Asus RT-N13U review
draft 802.11n, 4x 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet ports
Asus is best known for components and laptops but the Taiwanese electronics giant makes almost everything, from TVs to mobile phones. The company has been making routers since 2003, although the RT-N13U is the first we’ve reviewed.
The N13U has a fairly modest specification in general - we were surprised to see 10/100 Ethernet on a cable router at this price rather than full Gigabit support. It does have a USB port which allows it to act as a print or storage server, though. The router comes with a CD full of utilities, but there's no quick setup wizard, so you’ll have to configure your WAN and wireless settings manually using the web interface.
Unfortunately, the web interface is ugly, clumsy and poorly designed, with badly translated English notifications and an irritating help system. On the plus side, we didn’t have any trouble setting up standard features like port forwarding, scheduled URL filtering by keyword or assigning fixed IP addresses to specific devices on our network, although the latter inconveniently required us to manually enter each device’s MAC and IP address.
Asus’s QoS system is rather arcane, though, calling upon you to select icons for the types of traffic you wish to prioritise with little indication as to which is getting the highest priority. USB storage sharing via FTP worked instantly. Asus even provides its own easy-to-register DDNS forwarder to make it easy to access your drive over the internet. We also had little trouble using Asus’s Download Master which, via a utility on your PC, allows you to send your HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent downloads to a USB hard disk connected to the router.
However, the router’s integrated print server, which gets star billing on the box, is a pain to configure, further complicated by poor documentation. Asus provides a Windows software tool that creates a virtual port for your newly networked printer, but in the end we had to ignore both this and the instructions in the manual, create our own port for the networked printer using the router’s IP address and then manually install the USB driver for the device.
The router performed well in our throughput tests using both our Centrino 2 laptop and Asus’s tiny £29 USB-N10 wireless adaptor. At 10m, both produced speeds of 43.4Mbit/s. Asus’s wireless adaptor performed brilliantly in our 20m test, achieving a blistering 31.1Mbit/s and even our laptop did well at the distance, with a score of 17.24Mbit/s. Getting these speeds took some trial and error once we’d disabled the router’s channel-bonding, as its automatic wireless channel detection didn’t pick the best channel for the job. However, once we’d found a clear channel that gave us good speeds, we experienced no further problems.
The RT-N13U works well once you’ve actually got it configured, but its awkward interface and poor documentation make it a chore, while its performance is matched by similarly priced but more capable routers like Billion's BiPAC 6200NXL.