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Asus RT-N13U And RT-N16

Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

The Asus RT-N13U is almost exactly what we expect from a mature, mainstream product category. At $57.75, the N13U looks to provide middle of the road performance with enough low-cost (but useful) features to make the device desirable. We don’t mean features like WPA and WPA2 encryption, or NAT and SPI firewall protection. These built-ins have been around for so long that we now expect them to be part of any router and would only call them out if they were omitted. This is also true of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) support for easier WLAN security setup and client connecting.

More interesting is that the N13U is 2.4 GHz-only and uses a pair of 3 dBi antennas, so we wouldn’t necessarily expect roaring performance. All four rear LAN ports are 10/100. We admit that 10/100 is still amply fast for most home users. After all, you’re unlikely to have a high-def video stream with more than a 60 Mb/s bit rate (Blu-ray tops out at 40 Mb/s), but we still chafe at settling for slower connections in this time of terabyte-sized NAS backups.

Asus does integrate one USB 2.0 port for printer sharing, allowing you to make any printer wireless or Ethernet-based. You can also use the port for add-on USB storage, turning the router into a NAS device and (thanks to the fairly friendly bundled software) FTP server. Probably our favorite feature is the switch on the bottom that lets the router jump into repeater or access point modes. We suppose the AP feature might make sense if you had a Gigabit switch and wanted to dangle an 11n access point from it. With 11n access points starting at $45, why not buy the router? We prefer the repeater function, because someday you’re going to upgrade that router, and when you do, you’ll have a repeater standing by to help fill in dead spots in your WiFi coverage.

Asus throws in some nifty networking utilities that help simplify setup and maintenance so you don’t need to manage option menus. If you’re a chronic downloader, the BitTorrent download client might come in handy. We’re more interested in the “EZQoS” function for prioritizing certain traffic types, such as games or FTP, although we wish this QoS engine were more granular.

Think of the RT-N16 ($94.99) as the N13U’s big brother. You now get two USB 2.0 ports instead of one, three antennas instead of two, and four gigabit LAN ports. This is still a 2.4 GHz-only product, but Asus builds in a 480 MHz processor, theoretically sufficient for the next time you want to run two or three hundred thousand concurrent P2P streams. The EZQoS help carries over, as does the printer sharing, FTP, and all the other GUI goodies. We’ll see if almost twice the price gets you twice the performance.

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