Synol­ogy RT2600ac



DE­SPITE NO LACK of at­tempts, rel­a­tively few out­siders have been able to break into the broad­band router mar­ket — a space that, for the last decade, has largely dom­i­nated by big play­ers like Net­gear, Linksys, D-Link and TP-Link.

Synol­ogy has been fight­ing a bit of an up­hill bat­tle since it in­tro­duced its first router, the RT1900ac, last year — but it’s one that’s at least par­tially fu­elled by the good will flow­ing on from its well-re­cieved and fea­ture-packed NAS boxes. The com­pany has now fol­lowed up that first at­tempt with this the­o­ret­i­cally faster AC2600 suc­ces­sor, which up­grades the in­ter­nal hard­ware to 512GB RAM and dual-core 1.7GHz ARM Qual­comm IPQ8065 CPU, and in­creases the Wi-Fi chops to 1,733Mbps on 5GHz and 800Mbps on 2.4GHz (that’s com­pared to the pre­vi­ous 1,300Mbps and 600Mbps, re­spec­tively).

That said, speed and specs aren’t re­ally Synol­ogy’s main sell­ing point — it’s the soft­ware run­ning un­der the hood that’s the re­ally unique el­e­ment. The com­pany’s SRM (aka ‘Synol­ogy Router Man­ager’) in­ter­face works just like the one on its NAS prod­ucts — it’s ac­cessed through a web browser and gives you a vir­tual desk­top en­vi­ron­ment, com­plete with icons to launch apps and ac­cess set­tings menus, which all open in ‘win­dows’ that you can drag around and re­ar­range within the browser in­ter­face. This can make it a bit eas­ier to grasp for com­plete router new­bies, but the real rea­son you’d choose a Synol­ogy router is the abil­ity to down­load NAS-grade apps to ex­tend func­tion­al­ity. That in­cludes the likes of Down­load Sta­tion, a so­phis­ti­cated pro­gram that sup­ports not just HTTP and FTP-based down­load­ing, but BitTor­rent and usenet, too; Cloud Sta­tion, which lets you host your own cloud-stor­age server (a-la Drop­box or Google Drive) and re­motely sync files to Win­dows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android de­vices; and File Sta­tion, a Win­dows Ex­plorer-style file man­ager that lets you ac­cess the con­tents of any USB-con­nected drives from within the SRM web in­ter­face.

There’s a heap of higher-end fea­tures, too, like VPN client and server fea­tures, a DLNA me­dia server and per-de­vice parental con­trols with two pre­set block­lists (ei­ther ‘ma­li­cious’ or ‘ma­li­cious and adult’ sites) and the abil­ity to ei­ther black- or whitelist ad­di­tional do­mains. You can also set a sched­ule to al­low or deny de­vices in­ter­net ac­cess at cer­tain times of day and there’s even Ap­ple Time Ma­chine sup­port for backup up Macs.

Synol­ogy’s main prob­lem is that the de­fault se­lec­tion of apps is fairly lim­ited; there were eight at the time we tested. De­spite Synol­ogy’s NAS boxes hav­ing a wide se­lec­tion of third-party and open-source of­fer­ings, there hasn’t (so far) been much in­ter­est in repli­cat­ing that for the com­pany’s routers...

Still, the RT2600ac is a joy to use and while it doesn’t quite make set­ting up more com­plex net­work­ing/NAS fea­tures idiot-proof, it does go some way to mak­ing the process more straight­for­ward than on other routers. The Wi-Fi per­for­mance was quite ad­e­quate in test­ing, too, with good cov­er­age (thanks in part to the four large de­tach­able an­ten­nae) and speeds that largely matched other AC2600 de­vices we’ve tested.

You’ll pay more for the ex­tra fea­tures on of­fer, but if you can gen­uinely use them, the RT2600ac is a top lit­tle router. [ DAN GAR­DINER ]

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