The RT-AC66U, how ever you look at it, is a spitting image of the RT-N66U. In fact, the gold ASUS logo brandished at the top right corner of the router is the only physical mark which sets them apart. Observably, the AC version carries the same crisscross patterns on the top of its hood as well, and they're only visible at the right lighting and angle. On that note, even the blue status indicators are identical with the N66U, with dedicated LEDs for each LAN port as well as the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands. The RT-AC66U is a stylish effort by ASUS on the whole, although we would have preferred it better without the unsightly antennas. A bundled bracket enables you to position the router in a semi-vertical fashion, otherwise, you may simply place the unit flat on the table or hang it up on the wall with nails or other mounts via the two "cross-holes" positioned behind the product. And apart from the customary installation disc, ASUS has thrown in a copy of Kaspersky's Anti-virus 2012 into the package too. The license is valid for one year.
Yet again, the RT-N66U's back panel is almost identical to its N66U sibling. There are four Gigabit LAN ports (coded in yellow), a single Gigabit WAN (internet) port, two USB slots (with 3G support), and a DC power inlet. There are three buttons for the following functions: power, reset, and WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). Likewise, the RT-AC66U comes with three detachable antennas similar to the RT-N66U. Although it's not a major concern, the ASUS RT-AC66U is probably the heaviest router we've handled. This can be attributed to the "high density" aluminum cooling fins, as mentioned on the previous page. Flip the router over, and you'd find a label indicting the firmware's version (22.214.171.124.140). For our tests, we've updated the firmware to 126.96.36.199.164 since a new version is available. On that note, do keep in mind that we're reviewing the router weeks ahead of its official launch, so it's best to check ASUS' site for updates after you've purchased the RT-AC66U.
We won't go through the basics of the ASUSWRT Dashboard again since it's a similar, albeit more comprehensive interface to what we've covered during our RT-N66U review. You may, however, read up our previous assessment. Now, let's assess some of the relatively new options. Upon first logging into the router's web interface via its default IP address (192.168.1.1), a "Quick Internet Setup" wizard would prompt you to configure various network settings, like the admin password and SSIDs for example. This mandatory feature wasn't available on the RT-N66U's firmware previously, and it'll take just a minute or two before the device is connected to the web. To bypass this wizard, enter "http://192.168.1.1/index.asp" into the URL field. The RT-AC66U continues to support various networking functions; namely as a router, access point, or media bridge mode. The latter enables you to connect multimedia devices to the RT-AC66U's Ethernet ports, as the unit acts as a wireless bridge to your home network. Interestingly, there's also an IPTV selection (found under the LAN setting) with the different ISP profiles such as Singtel's mio TV for instance.
There are two QoS network prioritization modes available: Automatic and User-defined rules. The former prioritizes online gaming and web surfing traffic automatically, while the latter enables more savvy users to configure their own QoS rules, such as the service's name, source IP, destination port, and protocol, etc. On the Wireless page, there's Auto, N-only, and Legacy (for older wireless standards) selections available on the 5GHz band. To enable the router's 802.11ac mode, choose "N-only", then go to the Channel Bandwidth field and select the "80MHz" option.
The USB Application tab houses features such as AiDisk (file-sharing services on the cloud), print server, and 3G backup mode (uses your 3G USB adapter instead of the broadband modem). For AiDisk, there's also an option to create your own storage domain via ASUS' DDNS services, or you may choose to configure the FTP settings manually. Although we did not face any issues accessing our shared drive over our own local network, the application kept returning an "invalid IP address" error whenever we tried to create a unique storage domain name using ASUS' DDNS service. Also, we're unable to fiddle with the AiCloud mobile aspect as yet, since the mobile apps aren't available at this point in time.