ASUS recently launched the RT-AC87U which is the first "wave 2" 802.11ac wireless router to support multi user MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology. Although the initial launch happened at the end of last month, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R (a variant exclusive to Best Buy) will finally be avaiable for purchase starting August 26th for around $279.99.
The RT-AC87U is a monster matte black router with four large external antennas and sleek fighter jet angles. I/O is mostly clustered on the rear of the router and includes four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one GbE WAN port, and one USB 2.0 port. In addition to the rear I/O, ASUS has positioned a USB 3.0 port on the front of the router (specifically the right corner of the front panel hidden behind a removeable rubber port cover).
On the wireless front, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R supports the latest 802.11ac and newer 256QAM (600Mbps) 802.11n specification as well as legacy 802.11g/b/a Wi-Fi networks. The router supports simultaneous dual band operation, which results in maximum throughput of 1.73 Gbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac band (4 x 433 Mbps streams) and 600 Mbps on the 2.4GHz 802.11n band.
The new and interesting bit about the RT-AC87 is the MU-MIMO support. MU-MIMO, which stands for Multi-User Multple Input Multiple Output, is the evolution of MIMO technology which debuted with wireless N routers. The ASUS router is able to use multiple anntennas to communicate with a client device to increase bandwidth. Beamforming is used to focus the signal in the direction of the client to get better range and a stronger signal for that specific client. MU-MIMO builds on this technology by allowing the router to track, beamform, and employ multiple transmit and recieve antennas to talk to multiple clients simultaneously. Previously, routers were limited to communicating with a single client at a time (see the diagram below for an example).
Multi-User MIMO will benefit those users that choose to connect the majority of their networked devices via Wi-Fi. However, the technology will be especially noticeable in areas flooded with various Wi-Fi networks such as apartments. According to Matthew Gast of Aerohive Networks, MU-MIMO will allow all wireless clients to get an acceptable data rate in crowded wireless areas at the expense of being able to deliver the highest data rate to a single client device. Especially when competing Wi-Fi networks are involved and fighting for channels, MU-MIMO will shine at keeping devices connected and talking to the access point.
ASUS has chosen the Quantenna QSR100 chipset to handle the 802.11ac duties while a Broadcom BCM4709 chipset handles the 256QAM wireless N bands. Additionally, the RT-AC87 routers have 128MB of flash memory and 256MB of DDR3 RAM. According to ASUS, the router draws slightly over 45W.
On the software side of things, ASUS has chosen its own ASUSWRT firmware which includes parental controls, Time Machine backup support, VPN support, security software from TrendMicro (AiProtection), and AiCloud 2.0. USB support includes storage sharing as well as 3G/4G cellular modem internet connectivity.
In all, the ASUS RT-AC87U looks to be new home router champion packing quite a bit of hardware and leading the charge of Wave 2 802.11ac wireless routers. This all comes at a cost, however. The RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R will be available on August 26 with a MSRP of $269.99 and e-tail prices currently around $279.99.
For all the nitty-gritty details, check out this ASUS PCDIY blog post!