Long term, cheap upgrade from RT-AC56U

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ptys

New Around Here
Hello,

I've been using RT-AC56U with Merlin for good 8 years, and it slowly fails to deliver a good performance, so i started to look after replacement (or even additional device to mesh with AC56)

Current use case:
- Home, 100m2, 3 levels (attic, living floor with router, basement, (where things get reeeally slow (despite being in 5-8meters in straight line from router, concrete and rebars distorts signal significantly - 2.4 GHz drops to 6-10 Mbps U/D, 5GHz cannot reach there)
- WAN - Fibre 100/10, planned upgrade to 300/300, modem provided by ISP, connected to AC56 WAN
- 2 Users BUT with multiple devices
3-4 smarthpones, mostly in 5GHz (mail, photo sync, streaming)
2 PCs, Gigabit lan (Gaming, downloads, streaming)
4 Laptops - AX wifi here, would like to use it (work, work, work - all day telcos, o365)
TV (netflix and such, currently cannot play smooth withouth buffering 4k/60FPS high bitrate gopro footage from NAS)
Gigabit NAS - WDC My Cloud, for local backup/playback - planning on change it for something more powerfull to create daily backup of all devices)
Camera network recorder - has its own network, so no additional load unless camera previev is turned on (10 Mbps max)
○ WIFi Printer
+/-10 "Smart thingis" like washing machine, fridge, ac and such on separate VLAN (just because i dont trust chinesium spies ;)
Ocassional guest PC/Smartphones hoarding updates or consuming youtube


Additional needs
- Private VPN to securely connect from other networks
- WiFi in garden would be nice, so range should be rather good witouth throwing thousand of mesh range extenders (home in center, area 30x30m)
- More than 4 Gib Lan ports would be nice, now i have to shuffle sometimes
- Merlin features - custom adblocking and DNS is supernice


Current problems with RT-AC56
- Old - no new merlins for me :(
- Hot as fck - strapped 120mm fan via usb
- shirt coverage induces crappy speeds
- Unstable - likely to hang once or twice a week, and here comes reset button rape, because it doesnt like to reboot at first shot


What long-lasting solution is worth of recomendation, withouth breaking budget, lets say 100-200 EUR?

Or fck it and go balls deep for Ubiquity Dream Machine, and learn a few networking tricks?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
If an RT-AC56U is working well enough for your requirements, the current king, the RT-AX86U, will likely do the same for the next few years too.

Unless you're going into enterprise setups (Aruba, etc.), Asus is still the best consumer router to consider, overall.
 

Net Noob

Occasional Visitor
Hey @L&LD,

I have an AC86U which is glitching out all over the place. I think the usb 2.0 port which has my usb swap file, skynet etc is failing as I constantly have to re install things on the usb. One thing I definitely need is good openvpn performance for expressvpn. Would you still recommend the RT-AX86U for this or would it be better to get another AC86U? Im looking for a bit of future proofing if possible, the AC86U is going semi cheap ATM, AX86U is about £100 more, AX88U is £200 more and way out of budget.

Thank you so much for any advise.

Noob
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
£100 is a significant difference. An RT-AC86U may be the better buy today, for you. What is the absolute cost though?

The RT-AX86U is the router I would spend my money on, even today.

The RT-AX88U isn't even a consideration (at its normal prices). I would rate it 70% of the cost of the RT-AX86U, and even then, buy the RT-AX86U instead. Yes, it is that much better (the RT-AX86U).

Be sure to use the link to test your current router fully, before you buy anything (if you haven't already). If the router is faulty (it may just be USB key incompatibility), then I would be leaning towards the RT-AX86U instead of a second RT-AC86U. (unless yours is still in warranty).

 

Net Noob

Occasional Visitor
£100 is a significant difference. An RT-AC86U may be the better buy today, for you. What is the absolute cost though?

The RT-AX86U is the router I would spend my money on, even today.

The RT-AX88U isn't even a consideration (at its normal prices). I would rate it 70% of the cost of the RT-AX86U, and even then, buy the RT-AX86U instead. Yes, it is that much better (the RT-AX86U).

Be sure to use the link to test your current router fully, before you buy anything (if you haven't already). If the router is faulty (it may just be USB key incompatibility), then I would be leaning towards the RT-AX86U instead of a second RT-AC86U. (unless yours is still in warranty).


Heya,

Thank you so much for the advise. I'm looking at £120 for the AC86U, £229 for AX86U and £279 for the AX88U.

