Monday, October 1, 2018

My Asus RT-AC86U AC2900 wireless dual-band MU-MIMO gigabit router with TM UniFi and Maxis Home Fibre support

The Asus RT-AC86U is a multimedia wireless router with gaming support, which you can also classify it as an entry level gaming router. For more powerful gaming router that gives you great online gaming experience, you should look for the ROG series instead.

It is the successor of the popular Asus RT-AC68U router, with similar stand-up design, identical front LED panel, rear connectors and buttons, but the internal circuit board is totally different. Thanks to this stand-up design, it has a much smaller footprint compared with those flatbed routers.

The CPU of this Asus RT-AC86U is powered by a dual-core Broadcom BCM4906 64-bit processor clocked at 1.8GHz (ARM v8 Cortex A53 architecture built with 28nm technology), which is apparently more powerful than the Broadcom BCM4709 processor used in Asus RT-AC88U AC3100 wireless router.

More powerful CPU provides better user experience for the more CPU intensive tasks, such as when using USB 3.0, SMB v2, data encryption, etc.

This Asus RT-AC86U is an AC2900 wireless dual-band MU-MIMO gigabit router. Oddly, it has lesser number of antennas compared with most of its counterparts in the market. It has 3 dual-band external antennas and 1 more internal antenna for the 5GHz radio band. Well, do not be fooled by this appearance. Indeed, its wireless signal strength and reach is pretty powerful.

Powered by Broadcam's NitroQAM support with 1024-state quadrature amplitude modulation (1024-QAM), if the connecting wireless device is also supporting 1024-QAM, each data stream of its 2.4GHz band can have a maximum data transfer rate of 250Mbps, and each data stream of its 5GHz band can have a maximum data transfer rate of 541Mbps. Both are 25% higher than the older TurboQAM technology (each 2.4GHz band = 200Mbps, each 5GHz band = 433Mbps) in used by predeccessing wireless routers such as Asus RT-AC68U.

Its 2.4GHz radio band is powered by a Broadcom BCM4365E 3×3:3 SoC chipset, able to serve a combined maximum data transfer rate of 3 streams of 250Mbps = 750Mbps.

Its 5GHz radio band is powered by a Broadcom BCM4366E 4×4:4 SoC chipset, able to serve a combined maximum data transfer rate of 4 streams of 541Mbps = 2,164Mbps.

However, most of the mobile devices nowadays are still using the 256-QAM technology, which supports maximum data transfer rate of 600Mbps in 2.4GHz and 1,733Mbps in 5GHz. Only the latest mobile devices with 1024-QAM support are able to unleash its full potential of serving 750Mbps in 2.4GHz and 2,164 in 5GHz.

The 2.4GHz wireless network of this router just performs a decent job, on par with other good quality wireless routers. Its main strength is on the 5GHz wireless network, which surprisingly having a very strong, far and stable reach. It is still detectable and accessible in locations which are beyond the reach of the 5GHz wireless network of my previous router.

With this Asus RT-AC86U router serving from the middle of my house, I don't even need to use any range extender to have stable and fast WiFi in every corner of my house. The WiFi signal, powered by Asus Range Boost technology and AiRadar beamforming, can also be detected further away from outside the house.

This Asus RT-AC86U has a total flash memory of 256 MB, and RAM of 512 MB. Both are doubled when compared with Asus RT-AC68U. It is pretty feature rich, configurable through Asus' famous AsusWRT web interface.

It has dual WAN support, which the second WAN link can be supplied using a 4G USB dongle or USB modem, or making use of one of its gigabit LAN ports for WAN purpose. The secondary WAN link can be configured for load-balancing or standby as failover backup link.

It supports TM UniFi IPTV by simple setting and connecting its LAN Port #4 to the TM UniFi set-top-box. It also supports IPv6 flawlessly.

It supports up to 3 separate Guest Networks in the 2.4GHz band, and up to another 3 separate Guest Networks in the 5GHz band.

Being a multimedia wireless router, it has features such as AiCloud 2.0 which enables the router to provide file server function and even media server function by attaching USB storage device such as USB thumb drive or USB external harddisk to its USB 3.0 port.

You can configure for the file server function and/or media server function to be accessible from local network only, or even from the Internet. Having dynamic WAN IP is not a problem, as you can configure the router to make use of DDNS service, so that you can always connect back to your router with its DDNS domain name.

By making use of Samba service, it can also provide Smart Access function for you to remotely access through Internet to the shared files and resources in your local network.

Access to AiCloud 2.0 can be made via its web interface, or by using the free AiCloud Android or iOS mobile app.

Its USB 3.0 file sharing is pretty fast. Accessed from LAN, my Transcend StoreJet 5400 rpm 1TB portable hard disk with NTFS partition attached to the router is accessible with a read speed of 101 MB/s (808 Mbps) and a write speed of 89.9 MB/s (719.2 Mbps).

It provides AiProtection feature with Trend Micro, with malicious sites blocking, 2-way IPS and infected device prevention & blocking. This is able to give you an additional layer of protection at the network perimeter, on top of the antivirus/anti-malware protection that you installed in your computers. You would not be surprised to see AiProtection successfully intercepted some malicious website accesses that skipped through your computer's antivirus/anti-malware screening.

It also equipped with Parental Controls function that enable you to block access to websites of certain criteria (such as adult websites). In addition, you can set time scheduling for the computers and network devices in your network so that they are restricted to access the Internet during certain time period.

Parental Controls works best together with the free Asus Router mobile app available for Android and iOS. In the mobile app, you can define which network devices are used by which family member, and the mobile app will block the adult websites for your children under 18 years old.

Its Adaptive QoS function enables you to set priority for certain network traffic, useful for online gaming. You can also configure it to make use of WTFast Gamers Private Network for faster online gaming experience.

This Asus RT-AC86U has quite frequent firmware updates, particularly to patch up security issues or to fix performance issues. Other than using the stock firmware, you also have option to install customized firmware such as the AsusWRT-Merlin firmware which is developed based on the stock firmware and more emphasis on security, usability and stability.


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