Synology RT2600ac review: Not the fastest, but one of the smartest
This router has one of the nicest web consoles around, with tons of nifty features to boot
Synology is a name more usually associated with NAS drives than routers -- and when you first 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That's no bad thing: the slick, intuitive graphical interface makes many rivals look embarrassingly clunky and outdated. Icons, live graphs and illustrations help you find your way around with ease - yet this is no Fisher-Price front-end. As you click through the various tabs you'll find no shortage of technical stats and network settings, including some notably upmarket features. Those include a true wireless repeater mode, email and SMS notifications for specified 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 convenient switch for enabling and disabling Wi-Fi, a nice clicky WPS button and a sensible arrangement of USB connectors -- a USB 2 slot at the back for an always-connected 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 a physical 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 file-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 file-sharing, you can enable services like WebDAV and Apple Time Machine.
To further expand the RT2600ac's capabilities, it's even possible to install apps from the built-in Package Centre. 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 also on offer.
While the RT2600ac ticks a lot of feature boxes, its compact case and quartet of modestly sized aerials don't exactly scream high-performance. 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 vastly more expensive Netgear Nighthawk X10, and faster than anything else on test. In short, we're dealing with a more powerful radio than the headline speed might suggest.
At 217 inc VAT the Synology RT2600ac isn't exactly a bargain. If you're looking for an office-friendly workhorse, the Draytek Vigor2762ac costs nearly 60 less -- and if it's pure performance you're interested in, the similarly priced Linksys EA9500 offers 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.
The Synology RT2600ac isn’t exactly a bargain, but if its 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.
|Price (inc VAT)||£180 (£217)|
|Dimensions (WDH, without antennae)||280 x 169 x 77mm|
|Wi-Fi standards supported||802.11a/b/g/n/ac|
|Radios||2.4GHz + 5GHz|
|Quoted 2.4GHz speed||800Mbits/sec|
|Quoted 5GHz speed||1,733Mbits/sec|
|Gigabit Ethernet ports||4|
|USB ports||1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3|
|Other ports||Ethernet WAN, SDXC card reader|
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