One of the more difficult fields of Information Technology is networking. There are hundreds of different terms, configurations, devices, and resources that you need to understand before even getting a handle on networking as a whole.
Yet, it’s funny to think that every single one of us has had some experience with computer networking. Reading this review right now means that you have an active internet connection that is provided to you by a router.
For those using their home network, chances are high that at one point in time you’ve installed a router at your home. Whether the router was provided by your Internet Service Provider or you purchased a third-party one, you’ve already begun learning a little bit more about networking.
The router is a device that manages your network traffic, both at a wired and wireless level. Think of it as a road checkpoint to the internet. The checkpoint manages your internet traffic ensuring it gets from the outside internet to your device and vice versa.
Details on how a router work are complicated, but surely router manufacturers make it easy for the consumer to use. Yet, anyone who has used a router knows that this is far from the truth.
Over the years, consumer grade routers have been a headache for millions. They fail to connect to your device, they require restarts, updating the internal firmware is a massive risk, and configuring settings is nearly impossible unless you work in the networking field.
An annoyance that many of us can relate to is when we are at home, we have to manually tell our wireless devices to connect to either 2.4GHz or 5GHz. Plus, how are you supposed to know which is better for you at that given point in time?
With major router manufacturers not innovating and just creating a new model number every time a new 802.11 standard is announced, it has left room for some new competitors to enter the consumer router market.
One of the new kids on the block is Synology, a manufacturer of networking equipment for businesses. By taking what they’ve learned from business grade networking and adding the features that consumers have wanted for years, they may have just created the world’s most perfect consumer grade router.
Welcome to my review of the Synology RT2600ac router. Throughout this in-depth review, I will be discussing the design, setup and user interface, functionality, and my final thoughts on the router. A special thank you to Synology for providing this router for this review.
Unlike most routers, the RT2600ac is much larger in size. Wider, taller, and thicker, the RT2600AC ensures that the internal hardware has room to breathe and work to its full potential rather than going for the opposite thinnest route.
Stealthy in matte black, the router is constructed out of an all plastic housing. This housing doubles up as a giant heat sink for the internal bits. The top and bottom faces of the housing are spliced with heating vents and while this is great for cooling, be warned of any falling dust/debris or liquids that have the potential to ruin the internals.
On a traditional router, the router would feature some general rear mounted I/O. A standard WLAN, Ethernet, power, and one USB port is about standard on all routers today. Equally, many routers nowadays feature internal wireless antennas which are abysmal for wireless coverage. Therefore, it’s a good thing that the RT2600AC is not a traditional router.
In terms of the I/O on the router, it features your normal power inputs, WLAN ports, and USB ports, but there are some additional I/O buttons that many may not be used to. On the back of the unit, you will find four Ethernet jacks, one of which can double as a passive WLAN2 port. More on this later.
Something I would have liked to see more of is Ethernet jacks. It is my understanding that the RT2600ac is a wireless powerhouse and meant to be used with, literally, a hundred different wireless clients at once. However, with a household of multiple wired components, four Ethernet jacks wouldn’t even come close to satisfying all of my connected devices. Luckily, my Linksys network switch was able to help in that department.
Furthermore, on top of the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, the front of the RT2600ac also contains a full-sized SD card slot. Wondering how this could be of benefit, if you install an internal SD card slot, you could expand the storage capacity of the router and use it as a compact and efficient file sharing storage for devices on your network.
Another way the RT2600ac breaks the traditional router view is by using not one, not two, but four massive and thick wireless antennas. While the performance of the antennas will be discussed below, these antennas reach for the skies to ensure a full home wireless network coverage.
To assist with the range of the antennas, the RT2600ac has an aggressive stance. The back of the unit, where the antennas are located, is pushed up higher due to the non-removable legs. Moreover, the front uses small rubber pads to prevent the router from sliding around.
Finally, on the front face of the RT2600ac, you’ll find the status LED notification lights. Represented by a green, and sometimes yellow, status LED, these LEDs represent the router’s Status, 2.4G, 5G, WAN1, WAN2, and the four rear-mounted Ethernet jacks.
Setup and User Interface
This is going to be the bread and butter of this review, my favorite part, the part that makes you buy this product. Spoiler alert, this is the part that gives this review the title I chose.
If you have a moment, I would recommend reading my reviews on the Synology DS216j and the Synology Surveillance Station. In both of these reviews, I rave about how easy it is to use and configure a complex Network Attached System (NAS) device in your home.
The same ease and excellent user interface that was found on the Synology NAS units makes its way to the RT2600ac.
Setting up the RT2600ac is fairly straight forward. You connect the WLAN port to a modem, Ethernet1 to your device, and power the whole unit up. Initial boot up does take a few minutes, so do be patient when waiting for the router to connect to your device.
Once it has booted, it should either open or redirect an open web browser, on a connected computer, to the configuration page. There are four steps in the setup guide. The first asks for your administrator login, second is your wireless network setup, the third is how you wish for the router to operate (Router or AP), and the last is whether or not you’d like the router to be accessible from outside your home network.
Believe it or not, that’s it, you’re done. The router will now be broadcasting an SSID and connect all of your devices to the internet through the modem. The only additional setup phase I would recommend is to update the RT2600ac to the latest firmware.
If you did happen to read my other Synology reviews or you’ve used Synology software before, you feel right at home by logging into the RT2600ac. Even if you are new, understanding how everything works is fairly easy because it functions very similarly to Windows and Mac.