All my issues started when the original usb I was using for swap etc crapped out and iv changed it. Since then iv had lots of silly issues. Is there list of some sort for what usb to use? Would running swap etc from a USB 3.0 stick in the USB 3.0 port make any difference speed wise? DNScrypt has always been flakey. Iv got a 1tb hdd with videos etc on in the USB 3.0 port ATM.

I haven't tried that Ultra reset you have linked. I might have to go through that...

Is it worth going for the AX86U now or should I hold on for dear life until black Friday which isn't so far off?

Thanks again,

Noob
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
If you have internet (at a 'good enough' level), hold off for a sale. :)

At the prices, you're quoting, if a new router was really necessary, the RT-AC86U is what I would choose again (but again, see if the full reset (paying particular attention to the specifics), a new USB drive (use a different model from a different manufacturer to test with, and don't forget to test with a USB 3.0 drive in the USB 3.0 port but limited to 2.0 speeds (still more than fast enough for what amtm + scripts need)).

That 1TB drive may be all your issues though (what 'exactly' are you doing with it). If you're doing more than just storing photos/documents on it, you need a NAS). :)
 

SoCalReviews

Very Senior Member
Consider the RT-AX86U as an investment you will be happy with for the next five years. It would be a significant upgrade for you. If you can find one new in stock at the retail price I would just get it. If you don't want to spend the money right now then get by with what you have until you save up more money for an upgrade that is going to make a difference.
 

ptys

New Around Here
OK, RT-AX86U is always an option, but it cracks budget too hard

What about some range extending with RT-AC1200 V2 or even cheaper RT-N12+ PLUS? Asus range extenders are no-go price wise.
 

Volt

Regular Contributor
It would be hard to get good VPN performance with relatively cheap routers, but RT-AX56U and RT-AX58U are decent models. AX58U has 160MHz as compared to AX56U, but AX56U shows better speed and stability when using 80MHz.
 

JWoo

Senior Member
It would be hard to get good VPN performance with relatively cheap routers, but RT-AX56U and RT-AX58U are decent models. AX58U has 160MHz as compared to AX56U, but AX56U shows better speed and stability when using 80MHz.
I have had both RT-AX56U and RT-AX58U. The RT-AX58U has some systemic issues with stability (Asus replaced mine several times under warranty and ultimately did a buy-back). The RT-AX56U seems a much more stable platform, has a good quad core SOC and good amount of memory. Main issue with RT-AX56U is that it is 80Mhz (in hardware) as stated above and 2x2. Most of our IoT devices though only have a 1 or 2 internal antennas, so the 2x2 is actually fine for most people who cannot benefit from 3x3 or greater antenna configurations.
 

Net Noob

Occasional Visitor
If you have internet (at a 'good enough' level), hold off for a sale. :)

At the prices, you're quoting, if a new router was really necessary, the RT-AC86U is what I would choose again (but again, see if the full reset (paying particular attention to the specifics), a new USB drive (use a different model from a different manufacturer to test with, and don't forget to test with a USB 3.0 drive in the USB 3.0 port but limited to 2.0 speeds (still more than fast enough for what amtm + scripts need)).

That 1TB drive may be all your issues though (what 'exactly' are you doing with it). If you're doing more than just storing photos/documents on it, you need a NAS). :)

Hello again,

Thank you for taking so much interest :)

I actually have a bespoke built NAS but I have to have it switched on all the time to watch animation I have on it via DLNA. As of a couple of days ago, I thought I'd mess around with the Asus media server and then I thought, well, I have a spare 1tb hdd, so if i put some animation on it I can use the router itself to pipe it to my TV. That way, my NAS doesn't need to be on all the time. It seems to be working flawlessly so far.

The glichyness I'm having started from when the original usb I was using for swap etc crapped out and I started using a new one.

Il monitor everything for a few days and probably Ultra reset the whole thing if it gets unbearable. What sort of usb would be best to use? Should I use one under a certain size? The one I was using was an old Toshiba USB 2.0 8gb one. Used it for about 3 years with no issues.

Thank you L&LD and everyone else for piping in.

:)
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
The 'best' is an SSD (either PCIe SATA or M.2), in an in-expensive UGreen enclosure (or similar). Another option (more pricey) is a Samsung T5 or T7 of 500GB or larger.

I've used a Patriot 512GB Supersonic Rage Elite (the 256GB and the 1TB are also good too).

