Jul 132012
 

The Asus Dark Knight is currently Asus’ top of the line consumer router. If Bruce Wayne had a router, it would probably be this one. No, there is no official affiliation with this router and the Dark Knight films but you can’t argue with the name. Asus recently had great success with their “Black Diamond” router, the RT-N56u, but this one is aimed to impress even more.

The cost of this router is not exactly chump change so I’ll be taking a look at its features and performance so you can determine if it’s worth your money.

Design

The $179.99 MSRP RT-N66u is designed to sit horizontally but can also be wall-mounted or sit upright on a slight angle with the included stand. Its rather slim figure betrays its weight. Inside there is one giant heat sink that makes the router have a nice sold weight to it. An early prototype of the Dark Knight had an active cooling fan but that was removed in the final design and a larger heat sink was added. There are many vents on the bottom to allow for convection cooling. The Dark Knight is always warm to the touch when running but it’s never scalding hot. I’ve seen some people place their router on a laptop cooler but this is unnecessary. One thing you may want to avoid is placing it on thick carpet – if it’s on a carpeted floor but something solid under it so that it has room to breathe since most of the vents are on the bottom which is where it will be taking in fresh air.

The 3 antennas can be rotated 360 degrees and also can be flipped back so they can face upward if you mount it on the wall. On the back are 4 Gigabit LAN ports, 1 gigabit WAN port and 2 USB 2.0 ports used for sharing files or printers or using a 3G modem. The Wi-fi Protected Setup (WPS) and reset buttons are also on the rear. On the front is an array of not-too-bright LED lights to show the status of all the ports.

Features

The Dark Knight is a true N900 router – both 5Ghz and 2.4GHz bands can do 450Mbps concurrently. In order for a wireless computer or device to connect at that speed it needs to support 3×3 MIMO which few devices do except higher end PC and notebook cards. Of course it’s still backwards compatible with any Wireless A/B/G/N device.

One area where the Dark Knight excels is all of the uses for its 2 USB ports. The obvious two are local USB storage devices like flash drives or USB hard drives as well as printers. With a cellular USB dongle you can turn it into a mobile hot spot or use that as backup internet if yours goes down. You can turn any attached USB storage device into a network share so anyone on the network can access it with a username and password, plus you can turn it into a FTP server so you can access files stored on it from the internet.


The coolest feature with the USB storage is the ability to download torrents and NZB’s (newsgroups) directly to the router without having to use a computer. This means you could literally queue up downloads from your phone or tablet, or maybe your computer at work, and have them waiting and ready to be streamed to your network when you get home. You have the option of either uploading the .torrent or .nzb file or just providing a URL to it. That means if the file is behind a password protected account (like a torrent site account or NZB site account) you can’t use the URL method. The torrent feature worked without a hitch and shows your download speed and progress. You can also limit your upload and download speed, number of concurrent connections, and whether or not to use connection encryption. In the NZB settings you specify your usenet login details and can specify the amount of connections and whether to use SSL or not. The only problem I had with the NZB feature was the progress page never updated so the download showed 0% until it was complete then it jumped to 100%. It did work though – I will show it in the video on the next page where I give a tour of the web interface.

The standard features you expect like IPv6, customizable firewall and QoS are all there in addition to the ability to create a VPN to access your local network from elsewhere.

Under the hood the Dark Knight features a 600MHz Broadcom BCM4706 CPU, two Broadcom BCM4331s for the wireless radios (one for each band) and a whopping 256MB of DDR2 RAM. Other high-end routers typically only feature 64MB or 128MB RAM.

Setup

As with any router, a central location of the areas you want to cover wirelessly is best.  My modem is in the basement so that’s where I installed the router. Even 2 floors above on the opposite corner of the house I get full bars on my devices like my iPad. Outside the signal strength isn’t always 100% but I am still able to get about 30Mbps on a speed test and that’s passing through 2 floors and several brick walls along the way. If you are moving from a budget router you will definitely notice a difference in range.

Asus recommends placing the antennas with the middle antenna straight up and the left and right ones tilted 45 degrees outward.

The router comes with a CD to help you set it up but if you’ve setup a router before you can skip that and go straight to 192.168.1.1 in your browser. We will cover the web interface next…

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