The operating system for the RT2600ac is called the Synology Router Manager or SRM. When logged into SRM, there are four major desktop icons that you will use for nearly everything. The network center manages all of your networking tools, control panel takes care of configuring the device, package center allows you to download some additional apps for the router, and the SRM Help is an in-depth wiki that explains every function and every option on the RT2600ac.
When you are using SRM, depending on the option, everything is categorized and clearly understandable on what you are doing. For example, the network center controls connected devices, network status, parental controls, security, and port forwarding, whereas the control panel is user creation, storage, services, device settings, and system changes.
Some of the options go over even my own head and I needed to sometimes access the SRM Help application to find out what I was about to change or how to configure something. Even small things are listed like changing the brightness on the LEDs.
Regardless of whether you want to go all out in customizing your networking or keeping some things at stock, the user interface of the RT2600ac is marvelous. You use your mouse for practically every function and it’s all a smooth operation. Programs open quickly, you can move program windows around, minimize them, and even pin them to your desktop.
Finally, being that Synology is a company that focuses much of its attention on enterprise networking equipment, it seems very fitting that we would find their enterprise knowledge in this unit. If you could configure it on an enterprise router, there’s a good chance it’s here on the RT2600ac and translated in a way that the consumer can understand.
There’s settings for IPv6 Tunneling, DNS, WAN, Port forwarding, DHCP, VoIP, Web-filters, Firewalls, DoS protection, QoS, and so much more. You could even add it to a Domain if you wanted too.
After you’ve gotten everything configured and setup, the RT2600ac is somewhat of a setup-and-forget-about-it device. No random reboots or extra configuring needed.
To keep up with your networking traffic and multiple connected devices, the RT2600ac features a 1.7GHz Dual Core CPU, which is unheard of in consumer routers. For example, Linksys’s E8400, which is a similarly priced router to the RT2600ac, only uses a 1.4GHz Dual Core.
Continuing with the hardware, internally there is also 512 MB of DDR3 memory that assists the 4×4 MIMO omnidirectional external antennas.
These antennas are 2.4GHz and 5GHz banded antennas that have some serious performance gains. Running on the 802.11AC band, the RT2600ac can pierce wireless network through walls and objects like they aren’t even there. I placed the RT2600ac router all the way in the left corner of the house and walked to a room in the opposite right corner of the house. On 5GHz, I was receiving -75 dBm, which is a fair strength for 5GHz at this distance. Then, for 2.4GHz, I was well in the green range around -50 dBm.
This router easily outperforms the Linksys E8400 for wireless strength. Walking all around my home, my phone never dropped signal nor did it drop below 3 bars of signal strength.
Another advantage that the RT2600ac has is that the 2.4GHz and 5GHz can be embedded into the same wireless SSID. Unlike the Linksys unit, the Synology router allows the device to swap between 2.4GHz and 5GHz without needing to connect to a different SSID or drop the connection. To the user, it’s a fully seamless operation.
Another seamless operation is the router’s ability to use two WLAN ports for incoming internet traffic. If it is available through your modem or you have two internet lines in your home, the RT2600ac uses WLAN1 as your active line, with WLAN2 being a failover in case WLAN1 goes down. In other terms, you can never go without the internet.
Moreover, this dual-WLAN can also be used for load balancing. To ensure that you have enough bandwidth to maintain all of your connected devices, you can split the workload onto both WLAN ports so that one WLAN port isn’t doing all of the work.
In testing, the router performs as I would expect it too. On a generic speed test, the router reaches my expected speeds of 60Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. Additionally, there is about zero lag time when I stress tested the router by downloading games, watching Netflix, and playing PC games. I don’t even think the router broke a sweat.
Inside the SRM, you can see all of the connected devices, the CPU and memory usage, as well as the current upload and download speeds. During the stress test, the RT2600ac acted in the same manner as it did when just running normal web. It’s truly outstanding on how well it manages content and network trafficking.
Updating a router in the past was something that very few dared to do. The reason was that they knew the risk was high and if something were to go wrong, then you have an expensive paperweight. Plus, the router never knew if a new update was available. It was up to you to find that out.
On the RT2600ac, updates come from Synology automatically and install themselves when you say you are ready. Other than clicking on “Update now”, the RT2600ac will handle the entire process for you. No need to worry or miss out on some crucial security or feature upgrade/fix.
Finally, a key component in any router is how secure it is from internet attacks. For Synology, it seemed fairly easily to protect the RT2600ac as you’ll find those enterprise components in this unit. If something were to bypass the firewall, DoS protection, and unseen security protocols installed onto the RT2600ac, then it would be quite the feat for the hacker. However, if you want to ensure a complete and secure connection, the RT2600ac does allow for a full VPN configuration and setup.
My Final Thoughts
At approximately 2400 words in this review, I could go on and on about this router. If there was a negative comment to make about the router, I couldn’t seem to have found it. There are too many good things going for it and it’s so feature-rich that the value is unbeatable. Something like this must, of course, cost an outrageous amount of money, but it’s no more than the average Linksys router and offers a heck of a lot more. Priced at $239.95, it is easily one of my most favorite routers on the market.
The design, setup, user interface, functionality, and final thoughts are perfect in every single way. With an excellent user interface that can be operated by anybody and hardware that can compete and provide wireless in any home size, the RT2600ac is a product that nobody could be disappointed with.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
Tagged 10, 2.4, 5, fast, GHz, Gigabit, internet, Modem, network, networking, new, review, router, RT2600ac, Strong, Synology, top, wireless.