Try this before you do the Nuclear/Ultra reset.

WARNING: You may want to make a backup of the USB drive (I don't recommend this), and/or the JFFS partition and the Router config too before you proceed. Note that this will remove some settings that rely on the JFFS partition such as OpenVPN settings, etc. I wouldn't be too worried (myself), just be aware that you may need to reconfigure certain features for them to work again.

With the above out of the way, this is what I would suggest, to get the 'cleanest' install of amtm and a new USB drive.

  • Methodically remove each and every amtm script you've installed. Reboot as necessary (the scripts will guide you here).
  • Safely remove all the USB drives attached to the router, via the GUI. After they are dismounted, physically remove each USB drive (all of them) from the router.
  • Before inserting a new USB drive, do the following steps.
    • Via the GUI, select the button to 'Format the JFFS partition on the next boot'. Make sure you hit 'Apply' at the bottom of that router page.
    • Reboot the router 3 times in the next 15 minutes or so. Waiting 5 to 10 minutes between reboots.
    • After the last reboot, wait until the router has settled down (around 3 to 5 minutes for most routers/networks) before inserting the new USB drive (do not put your data drive in yet).
    • Before putting in any USB drive that you want to use for amtm scripts/features, be sure you format it to NTFS on a PC.
  • Now, ignoring the instructions for 'installing' amtm, you can use the link below to properly format, name, add a Swap File and prepare the new USB drive for amtm use.
If followed fully, this will be as 'clean' as possible without needing to do the 'ultra' reset, now. But note, if you do need to do the Nuclear/Ultra reset, the above steps are still 'required'. Namely: do not insert a USB drive that was previously used for amtm duties without first formatting it to NTFS on a PC.
 

Volt

Regular Contributor
The RT-AX58U has some systemic issues with stability.
Completely agree. The same results were obtained in the SNB tests: here is the throughput chart for RT-AX56U (but for 80 MHz only) and for RT-AX58U. Looks like RT-AX56U, using a 80MHz channel,(surprisingly!) provides better speeds and throughput than AX58U that uses a 160MHz channel.
 
Last edited:

JWoo

Senior Member
You might keep in mind supply chain shortages due to COVID-19. A lot of electronics, including routers, have had supply shortages.
Completely agree. The same results were obtained in the SNB tests: here is the throughput chart for RT-AX56U (but for 80 MHz only) and for RT-AX58U. Looks like RT-AX56U, using a 80MHz channel,(surprisingly!) provides better speeds and throughput than AX58U that uses a 160MHz channel.
The Asus router range in the mid-grade is really an odd bird. The RT-AX56U has a BCM6755 1.5Ghz quadcore Broadcom SOC and uses the radios on the SOC to help keep cost low. The RT-AX58U is SW neutered to be 2x2 but supports 160 Mhz channels; it has the 3 core BCM6750. The RT-AX68U has an older BCM4906 1.8 Ghz dual core (which runs pretty hot) but is 3x3; the BCM4906 is a HW neutered version of the quad core BCM4908. The RT-AX82U is the same as the RT-AX58U, but is 3x3 due to not being SW neutered. All of these routers have the same amount of flash and RAM memory. A simple question of "which one of these is best" is really hard to say because there is no clear winner. The RT-AX56U I will say runs very cool (59-60 degrees C for the CPU) and the quad core seems to have a lot of grunt as it is normally running at low CPU load on each of the cores (typically one core is around 5 - 12% and the rest are 0 - 5% load). As none of my IoT devices have more than 2 antennas, I do not benefit from having more than 2 antennas on the router but I would benefit from 160 Mhz channels.
 
Last edited:

Bostonvex

New Around Here
Very happy with RT-AX86U. The AX88 is getting long in the tooth as well. If you're going to keep it for a few years it is worth the spend. Only thing is it is not triband so I'm missing that 5ghz-2 channel for Wi-Fi backhaul which is of course not an issue if you do LAN for backhaul.
 

Net Noob

Occasional Visitor
The 'best' is an SSD (either PCIe SATA or M.2), in an in-expensive UGreen enclosure (or similar). Another option (more pricey) is a Samsung T5 or T7 of 500GB or larger.

I've used a Patriot 512GB Supersonic Rage Elite (the 256GB and the 1TB are also good too).

Try this before you do the Nuclear/Ultra reset.

