and the 87U being available at all other retailers an etailers. This new ultra high performance router is truly impressive in respect to its features and functionality as well as was its performance. In addition to a number of advanced hardware designs and advanced specification support the 87U includes a wide range of new features within its award winning ASUS WRT firmware some of these include dual WAN support, more extensive VPN functionality, new parental controls, new advanced security mechanisms powered by TrendMicro. Possibly the most exciting is an entirely new robust intelligent adaptive upstream and downstream QoS. While these features alone could justify a new router these additions are just some of what this new router is packing in regards to its newly improved firmware. As we move through this overview we will cover many of these new features in more detail as well as improvements to other aspects of the firmware including new UI updates and further improvements to the streaming, syncing and sharing functionality offered by the exclusive AiCloud. With the intro out of the way lets jump into more about what makes this router so special and perform and function the way it does.

 

A closer look at the 87U as well as features and specifications :

The 87U features a number of key specifications including the distinction of being the first “wave 2.0″ 802.11AC wireless router. I have detailed some of the most important features and specifications to provide a sense of what the unit brings to the table relative to other wireless routers currently on the market.

  • Ultra-fast Wi-Fi router with a combined dual-band data rate of 2334 Mbps and world’s fastest 5G at 1743 Mbps  ideal for multiple high bit rate video streams as well as local playback of HD or UHD video files,  large file transfers or system backups as well as low-latency online gaming.
  • World’s first 4-antenna, 4-stream design with AiRadar & universal beamforming offering the potential for expansive wireless signal coverage up to or greater than 5,000 square feet (over 465 square meters). Additionally featuring implicit and explicit beamforming ( universal beamforming ) for superior client reception and throughput and environmental response.
  • 2X dual-core CPU with dedicated 5G Wi-Fi processor and unique hardware structure for robust multitasking performance, superior stability and the best WiFi performance for 5GHz 802.11AC as well as simultaneous utilization of 802.11AC with USB 3.0.
  • 256MB DDR and 128MB DDR onboard memory enables roubust performance dedicated memory for each chipset.
  • Built-in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports with high power output design enabling robust connected device flexibility including USB attached storage streaming, syncing or sharing of files via AiCloud, FTP connections and locally connected PCs. Additional support for printers and multi function devices as well as support for ISP connectivity with support for 3G/4G devices. High power output ensures superior compatibility and performance with the widest range of bus powered storage devices.
  • ASUSWRT firmware with advanced graphical user interface for easy, CD-free / sofware-free 30-second setup whether it be on a desktop, notebook, smartphone or tablet. Additionally featuring robust network monitoring, management and control. A class leading firmware offering the most feature complete functionality of any high end performance router including parental controls, VPN, FTP, QoS, wireless parameter adjustment, iTunes media server support, media server interoperability with CE devices, dual WAN, WAN to LAN reassignment for 5 LAN ports, Guest Wi-Fi ( guest SSID ) and much more.
  • Advanced router security and protection with AiProtection with Trend Micro helps to assess and secure your router and minimize exploits, intrusions and other malicious attacks. Additionally it can assist in malware protection and prevention.
  • Newly design advanced Adaptive QoS identifies and categorizes home network traffic to intelligently allocate the optimum bandwidth for each application or  connected device. Based on advanced deep packet inspection  adaptive QoS offers robust optimization with easy management. Additionally it can co operate with NAT acceleration and enables per client prioritization and monitoring.
  • Updated ASUS AiCloud 2.0 to locally connected PCs and attached storage devices to access, sync, share and stream your files from home anywhere you have an internet-connected device. You can even remotely wake up locally connected PCs.
  • Two Stagae Hardware acceleration design “Hardware NAT” offers superior performance and routing throughput.

 

For Those of you interested in checking out an in depth video overview check out the video below.

 

 

Visual overview and connectivity :

RT-AC87U & RT-AC87R Visual overview and connectivity 1

RT-AC87U & RT-AC87R Visual overview and connectivity 2

Visually the 87U is a departure from the previous 68U and a return to the flatter and more angled profile of the AC66U. It incorporates new angles and lines though that offer it a clean but aggressive feel along with a element of premium design highlighted by the lattice finish used on the left and right sides of the unit.

RT-AC87U 1   RT-AC87U 2   RT-AC87U 3   RT-AC87U 4

The 87U has all the key connections one would expect from an enthusiast wireless router. Locally connectivity includes four ( 4 ) Gigabit LAN ports with support for a 5th LAN port via WAN to LAN reassignment available within the firmware. This is a great option for users who will utilize the 87U as an access point as opposed to it default operating mode as a wireless router. In addition the LAN ports supporting teaming functionality enabling the ability to offer higher throughput. Additionally the 87U is primed for multi ISP connectivity or for users who are looking for fail over support, Users can enable dual WAN functionality by reassigning any of the LAN ports to serve as a secondary WAN port. Going along with the robust LAN connectivity you have two USB ports. One port is located in the back and is USB 2.0 based. This connection is great for connection to a multi function printer or printer as well as USB attached storage. The firmware additionally supports connection of 3G & 4G enabled devices. Moving to the front the unit it offers a protected USB 3.0 port. This ports offers truly impressive performance especially under concurrent usage ( when Wi-Fi and USB ) are being utilized at the same time. Due to a dual dual core design and specialized topology the Quantenna 802.11AC 5GHz chipset can work essentially unaffected by the Broadcom 2.4GHz & USB chipset. This enabling outstanding storage performance who are looking for entry level NAS functionality as well as entry level NAS performance out of a router. Rounding out the back you have the remaining connections you would expect including a WPS button, power button, and a recessed reset button. For users who are interested in the DIY approach of potentially improving range and throughput through antenna replacement they will be happy to see the continued use of fully flexible and replaceable antennas.

Moving to the front of the unit there are number of easy to use elements including a quick on and off LED button as well as a Wi-Fi on and off button. In regards to the LEDs they are a soft blue and are present for all keys connections including internet ( WAN ), LAN ( all for ports ), USB, 5GHz and 2.4GHz and power.

What does 4×4 ( 4 stream ) and universal beamforming mean? How does it help me?

