THOUGH NOT QUITE THE FASTEST OR CHEAPEST OPTION, THE RT2600AC IS A VERSATILE AND USER-FRIENDLY ROUTER
Synology is a name more usually associated with NAS drives than routers – and when you rst open up the RT2600ac’s web portal you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally logged into a storage device, because it looks an awful lot like the company’s DiskStation Manager software.
That’s no bad thing: the intuitive mousedriven interface makes many rivals look clunky and outdated. Icons, live graphs and illustrations help you nd your way around with ease. But this is no Fisher-Price front-end, and as you click through the tabs you’ll nd no shortage of technical stats and network settings. These include upmarket features such as a true wireless repeater mode, email and SMS noti cations for speci ed errors and events, and the option to fall back to a connected 3G/4G USB adapter if your main internet connection goes down.
The physical design is just as thoughtful. Alongside its four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the RT2600ac has a switch for enabling and disabling Wi-Fi, a nice clicky WPS button and a sensible arrangement of USB connectors
– a USB 2 one at the back for an alwaysconnected 4G dongle or printer, and a more accessible USB 3 port at the side for storage. Uniquely, there’s also an SDXC card slot at the front, offering an easy way to get photos off a camera if your laptop doesn’t have a built-in reader. And an Eject button lets you ensure storage devices are safely dismounted before unplugging them – a very nice touch.
On the subject of storage devices, you won’t be surprised to learn that Synology’s router beats the rest hands down when it comes to
le-handling capabilities, with entire pages of features transplanted directly from the company’s NAS platform. For example, you’re not just able to create password-protected user accounts for access to connected USB drives: you can let users choose their own passwords, enforce complexity rules and even insist on two-factor authentication. Or, you can use LDAP authentication – or join a Windows domain. And as well as basic le sharing, you can enable services such as Synology’s web portal is one of the best – it’s both slick and intuitive WebDAV and Apple Time Machine.
To further expand the RT2600ac’s capabilities, it’s also possible to install apps from the built-in Package Center. Synology’s Cloud Station and Download Station add-ons are a few clicks away, if you want them, as is the DLNA streaming server. Other services are more business-like: a VPN server, a plugin for RADIUS authentication, and Synology’s DNS server are all on offer.
For those deploying the RT2600ac in a family environment, meanwhile, there’s a solid set of parental controls. You can de ne a weekly internet access schedule for each device on your network, optionally enforce safe searching and apply web ltering with varying degrees of strictness across 20 site categories.
While the RT2600ac ticks a lot of feature boxes, its compact case and quartet of modestly sized aerials don’t exactly scream highperformance. In use, we found it couldn’t match the top speeds of bigger, more expensive rivals: connecting from the same room yielded a maximum download rate of 22MB/sec – a clear step behind the 28MB/sec we got from the Linksys EA9500, and the ludicrous 30MB/sec of the enormous D-Link DIR-895L.
Yet the RT2600ac did impress us with its consistency. Moving up to the bedroom saw download speeds barely dip, to 21MB/sec, and even in the bathroom the Synology kept up 14MB/sec – on par with the more expensive Netgear Nighthawk X10, and faster than anything else on test. This a more powerful radio than the headline speed might suggest.
At $320 the Synology RT2600ac is also the cheapest router on test here. If you’re looking for an of cefriendly workhorse, the DrayTek Vigor2762ac costs a reasonable $50 more – and if it’s pure performance you’re interested in, the Linksys EA9500 has higher speeds and twice as many Ethernet ports, not to mention a second 5GHz radio to keep things running smoothly when your network gets busy. But if the RT2600ac’s features suit your needs, it’s a superb little router – and every time you open up the interface to check your network status or change a setting, you’ll be glad you chose it.
$320 • www.synology.com.au