Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

Asus RT-N13U And RT-N16

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.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • Dandalf
    I'd buy the Linksys if it didn't have a bloody spoiler on it. Chavviest router I ever saw.
  • madskillz12_1
    £20 cashback on the Linksys until 30/4/10 as well. You'd be mad not to.
  • daglesj
    Belkin routers are a joke. I bought a low end one as a spare. It couldnt get a speed of higher than 2Mbps. Any other router would get 6Mbps+. After several attempts of getting a sane response from Belkin India, one of their techs finally admitted that model has an issue with the Firewall. Switch it off and speed goes back up. He said a firmware update would sort it. Nearly a year later...yup no firmware. A couple of my customers have the new Belkin N spec routers. Really bad.
  • chronicbint
    Surprising, I am on my second Belkin N router and they have all worked perfectly well.
  • hairystuff
    I've realised with Belkin routers they sometimes have multiple revisions of the same product code/model number, some of the revision work really well and others are pure trash, I've noticed this with D-Link aswell but generally the differences are marginally acceptable.
  • gagaga
    I'm not normally a fan of Apple gear, but I can get 14MB/s (equal to 112Mb/s) from my airport extreme (the older 2 aerial one) on big files.

    Guessing the laptop (Vaio TZ) has a big influence - that has three separate aerials and the top-end Intel card, and the fact mine is the only 5GHz network in the area...
  • Accurim
    What did you use with the WRT610N? I'd be interested in getting it based on the benchmarks but I'd have to get the same client adaptor also.

    I believe you did your testing with a laptop also, if I were to get a desktop adaptor would this be fine: