Asus has recently launched a very interesting single-band router: RT-N18U - a router that works using only the 2.4 GHz frequency, it has the hardware power of more expensive routers and it is reasonably priced. Its characteristics led us to believe that this might be the fastest wireless router on the 2.4 GHz frequency and we were very curios to test it. Today, we are happy to be the first English-speaking website to review this router. After a week of testing, here is what we have learned:
Unboxing the ASUS RT-N18U Router
The packaging of this router is very similar to that of other ASUS routers. Inside the box you will find the router, the three external antennas that must be connected to the back of the router, the power adapter, a network cable, the warranty and a quick setup guide.
A nice touch about the model we have tested is that the power adapter had detachable plugs for several types of power outlets and it works with power lines from many countries.
To learn more about the unboxing experience, don't hesitate to view the video below:
In terms of hardware specifications, ASUS RT-N18U is very interesting: it has a powerful Cortex A9 800MHz processor just like its more expensive brothers, 128MB of flash memory and 256MB of RAM. Because it is a single-band router and not a dual-band router, it means that this hardware works even better because it has to manage only one wireless frequency. At least in theory. :)
The router has three external antennas and one USB 3.0 port that's also compatible with USB 2.0 devices.
Because it works using only the 2.4 GHz frequency, it doesn't provide support for the latest 802.11ac standard, which works only in the 5 GHz frequency. However, 802.11n is fast enough for most people in most home networks.
In terms of wired connectivity, this router has 4 Ethernet ports.
You can find the complete list of specifications here: ASUS RT-N18U specifications.
Setting Up & Using the ASUS RT-N18U Router
Connect the ASUS RT-N18U router to your computer using the bundled network cable. Plug in its power adapter, then the Internet connection cable from your Internet provider and start your favorite browser. Go to 192.168.1.1 or http://router.asus.com and follow the setup wizard.
The setup wizard is just like the one used on all ASUS routers. It involves going through a few easy configuration steps, in order to set things up and get the network started.
We appreciated the fact that the router has correctly detected our Internet connection type and it has made the appropriate settings for it.
Another great thing about the whole setup process is the fact that you can change both the default username and password used to log in and administer the router. Using a username that's different from the default "admin" enhances the security of your network.
The firmware of this router is the same as that from higher-end models from ASUS and it offers the same wealth of configuration options. You will find plenty of things to configure, from the way your wireless networks function, to the firewall, VPN access, parental controls, port forwarding and much more.
Also, the multilingual support is as outstanding as ever: the user interface is available in 22 languages, from English to Romanian or Malay.
When configuring the "professional" settings that are available for the wireless network, we have discovered some interesting features that may be useful when you encounter problems:
- Reducing USB 3.0 interference - if you are using a USB 3.0 device that's connected to the router and the performance of your wireless connection decreases, you might want to set this setting to Enable.
- Explicit Beamforming - this feature enables the router to steer the wireless signal to the direction of your wireless devices, thus improving the stability of the wireless signal and providing faster downloads and uploads.
- Universal Beamforming - if you have older wireless devices that do not support beamforming, you might want to enable this setting, so that the wireless network works better on them. If you do not have older devices, it is OK to disable this feature.
There's nothing else to add about the ASUS firmware for this router, except that it provides everything you need in terms of features and configuration options. Don't hesitate to spend some quality time configuring everything and you will be very pleased by the way this router works.
As you will see later on this review, ASUS RT-N18U delivered very good performance and we were happy with the way it works.
Wireless Network Performance
In all our measurements, we have tested the ASUS RT-N18U against more expensive routers like ASUS RT-AC68U (the top tier router from ASUS) and Linksys Smart Wi-Fi EA6900 (the second most expensive model from Linksys). Our testing was done using a very fast 1 Gigabit Internet connection.
First, let's take a look at the apartment we used in our testing and how it is set up. You can see that the router is placed in the living room.
We started by measuring the strength of the wireless signal across the apartment we used in our testing. The measurements were made using a tool named inSSIDer. Below you can see how the signal strength evolves from room to room. You can easily see that the signal strength was generally good in all rooms but the more expensive ASUS RT-AC68U remained the leader in this metric.