When looking at the the 87U one of the  most distinctive elements you immediately see if the utilization of 4 antennas. This is due to the wireless chipset offering true 4 antenna utilization ( 4 stream design ). This is different than other high end routers on the market which may similarly offer 4 antennas but cannot utilize them all at one time. The 87U can fully utilize these antenna by pairing with another 87U in bridge mode or connect to the upcoming EA-87 client adapter, access point, media bridge or repeater. The more important question though is can additional improvement be had in range and throughput with non 4×4 clients such as more entry level products that have 1 stream or 2 stream designs like basic 802.11AC USB adapters or the Wi-Fi in many smartphones, tablets and notebooks? They answer is yes it can. How is that? Two words, reception sensitivity. With the 4×4 design there is an improvement to reception sensitivity and this helps effective range and throughput for all 802.11AC clients including the most common 1×1 or 2×2 or mixed configurations adapters, clients or devices. I had overall improved throughput and performance with adapters like our USB-AC51, USB-AC53 and USB-AC56 as well as others compared to high performance 3×3 ( 3 stream ) wireless routers like the AC66U and AC68U. The great thing about this is users who are utitlizing the highest end performing 3×3 devices like our PCE-AC68 can still realize improvements as well being ready for the with with support for 4×4 client adapters when they become available.

In addition one of the biggest features of the 87U is support for MU-MIMO an advanced technology that can improve signal reception and range and effective throughput. This functionality is hardware ready but not yet enable within the firmware but will be enabled via a update at a later date. The great news is companies have already communicated design and development support for MU-MIMO devices coming as early as late Q4 of this year continuing into early 2015. For those of you who are early adopters of smartphones, tablets and notebooks this means your performance is only going to get better!

For reference I am including a chart for those of you to see what the differences are in peak speeds offered by different stream ( antenna configurations ). Keep in mind these are theoretical numbers and in the real world you have to factor aspects that affect these numbers including environment, overhead, number of connected devices, mixed Wi-Fi connectivity and many other factors that reduce these numbers. With that noted We have achieved real world throughput at ranges from 10FT to 25FT between 600 to 900mbps+. These are some truly impressive numbers considering not to long ago the best wireless was offering throughput speeds between 100 to possibly 200Mbps. What this ultimately means is the throughput ( speed ) is there for heavy real world usage whether it be streaming, syncing, sharing, downloading, uploading gaming or even backing up.

802.11AC Wireless Throughput

Boasting a true 4×4 antenna design, RT-AC87U gives you up to 5,000sq ft of wireless coverage¹ that’s 33% further than the latest generation tri-band routers¹, making it your ideal choice for large homes and multi-floor buildings. Thanks to AiRadar beamforming and unique multi user-MIMO technology, the more devices you use the more the throughput increases². While MU-MIMO is not yet enabled and the devices are not yet here the support for inherent implicit and explicit beamforming helps to ensure 802.11AC client adapters like the PCE-AC68 and the USB-AC56 which both support beam forming get the best performance and range possible.

RT-AC87U is the 1st router to support multi-user MIMO technology for up to 2 times greater performance than single-user MIMO when streaming or transferring data in multi-device environments. While single-user MIMO routers communicate with one client at a time, multi-user MIMO router communicates with 2 MU-MIMO enabled clients simultaneously to better utilize the router’s capacity and reduce the client’s waiting time.

SU-MIMO compared to MU-MIMO

* taken from Quantenna design implementation information. Beamforming is an important companion to 4×4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology for Wi-Fi wireless networking. When it is included, it enables dramatic improvement in Wi-Fi 802.11ac/n performance, reliability, range and coverage. Beamforming is a signal processing technique used to control the directionality of the transmission and reception of radio signals. The most effective type of beamforming is dynamic digital beamforming. This type of beamforming uses an advanced, on-chip digital signal processing (DSP) algorithm to gain complete control over Wi-Fi signals. By creating several independent signal paths to optimally focus radio energy to and from client devices on a per-packet basis, performance is dramatically improved. In the case of a two-stream configuration, this makes it possible to steer the energy of the antenna array in the independent spatial directions associated with both data streams, while simultaneously avoiding interference.

Overall you can see the 87U incorporates a slew of advanced Wi-Fi technology to ensure you have outstanding range, throughput and ultimately a great “connected” experience. The 87U does not stop there and feature some of the most specialized enthusiast class designs to help to ensure its performance and functionality across a wide range of aspects is class leading even when compared to other high performance 802.11AC routers. In addition for power users out there who like to tweak and tune there routers the ASUS WRT firmware offers a professional section off many tuning parameters for enthusiasts.

More than meets the eye, advanced hardware designs enable the best performance & experience :

 

2X Dual core design with offload implementation

Looking at the 87U it may look like there is not alot going on internally especially when compared to the visual complexity of motherboard. That would not be true though, below the clean stylized exterior lies some seriously impressive hardware as well as some impressive design implementations. So why are we going into this? Mainly because spec does not always define experience and usability. ASUS worked extensively on the hardware topology of the 87U to ensure outstanding performance in a number of ways. So lets take a closer look at the layout of the 87U to see how advanced design thinking enables the great real world performance.

87U Layout Block Diagram

As you can see in the block diagram there are two separate chipsets with their own associated memory one for the 5GHz 802.11AC ( Quanntenna ) and another for the 2.4GHz and USB ( Broadcom ). What this means essentially is that the RT-AC87U uses a dedicated dual-core CPU to handle complicated 802.11ac 4×4 algorithm and tasks. Due to the specialized linking mechanism and its hardware structure this design reduces the CPU utilization rate to a very low level and ensures almost 1 GHz dual-core computing power for other applications. The result is improve wireless throughput and robust multitasking performance especially when Wi-Fi and USB 3.0 are being simultaneously used. This affects users by creating superior storage performance as well as having additional processing power for other newly enabled advanced functions for monitoring and packet analysis and optimization.

For those that did not know what they were looking at in the block diagram a simplified version is shown below.

Simplified Dual Dual Core Design Implementation RT-87U

 

 

Gigabit LAN with hardware NAT

The RT-AC87U comes with 5 gigabit Ethernet ports for up to 1000 Mbps of throughput for each port. More importantly many enthusiasts will be excited about the inclusion of a hardware NAT that intelligently analyzes and optimizes traffic based on its type so whether you’re playing an online game, browsing the web or having a video call, you’re getting the best performance for your task at hand.

