It’s time to finally take a look at the Asus RT-AC5300 – the company’s flagship wireless router. You might have seen that I called the device a beast and a beast indeed it is. It is as visually striking as it is a beast of a performer. It’s a flagship WiFi router, after all, so it is packed with features, offers impeccable wireless and wired performance for a hefty price tag. It came really close to being included in our “Best Gaming Router To Buy” list but the ROG GT version is just more fitting for pure gaming. But in reality, if you want to have one of the best wireless routers it’ll cost you.
Quite a lot. So first, let’s check the RT-AC5300 design and features.
ASUS RT-AC5300 Review
Ok, I have to admit that the design of the RT-AC5300 Asus router can bring nightmares to some bedrooms with its weird looking antennas and its tarantula-like overall appearance. You might feel that it might just start crawling and spitting fire around the room at any given moment. It’s an unsettling feeling but we think it’s well worth the performance gains you’ll receive with that WiFi router.
The AC5300 is virtually an identical router to the RT-AC88U with an added second 5GHz band. Honestly, that’s the only difference between the two routers technically speaking. The RT-AC5300 comes with three separate bands – one 2.4Ghz and two 5Ghz ones.
What’s the wireless speed?
On paper, wireless speed on the 2.4Ghz band is 1000 Mbps and each 5Ghz band gets 2167Mbps wireless speed. All that sums up to about 5334Mbps. Adding the 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports projects that the device can handle to close to 10Gbps traffic. Not quite, but still pretty close. A lot, isn’t it?
What that means is that you can connect all your legacy devices to the 2.4 GHz and free up all the bandwidth for the more modern, 5GHz AC devices. Your mom’s laptop can stay connected to the 2.4Ghz band while you stream the next “Game of Thrones” episode in majestic 4K in the living room. Nice, right?
Graphical User Interface
The Asus router runs its own proprietary operating system called ASUSWRT. It has a lot of useful features compared to most. The most notable ones are the Game Boost mode and WTFast feature. You can find WFTast nesting inside Gaming Boost page and it basically routes all game traffic to a private VPN network. Judging by information found on the internet people are not too excited about that.
It seems that gaming servers and online communities are complaining that more than a few players got banned from various games while using WTFast mode on the router. That cannot be pleasant. It also doesn’t support any console gaming – it’s all about the PC with the Asus’s WTFast.
Otherwise, the GUI is pretty standard as far as ASUS goes – you have the typical firewall, security and wireless features. LAN ports can be aggregated for extra speed. This is not really advertised on the box or on Asus product pages but it is available nevertheless. It works too.
Smart connect does too – plenty of settings to play with is present in this version of the ASUSWRT software. Some people still have issues with Smartconnect. It is mostly due to older devices refuse to be told what band to connect to and your efforts are usually futile trying to fix it.
What’s not available?
ASUS RT-AC doesn’t support wireless bridging. Most people won’t be willing to pay the price of the ASUS to use it just as a wireless bridge but if you want to – you might have to look elsewhere for a device that can use that option.
There are very few downsides with the ASUS beast but most of them are in the ports “department”. For a router of this price, you’d expect a plethora of available LAN, USB, and who-knows-what-else ports to be present. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the ASUS flagship wifi router.
It comes with only 4 Ethernet LAN ports, single WAN port and an equal share of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports – one of each. We are pretty sure that for the price we could easily get two full-speed USB 3.0 ports and maybe an extra one or two LAN ports. That’s exactly the case with the Linksys and Netgear – the Netgear R8500 has 7 LAN ports and the Linksys EA9500 has 8. They have the same configuration of USB ports as the ASUS, but at least they are not lacking in the wired networking department. If you are building a network you are much more likely to need more LAN ports that USB ports. To be honest, most router’s USB ports are not very good and here the case is no different.
The AC5300 is no slouch – it performs on par with the best of them and edges on top quite often. You have to remember that the wireless speeds claimed by the manufacturers are theoretical speeds that are rarely if ever, matched by real-world performance. Most routers perform nowhere near the advertised speeds and the ASUS is no different.
Keeping that mind, let’s see how is the RT-AC5300 2.4 GHz wireless performance. In our tests, we managed to get transfers of a little over 160 Mbps. It is fast, but it is not fast enough for the price tag of this router. For example, the ASRock (an ex-ASUS company) G10 gaming router was much closer to 200 Mbps that the ASUS flagship. A lot of the dual-band routers we reviewed over the last few weeks can perform at the same level if not better. If 2.4 GHz performance is of priority for you, it might be a good idea to check some of our other offerings.
5 GHz is a different matter altogether.
It didn’t disappoint here at all. What we managed to get in our test was impressive, to say the least. The first 5Ghz band managed to get download speeds of close to 700Mbps which is quite impressive. Most wireless routers we test barely manage to get 600 or less but the ASUS is the top dog here. At a close distance, it is a beast. At our 5 meters test, it managed to outperform most again by dropping to about 360Mbps. That means download speeds of over 80 megabytes per second at close range and over 45 megs per second a little further. Not bad at all we would say. Our Android TV box was smoking when we finished the streaming tests.
Let’s see how those wired devices perform when connected to the RT-AC5300. Wires are still an important part of every modern network regardless of the increasing speeds of WiFi. Yes, they are catching up but still not quite there in terms of speedy delivery, ping, and reliability, let alone range.
The LAN to LAN speed we managed to achieve on the AC5300 is around 810 Mbps. While it is fast enough for most, a lot of other routers in review managed to get well over 900 in our LAN to LAN tests. That might be worrying for the lucky internet users that can get their hands on Google fiber or other gigabit broadband connections only to be unable to take full advantage of it. For example, most Linksys routers we tested were close to the gigabit mark in their both LAN-to-LAN and WAN-to-LAN performances. A prime example is the Linksys EA9500. TP-Link is no slouch either – they are a lot closer to the Gigabit mark than ASUS with their Archer C5400 router. Less money too.
It didn’t impress, to be honest. ASUS claims that the router should be able to do more than 100 Megabytes per second download from the USB 3.0 port with attached external storage. We didn’t get anywhere near that in our test. With an attached SSD storage the router only managed about 37 megs per second of download speed. That’s far off the advertised over 100 MBps when downloading large files from an attached storage.
We think that it might be a software issue and it might be fixed with future firmware updates but we can’t guarantee any of it. We just hope that ASUS listens and fixes that soon enough.
Review OverallThe ASUS RT-AC5300 is a very capable AC performer, especially if most of your devices are on the 5 GHz band. It performs marvelously there – better than any competition we tested so far. There are shortcomings, no question about that. USB storage performance is not very fast, neither is Ethernet. It is not bad, per se, but there are better options out there. A firmware update or two should fix most of the problems this device has but overall it is a solid purchase if you have the budget for it. And it is expensive – after all, it is ASUS’ top dog router at the moment.
Unfortunately, it got beaten quite badly by the ROG version on our best router guide, as it offers just a bit more bang for the buck and, while more expensive, it does make a tad more financial sense over the regular AC5300. Check it out to see the results!