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Wireless Reviews

AC2600 Dual-Band Wireless Router
At a glance
ProductASUS AC2600 Dual-Band Wireless Router (Blue Cave)   [Website]
SummaryIntel-based four stream AC2600 class router with unique design and USB 3.0 storage and printer sharing.
Pros• Most of the ASUS features you know and love
Cons• Meh storage performance

Typical Price: $180  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Updated 4/11/18 - Routing throughput retested

ASUS' Blue Cave router has drawn a lot of attention for both its unique design and being one of the first routers to be based on an Intel / Lantiq platform. Announced last June at Computex 2017, the BC started shipping only a month or so ago. With both Intel and ASUS behind it, you'd think there would be all sorts of reviews of the product by now. But it appears this review will be one of the first. So let's get to it.

The BC's is designed to appeal to the buyer who doesn't want something that screams ROUTER! on display in her living room. Instead, it could be mistaken for an objet d'art, if your taste runs toward smallish stand-up white boxes with a softly-lit blue donut hole.

There are no mounting slots, so a table or shelf will have to do for mounting options. You'll probably want it out in the open, too, both because it runs warm enough to have made our octoScope test chamber nice and toasty and for best Wi-Fi signal propagation.

Blue Cave callouts

Blue Cave callouts

The callout diagram shows the Gigabit Ethernet WAN (1) and LAN (4) ports, which have neither link nor activity lights. In fact, the only light is the one that illuminates the blue donut and one on the front panel that is lit only when the router is booting and, presumably, if a fault is detected. I say presumably, because there is no manual for the product; only a Quick Setup Guide that is good only for setting up.

Inside

ASUS has played up its use of internal antennas in BC, making it seem like a technology first. And while you may think the blue donut provides some Wi-Fi signal focusing magic, it doesn't. The FCC photo below shows the only unique element of the antenna design is that one sits horizontally, providing a touch of dual plane signal polarization. The dual-band dipole antennas (from Korean antenna maker Skycross) appear similar to those used in NETGEAR's Orbi.

ASUS Blue Cave main components

ASUS Blue Cave main components

Like the also-Intel-based Phicomm K3C, the BC's circuitry is divided into radio and processor boards, shown in the composite photo below. The radio board sits on top, with each radio SoC getting a finned heatsink visible in the photo above. The processor board is on the bottom and is covered by a lower profile heatsink.

ASUS Blue Cave radio (top) and processor (bottom) boards

ASUS Blue Cave radio (top) and processor (bottom) boards

The BC's key components are summarized in Table 1, along with the RT-AC86U's and RT-AC88U's. The 86U seems to be the current popular choice, replacing the venerable three-stream RT-AC68U. The 86U marries a four-stream 5 GHz radio with a three-stream 2.4 GHz, for optimized price/performance. The RT-AC88U—and its RT-AC3100 almost twin—represents ASUS' mainstream AC3100/AC3150 four stream products. Both are currently more expensive than the Blue Cave.

  ASUS Blue Cave ASUS RT-AC86U [review] ASUS RT-AC88U [review]
CPU Intel (Lantiq) dual-core PXB4395EL @ 1.6 GHz Broadcom BCM4906 dual core ARM v8 Cortex A53 @ 1.8 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz
Switch In PXB4395EL In BCM4906 4 ports in BCM4709C0KFEBG + four ports in Realtek RTL8365MB
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB 256 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Intel PSB83514M
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz PA/FE (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4365E 3x3 11abgn-ac SoC
- 2.4 GHz RF front end (x3)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85201-11 2.4 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
5 GHz radio - Intel PSB83524M
- Unidentified 5 GHz PA/FE (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4366E 4x4 11abgn-ac SoC
- 5 GHz RF front end (x4)
- BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85605-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
Table 1: Component summary

The only thing missing from Table 1 is that Blue Cave's Atheros AR3012 Bluetooth 4.1 radio, which has no current function as far as I can tell. It's not even used for "onboarding" using an app and mobile device, which is surprising, considering the target buyer.

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