Replace N66R; want to improve USB performance

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vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
Hi all,

I've been reading a lot of helpful charts and threads here. Just wanted to get a little direct advice. Sorry if this is long, but I want to give details so I can get the best advice. THANKS!!!

SHORT VERSION:
It's time to replace N66U, which gives excellent signal in home. Want device with equal or better WiFi signal strength and improved USB speed for simple USB HDD setup. Don't need real NAS. Tried AC68P/AC1900P, but USB sucked. Familiar with ASUS and leaning toward AC86U (about $160 on Amazon), but willing to consider other devices/brands in same or lower price range.

LONG VERSION:
I've had an ASUS RT-N66U since 2012, It's rock solid on the latest Merlin build, but Merlin no longer supports it. Also, a couple of weeks ago, the physical power button failed. It won't stay clicked in the down/ON position anymore. I have a toothpick jammed into it to keep the router ON. Otherwise it still works great. But maybe it's time for an upgrade...

Here's my setup:

3 story house. About 2400 sq. ft. total split roughly evenly among floors, so a good compact footprint. Router on middle floor. Mostly devices use 5GHz with excellent signal throughout. Even out in the garage or yard is good, and I'd like whatever I get to be as good or better in terms of signal strength.

1TB USB3 portable HDD connected to USB2 port on router. I get about 17MB/s read over FTP using 5GHz WiFi in the house. I know that this is slow by modern standards, but it's perfectly adequate for all of my needs, including streaming media to FireTV, etc. and copying files to phone or PC. But I would like to get more speed if possible. I know a real NAS would be faster, but I have no need for a full setup. I'm just a typical home user with a backup drive and no need for anything fancy or expensive.

I tried an ASUS RT-AC68P, aka AC1900P, as a replacement. Signal strength and general internet speed were equal or better than N66R, but the USB performance (both USB2 and USB3) over WiFi were garbage. I maxed out the USB3 at 5 MB/s on 5GHz over FTP. This is less than 1/3rd the performance of the N66U, a much older device. I read reports and found that this is a known problem with the AC68P. I tried reboots, factory resets, different firmware, and a lot of different settings, but it never improved, so I returned it.

So, the simple question: What should I get that will equal or improve the WiFi performance of the N66U while also improving the USB performance? I'm very familiar with ASUS firmware and I like the Merlin builds, so I'm leaning toward another ASUS. To save money, I'm considering the AC66U-B1. But I don't know about its USB performance. It's also an older device, and I think I may be better off getting something a lot newer to keep up with future demands. I'm also considering the AC86U ($160 on Amazon), which I have read has excellent USB3 read/write over WiFi. It's a little more than I wanted to pay, but I'm totally fine with the cost if it's as good as people say and will last many years. I have, however, read a few complaints of failing radios, so I'm open to other suggestions. I welcome all suggestions, including other models and/or brands in that price range.
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
As a quick follow-up, does anyone think I should format the USB HDD as ext4? Would that likely be any faster than NTFS?
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
I don't normally have a HDD attached to my router but I just tested a USB3 attached 3.5" drive (with its own PSU) and got the following results:

Router: RT-AC68U overclocked to 1.2GHz/800MHz
Firmware: 374.43_39E3j9527
HDD: 1TB NTFS

Ethernet
Samba Read: 56MB/s
Samba Write: 35MB/s
FTP Read: 65MiB/s
FTP Write: 52MiB/s

5GHz WiFi (other people were also using the wifi)
Samba Read: 40MB/s
Samba Write: 28MB/s
FTP Read: 40MiB/s
FTP Write: 28MiB/s
 
Last edited:

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
I don't normally have a HDD attached to my router but I just tested a USB3 attached 3.5" drive (with its own PSU) and got the following results:

Router: RT-AC68U overclocked to 1.2GHz/800MHz
Firmware: 374.43_39E3j9527
HDD: 1TB NTFS

Ethernet
Samba Read: 56MB/s
Samba Write: 35MB/s
FTP Read: 65MiB/s
FTP Write: 52MiB/s

5GHz WiFi (other people were also using the wifi)
Samba Read: 40MB/s
Samba Write: 28MB/s
FTP Read: 40MiB/s
FTP Write: 28MiB/s
Thanks, ColinTaylor. I'm glad it works well for you on the AC68U. That's the kind of improvement I was hoping for with the AC68P, which is supposed to be the newest/fastest version of the 68. In theory, with the dual-core CPU and USB3 it should have been at least 2 or 3X faster than the N66U, but the best I ever got was 5 MB/s over 5GHz WiFi FTP.

My drive is different than yours. Mine is a 2.5-inch powered by the USB, not a separate power supply. But that same drive pushes 17 MB/s when connected to my N66U. I returned the AC68P and I'm hoping to try something else. If you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
If you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them.
Not really. I'm rather perplexed at why you got such slow speeds. Maybe it was just a faulty unit. Did you perform a wired test for comparison? Did you get similar results?

