It’s no secret we at VPNUniversity love ASUS routers. I personally own 2 (the AC68U and the N66U) and will likely be adding to that collection soon. This article will show you the best ASUS routers with ASUSWRT.
Not only do ASUS’s higher end routers feature impressive hardware, but they also come preloaded with the easy-to-use and powerful ASUSWRT firmware, which (among other things) is VPN-capable right out of the box.
In other words, if you choose an ASUSWRT router, you won’t have to flash a 3rd-party router firmware like DD-WRT or TomatoUSB and risk ‘bricking’ your $200 router. That said, ASUS routers are also some of the most widely compatible with DD-WRT and Tomato firmwares, so if you’re a power user who feels like tinkering, the option to switch firmware is available.
Why we love ASUS-WRT routers
ASUSWRT (the stock firmware for high-end ASUS routers) is an excellent blend of features and usability. ASUSWRT gives even low-tech users easy control of advanced router functionality.
Impressive ASUS-WRT features include:
- Built-in VPN support (connect all devices to your favorite VPN service)
- Build your own cloud drive/NAS (easy setup with any USB drive)
- Download torrents without a computer using the router’s own torrent client!
We’ll have tutorials for all of these features in the future, but since this site is vpn-focused, we’ve already got step-by-step guide on how to use your ASUS-WRT router with any OpenVPN-enabled VPN provider.
A few notes on choosing a router
Don’t feel compelled to choose the most expensive ASUS router (they sell models priced over $300) but there’s also some really good reasons not to choose one of the cheapest ASUSWRT routers.
Here’s why: The cheaper ASUS routers feature single-core CPUs (as opposed to dual core, or even multiple dual-core processors in the higher end routers). Running a VPN or custom software (like the Asus torrent client) on your router is very CPU-intensive and will quickly max out a single-core CPU.
Personally, I think the best blend of price and power is the ASUS RT-AC68U which has a dual-core processor, and can easily handle 25+Mbps VPN speeds, or operating as an NAS cloud drive. Don’t buy a Lamborghini when a BMW 3-series will do just fine.
Unless of course you have money to burn.
Without further ado, here’s our comparison of the best ASUS routers for VPN…
ASUS N66U (Cheap, but under-powered)
The ASUS RT-N66U is the entry-level offering in the line of ASUSWRT firmware routers. It’s a decent choice as a go-to home router, but if you want to use some of the advanced functions of ASUSWRT (VPN, Cloud Drive, etc..) you’ll probably want to choose the AC68U (next up) instead.
The single-core processor is still probably much faster than your current router, but it’s not quite up to handling processor-intensive tasks like VPN encryption.
Don’t get me wrong, it still works as a VPN client, but we maxed out around 13mbps when using OpenVPN, whereas the dual-core routers can handle speeds more than double that.
Choose the N66U if…
If you just want a mid-range router that with some added functionality like a custom firewall, Qos (adjust speeds for different devices on your network) and cloud access to your files while away from home.
If you want to run a home media server or connect your router to a VPN, you should probably choose choose one of the dual-core routers below.
ASUS RT-AC68U: Best all-around value
The RT-68U is an AC1900 router, meaning it’s capable of 1900Mbps (theoretical) max wireless speeds. It is a dual-band router with both 5ghz and 2.4ghz bands. These can even be set up to to operate as separate wireless networks (a different SSID for each).
This essentially allows you to have 2 wireless networks in 1 router (and that’s not even counting the guest-network functionality).
- 800 Mhz dual-core CPU
- Dual Band (2.4ghz + 5ghz devices)
- 4 x Gigabit LAN ports
- ASUSWRT firmware
- Built-in ‘Trend-Micro’ firewall/threat protection
- VPN server & client compatibility (OpenVPN, PPTP & L2TP)
You should buy the AC68U if…
This our pick for the best blend of performance and value. It’s dual-core CPU should be powerful enough for most users, and works flawlessly as a dedicated VPN router.
You should buy a higher-end model if: You primarily want to operate your router as an NAS/cloud drive, as a faster processor will give you better transfer speeds from the attached USB 3.0 drive. The higher end models also offer a bit more range (though the 68U should cover a 2000-3000 square foot house just fine.
Pricing: at the time publishing, the AC-68u can be had for $155.31 on Amazon
RT-AC88U: Best for power users/ gaming)
If you’re a gamer, a speed junkie, or you want to build a home cloud server, the AC88U is probably a good fit.
It has a dual-core 1.4Ghz processor (almost twice as fast as the AC66U) which can handle VPN encryption speeds in excess of 50mbps.
It’s also GPN-enabled, for faster gaming and lower ping. Few routers can actually improve your gaming performance. This one can.
- 1.4 Ghz (1400 Mhz) dual-core CPU
- Tri – Band Wireless: (2.4ghz + 2 x 5ghz bands, with SmartConnectTM)
- 8 x Gigabit LAN ports
- ASUSWRT firmware
- ASUS Router App (control your router from you mobile device, iOS & Android)
- ‘Trend-Micro’ Aiprotection: firewall/threat protection
- VPN server & client compatibility: (OpenVPN, PPTP & L2TP)
- Beam-forming technology: Better wireless range, even through walls
- Game-acceleration: Compatible with private GPN servers for lower gaming latency
Who should buy the AC88U?