WARNING: You may want to make a backup of the USB drive (I don't recommend this), and/or the JFFS partition and the Router config too before you proceed. Note that this will remove some settings that rely on the JFFS partition such as OpenVPN settings, etc. I wouldn't be too worried (myself), just be aware that you may need to reconfigure certain features for them to work again.

With the above out of the way, this is what I would suggest, to get the 'cleanest' install of amtm and a new USB drive.

  • Methodically remove each and every amtm script you've installed. Reboot as necessary (the scripts will guide you here).
  • Safely remove all the USB drives attached to the router, via the GUI. After they are dismounted, physically remove each USB drive (all of them) from the router.
  • Before inserting a new USB drive, do the following steps.
    • Via the GUI, select the button to 'Format the JFFS partition on the next boot'. Make sure you hit 'Apply' at the bottom of that router page.
    • Reboot the router 3 times in the next 15 minutes or so. Waiting 5 to 10 minutes between reboots.
    • After the last reboot, wait until the router has settled down (around 3 to 5 minutes for most routers/networks) before inserting the new USB drive (do not put your data drive in yet).
    • Before putting in any USB drive that you want to use for amtm scripts/features, be sure you format it to NTFS on a PC.
  • Now, ignoring the instructions for 'installing' amtm, you can use the link below to properly format, name, add a Swap File and prepare the new USB drive for amtm use.
If followed fully, this will be as 'clean' as possible without needing to do the 'ultra' reset, now. But note, if you do need to do the Nuclear/Ultra reset, the above steps are still 'required'. Namely: do not insert a USB drive that was previously used for amtm duties without first formatting it to NTFS on a PC.

Heya,

Sorry to bother you all again but iv figured out what my issue is. When I SSH into my router the date / time seems to be stuck:

Code:
ASUSWRT-Merlin RT-AC86U 386.3_2 Fri Aug  6 21:48:26
UTC 2021

The time / date never moves from this, no matter how many times I SSH into the router. Is this a big issue or would a nuclear reset solve this? The time zone in the system section of the router frontend is correct at GMT London Lisbon and there don't seem to be any errors in the frontend.

Thanks
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
That should be the date of the firmware build. :)
 

Net Noob

Occasional Visitor
The 'best' is an SSD (either PCIe SATA or M.2), in an in-expensive UGreen enclosure (or similar). Another option (more pricey) is a Samsung T5 or T7 of 500GB or larger.

I've used a Patriot 512GB Supersonic Rage Elite (the 256GB and the 1TB are also good too).

Try this before you do the Nuclear/Ultra reset.

WARNING: You may want to make a backup of the USB drive (I don't recommend this), and/or the JFFS partition and the Router config too before you proceed. Note that this will remove some settings that rely on the JFFS partition such as OpenVPN settings, etc. I wouldn't be too worried (myself), just be aware that you may need to reconfigure certain features for them to work again.

With the above out of the way, this is what I would suggest, to get the 'cleanest' install of amtm and a new USB drive.

  • Methodically remove each and every amtm script you've installed. Reboot as necessary (the scripts will guide you here).
  • Safely remove all the USB drives attached to the router, via the GUI. After they are dismounted, physically remove each USB drive (all of them) from the router.
  • Before inserting a new USB drive, do the following steps.
    • Via the GUI, select the button to 'Format the JFFS partition on the next boot'. Make sure you hit 'Apply' at the bottom of that router page.
    • Reboot the router 3 times in the next 15 minutes or so. Waiting 5 to 10 minutes between reboots.
    • After the last reboot, wait until the router has settled down (around 3 to 5 minutes for most routers/networks) before inserting the new USB drive (do not put your data drive in yet).
    • Before putting in any USB drive that you want to use for amtm scripts/features, be sure you format it to NTFS on a PC.
  • Now, ignoring the instructions for 'installing' amtm, you can use the link below to properly format, name, add a Swap File and prepare the new USB drive for amtm use.
If followed fully, this will be as 'clean' as possible without needing to do the 'ultra' reset, now. But note, if you do need to do the Nuclear/Ultra reset, the above steps are still 'required'. Namely: do not insert a USB drive that was previously used for amtm duties without first formatting it to NTFS on a PC.

  • Now, ignoring the instructions for 'installing' amtm, you can use the link below to properly format, name, add a Swap File and prepare the new USB drive for amtm use.
Sorry again,

Which link are you referring to L&LD?

Thanks,

Noob
 

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