ASUS RT-N16 Review

The ASUS RT-N16 is a mass-market product. ASUS is selling it as a reasonably affordable, high-performance 802.11n WiFi router; something that provides good performance in most use cases while avoiding the sizable price tags attached to higher-end equipment.

ASUS RT-N16 ReviewThe issue here is that they’re operating in quite the crowded market segment!

There’s no shortage of excellent options in the $80-$100 neighborhood the RT-N16 occupies; competition is fierce enough that shipping a product that’s simply good won’t cut it.

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In order to justify the RT-N16’s existence, ASUS has to be bringing something distinct to the table, something that sets itself apart from the competition.

ASUS RT-N16 Hardware

This is a single-band 2.4GHz 802.11n router.

This means that it’s not going to reach the hypothetical peak of the specification, in terms of wireless speed or range; instead, you can expect about 300 Mbps at maximum, and around 150 Mbps on average.

These speeds are certainly more than enough for most purposes – though they don’t have the future-proofing of a dual-band router – and relatively constant.

However, it should be noted that earlier versions of the stock firmware tend to have their problems; connections will sometimes throttle down dramatically, or even drop entirely.

This is a software issue, not a hardware one – it can be corrected by upgrading to a newer version of ASUS’s firmware or an aftermarket choice like DD-WRT.

As a matter of fact, any units produced relatively recently should already have a firmware without these problems.

Still, buyer beware; if your router has been sitting in a store or a warehouse for a bit, you may need to flash a new firmware image before you can really start using it.

The hardware is surprisingly high-end for this price…

…with – most notably – a generous 128MB of RAM, making it a good choice for a DD-WRT or Tomato device.

The sizable pool of RAM contributes significantly to the router’s uptime, enabling it to continue functioning normally even with heavy loads.

Wireless range is excellent, and wired networking is well-supported with four gigabit Ethernet ports.

It’s not as hot or as loud as a lot of routers with comparable hardware, either; all in all, it’s very nice.

ASUS RT-N16: Software

ASUS’s stock firmware certainly includes plenty of useful features. You’ve got the standard USB file and printer server tools, an integrated BitTorrent client, and plenty of security options – including WPS support.

There’s also a real-time network map, which is a pleasant surprise; that’s a useful tool that isn’t normally offered by stock firmware.

However, even after updating to the latest version, ASUS’s firmware is a little bit rough around the edges; it’s completely usable, but it’s not quite as stable as you’d like it to be; you may find yourself rebooting a bit more frequently than you’d like.

Third-party firmware is a useful tool for technically-inclined users of most routers, but the RT-N16 really does rely on it to reach its full potential.

You’ve got great hardware that supports a lot of really useful features, which is somewhat marred by ASUS’s firmware.

The functionality of the stock firmware is great; it’s just that it’s a bit on the buggy side. Running DD-WRT or Tomato is strongly advised for this router; you can still exploit all of the features that the hardware makes available, but you’re going to have much more consistent performance.

You’ll need a bit more work to get things like the BitTorrent functionality back in place, but it’s worth it; you’ll be much better able to exploit those features without the performance bottlenecks created by the erratic bandwidth fluctuations that sometimes occur with the stock firmware.

Conclusion

Out of the box, the RT-N16 is a very attractive product. It offers excellent raw performance for a router that can be obtained at around the $80 price point, even if it can’t compete with higher-end 5GHz models – and it has a spectacular feature set.

Still, it’s not without its flaws; ASUS’s stock firmware is mediocre at best, and – if you’re using an older version – is downright terrible; it really drags the router down.

Ultimately, this is what determines if the RT-N16 is a good buy for you: are you comfortable flashing a new firmware image to your router?

If you’re willing to get your hands just a little bit dirty, the ASUS RT-N16 is an incredible value.

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