RT-87U Hardware NAT

 

 

Going a bit deeper in the NAT implementation on the 87U, it features two levels of acceleration. These can be managed within the ASUS WRT firmware. They are under the option of NAT Acceleration and reffered two as level 1 CTF or level 2 CTF. So what does these options mean or do?

CTF(Cut Through Forwarding) is software optimization technique to accelerate NAT.

FA(Flow Accelerator) is a hardware NAT acceleration mechanism design for accelerating wired  DHCP and Static IP connections.

Level 1 CTF = CTF

Level 2 CTF = FA + CTF

Another improvement and exciting aspect of the 87U design and firmware is that it allows the utilization of a new advanced QoS implementation to be used in conjunction with CTF. Historically this has not been the case requiring users to compromise on QoS or NAT acceleration. Now users can benefit from both.

Conditional implementation details for NAT acceleration are noted below.

Enabling of Adaptive QoS will disable FA.

Enabling of traditional QoS will disable both FA+CTF.

This advanced hardware design along with ASUS RF tuning and optimized topology and specialization design implementation help to ensure outstanding simultaneous connection performance. Of course this need to be validated. Below is some detailing on the testing process.

Simultaneous connection test

Advanced USB power design offers superior compatibility and functionality :

Many users may think that all specification implementations ensure a consistent experience but this is definitely not the case. Specification implementation like USB can be affected by topology and layout both negatively as well as positively. ASUS took considerable time in the specification implementation of USB to ensure optimal performance as well as usability in addition took care in routing to minimize RF interference. Moving beyond that how can a spec vary between devices featuring the same specification?  Some USB devices require more power than standard design implementations allow for. These devices may require a Y-cable to connect to two USB ports at the same time. For the best USB HDD compatibility, the RT-AC87U USB ports were designed to provide more power than the USB standard. This helps to ensure that both USB ports can be used as you would expect compared to some competitors solutions where both ports need to be utilized to power a single USB storage device or may not even correctly initialize the devices regardless as not all devices support Y-cables. Below you can see ASUS incorporates considerbly higher power output ratings to help ensure the best device initialization and overall compatibility.

87U USB Power Design

Superior range, throughput and storage performance with a power efficient design :

The 87U from its design onset was purpose built for performance normally the highest performing devices tend to consume the most power. This is not the case with the 87U. Through extensive design effort class leading performance was able to be achieved while also maintaining class leading power efficiency.

If you currently evaluate other high end 802.11AC routers you will see their power consumption and power adapters are larger and higher than the 87U.

87U Power consumption

 

 

Thermal design considerations and ensuring reliable operation :

One critical part of the design of wireless routers is their thermal performance and reliability. A wireless router is a fixture in your home. It is always on and expected to enable the connectivity for so many devices that enable the experiences you have each and every day. Whether it be streaming music or movies, playing games or downloading all of this and more is enabled by your router working day in and day out. ASUS takes this very seriously and in the course of the 87U design and development the design team went through extensive steps to ensure solid thermal performance through careful design implementation as well as extensive validation. Why is this important? Because with ever increasing complexity and speed of the internal components in a router thermals can not only lead to instability but lead to failure. Analysis is done with a focus on real world connections and utilization. Four computers are connected to the router, two are connected by LAN and the others are connected by Wi-Fi one for 2.4GHz and the other for 5GHz. Only if the unit passes operation under this load is it cleared. During this we also carefully evaluate thermal performance of the router. This is to ensure the thermal solution put in place works as intended.

The 87U actually features three independent heatsinks for core processing portions of the 87U. These heatsinks help to ensure stability under heavy load.

87U Heatsink implementation

 

Over 14 points are measured and tracked via thermosistors and thermographic imagery. This also with careful evaluation of different thermal dissipation implementations are measured and compared to find solutions that meet the demands of consistent long term usage and ensure effective thermal dissipation. This is done at multiple stages through multiple design revisions to the housing and layout topology. Once the units meets final design implementations and features final topology, component utilization and final ID ( the housing ) the unit is further re evaluated to ensure its thermal operating performance and reliability.

Thermal monitoring 1      Thermal monitoring 2

 

Interoperability and compatibility does it work with my device or adapter?

This is a big part of the time that goes into validation of a routers functionality and performance. It is also an aspect that does not generally get discussed as many reviewers based on expediency and bandwidth have limited opportunity to test different client adapters and devices. Of course in the real world we expect if a device is equipped with Wi-Fi then it should work with the router. In theory this is should be the outcome but in reality there are a number of factors that cause this to not be the reality of what occurs between Wi-Fi enabled devices and the routers they connect to. In this respect interoperability and compatibility has to be treated as an ongoing process that continually improves and considers the wide range of devices that are are utilized or can be utilized. Of course it is extremely important for a device to have launch ready compatibility and interoprability to ensure a wide range of users will have a positive experience in regards to connectivity and its associated performance. With that noted new devices along with current devices as well as the sheer number of different devices along with different wireless controllers / chispets makes this a difficult task to manage. With the introduction of a entirely new chipset it is even more challenging as it may not have the experience and fine tuning present that an older or revised wireless chipset has. In this respect ASUS worked extensively with Quantenna on what is refereed to as IOT connectivity and compatibility to ensure a wide range of devices had been checked to ensure great performance and overall a great connected experience. At the same time the ASUS team was able to leverage its FT tuning experience and optimizations for 2.4GHz from its implementation in previous routers like our 68U which utilizes the same chipset. Bring this all together and you can begin to see the level of work put into this aspect of design and development and validation.

In total over 20 different types of client devices and adapters were tested ranging from solutions based on 802.11AC chipsets from Broadcom, Realtek, Mediatek, Intel, Qualcomm and others. For users that also are looking for a great out of box experience consider ASUS’s own line of wireless adapters both USB based and PCIe based. These include the USB-Ac51, USB-AC53, USB-AC56, PCE-AC56 and PCE-AC68. All have been tested with the 87U and offer great range, throughput and performance. I was most impressed by entry solutions like USB-AC51 and 2×2 based solutions like the BCM internal Wi-Fi in many notebooks as well as our own USB-AC56 and the Intel 7260. Even at moderate distance and in noisy environments throughput and was very good and clearly improved compared to the 68U.

