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I'm not going to dive into feature details in this review, as ASUSWRT's features are well-known. I'll be doing only component analysis and performance review. But so you're not confused about the feature set you're buying with the AC86, here are a few screenshots to show key feature sets.

Here's the Game Boost menu expanded, with everything you get with ASUS' "Gamer" routers.

Game Boost menu

Game Boost menu

The AiProtection feature set also looks complete.

Game Boost menu

AiProtection menu

Finally the Adaptive QoS screen also looks pretty familiar.

Adaptive QoS menu

Adaptive QoS menu

Storage Performance

I had no luck getting the AC86 to recognize either my standard Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCKU3SEF) or a WD My Passport Ultra drive after multiple attach/detach cycles and router reboots. So, no storage performance results.

Updated 11/16/17

After some encouragement from SNBForums regulars, I decided to give storage testing one more shot. Maybe it was the router reboot, but this time I had no problems mounting the standard drive plugged into the USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and ran the full set of tests. All the data is now in the Router Charts; I'll be comparing USB 3.0/NTFS results only.

The AC86 did pretty well, beating NETGEAR's R7800 for both write and read with 71 MB/s and 104 MB/s, respectively. Of course, I had to change the Reducing USB 3.0 Interference setting on the 2.4 GHz Wireless - Professional page from its default enable setting to disable to achieve these results.

USB 3.0/NTFS storage performance comparison

USB 3.0/NTFS storage performance comparison

Routing Performance

The AC86 was loaded with firmware and tested with our Revision 10 router test process. I didn't retest the RT-AC68U with the Revision 10 process. So I've included results for NETGEAR's R7000P instead, since I'm considering it the AC86U's peer.

Test Description ASUS RT-AC86U NETGEAR R7000P
WAN - LAN Throughput (Mbps) 938 941
LAN - WAN Throughput (Mbps) 941 940
HTTP Score - WAN to LAN (%) 57.1 0.3
HTTP Score - LAN to WAN (%) 57.3 22.5
Bufferbloat Score- Down Avg. 575 513
Bufferbloat Score- Down Max. 446 376
Bufferbloat Score- Up Avg. 529 423
Bufferbloat Score- Up Max. 388 322
CTF Score (%) 99.1 32.6
Firmware Version V1.0.0.56_1.0.45
Table 2: Routing throughput

The WAN - LAN and LAN - WAN throughput benchmarks are the least meaningful, since most products can hit these numbers due to the common use of Cut Through Forwarding. The HTTP and CTF Scores are now where you want to focus.

HTTP Score averages - WAN to LAN

HTTP Score comparison - WAN to LAN
Plot key file size: [A] 2 KB, [B] 10 KB, [C] 108 KB and [D] 759 KB file

The HTTP Score plots show the AC86U spanking the R7000P for both download and upload, reaching 100% of baseline throughput for both 108 KB and 759 KB file sizes.

HTTP Score averages - LAN to WAN

HTTP Score comparison - LAN to WAN
Plot key file size: [A] 2 KB, [B] 10 KB, [C] 108 KB and [D] 759 KB file

Comparing average Bufferbloat scores from Table 2 above, both routers did pretty well. Converting the AC86U's scores back to latency ((1/score) x 1000) yields 1.7 msec average WAN to LAN and 1.9 msec LAN to WAN.

The Cut Through Forwarding tests look for throughput reduction when various router features are used. The 99.1% score means testing did not show appreciable throughput reduction for any of the features tested (adaptive QoS, Bandwidth monitor, Traffic Monitor, AiProtection w/ all features enabled, Parental Control w/ all features enabled and keyword blocking).

In all, the AC86U's routing looks pretty fast, no matter which features you use.

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