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The best wireless router (opens in new tab) should be part of the office’s digital arsenal. It directly affects the performance of connected devices and should have excellent bandwidth while occupying at least two office spaces. Regular firmware updates from the manufacturer are another necessity to protect users from hackers. Finally, it should be affordable as this is a market already saturated with good products.
Synology best known for their NAS (opens in new tab) has recently de RT6600ax (opens in new tab), a Wi-Fi 6-axis router with the peculiarity of a triple-band radio that covers the recently launched 5.9 GHz frequency range. Because these bands work independently, more users can stream data simultaneously without loss of performance. The router is based on a powerful quad-core CPU and offers numerous software options such as out-of-the-box VLANs and VPN support.
Synology RT6600ax: price and availability
This is the third Wi-Fi router that Synology has released. The newest addition comes with a price tag of $299.99 (opens in new tab)in line with comparable performance routers.
Synology RT6600ax: Design
The RT6600ax’s black plastic housing is impressive with six external antennas protruding from the sides and back. It measures 17.6cm x 32cm x 20cm and weighs 1.6kg. Air vents at the top and bottom regulate the temperature at which the heat is passively dissipated. The router comes with a 42W 12V DC regulator and consumes approximately 12W of power. Other items in the box include an Ethernet cable and a quick setup guide.
Status is provided by seven multicolored LEDs on the top of the housing. The first four display link activities of the 1Gb and 2.5Gb Ethernet ports. LEDs five and six show WAN and Wi-Fi activity and the latter shows the router’s internal status and blinks when searching for wireless devices. Two side buttons allow you to add devices via WPS and enable or disable Wi-Fi.
External antennas provide up to 3.3 dB of gain, while the transmit amplifiers support low, mid and high gain settings. The router contains six radios, two on the 2.4 GHz frequency and four on the 5.1/5.9 GHz frequencies. The 5GHz channels are advertised to have a maximum bandwidth of 160MHz. All three bands together make up 6600 Mbps under ideal conditions.
The RT6600ax is equipped with a Quad-core 1.8GHz CPU from Qualcomm. Supported by 1G DDR3 RAM and 4GB eMMC Flash, it also has hardware acceleration engines for both layer 4 and layer 7 packets that can speed up TCP filtering, for example. On the back is a recessed reset button that can be accessed with a paperclip. There is also a USB3.2 Gen1 port that allows mounting of a file system.
Synology RT6600ax: in use
The router boots up in about a minute. Default settings make it easy to use by connecting an Ethernet cable to an existing network or via Wi-Fi using the pre-configured SSID. The RT6600ax has several modes of operation. It manages devices and forwards packets when used as a router. It can also act as an access point (AP) where it only transfers packets from one port to another. Finally, it can connect to another RT6600ax in a mesh configuration to extend the range of a Wi-Fi network.
The high-gain antennas and powerful radio amplifiers enable robust transmissions at ten meters or more with walls in between. The three radios can be configured to use any of the 31 available channels. Depending on local regulations, 5GHz channels may be limited to 80MHz bandwidth. This is the case in Canada, resulting in a subpar performance. This is offset by the 5.9 GHz band which offers an additional 18% throughput.
Synology uses QR codes to add devices to its mobile app. The procedure works flawlessly and the well-designed DS router app shows all the relevant information in one place. It is available for both iOS and Android and contains fewer features than the web-based Synology Router Manager (SRM). What’s included are commonly used items, allowing for faster configuration on the go.
Synology RT6600ax: Performance
The performance of the RT6600ax is evaluated using the iperf2 application, a copy of which is built into the router. The first metric, the upper limit of throughput, is obtained using a 2.5G wired connection. Wireless throughput at different distances is then obtained using a Samsung S21 Ultra smartphone with the HE.NET application. The following graph shows the result at one, five, seven and ten meters.
The RT6600ax can transmit over the wire at a rate of approximately 2 Gbps. At one meter, the wireless speed drops to 855 Mbps, which is standard for a channel bandwidth of 80 MHz. From then on, the speed drops to 600 Mbps at five meters and about 100 Mbps for each subsequent data point.
Synology RT6600ax: Competition
With the internet turning into a public utility in many countries, the Wi-Fi router market has grown rapidly over the past decade. There are over a dozen router manufacturers and many have Wi-Fi 6 products. What Synology offers with the RT6600ax is excellent hardware, especially for those who already own a NAS.
TP-Link’s AX6600 is very similar to the RT6600ax, which costs $299. It has two extra antennas and an extra USB port, but has a slower CPU, half the amount of RAM and 128MB of storage memory compared to the 4GB eMMC that comes with the RT6600ax. Consequently, the performance of the AX6600 should be worse in terms of simultaneous connections and reduced number of functions.
The Asus RT-AX88U is a comparable product at a higher price. It is dual band only and lacks a 2.5G Ethernet port. The eight 1G ports are more than the five in the RT6600ax. With a comparable processor and the same amount of RAM, the performance is expected to be comparable to that of the Synology router. Still, the amount of application memory is sixteen times more in the RT6600ax than in the RT-AX88U.
Synology RT6600ax: Verdict
Synology is making waves with its latest router and for good reason. Using a third band improves wireless throughput by 18%. We also have great hardware with a lot of potential thanks to the generous amount of flash memory. The web interface is snappy, while the powerful processor allows for smooth parallel execution of tasks.
The few drawbacks that the RT6600ax has is that it lacks Ethernet link aggregation. It remains a very good Wi-Fi 6 router on par with more expensive access points.
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