The heart of a router’s features, functionality and overall usability is firmware, ASUS WRT :

Many enthusiasts looking at a router can get stuck on some of the specifications of a wireless router whether it be the proposed wireless speed or  if it has USB 3.0 or whether it has external and replaceable antennas. All of these are important but are ultimately only part of the equation needed to produce a great connected experience. In addition the functionality associated with those specifications or connections are determined by not just the hardware but softwore or more specifically firmware. In this respect and much more firmware is the crux of a wireless router overall feature set, functionality , compatibility and performance and more. ASUS has for multiple generations now been continually refining and improving its firmware with the end goal of  meeting the minimum requirement of a useble and functional product that offers great interoperability and performance but also meets the needs and wants of progressing networking enthusiasts. Going back to the RT-N16 ASUS has been continually evaluating the features and functions users once previously adopted open sourced firmware which had robust features and functions but had no validation or specific tuning to the router it was installed on. With this in mind ASUS set out to incorporate the feedback of the users and the community and produce a firmware with close to equal advanced functionality and some ways superior functionality while offering superior ease of use and of course maintaining validation and per model optimizations. Flash forward to today and the N16 has actually still received firmware updates since its release in 2009 and many features and functions have come with those updates. 

We are not here to read about the N16 so enough about it, we are here to discuss the 87U. The 87U brings with it a slew of new ASUS WRT features many of which were specifically incorporated based community feedback. It woud be hard to cover the sheer range of functions offered in the firmware so we are going to mostly cover key features as well as popular features or functions that are present and have been improved upon or are wholly new.

CD free & software free wired or wireless setup

  • ASUS’s award winning QIS ( quick internet setup ) is maintained from previous versions allowing you to get up in running in as little as 30 seconds. New additions include password strength analysis and verification. These help to ensure you optimally secure your router. As always whether you are on a smartphone, tablet, notebook or desktop or any web enabled device all you need is a browser and physical wired connection to the router or connection to the wireless setup signal to get up and running.

New network map, networking homepage

  • The primary homepage for the router has been updated with more information to allow for quicker access and detailing to information information about your network and connected devices. Additionally aspects of customization have also been included.
  • Some of the new aspects are CPU utilization display and monitoring, RAM utilization display and monitoring as well as labeling for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. Per connected client connection details including signal strength for wireless devices. For each device you can even defines its display icon and name making it easier for you to know what devices are connected. All devices are easily broken up as well under a general online status as well as more specific wired and wireless connections.

Dynamic network traffic monitoring, management and quality of service ( QoS )

  • Entirely new QoS ( quality of service ) implementation that still allows for NAT acceleration.  This new QoS is based on deep packet inspection and allows for easy prioritization of networking based on content type whether it be multimedia streaming ( music and movies ), web browsing, gaming, file sharing and more. Traditional QoS with advanced manual configuration is still offered allowing users of all types options best suited to their usage models and environments.
  • Rich network traffic analysis with integrated traffic monitoring for wired and wireless connections. For more advanced monitoring enabling of adaptive QoS enables application analysis offers per client monitoring of bandwidth and per client application bandwidth utilization. For administrators or parents looking for all the details on how the internet is being used set of tools.
  • Per client web history monitoring helping you to what sites are being visited on the network

Advanced router security with AiProtection featuring Trend Micro for network security and assessment and exploit resolution

  • Router exploit analysis, with the click of a button check for common exploits and vulnerabilities  as well as low strength parameters and resolve them or make recommendations
  • Integrated white list and black list malicious web site blocking, helps to easily ensure security and minimize infection or intrusion by blocking sites that can compromise your system. These includes sites know to have spyware, ransom ware, phishing, and spam content. These sites are updated automatically based on Trend Micro’s ongoing web site security analysis.
  • Infected device prevention with blocking support of controlling services that can remotely control your system, infected and access information. Infected device protection and blocking will automatically check connected devices destination URL or IP address and compare it to Trend Micros know C&C malicious server database.
  • End user email notification. You are notified if a suspicious, malicious or known C&C attack attempts to make connect to its corresponding server.

Rich parental controls offering content, keyword and site filtering and blocking. Limit time or device connectivity as well

  • Parents or administrators can access easy to control content filtering on the router. The integrated easy to enable content filtering groups make it much easier to control web browsing compared to specific site restriction. Content categories include, Adult, IM and communication, P2P and file transfer as well as streaming and entertainment. Categories are are based on Trend Micro’s website reputation system ( WRS ) cloud database and application signature database.
  • For parents or administrators looking to limit the time or system that can connect to the internet ASUS WRT firmware offers the ability to limit connectivity based on the client as well as based on time. Time parameters can be based on 12 or 24 hour intervals as well as day of the week granularity.

Advanced LAN and WAN reassigment with support for dual WAN and 5th LAN port

  • Users can easily configure their router based on their needs and environment. Should you need fail over support or load balancing you can enable a secondary WAN port by reassignment any of the 4 LAN ports to WAN functionality. The secondary WAN be be setup for DHCP, PPPoE, Static IP, PPTP, L2TP or 3G/4G USB enabled device.
  • For users who utilize the router in an access point fashion they can easily reconfigure the WAN port and reassign its function as a LAN port instead.
  • Users looking to maximize media bridge mode performance can enable teaming functionality allowing for greater than gigabit throughput.

iOS and OSX support with support for Facetime and Time Machine

  • iOS users and OSX users can equally benefit form portions of the ASUS WRT firmware by easily enabling Time Machine support.

Rich VPN functionality with VPN server and client support

  • ASUS continues its support of rich VPN functionality by expanding its VPN support to include PPTP VPN servers as well as Open VPN server as well as PPTP, L2TP and Open VPN clients. For security enthusiasts, media streaming tweakers and tuners as well as global travelers and road warriors this level of flexibility when it comes to VPN is appreciated.

