Friday, July 2, 2010

ASUS RT-N13U wireless-N router quirks

Summary: Tips for new ASUS RT-N13U users.
After a long search for a decent 802.11n router (and not finding one that would satisfy my real and perceived needs), I decided to wait until the makers produce something that is feature-full and reliable. In the meantime, I needed something basic:
  • no dropped connections
  • decent signal
  • USB port
  • built-in print server
ASUS RT-N13U seemed to meet these requirements. Since Tim Higgins (the SmallNetBuilder guy) gave it pretty good marks, I thought I would give it a try.

I got a new ASUS RT-N13U from Amazon for about $35 (after $20 mail-in rebate). [And I would've had it for less - $25 after rebate - had I waited a bit longer.]

After using the router for a couple of months, I can say that I'm rather happy with it: the signal is stable (no dropped connections) and reasonably strong. However, the setup process took me much longer than it should've had. Here are several issues that I encountered.
  • Can't connect
    ASUS RT-N13U can act as a router, access point, or repeater. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that it comes from the factory with the repeater mode turned on. It took me about an hour of frustration until I realized why my system could not see the router during initial setup. Once I switch it to the router mode, the setup process went fine.
  • Still slow
    Although, I set the router to work in mixed 802.11g/n mode, I noticed that the speed did not exceed 54 Mbps on my laptop and nettop, both of which have wireless-N cards. I played with various settings in the admin panel: all to no avail. Finally, I found an FAQ that explained the reason: the authentication method of my router had to be set to WPA2-AES (it wasn't); at other authentication settings, the speed will not get over 54 Mbps. It would be helpful if the router's admin panel somehow conveyed this limitation when detecting a wrong authentication method (it does not). Anyway, I changed authentication to WPA2-AES, and...
  • Can't connect (again)
    Once I changed authentication to WPA2-AES, my systems could not connect. I submitted the issue to tech support but the person handling my ticket was even more clueless than me (he suggested that my laptop's network card might have not supported 802.11n, even though I had mentioned that I could connect to 802.11n network at work just fine). After spending a few hours contemplating this problem, I finally figured out that I used the wrong variation of WPA2-AES: instead of Enterprise (which is how I connect to WiFi at work), I should've used WPA2-AES Personal. After changing authentication mode to Personal (and setting up the password), I was able to connect.
  • Software
    ASUS RT-N13U comes with a CD containing software and documentation. Although I successfully used the setup wizard (software) for initial configuration, the software stopped working (it cannot detect the router). This is not a big deal for now because I can access the admin panel via a browser.
Additional tips for new ASUS RT-N13U users:
  • Make sure you download and install the most recent firmware updates (see the Downloads page).
  • IP address of the admin panel:
  • Default admin credentials: admin/admin (it's recommended to change them).
So far, I've been using the router only for wireless networking (not for printing or file sharing, yet). I'm planning to update this post once I get to test its wireless print server and drive sharing capabilities. Stay tuned.

UPDATE (4/28/2010): Since the original post, newer routers have been released to marked. Among them, ASUS RT-N56U (featuring dual-band processor, hardware NAT, 5 internal antennas, fast gigabit ethernet and 128MB DDR2) seems to be getting pretty good reviews from professionals and users. Although, it's a bit more expensive, ASUS RT-N56U is much more capable, and it's still cheaper than comparable Cisco or Netgear routers (and seems to be less buggy).

Best wireless routers on the market

See also:
ASUS RT-N13U Wireless Router with All-in-one Print Server (product info by ASUS)
ASUS RT-N13U (review by Jeff)
Amazon product reviews (some good info there)

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