Then, we measured how fast the download speed was, using SpeedTest. As you can see, ASUS RT-N18U performed well in all the rooms. In the rooms that are closer to the router, the leader was the the more expensive ASUS RT-AC68U. In the rooms that are further away from the router, like the kitchen and the medium-sized balcony, ASUS RT-N18U managed to deliver faster downloads.
In terms of upload speeds, ASUS RT-N18U delivered good performance overall, but it did not manage to outperform its more expensive brother except for two rooms in our apartment.
We are pleased by the wireless performance delivered by the ASUS RT-N18U router. While it doesn't take the crown from its more expensive brother - ASUS RT-AC68U, it is a solid and constant performer.
Wired Network Performance
In order to test the quality of the wired Ethernet connection, we have used a desktop PC, equipped with an eight-core processor, 8GB of RAM and a very fast ADATA SX900 SSD drive, as well as an old laptop with a quad-core processor and an SSD drive from RunCore.
First, we measured the download and upload speeds using SpeedTest. This test has revealed ASUS RT-N18U as being the fastest router in terms of download speed. It was 4% faster than its more expensive brother - ASUS RT-AC68U.
When measuring the upload speed, ASUS RT-N18U was second place, being 3% slower than Linksys EA6900.
Then, we used LAN Speed Test Lite to measure the download and upload speeds when transferring a 350 MB file to and from two computers connected to the network via Ethernet cables.
ASUS RT-N18U was again the fastest in terms of download speed - 19% faster than ASUS RT-AC68U. An impressive result.
In terms of upload speed, ASUS RT-N18U was again in second place, being 6% slower than ASUS RT-AC68U.
As a final test, we transferred an 883 MB file across the network, between the same two computers. This time, ASUS RT-N18U was second both when download and uploading the file.
In terms of download speed, it was 11% slower than ASUS RT-AC68U.
In terms of upload speed, it was only 1% slower than ASUS RT-AC68U. In real life you won't feel the difference.
In terms of wired Ethernet connections, ASUS RT-N18U delivers great performance. In some tests it managed to beat its more expensive brother - ASUS RT-AC68U, while in others it was a very close second place.
Another great thing about the ASUS RT-N18U router is that it packs a fully unlocked firmware that has all the features of its more expensive brethren. You will get access to great features like:
- Dual WAN - a great feature for small businesses or professionals who require always-on Internet connections. You can also use a dual WAN to improve the quality of your Internet connection and get the best possible performance.
- VPN server - this router can be set to work as a VPN server, which allows you to access your home network from anywhere on the Internet. You can also use it to turn your network-connected devices into VPN-enabled clients via OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP protocols without additional VPN software required.
- ASUS AiCloud - with the help of this app, you can access the folders shared in your home network from your Android or iOS smartphone, from anywhere on the Internet. The only downside is that this app doesn't have a Windows Phone version.
- Guest network - you can set up a guest wireless network that provides Internet access for your guests but restricts access to your network devices.
- Parental Controls - these are basic controls that allow you to set when a network device can access the Internet and when it cannot. The router doesn't ban network access, only Internet access.
These are great features and some of them are available only on premium-priced routers.
ASUS RT-N18U is a great mix between high-end hardware, high-end features and a mid-range price. If you don't have devices that can take advantage of the latest 802.11ac wireless network standard and you are OK with using a 802.11n wireless network running at 2.4GHz, then ASUS RT-N18U is a great choice. It's a solid performer which sometimes manages to outperform its more expensive brothers from ASUS. You will have a very hard time finding something better at its price.
You can find the ASUS RT-N18U router in many shops, including Amazon. If you are from the USA, you can purchase it here: Asus RT-N18U 2.4 GHz 600 Mbps Router. In Europe this model will be made available soon.
If you purchase this router using the link we shared, we will receive a small commission that will help us fund some of the work we do here at 7 Tutorials. Thank you for helping us!