AiCloud 2.0 for easy streaming, syncing and sharing of connected devices and locally connected PCs

  • Advanced integrated media and file sharing functionality is built into the router allowing users with web enabled devices and devices supporting the AiCloud app to stream, sync and sharing files from USB attached storage.
  • With AiCloud users can even access files from locally connected PCs on your local area network. Advanced control even allows you to wake systems from sleep or hibernation. No need to be dependent on syncing your files to cloud based services.
  • For users with two ASUS routers one in your home and another a friends or business location you can enable router to router file syncing.
  • Newly designed AiCloud app allows for easy visual navigation and access as well as playback of your digital files they be music or movies, videos or general files.

PC free file downloading with download master

  • Users can easily download files without the need to leave their systems on whether it be HTTP or FTP or P2P easily set your router to download your files to USB attached storage and then access the content on any connected PC or client.

Guest wireless network ( Guest SSID )

  • Households and business needing the flexibility to have multiple SSIDs ( wireless networks ) can easily enable up to three guest SSIDs per band.

Overall you can begin to see the level of rich features and functionality offered in the ASUS WRT firmware. More is planned and is being worked on for future implementation via easy to apply firmware updates which can be automatically checked within the routers firmware update portion. No other consumer router offers the wide range of usability and functionality offers by the 87U and its firmware which as noted will continue to be improved upon.

Multiple operating modes

  • ASUS WRT firmware allows user to easily enable three different operating modes, these includes wireless router, media bridge and access point.

A quick look at performance and conclusion :

So we have talked a lot about design, features, functionality as well as general performance and much more so what about numbers? We will be working on a separate article that goes a bit more into performance but to provide some visibility on the performance you can expect we have included some impressive results from 3×3, 2×2 and 1×1 based adapters offering you a perspective of performance across a range of 802.11AC enabled devices and respect speed class. Overall you can see the 87U steps up to offers some impressive numbers. Keep in mind these numbers are in a real world environment at the distance of approx 20 feet and with over 25+ wireless access points as well as an complex office environment with many RF transmitting based devices.

So wrapping things up is the 87U worth it? That is an easy yes if you are looking for a router that creates a truly expansive and wide level of coverage, offers considerably faster than 10/100 Ethernet speeds and gives you the most robust storage functionality. If you are pretty much looking for a wireless router with the best range, throughput and simultaneous storage performance and much more this is the unit for you. What about users that are already on the 802.11AC bandwagon? Users that already have great range and great throughput? This is a great question, if you have made the investment in a high performance router like the AC66U or AC68U or mid range wireless router like the AC56U. The biggest areas of improvement will be in storage performance and throughput. For users who are currently challenged by range especially with units like the 66U or 68U while improvements can be had you may want to look more closely at optimizing your environment and considering fine tuning parameters whether they be channel optimization, placement or incorporating repeaters or even replacing antennas or possibly a combination of all of these. Wi-Fi is a complex technology that has many affectors to its range and throughput but for many this router will offer the best experience of any wireless router when it comes to network connectivity, functionality and performance not to mention the experiences possible enabled  by the WRT firmware. This is especially true if you are coming from a non ASUS router.

Lastly for those of you wondering about how it fairs in the landscape of tri band enabled routers ASUS’s focus is currently to produce the widest range of wireless routers for the wide range of needs and environments that require a wireless router. This aligns with the truth that no one router works or will benefit every environment as such different devices are needed for different usage models and environments. Products like the upcoming AC3200 may potentially be a better fit for heavy mixed mode environments but will not offer superior throughput or storage performance or the same maximum range compared to that of the 87U. The unit of course though is still under design and development and as we get closer to the formal release more information will be provided. As always stay tuned for more information soon and feel free to leave questions, comments or concerns. We will updating the article over the next few weeks as few we have some time to include some additional points and respond to any questions. Additionally we will expand and detail common FAQs as well as always in the FAQ portion of the overview.

 

FAQ for RT-87U and 87R

1. When will it be available?

Availability for the 87R is currently active. You can purchase directly from BestBuy in store or online.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/asus-extreme-wireless-ac2400-dual-band-gigabit-router/7230042.p?id=1219258061855&skuId=7230042

2. Is there a difference between the 87U and the 87R?

Bboth units are hardware identical and feature the same specifications, features and functionality the only difference is product availability based on retailer which is defined by the name of the router

3. Is the 87U faster and better than the 68U?

The RT-AC68U is a extremely high performance 802.11AC 3 stream router. While it offers impressive range, throughput and storage performance overall the 87U offers considerable improvements compared to the 87U in all aspects. The only exception is 2.4GHz throughput which is roughly the same. Due to a more advanced hardware design under concurrent loads the 87U can offer improved performance even under 2.4GHz connectivity. Users that are looking for a considerable range improvement should additionally consider other options outside of replacement of the 68U with the 87U. Depending on client device and environment it may be better to consider the use of a repeater to maximize range, signal stability and overall connected throughput.

4. What about the AC3200 is it better and faster than the 87U?

The AC3200 is still under design and development. As such immediate comparisons cannot be immediately provided. With this noted the overall design and differences in chipset specifications will not allow the AC3200 to offer superior throughput or storage performance. Additionally overall range should be superior on the 87U as well. As a whole the benefit first and foremost for the AC3200 will be heavy mixed mode Wi-Fi environments that also have varying standards ( both 802.11N and 802.11AC.

5. What about MU-MIMO? Is it enabled?

At this time MU-MIMO is hardware ready but has not yet been enabled via the firmware. It is still under firmware and chipset interoperability, compatibility and performance validation. Once this is complete the firmware will be released via ASUS support site ( support.asus.com ) as well as via the auto update mechanism in the ASUS WRT firmware. The firmware release should also align with initial MU-MIMO ready devices.

6. Is the firmware ready?

Yes the firmware is ready and useble and offers out of the box great performance and compatibility. Core features and functionality are working. With this noted the 87U features many entirely new features which are under continue refinement and revision for not only better performance but better usability. Primary areas still being improved focus on noisy environment optimization as well as QoS functionality and GUI elements. Lastly we are working on further enhancing USB performance even further by incorporating Broadcoms updated SDK. This along with additional features and functionality improvements will continue to be incorporated as new firmware is released. Overall users are advised to ensure they use the auto updating portion of the router during quick internet setup or download the latest firmware from the ASUS support site.

support.asus.com

7. What about USB performance has it been fixed?

As has designed the 87U for outstanding USB 3.0 performance. It designs as detailed in the overview allows for the best simultaneous WiFi and USB performance. It is important to understand ASUS currently is the only vendor who has enable advanced options within the WRT firmware to prioritize 2.4GHz range and throughput as opposed to USB 3.0 performance. This is down via an option within the ASUS WRT firmware. By default as most users prefer to have superior range and throughput for connected devices and 2.4GHz is a commonly used Wi-Fi standard USB 3.0 performance is not optimized. For users who prioritize USB 3.0 performance or are generally only using 5GHz enabled devices you can change this setting with little to no impact to your usage. If this setting is left in default position USB 3.0 performance is considerably reduced as noted to maximize 2.4Hz range and throughput. Due to this design implementation and firmware setting some users have incorrectly assumed or stated the USB 3.0 specification on USB 3.0 enabled routers has an issue.

For more information reference the whitepaper linked below.

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/io/universal-serial-bus/usb3-frequency-interference-paper.html

8. I have more 802.11N based devices? Should I still get this router?

Depending on your current router you may still see considerably improved range, throughput and overall performance with N devices compared to your current router. With that noted overall the best improvements will come from 802.11AC connected clients ( whether they be 1×1, 2×2 or 3×3 ). Additionally 802.11AC routers are first and foremost tuned for optimal performance, compatibility with AC based clients as such a dedicated 802.11N router may potentially yield equal or superior client compatibility. ASUS is working extensively to ensure very strong 802.11N compatibility and interoperability.

9. What adapters do you recommend be paired with 87U?

In our testing entry level clients adapters such as the USB-AC51 have shown impressive range and throughput for an entry solution. For users focusing on best range, throughput and performance recommendations are Intel 7260 mini PCIe as well as the USB-AC56 which supports TurboQAM and beamforming. In addition for desktop users the USB-AC56, Intel 7260 desktop adapter as well as the ASUS PCE-AC56 and AC68 have shown to have exceptional range and throughput while also supporting beam forming and TurboQAM.

 

44 Responses to "August 2014 The Best 802.11AC Router – RT-AC87U & RT-AC87R"

  1. dallas
    dallas 1 month ago .Reply

    i still don’t understand what the real difference is between the 87u and the ac3200 can someone explain it to me

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      They are two different chipsets and designs. Ultimately the AC3200 is focused a complex or heavy client networks with a large amount of mix mode usage. From a general perspective though the 87U will offers better range, throughput and storage performance. Throughput of course can be dependent on number of devices connected as well as mixed device connectivity. Depending on your network environment and configuration one may be a better choice for you. The AC3200 is still under design and development though so our current focus is on the 87U.

      • RC
        RC 3 weeks ago .Reply

        Who is the speaker in the ASUS RT-AC87U overview video? Great job! In the overview video a comment made about another video which goes into detail on the firmware configuration options and what they mean? Cannot find this video.

        • JJ
          JJ 3 weeks ago .Reply

          That would be me. Thanks for the view and support. More content is planned some for additional video content including firmware overview and performance.

  2. righ
    righ 1 month ago .Reply

    when is this going to be available in the uk? plzz reply

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      Sorry cannot comment as we focus on North America availability. I would expect though it aligns with our availability so the end of the month going into early next month.

  3. beardsquad
    beardsquad 1 month ago .Reply

    JJ,

    I’m relying on the 87R to provide a 1.0+ Gbps connection to the multiple computers in my home because of a NAS. However, the only one currently capable of getting this is my desktop that I’ve put a PCE-AC68 into (I get up to 1.3 Gbps sometimes, but it never dips below 1.0; can’t complain). Many other computers on the same floor of the house as this desktop can’t get these kinds of speeds unfortunately (though they do have 3×3 AC antennae).

    1) Would an AE-87 benefit me if I were to put it on this floor of the house (one floor above the router)?

    2) Does the AE-87 behave only as an extender or does it expand bandwidth in any way?

    3) Any plans on offering a PCE-87 card? Nothing out there that can take advantage of the 4 stream yet as far as I’m aware.

    Thanks.

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      Are you referring to link rate or actual measured throughput. 1.0Gbps wireless connection is unrealistic generally even with a PCE AC68. What are you specific requirements in regards to the devices connecting to the 87U?

      There is no AE-87? Do you mean the EA-87?

      As for the 4×4 client we are developing solutions but currently those will be initially limited to a secondary 87U and EA-87. Keep in mind those as detailed in the article all stream / antenna configurations benefit from the 4×4 design due to improved receive sensitivity.

      • beardsquad
        beardsquad 1 month ago .Reply

        Yes, link rate, not throughput. Though is it wrong to assume link rate is indicative of a ‘faster’ connection? Basically I have a NAS connected to the 87R and I carry out huge transfers to and from (up to 50GB sometimes) so I just want that to happen as fast as possible via wireless. I’m already able to complete that transfer in less than 20 minutes but I still want to know if I’m getting everything I can out of this router by ensuring my computers have the best connections even a floor above the router. Link speed for the aforementioned desktop is 1.0 to 1.3 Gbps and a retina MacBook Pro with a 3×3 card hovers around 530 Mbps (and rarely surpasses that). When I have the laptop directly next to the router, it does, of course, get the full 1300 Mbps. Please do let me know if I’m obsessing over the wrong numbers/values though.

        Yes I meant AE-87, excuse the typo.

        • beardsquad
          beardsquad 1 month ago .Reply

          *EA-87 (typo again)

        • JJ
          JJ 1 month ago .Reply

          You are ok to assume that link rate is generally indicating faster throughput but the real numbers could be considerably different. It should be using loosely as an reference in regards to connection quality and associated speed ( especially as it can vary heavily on the driver ). Overall you look to be in a solid position. I would say you are getting healthy throughput based on what you have communicated. A couple of things to ensure are one do you have USB 3.0 performance mode enabled? Two have you spent time to analyze channels and ensure you are on the highest performing channel? I would say that technically you could possibly have further improved performance by using a EA 87 at the location you have your Macbook and then connect it via Ethernet or connect to the EA as an access point. THe additional antenna would help to further improve throughput and overall reception strength. One important factor though is driver optimization. I assume you are using OSX and not Windows on the notebook?

