The Asus RT-AC87U combines smart design with a simple to use but feature-packed interface. Performance impresses, especially over 5GHz and also at distance. From our tests, the MU-MIMO feature currently only offers a small speed increase but as a package, for the money, this router is a great buy.
With the first generation of 802.11ac wireless routers, the Asus RT-AC68U stands apart from many of its competitors, with both great wireless performance and superb built-in software that offers plenty of functions and an intuitive, well-designed interface.
Even today, it still costs a bit more than various other routers, but arguably it’s worth paying a bit extra for the benefits of great performance and useful and functional software.
The competition is catching up now though. For example, TP Links’ superb Archer D9 can just about match the AC68U for wireless performance, and its software is pretty good too.
So to keep its advantage, Asus is under considerable pressure to deliver the goods once again with an updated flagship model, the RT-AC87U.
The big headline feature is the fourth antenna, making it capable of 4×4 802.11ac wireless speeds. The theoretical wireless throughput it can manage is now 1733 Mbit/sec, dubbed AC1750. In practice, it should correspond with roughly 25% better performance. Combined with up to 600Mbps 802.11n wireless speeds, Asus is calling it AC2400-compliant.
But the big caveat here is that right now, barely any devices have got a built-in wireless adaptor that can handle quad-stream 802.11ac. It’s still quite rare to even find one with 3×3 wireless, Apple’s laptops being the exception, rather than the rule.
However, Asus has also released a new quad-stream wireless bridge to compliment the RT-AC87U. Dubbed the EA-AC87, it’s nearly the only way to get those 4×4 speeds from the new router, aside from investing in a second 4×4 router established to bridge mode.
Asus RT-AC87U Performance
Instead of the tri-band approach taken by such high-end routers as the Linksys WRT1900AC and Netgear R7000, Asus uses a 2.4 and a 5 GHz transmitter in a 4 X 4 dual-band design. The RT-AC87U uses the latest Multi-User MIMO techniques, pushing peak bandwidth to 2.3 Gbps.
Under its skin, the RT-AC87U includes a pair of 1-GHz processors that may handle four streams of wireless data. The router uses beam-forming to optimize the transmitted beam’s shape to best suit the receiving antenna.
For wireless testing, like other routers, I used a set of Macs jogging the Wi-Fi Perf software. This software measures throughput between the two machines without relying on a file transfer, so any bottlenecks due to storage are not an issue.
I tested 2.4GHz 802.11n and 5GHz 802.11ac performance at 1 meter, 5 meters, and 10 meters distance, with a clear line of sight to the router. Since the receiver in the 2013 MacBook Pro is a 3×3 802.11ac model, this was only testing the 3×3 performance of the RT-AC87U, reflecting a setup used on many current devices.
Asus RT-AC87U Final verdict
The Asus RT-AC87U is undoubtedly the very best wireless router on the market, not just for its performance, but for its excellent software. Asus provides clearly invested more resources into this area than other firms usually do, and the effort has really paid off, making some of the software in competing routers look like a mere afterthought. Venturing into a router to change settings used to be a chore, even for people with some know-how – but Asus has changed all this for the better.
Wireless performance isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of the competition though. While its 3×3 802.11ac speeds are perfectly respectable, they’re not the fastest I’ve ever seen.
But as a counter to that, the new 4×4 model works brilliantly, and is incredibly fast, at both short-range and distance. You will need to buy more hardware to take advantage of it though, which is why the software, rather than the 4×4 wireless speeds, is the real reason to spend extra money on the RT-AC87U over the competition.
In this respect, it may prove more popular for businesses, hotels, and so on rather than individuals.