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Synology's RT-2600ac wireless router reviewed

Quiet looks, killer performance

A few years back, I moved from a house to an apartment. The Asus RT-N66U wireless router that had served me for a couple years began to suffer. What had once reached with ease from my basement to my second floor now struggled to provide a reliable connection across 20-some feet with a couple walls in between. Between the mass of competing wireless networks—about 26 of them in range, at last count—and the five-year old tech inside the so-called Dark Knight, it was about time for an upgrade. When Synology offered to send us its brand-new RT-2600ac router for consideration, I was eager to see what it could do.

The basics
Before we get a look at the outside, let's go over what's inside. The RT-2600ac is an 802.11ac router with "wave 2" features, including MU-MIMO with 2x2 160MHz support on contiguous 80 MHz bands and 2x2 80 MHz streams on discontiguous bands. It packs a Qualcomm IPQ8065 1.7GHz dual core CPU and 512MB of DDR3 RAM. It also features what Synology calls a "Hardware Layer 7 Engine" that provides application-layer QoS optimization. Synology says the engine will allow for "minimal performance and throughput drops even with advanced traffic control and monitoring enabled." This router takes its "2600ac" designation from the 800 Mbps it can push on the 2.4 GHz band and the potential 1733 Mbps it can move on its 5GHz radio.

Now for the casing: Imagine a router in your head. That's exactly how the Synology RT-2600ac looks.

This router won't stand out as anything other than a standard piece of home networking equipment. The matte-black plastic, slightly rounded look, and raised feet tell us that this hardware is meant to put on a desk at home or in a small office rather than mounted on the ceiling of a cubicle farm. But unlike a lot of routers lately, it's also not a piece of artwork meant to be put on display. It's a tool to get a job done. It's also much bigger than the Asus RT-N66U I'm replacing. Weirdly, the feet extend far past the screw-mount holes. Mounting the RT-2600ac on a wall would be difficult without modification.

The back of the RT-2600ac is pretty standard, as well. You'll find four yellow switch ports capable of Gigabit Ethernet speeds, one blue WAN port, and a single USB 2.0 port. One of the LAN ports can also double as a second WAN port. With this arrangement, you can bond two internet connections together or use one as a failover for the other, including connections from a list of compatible 3G/4G dongles.

Each side of the router has a couple discreet items tucked underneath. On one side there's a USB 3.0 port and accompanying eject button to safely disconnect the USB device. The other side has a switch to turn Wi-Fi off and to initiate Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). And finally, on the front is an SD card reader.

The status lights on the front are small and fairly discreet. They're also green and orange instead of the blue that's been more popular in recent years. For me, that means they're not nearly as eye-searing as most routers are. Better yet, you can turn them on and off—or even schedule when they're on—in the router's firmware, which we'll be getting into shortly.

Visually, the RT-2600ac is a simple and straightforward package that gets the job without attracting attention to itself. It's got basically every port we might want from a consumer wireless router, and its claimed performance numbers are compelling enough. Let's take Synology's firmware for a spin now.