          • beardsquad
            beardsquad 1 month ago .

            I do not believe I have USB 3.0 performance mode enabled, but since my machines are connected exclusively to the 5GHz channel, would this still be relevant? In your article you mention: ‘… within the WRT firmware to prioritize 2.4GHz range and throughput as opposed to USB 3.0 performance.’

            I haven’t experimented much with the different channels. I’ve left it at 80MHz for the 5 and 20/40 for the 2.4, which is how it came out of the box I believe.

            For the case of the MacBook I would agree and blame drivers. The AC card in it is something I upgraded myself (because the first generation retina MacBook Pros did not come with wireless-AC). Apple and Broadcom do not distribute drivers as downloads on a website; rather any drivers that come through are supplied via software updates to the system, so I am waiting for the next 10.9.x update to see if it resolves my issue.

            But yes, I was reporting mostly on the OS X side. I am running Win 8.1 via Bootcamp on the other side and link speed is quite unfortunate at 40.5 Mbps. Definitely an issue with Bootcamp drivers that I need to resolve on my own.

          • JJ
            JJ 1 month ago .

            Specifically because you are using 5GHz only you should definitely be using the performance mode. Any USB 3.0 attached storage device will benefit from it being enabled.

            As for the channel you are referring to bandwidth but not the channel ( most likely it is on channel 149. Depending on your environment though you may have a much better performance or possibly worse on a different channel. It really depends on your local RF devices as well as other APs in your immediate area.

  4. Kenton
    Kenton 1 month ago .Reply

    JJ,
    Great video and information as always, a couple of questions about this router.
    1. Will AI-cloud support windows 8.1 phone app anytime soon? I have recently switched all of my mobile devices to windows 8 platform and it seems that I won’t be able to take advantage of this great feature with this router unless I have iOS.
    2. I would like to connect all of my living room devices to the EA-87 as you explained in the video. When will this be available for purchase?
    Thank you

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      We are looking into support but not at this time. I am with you as well as a very happy owner of a Windows 8 tablet and smartphone ( 1520 ). Many aspects of AiCloud are fully web based and as such you fully use them on a Windows 8 device. That being noted we have significantly increased the functionality with recent updates that do require a local application. We are continuing to collect feedback from our users on offering a Windows 8 application and if and when we release one we will definitely communicate it on here on PCDIY.

      • Kenton
        Kenton 1 month ago .Reply

        Thanks JJ! I also have a 1520 (that I love) and my table is the 2520. Any word on my question about the EA-87? I really appreciate the responses. Also, really great show tonight with Tek Syndicate, I learned a lot. I can’t wait for the x99 MBs!

  5. Greg
    Greg 1 month ago .Reply

    Why is one of the four LAN ports not running off the Broadcom SOC?

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      This is part of the design of the router and special design implementation.

      • Greg
        Greg 1 month ago .Reply

        What is the intent of this design choice? Would one of the LAN ports have better or worse routing and switching performance than the other three?

        • Mike C.
          Mike C. 1 month ago .Reply

          Good question, I am curious about this as well. It looks from the block diagram that the 1 LAN connected through the Realtek to the Quantenna may offer better throughput performance between say NAS device and 5GHz network clients perhaps? I have no idea given I don’t know of the performance capabilities of each set of components between the 2.4GHz clients and the 5GHz clients, but for that one LAN port the path is quite different WRT 5GHz clients and has one less component in the processing path fr 5GHz client as well… if the block diagram is “electrically accurate” and/or I am interpreting it correctly.

          • JJ
            JJ 4 weeks ago .

            In real world usage all LAN ports offer the same performance.

  6. gcfan88
    gcfan88 1 month ago .Reply

    When will this router be available on Canada?

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      Availability should align for Canada at the same time it becomes available to general retailers and etailers beginning next week and moving into the first week of Sept.

  7. Ian
    Ian 1 month ago .Reply

    Will this router be given the ability to logically name attached devices (i.e. TIVO) rather than have to rely upon knowing and remembering a specific address? In short I want to fix my own IP addresses and name those devices so they can more easily be managed. Something that is available on say the Linksys WRT1900AC.
    Thanks

    • JJ
      JJ 1 month ago .Reply

      Yes this is noted in the overview detailing. You can do this inside the WRT firmware where you can define the name as well as the icon for the connected device.

  8. sokhoon8
    sokhoon8 1 month ago .Reply

    New network map, networking homepage
    •The primary homepage for the router has been updated with more information to allow for quicker access and detailing to information information about your network and connected devices. Additionally aspects of customization have also been included.
    •Some of the new aspects are CPU utilization display and monitoring, RAM utilization display and monitoring as well as labeling for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. Per connected client connection details including signal strength for wireless devices. For each device you can even defines its display icon and name making it easier for you to know what devices are connected. All devices are easily broken up as well under a general online status as well as more specific wired and wireless connections.

    So to help me out here. Does this mean I can fix an IP address say 192.168.1.155 and name the device “TIVO Family room”

    • JJ
      JJ 4 weeks ago .Reply

      Any device that is registered on the network map and client list can have an associated icon and title. As for IP address that is entirely different. There are of course options to fix IP but this is more advanced level of functionality within the firmware.

  9. Mike C.
    Mike C. 1 month ago .Reply

    Routers are starting to remind me of razor blades as they progress (4 blades are better than three!). Of course routers actually benefit (my experiences so far anyway) vs. what “may” just be marketing with razors :). Just when I think that the only improvements possible are incremental until the next gen wireless is available, the 87U comes along. I have 2 AC66Us for coverage purposes and I was planning on adding a 68U but not anymore, sorry ASUS 68U, but I am now going to buy an ASUS 87U instead :). This 87U looks like a beast, it has more compute power than several devices that are on my network that are primarily designed for compute! The best part is that I don’t necessarily have to justify replacing one of my AC66Us, rather I can replace my primary 66U with an 87U and re-use what was the primary 66U to improve coverage even more… unless a wireless survey shows that the 87U provides adequate coverage for my purposes… I am excited to see what this thing can do.

