Wireless speeds have improved dramatically in the past few years, especially with the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. But the wireless connection is still slower and less responsive than a wired Ethernet one. This is why hardcore gamers, especially those who play online games, continue to connect their PCs or game consoles via Ethernet.
The Asus RT-AC88U is designed for these users. It has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, or twice as many as the typical home router. You could even host a LAN party with this router, as long as you have LAN cables of sufficient length.
To add more value for gamers, Asus is bundling a free subscription to the basic tier of WTFast, a virtual private network for gaming. With multiple servers around the world, WTFast provides optimised online routes from your computer or console to game servers, which results in lower latency and fewer lag spikes. This basic WTFast account works for a single device for the lifetime of the router. It also comes with technical support.
Two of the router's Gigabit ports can be configured to aggregate their data transfers to provide up to 2Gbps of bandwidth to a single client. This feature works for compatible devices with two Gigabit ports, such as a high-end PC or a network-attached storage device.
The AC88U's wireless speeds are not too shabby either. It has a maximum theoretical speed of 2,166Mbps on its 5GHz band and 1,000Mbps on its 2.4GHz band.
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1,000 Gigabit WAN, 8 x 10/100/1,000 Gigabit LAN
SECURITY: WPA/WPA2, WEP
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI, DoS protection
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
A firmware update later this year will add another advanced feature called MU-MIMO. This technology lets the router transfer data to multiple clients at the same time, improving wireless speeds. But it has not been widely adopted yet and there are few compatible clients.
Unlike other Asus routers, the AC88U is branded under the company's Republic of Gamers (ROG) line of gaming products. As a result, the design looks aggressive, with angular lines and red accents. The LED status indicators can be turned off by pressing a button at the front.
Asus has continued to add features, such as Trend Micro's Internet security software, to its router interface. But I find it strange that for a high-end router, I was unable to set the AC88U to accept only 802.11ac clients in the settings. The available options all had a mix of 802.11n and 802.11ac devices.
In my testing, the Asus is competitive with other high-end routers in terms of transfer speeds, with an average speed of 599Mbps. This is slightly lower than the 621Mbps on a more expensive router such as the Netgear X8.