Without knowing the cause of the slowness it's not really possible to recommend a different router with any confidence.
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
Not really. I'm rather perplexed at why you got such slow speeds. Maybe it was just a faulty unit. Did you perform a wired test for comparison? Did you get similar results?

Without knowing the cause of the slowness it's not really possible to recommend a different router with any confidence.
I thought about doing a wired test, but I never use Ethernet at home except for a PS3. So there wasn't any point. I agree that it may have been a faulty unit, but I don't want to try another AC68. There are quite a few threads around the internet (even here on SNBforums) of people with the same problem. I'd rather move on to something else.

According to the charts on this site, a couple of options with very good USB performance are the ASUS AC86U and the Linksys EA9300. Can anyone make a suggestion between those two?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@vondiesel, that is easy: the RT-AC86U + RMerlin firmware highly recommended. :)
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
@vondiesel, that is easy: the RT-AC86U + RMerlin firmware highly recommended. :)
Thanks, L&LD. I appreciate the recommendation. I would definitely run RMerlin!

Any thoughts on whether I should keep my USB HDD as NTFS, or re-format to ext4? I probably won't ever need to plug it into a Windows machine, so that's not a concern.
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
After getting additional recommendations here and elsewhere, I've decided to try the ASUS AC86U. It's a bit more than I wanted to pay, but I caught a good price on Amazon with free same-day shipping, so it's all good. And when I think back, the N66U was probably about $160 back in 2012, and it lasted 8 years. It's still working except for the power button being held down by a toothpick :p. If the AC86 lasts that long with good performance, then it's worth the price.

Thanks for the advice, and thanks to @RMerlin for the firmware which I will be installing ASAP this evening! I already have it downloaded.

I'll report back with my results tomorrow. I'll try the USB HDD in NTFS and ext4 and see what works best for me. If ext4 is a lot faster, then I'll use that. If the two formats are pretty close, then I'll keep NTFS so I can plug directly into a Windows PC if needed.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
Hi all. Thanks for the tips. The new RT-AC86U is working very well. It looks kind of like a Decepticon insects head/face, but whatever...

I did a minimal setup, then installed the latest Merlin and connected the USB3 HDD. Signal strength is excellent and connectivity is rock solid. CPU use is very low. RAM usage seems a bit high, but I think it will settle down as the caches flush over time.

The best part??? I'm getting about 70MB/s from the USB3 HDD over 5GHz WiFi FTP. That's over 4X better than the old N66U. Samba performance to an old laptop is better too! This is exactly what I wanted, and this is just at baseline. I haven't tweaked any settings at all yet. The performance is great, so I'm not going to try ext4.

So far I'm very pleased. I just hope I don't run into any hardware issues and it will be as reliable as the old N66U. Here's hoping for another solid 8 years of up-time. ;)
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Glad it's working so well for you.

You really should look at my previous post though to know the proper order of the steps you've taken so far. :)

As long as it's working though... ;)
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
Thanks! I did look at the posts. Most of my usual setup procedures are exactly as you describe, including various reboots and changing the control channels. I know the WiFi environment around my home pretty well (e.g. other nearby networks and what channels they use), so those settings were pretty easy to adjust.

I haven't made any changes to MU-MIMO or beamforming or anything like that yet. Since my previous router was an N66U that didn't have any of these features, I'm going to read up on them before tweaking.

But yeah, it's working!
 

vondiesel

Occasional Visitor
Hi all-

Just checking in to say that the 86U is working great. I haven't made any changes since initial setup and it's been flawless. I run DLNA, Samba, FTP, basic traffic monitor and not much else. CPU workload is light and I don't have many devices, at least compared to some I've read about here.

I forget the exact count, but I think I'm around 35 days of up-time without a problem. I almost don't want to install the new Merlin update as it will reset the counter. :rolleyes:
Temperatures are steady about 54C/57C/69C for 2.4G/5G/CPU.
USB transfer speeds over WiFi are still excellent.

The only notes I get in the system log are when devices disconnect/reconnect (e.g. a phone leaving/returning home). I was getting some notes about Samba in the log, but I realized by the time stamp that the error occurred when I was using VLC on a FireTV Stick to access the USB and stream video. I think VLC was trying to use SMB1, but I had only SMB2 enabled. It was still able to access the content and stream it, so it wasn't totally failing. But the errors stopped as soon as I enabled SMB1+2, so maybe it was using some combination of commands that the router didn't completely like.

Memory use was up around 95% for a few weeks, but I figure that's just Linux being Linux and keeping a bunch of stuff in caches, so I didn't worry about it. Then a few days ago, memory use dropped by half and has stayed there, and the caches contain only about 14MB. Performance hasn't changed at all, so I'm not concerned about that either.

So thanks again to all who gave advice! I'm very pleased with the 86U. The best compliment that I can give it is that I pretty much forget that it's there. As long as I got a good unit and I don't run into any hardware problems (as a small minority here and in Amazon reviews have noted), I think it should serve me for many years just like the N66U.
 

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