Before we jump into the numbers I pulled out of the router, let's take a quick tour of the testing environment. I live in a small apartment building with anywhere from 20 to 28 wireless networks of various types in range of me at any given moment. In short, this isn't the sort of environment where we'll be pushing the router to its upper limits of top speeds. Instead, we'll find out how it does in an environment of high interference.
Test point A has a few walls and corners between it and the router, and is about 25' away in a straight line. Test point B has one wall between and is just under 20' away. Test point C is about 5 feet away from the router.
One snag I hit during testing is that while my 802.11n Asus RT-N66U router allows me to isolate the signal to just 802.11n on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies, the Synology router can only run at AC speeds on 5GHz. So our points of direct comparison are the Ethernet and 2.4GHz Wireless-N speeds, while the 5GHz speeds are included for reference.
To put each router through its paces, I ran a variety of speed tests at Speedtest.net, ran iPerf with default settings, and performed two sets of file transfers between local machines. My large transfer test is a group of zip files totaling 9.53GB, and the small test is a 4.63GB folder of 998 JPG photos. The source machine for those transfers is my Lenovo X1 Yoga notebook with a 128GB SSD on the wireless network. The sink is my personal desktop, a Core i5-4590S-powered PC with a Samsung 840 EVO SSD. That machine sits behind the aforementioned Netgear ProSafe GS105 switch connected to the Synology's gigabit ports.
The first pleasant surprise I got from the 2600ac was finding that my ISP had actually raised my internet speed. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, because my Asus router never pulled more than 175Mbit/sec from Speedtest.net. Synology's router immediately bumped me up to anywhere from 210 to 240 Mb/s. I was able to verify that the difference was isolated to the wireless router by switching back and forth between the Asus and Synology repeatedly during testing. While this is almost certainly not a benefit imparted specifically by the RT-2600ac, it does show that if you live in an area with increasing broadband speeds, it can make sense to upgrade your router every couple years.
Because of all the interference provided by the surrounding networks, I did tinker with the Synology's channels, but I wasn't able to squeeze any more speed out of the router than the auto-selected channels were giving me. Aside from that, the only real changes I made to each router were to isolate to the 802.11n band for testing there. I didn't have any additional software packages enabled on the Synology during testing, either. Here's what we found.
The vast majority of the time, Synology's router beat Asus' router handily. Looking at the iPerf results, even the Synology's 2.4GHz 802.11n signal outperformed the Asus hardware on the same frequency. The gap narrowed when I was close to the router, but further away it was no contest. The RT-2600ac offered a stronger signal with better speed. Jumping up to 5GHz, we were pitting an 802.11n signal versus an 802.11ac signal, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Synology won out there, as well.
For testing how the wireless handled the connection to the internet, I first ran Speedtest.net's test over Ethernet. That baseline shows the jump I mentioned above for the Synology. From there, though, we can again see the Synology router outperforming the Asus' Wireless-N speeds easily once walls were introduced into the mix, while a test run close to the router narrowed the gap. Once 802.11ac kicks in, the Synology is unquestionably faster across the board.
In file transfers, the results are a bit more telling. By and large, the 2.4 GHz signal offered by Asus' router wasn't strong enough to make continuing the test worthwhile. I attempted the file transfer on the Asus' 2.4 GHz network, but it rapidly fluctuated between .5 MB/s and 1.5 MB/s, so I aborted the test. The Synology's 2.4 GHz signal wasn't much better at long distances, but it did remain solid enough to complete the test.
At 5GHz, the N-only Asus delivered solid enough transfer rates at all locations in my apartment, but the Synology's Wireless-AC radio lets it perform twice as fast or better at all of our testing locations. To be clear, this isn't a fair test (and it's not meant to be), but it does show that if you're on an older Wireless-N device, it can be worth upgrading to a more modern Wireless-AC router.
Overall, I'm very pleased with Synology's RT-2600ac. The quality-of-life features it offers through its firmware interface make it worthy of a look by themselves. Maintaining a network is never going to be a pleasure, but it doesn't have to be a slog, and Synology's SRM did a great job of offering me plenty of options and making them easy to find. And while my network doesn't see much in the way of heavy traffic right now, I know that it would be simple to bring it up to speed with additional users regardless of their needs. I'm even considering digging up one of the supported 4G dongles as a failover to make working from home a bit easier.
Whether I'm using the 802.11n or 802.11ac network on the 2600ac in my crowded wireless airspace, I'm already seeing a more consistent, zippier connection with my wireless devices when I'm not in my living room, and the data bears that out. When I work, I work mostly from my office, and wires are looking much less necessary there with the RT-2600ac
Whether the RT-2600ac is going to be worth its $240 price tag will depend somewhat on your needs. If you're living alone and own a single laptop and phone, then you may find it difficult to take advantage of the RT-2600ac's full feature set, but its ease of use and strong connection may be worth the cost. If you run a small business, a complex home network, or just like having solid, high-performance hardware, though, the collection of features and peformance offered by this router will make it more than worth the $240 sticker. Either way, we're happy to call Synology's RT-2600ac TR Recommended.