Our routine test setup includes a desktop PC, the reviewed router, and a laptop to simulate a wireless home network. The desktop system takes on the role of a host machine, while the router acts as a gateway. And lastly, an external Wireless 802.11ac adapter attached to the notebook is used to fulfill the role of a wireless remote client. The router is locked down in 802.11ac for the 5GHz band to prevent the use of varying 802.11 standards. Typically, a channel bandwidth of 80MHz is used for the 5GHz AC band, if the option is available.
We'll be using Netgear's A6200 802.11ac USB adapter for our throughput tests to reduce the number of variables involved. The Netgear A6200 USB adapter supports up to two spatial streams for a maximum data transfer rate of 866Mbps - the maximum for USB adapters currently. Hence, if your system has a more advanced wireless chipset that supports three spatial streams, you can expect even higher speeds.
Here is a graphical representation of our network test setup.
To evaluate, we will be using a mix of synthetic benchmarks and real-world testing. The synthetic benchmark we are using is called LAN Speed Test. As for real-world testing, we will be measuring the routers’ speeds in transferring a 1GB zip file. We will do multiple tests at different distances to simulate use around a typical home. For the 5GHz band, we also measured how performance is affected if two clients are connected and uploading and downloading data at the same time. Here are the test distances we used and what they represent.
An important thing to note is that we will be steadily phasing out 2.4GHz testing from our benchmarks. For one, 802.11ac is now being widely supported by most if not all mobile devices. If your device supports 802.11ac, it makes absolutely no sense to connect to the router via the slower and more congested 2.4GHz band. Speaking of congestion, our test environment currently has no less than 19 different 2.4GHz networks being broadcasted. The amount of noise and interference makes it very difficult for us to properly evaluate 2.4GHz performance. As such, we'll only be presenting performance from the 5GHz band.
Looking at charts depicting uplink and downlink speeds, we can see that both the ASUS RT-AC3200 and D-Link DIR-890L routers are quite evenly matched. If anything, the ASUS RT-AC3200 router enjoyed slightly better uplink speeds, whereas the D-Link DIR-890L router had better downlink performance. And if we were to compare both routers against the Linksys EA9200 router, the Linksys router offered more consistent all round performance. But all in all, the speeds offered by all three AC3200 class routers are competitive, with significant differences seen only at the extreme 17m range.
Our file transfer benchmark saw the D-Link DIR-890L router posting very impressive speeds and it came out tops amongst our trio of AC3200 class routers. At 17m, it managed 156.86Mbps, which is impressive considering the ASUS RT-AC3200 and Linksys EA9200 both recorded just 125Mbps - this translates to a difference of about 25%. The performance of the D-Link DIR-890L was almost about on par with the ASUS RT-AC68U and Linksys WRT1900AC - these two routers have the best range of all the routers that we have tested thus far.
The unique selling point of AC-3200 routers is arguably the additional bandwidth offered by the extra 5GHz band. In our performance load test, we enabled the smart connect feature on both routers which will automatically sort devices to maximize performance and connected two devices to the 5GHz band. In our test, we found that both routers were clever enough to automatically assign both devices to separate networks once we started running our benchmarking tasks on them. The D-Link DIR-890L router performed admirably on this benchmark and managed a very impressive 210.53Mbps, which was a good 23% faster than the second-placed Linksys EA9200 router. The ASUS RT-AC3200 managed just 163.27Mbps, which was a little disappointing when compared to its rivals. However, it was still significantly quicker than the other dual-band routers.
The high-end router space is often fiercely contested and it is no different with this new breed of AC3200 routers. But because Broadcom’s 5G XStream chipset is currently the only available solution for manufacturers who want to put a tri-band AC3200 router, the differences between the routers in this space really boils down to design, implementation and features.
From a performance perspective, the ASUS and D-Link routers are mostly even matched from 2m to 13m, with the D-Link DIR-890L router having the advantage at our farthest test range of 17m and also in our performance load test. That said, we think most users would be hard pressed to notice the difference in real world usage scenarios. Still, if you have a large home and require wider Wi-Fi coverage, our results indicate that the D-Link DIR-890L router is the better bet.
|Router||ASUS AC-RT3200||D-Link DIR-890L|
|App-based router management||No||Yes|
|Easy QoS management||Yes (Dynamic)||Yes (Device-based)|
|Smart network prioritization||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in anti-malware security||Yes||No|
And when it comes to features, it is hard to beat ASUS' routers. ASUS has always crammed the most features into their routers and the new RT-AC3200 router boasts of many useful features including Ai Protection, cloud storage via Ai Cloud 2.0, and of course ASUS’ new and very nifty Traffic Analyzer tool. However, ASUS routers are still sorely lacking some form of remote app management at this point, but considering the company’s track record, we think this is a feature that will soon be implemented on ASUS routers. The D-Link DIR-890L is no slouch of course, but its features pale in comparison to the ASUS RT-AC3200. It can, however, be managed remotely using the mydlink Cloud app; and it does offer cloud storage functionality by way of its SharePort app.
To summarize, the D-Link DIR-890L is arguably one of the better performing AC3200 routers in the market right now. Its uplink and downlink speeds are both strong and its performance across all ranges is certainly above average. What’s more, when under load, its performance suffered the least degradation across all AC3200 routers we have tested. And at S$399 is also one of the more affordable ones - relatively speaking, of course. If performance is your utmost priority and you don't mind its hulking size, the D-Link DIR-890L comes highly recommended.
That said, the ASUS RT-AC3200 is by no means an inferior alternative. Though it costs more at S$429 and offers a bit less performance, it redeems itself with its very rich feature set. We especially like the new Traffic Analyzer function as it allows users to very quickly see all connected devices’ usage. We expect parents to love this new feature as it will allow them to easily monitor their children’s online usage. Bosses and IT administrators of SMEs will like this new feature too. If you find the features offered by the ASUS RT-AC3200 router useful, don't be dissuaded by its slightly lower performance because it is definitely still a very capable router.