    Thank you for the incredibly detailed write-up and video JJ, considering past investments I have made on gear (my PC builds too, not just network), the effort you put into evangelizing each generation of ASUS solutions makes the difference between my investing in each generation rather than sticking with what I have already invested in for a few generations. This is even(especially) when underlying generations haven’t changed, like moving from the RIVE to the RIVBE on the X79 platform where your video comparing the two was what made the difference on my decision. No one else addressed the issue of breathing new life into X79 for enthusiasts (who are required and/or addicted to building/upgrading frequently) while we continued to patiently wait for X99(almost here, yay!), so ASUS putting the effort into the RIVBE was appreciated, and at least in my case an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

    Same thing here with the 87U 2.0 AC solution, an unexpected but pleasant surprise that takes consumer router/WAP solution options to the next level while we wait for the next generation(whatever that is, given ad and ah aren’t replacements :/). This is sorely needed given the proliferation of higher quality wireless devices combined with higher bandwidth demanded by better quality content for those devices… I expected having to take more drastic measures to support this in my home, now it looks like I have a much simpler solution.

    Generally speaking, I think ASUS does a the best job in the consumer industry WRT frequent iterations introducing fundamental improvements including both features and performance that fill the gaps left by the divergence in the speed of innovation in different industries producing related technologies. The current cadences for new architectures and specifications seems to be going slower and slower while the dependent technologies are improving at a faster pace (that is my impression anyway), I am glad ASUS exists to fill that gap so that we can take advantage of the features of the dependent technologies while we wait for new iterations of the underlying architectures to catch up.

    That said, demonstrating how ASUS helps consumers solve this problem is obviously important, and you do a great job JJ in explaining the relevant details without wasting everyone’s time with marketing BS (5x faster x3 my arse, competitor I am thinking of to remain nameless)… so thanks for your efforts and for not succumbing to spouting BS, hopefully ASUS keeps doing so well on new solutions so that you are never required to :).

    P.S. looking forward to the new peripherals as well!

    • JJ
      JJ 4 weeks ago .Reply

      Thank you for your sincere and detailed feedback and response. I personally strive to provide insight and understanding regarding the products we design and develop. Just like you I am user and hope to find information to help me have the best experiences possible with my technology. Equally as important is finding information to help justify additional expenditure should it be needed. Here at PCDIY that is my long term goal to provide quality information in interesting ways that aligns with the interests of our users and the PCDIY community. Again thank you for your feedback and support. As a vendor we cannot produce a perfect product 100% of the time but we can strive to produce quality products that are well design and offer solid features, functionality and performance.

  10. Mike C.
    Mike C. 1 month ago .Reply

    P.P.S. can ASUS PCDiY t-shirt be purchased somewhere soon (or now and I have missed it?).

    • JJ
      JJ 4 weeks ago .Reply

      No it cannot be purchased. Stay tuned though for an announcement on clothing which will be available to PCDIY readers and viewers.

  11. Gerardo Gallegos
    Gerardo Gallegos 1 month ago .Reply

    Love this detailed article! I wish there was more articles like this!

    • JJ
      JJ 4 weeks ago .Reply

      Thank you! Appreciate the feedback.

  12. Jo
    Jo 4 weeks ago .Reply

    JJ,

    Where I can buy this router here in Canada?

    Thanks!

  13. Seth
    Seth 2 weeks ago .Reply

    I just recently purchased the RT-AC87R and I cannot find any documentation or even a forum post regarding exactly what and how to use the “teaming” function on port 1 and 2. Any info would be appreciated!

    Thanks!

    • JJ
      JJ 2 weeks ago .Reply

      I have requested our support team update the support site to include the manual. For the teaming function it is enabled via the firmware ( enter into the firmware UI for the 87U ) and there you can enable this function.

  14. Mathew Teague (@MatTeague)

    Hi JJ love the design and can’t wait for this router =D! When will it be released in the UK?

    • JJ
      JJ 2 weeks ago .Reply

      Should be very soon. I would check with UK ASUS social media on specifics for the release date.

  15. A Dent
    A Dent 2 weeks ago .Reply

    I will need to set up a simpler AC bridge in a different room, connecting to the RT-AC87U with wired Ethernet. What unit would be a good partner for the router? (budget don’t allow for a next AC87 :-)

    • JJ
      JJ 2 weeks ago .Reply

      The majority of our routers can be used a repeaters it is built into our firmware. With that noted you could consider our upcoming EA-87U which is a purpose built media bridge. Otherwise i would consider the AC66U as the lowest cost option or you could do the RP-AC52 and then use a switch with it.

  16. RC
    RC 1 week ago .Reply

    I’d just like help keeping the really nice hardware running. It keeps dropping all connections, with no error messages anywhere. I have the latest firmware. Disappointed, and weary of cycling power to get it going again.

  17. RC
    RC 7 days ago .Reply

    Unfortunately I returned the RT-AC87U because the wireless signal strength was not what I expected. I switched to the Netgear R7500 which increased my wireless signal approximately 40%, I consistently use ASUS products and have been very pleased with their motherboards. This was the first ASUS router I have purchased. I would consider myself an experienced computer builder but a newbie with respect to networking. I initially thought of purchasing two RT-AC87U (one as the router and the other as an AP). I decided to purchase the Netgear router instead because I was not educated enough on the differences between AP, Bridge and Repeater options (which is better so to speak). So I elected to go the simple route and purchased another manufacturers router. Hopefully the signal strength will improve in the future and I will most likely purchase another ASUS router and try again. FYI… My home is 2500sq ft with a basement. With the ASUS router I barely had a wireless signal on the far side of the second floor. With the Netgear router I receive the signal just fine.

    • JJ
      JJ 7 days ago .Reply

      Interesting were you connecting on 2.4GHz or 5GHz? Additionally if you did not change the channel at all it could just be a difference in the channels utilized.

  18. bob
    bob 3 days ago .Reply

    jj i have a question why is the router in the usa 279.99 and in the uk its around 200 bucks?

Leave a Reply