Admin Interface & Configuration
After logging into the router, you’ll see the ‘home screen’. It’ll show you how many clients are connected, whether or not there’s anything plugged into the RT-N56U ‘s USB ports, and quick access to wireless settings.
The advanced settings tab shows a nice tabular breakdown of every single option on the RT-N56U. This is the screen I most frequently visited when making configuration changes. Let’s go down the list of advanced settings starting with wireless. Here’s the general wireless settings. Even though this is the 2.4GHz page, the 5GHz page is exactly the same. You can set the SSID (visible/hidden), wireless mode (mixed/N only), channel and channel bandwidth, extension channel, security type, key rotation and transmission power adjustment.
Switching tabs to WPS, we’ll find a pretty simple setup. I had a really difficult time getting WPS to work on the RT-N56U. The WPS button on the outside of the router does absolutely nothing. So I had to log into the router, click ‘Enable’, and then pair the devices. Also, the world ‘Enable’ here is a bit misleading. It doesn’t enable WPS, it just puts the router into search mode for other WPS devices. So, even after clicking ‘Enable’, the switch on the outside of the router still will not work, and you will still have to come back to this screen to pair another device.
Wireless bridges are great, and it’s always nice to see support for them. I was able to successfully link the RT-N56U and TRENDnet’s TEW-691GR using WDS. However, as we mentioned in our review of the TEW-691GR, it would not link up with legacy Linksys WRT54GS routers. The same was the case with the RT-N56U. This leads me to believe that the WRT54GS routers I have are just using a different implementation of WDS, and the inability to create a connection is not the fault of either device.
The RT-N56U also offers some more advanced, or as they call it, ‘professional’ wireless settings. You can set days and times that the wireless should be active, multicast rate, fragmentation threshold, TX bursting, greenfield, and much more. Also, the RT-N56U has a great help dialog that pops up whenever you click on a feature. So, even if you aren’t very adept in all of these extra settings, the RT-N56U is nice enough to explain what they do.
LAN settings on the RT-N56U include DHCP, Static DHCP, and configurable routes. Everything is pretty standard here, but it’s always nice to see support for Static DHCP. Moving onto WAN settings. The RT-N56U has all of the necessary WAN features, but they aren’t always easy to find. For some reason, during my quest to find the MAC Address Clone setting, I overlooked the MAC Address field at the bottom of the WAN -> Internet Connection tab. Also, the RT-N56U will use its own primary DNS if you don’t have any set. I didn’t realize this until I mistyped a domain name and ended up on a ‘not found’ website that was not my ISP’s. My first fear was that something evil had happened to my computer. But, after testing on every device I own, including my iPhone, I realized that it was the router sending me to this third party ‘domain not found’ page. So I manually set the DNS servers to my ISP’s, and the problem immediately went away.
Port forwarding felt a little cumbersome on the RT-N56U. Although, any issues I experienced with it were because I didn’t read the directions :x. You have to use a colon instead of a hyphen to designate port ranges. Also, the “famous server/game lists”, aren’t as extensive as found on other routers. Personally I don’t feel a small list is an issue. Although, some people who might’ve had a list of 50 games on a previous router, probably won’t find their game here and may not know what to do.
The RT-N56U’s firewall options are pretty robust. On the general tab we can enable/disable the firewall, enable/disable DoS protection, log packets (dropped, accepted, both), enable web access to the admin panel from the internet (along with the port), and respond to pings from the internet. One of the more interesting features here is DoS protection. If you are unfamiliar with DoS, it means Denial of Service. Basically, a DoS attack occurs when someone ‘floods’ your connection by sending millions of bogus requests to it. There’s two things going on here:
- The router will be overwhelmed with the bogus requests and become unresponsive or crash
- Your internet connection will be so tied up that you will be unable to use it
Now, this “DoS Protection” can take care of number one, preventing the router from being unresponsive or crashing. However, it can’t prevent number two. Therefore, I cannot see why this feature is useful. The only way to have successful DoS protection is to have a multi-homed connection. In other words, more than one way to get in and out.
The LAN to WAN filter has a nice set of features. You can set select times and days, specify if your list is a white or black list, set incoming and outgoing IP’s along with port ranges and protocols. Most people probably won’t use these settings, but when you need them, it will be nice that there you have a lot of options.
The System Log tab is pretty nice, especially the General Log. It isn’t often that you get to see a lot of debug info on a router. Even if there’s nothing wrong with your device, you might be curious as to what it’s doing. The rest of the tabs under System Log aren’t as informative as the General Log. They’re basically just small text tables providing high level information.
Do you have some files that you want to share on your local network or over the internet? Well, the RT-N56U makes this process really easy. I had a 500GB external hard drive hooked up to one of the RT-N56U’s USB ports. Then I used the Ai Disk option to set up FTP access to the disk, along with varying levels of access. While varying levels of access may not be a breakthrough by any means, it is nice to see so many options on a built in FTP client on a router. You can also set up a Dynamic DNS (DDNS) service to make your connection easily accessible. Or, you can even enable file sharing, which will be useful for mapping the device as a drive to your computer. In addition to all of the above, the RT-N56U can use any connected device as part of its UPnP Media Server. I had some issues with the UPnP Media Server on the RT-N56U. I was unable to get the Xbox360 to play WMV files (its native format), the PlayStation 3 frequently threw random errors while trying to connect to the RT-N56U, and the ASUS O!Play HD2 even had some odd drops while streaming. All in all, the UPnP Media Server on the RT-N56U is not its strongest point. Although, the problems with the UPnP Media Server don’t effect FTP and file sharing access, which is a plus.
EZQoS (Easy Quality of Service) is another option on the RT-N56U. You’re given a few different categories such as gaming, internet application, ftp, and VoIP/video streaming. One thing to note is if you pick VoIP/video streaming, it will immediately limit all P2P traffic to 10% of your available bandwidth. Picking any other category will just lower the priority of P2P traffic. I usually don’t feel the need for QoS settings because even though I have a lot of devices on my network, there aren’t many times when I have a bunch of mixed traffic. Although, EZQoS is a very nice addition for people who feel some of their traffic has too high of a priority.
Another part of the EZQoS tab is the “Traffic Monitor”. I run DUMeter or BitMeter on every single computer I have. For some reason, I’m obsessed with knowing how much bandwidth I’m using at all times. However, when I’m downloading something on my Xbox, PS3, Wii, or iPhone, I don’t have the luxury of DUMeter or BitMeter. So seeing a traffic monitor on the router had me ecstatic! That is, until I actually tried to use it, then I started to shed tears of sadness. I was downloading a file over 800KBps, although, the RT-N56U reported there was only about 10KBps of traffic. I messed around for about 30 minutes trying different things, but the RT-N56U never displayed the correct numbers. I’m still sad 🙁 Hopefully ASUS releases a new firmware that’ll fix this.