This beast has almost double the power of its younger brother (the AC66U), but costs almost double too ($288 vs $155 at the time of this writing).
If you have a fast (75mbps+) internet connection, and you plan on using your router as a VPN-enabled router, it may be worth the expense. Because of its faster CPU, the AC88U should be capable of VPN speeds almost 80% higher than the AC68U.
For reference, the AC68U consistently put out 25-35mbps in our testing, so the 88U should be able to crack 50Mbps.
Price: The AC88U was $287.99 when this article was published. The price should gradually decrease as Asus releases even higher-powered routers in the future.
ASUS RT-AC5300: Light some $$$$ on fire
Is this a router or a space alien?
Actually, it’s the RT-AC5300, Asus’s top-of-the-line router that costs almost as much as an iPad Air (The AC5300 was ‘discounted’ to $375.99 last I checked).
This is basically an AC88U on steroids, including: 8 antennas, dual WAN ports (combine two internet connections in one router) and a maximum wifi capacity of 5.3Gbps. Wowzers!
The AC-5300 actually shares the same 1.4Ghz dual-core processor as the cheaper AC88U. While their firmware capabilities are basically identical, the AC-5300 does add a few upgrades:
- 8 antenna, tri-band wireless: With two 5ghz bands, 2.4ghz band, and a combined maximum speed of 5300 mbps.
- MU-MIMO Ready: every compatible device gets its own connection, for maximum speeds without affecting other connected devices.
- Dual WAN: This router has 2 WAN ports, meaning if you had two ISP internet connections, you could combine them into an 1 ultrafast connection.
You should buy this router if…
If money grows on trees and you’re willing to pay an extra $100 for a modest improvement over the already-awesome AC88U, then this router may be worth a look.
But let’s be honest, $375 is an outrageous amount of money to spend on a router. Of course, maybe it’s gone down in price since I wrote this so…
Comparison Chart: N66U vs. AC68U vs. AC88U vs. AC5300
Below is a comparison chart showing the features and hardware for each of the routers in this article. The variation between models is primarily hardware, # of antennas, and CPU speed. They all run similar versions of the same ASUSWRT firmware.
|CPU Speed (cores)||600Mhz (1x)||800 Mhz (2x)||1.4Ghz (2x)||1.4Ghz (2x)|
|Max Wifi Speed||900 Mbps||1.9 Gbps||3.2 Gbps||5.3 Gbps|
|Wifi Bands||1 x 2.4 Ghz||2.4 Ghz, 5Ghz||2.4 Ghz, 2 x 5Ghz||2.4 Ghz, 3 x 5Ghz|
|Download Master (Torrent Client)|
What is ASUSWRT capable of? (Feature list)
ASUSWRT is currently the best stock router firmware available (our opinion). And the best part about these ASUS routers, is they are all supported by the popular third-party open source firmware options like TomatoUSB and DD-WRT.
Here’s some of the things you can do with an ASUS router, right out of the box…
Connect to a VPN (PPTP, L2TP, or OpenVPN)
The #1 reason we love these routers at VPN University, is that they are 100% VPN-compatible with the stock ASUSWRT firmware, including OpenVPN. What other router manufacturer can claim that?
DIY Cloud Server (with AiCloud)
You can literally flip a switch and turn your home network into a cloud server, by attaching any USB drive to your ASUSWRT router. There’s even an ASUSWRT app for Android and iOS that lets you access your files from your mobile device.
Quit paying $100/year for dropbox (and worrying about their security breaches). Instead, build your own cloud server and have 100% private file storage accessible from anywhere.
Adaptive QOS (Quality of Service)
Adjust bandwidth between individual devices on the network to make sure one persons’ streaming or downloading doesn’t hog all your bandwidth.
DownloadMaster (Torrent client)
Downloadmaster is a built-in torrent client that can be installed on your ASUSWRT router in a single click. It can even intelligently resume downloads that you’ve started from your PC, after its been shut down.
And of course, you can download directly to your attached USB drive connected to your router.
Don’t worry about giving out your secret router password to guests or acquaintances. Every ASUS router lets you set up a private ‘Guest’ network with completely separate login credentials. You can even limit its bandwidth if you want.
This is absolutely perfect for people with frequent house-guests or if you run an AirBnB.
Conclusion & Recommendations
We’ve given you a solid overview of the most popular ASUS router models available, but the question remains…
Which router should you choose?
Personally, I think most people will be quite satisfied with the mid-range (and mid-priced) RT-AC68U, which has 100% of the functionality of the higher-end models, and enough horsepower (CPU speed) to handle solid VPN speeds.
If you don’t mind spending over $200, the RT-AC88U is a worthy upgrade, with nearly double the CPU chip speed of the AC68U (1.4 Ghz vs. 0.8 Ghz), but you’ll pay around $100 extra for the upgrade.
Remember, don’t choose single-core if you want to run VPN
If you’re buying a router primarily to connect your devices to a VPN service, don’t choose ASUS’s single-core models like the N66U and AC66U.
Their single-core CPU can’t handle fast VPN speeds, and hits 100% utilization around 8-12 Mbps over VPN (depending on whether your VPN uses 128-bit or 256-bit encryption).
I highly recommend this ASUS line of routers, and have been blown away by their performance in my personal experience with the two that I own. I have yet to find a router line that is more powerful and more user-friendly than these.
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