Asus DSL-AC68U Dual Band AC-1900 modem router review – Part 01

Welcome to Part 01 of our Asus DSL-AC68U modem router review! This is Asus’ latest effort and it sports a pretty impressive spec sheet;  
  • Wireless router + ADSL modem
  • Dual CPUs to assist with range and stability
  • USB 3.0 port – printer sharing, file sharing, 3G/4G internet dongle
  • Asus AiCloud – Asus’ home cloud solution
  • Asus AiRadar – universal beamforming for A/B/G/N/AC wifi signals
  • Wireless A,B,G,N and AC – 1300MHz theoretical max speed on 5GHz AC
  • 3x external, removable antennas
  If you are looking for just a wireless router and don’t need the ADSL portion, try the Asus RT-AC68U. The DSL-AC68U follows Asus’ recent industrial design;   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-11 Quite striking if you ask us! Taking a look at the rear:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-3   On the left hand side we have – in clockwise order – the USB 3.0 port, ADSL connection, power connector, power switch and recessed reset switch:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-4 On the other side we have four gigabit ports:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-5 Decorative ASUS logo in the center:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-7   The right side is totally button-free, and the left holds a Wi-Fi on/off and WPS button:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-8 Moving to the top, we have the three antenna ports:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-6   And in the box, three adjustable antennas:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-10   Other goodies in the box include an Ethernet cable (not pictured), splitter and telephone line:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-12   …and a compact power brick:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-13 The compact size of the power brick is definitely appreciated, particularly in this day and age of having many, many electronic devices plugged into power boards! Now a side view showing the built-in foot and device profile:   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-9   But back to the spec sheet. The DSL-AC68U can hook up to either an ADSL/ADSL2/2+/VDSL or fibre/cable through a WAN port; appealing to those who may have access to both over the life of the product. Certainly a feature which could be appealing for those who are currently on an ADSL exchange but are looking at having fibre installed to their home in the next year or two.   The Dual CPU feature involves one dedicated CPU for the ADSL/VDSL and one for Wi-Fi networking; Asus claim that this assists in achieving maximum throughput for both as they are no longer vying for the same CPU time.   The AC1900 claim is not achievable with a single Wi-Fi connection; it adds the 1300MHz theoretical maximum of Wireless AC with the 600MHz theoretical maximum of Wireless N. Wireless AC is appearing in more and more mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktops so it makes a lot of sense to consider a Wireless AC modem/router if wireless speeds matter to you at all. We have found that it can result in greatly improved network performance, particularly when you have multiple people streaming media or files simultaneously.   Asus claim that their AiRadar feature improves just about everything about your Wi-Fi – range, stability and speed. The beamforming benefit isn’t just restricted to AC, either – the older A/B/G/N standards receive it as well.   The USB 3.0 port can be used to share a 3G or 4G dongle’s internet connectivity, a USB drive or a printer. USB 3.0 here is definitely a plus for those with Wireless AC clients and USB 3.0 hard drives/flash drives – you stand a chance of actually seeing the benefit of the faster USB standard thanks to the potential 1Gb+ Wi-Fi speeds.   asus-dsl-ac68u-modem-router-review-2   Stay tuned for part 02 of our review, where we look at the rest of the features and Asus’ ASUSWRT web interface!

How to install an Asus PIKE 2008 card

  As a non-standard PCI-Express card, the Asus PIKE card involves a slightly different installation procedure.   asus-pike-card-01   The PIKE slot sits on either side of a gap in the motherboard:   asus-pike-slot   You’re definitely not going to mistake it for a regular PCI-Express slot. The card only goes in one way, with the heatsink facing the PCI slots; it can be a little hard to get in sometimes as it needs to be inserted from almost directly above.   asus-p9d-e4l-pike-card-in   Motherboard-side view:   asus-pike-installation-03   The card is secured on either end; on the side closest to the SAS/SATA ports, it hooks under a latch on the slot:   asus-pike-installation-01   Here you can see the metal part of the PIKE card latching underneath the slot’s edge. You can also see how close other board components often are to this end! The other end sits over one of the motherboard mounting holes:   asus-pike-installation-02   Don’t install the card without taking this screw out first, otherwise you’ll be taking it out and starting over. Now the card will activate the SAS/SATA ports next to it:   asus-p9d-e4l-sas-pike-ports   Easy done! Taking the card back out can be a little challenging with the metal clip on the side where the ports are, particularly if you have PCI cards still installed while you try to remove it (e.g. when the motherboard is still in the chassis). On the topic of removing the card while the motherboard is still in the chassis – as the card is quite short and the insertion pressure is reasonable so it’s quite difficult to remove in the chassis if there’s not a lot of space on both sides. A better idea is usually to take the motherboard out in these cases to minimise the risk of damage to the card or other board components.   You can buy the Asus PIKE 2008 card from Amazon.com:    

Asus PIKE 2008 card review

  Many storage enthusiasts are familiar with the IBM M1015 card, an IBM rebadge of the LSI 9220-8i host bus adapter (HBA), based on LSI’s SAS2008 chipset. Less are familiar with Asus’ PIKE card – essentially the same thing in Asus’ own form factor, fitting only their proprietary PIKE slots.   asus-pike-card-01   This card activates the onboard eight 6gb/s SAS/SATA ports featured on server boards with PIKE slots. The straight 2008 model acts just like an M1015 in IT mode; the IMR model gives you RAID capabilities, namely RAID1/RAID10/RAID0/RAID1E.   The card itself is quite small, fitting into 1U chassis’ – at a mere 1.57″ high and 6.44″ long, it’s quite a bit lower than your usual PCI-E cards. Operating system support for the SAS2008 chipset is excellente – it has worked out of the box with every modern OS and hypervisor we have tried recently (e.g. Windows 7, Ubuntu 10.04-12.04-13.04, OpenIndiana, ESXi 4+ etc.).   asus-pike-card-03   The card itself is readily available, at least in the US and AU – at around $130/140 new it’s actually extremely reasonably priced vs. picking up a used M1015 on eBay. With a PIKE card you’ll get a warranty, make use of an otherwise-unusable slot and keep one of your PCI-E slots free for other uses, so there are quite a few reasons to consider one.   asus-pike-card-02   One caveat exists, primarily affecting those attaching a number of SSDs to the controller. Not all Asus motherboards have the same electrical connectors to the PIKE slot – some are PCI-E 2.0 x4, some PCI-E 2.0 x8, some PCI-E 3.0 x8 – there may be other combinations but these are the ones we have tested so far. A x4 connector may bottleneck a number of SSDs in use simultaneously; it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll hit that limit with spinning disks. It’s worth being aware of what electrical connection is present to you PIKE slot if you ever intend on hooking up a lot of fast drives as you may end up unintentionally bottlenecking their performance.   In terms of performance, it acts exactly the same as plugging in an IT-mode M1015; eight extra ports are activated without fuss and drives hooked up to those ports should appear immediately in your OS. lspci should show something along the lines of:  
03:00.0 Serial Attached SCSI controller: LSI Logic / Symbios Logic SAS2008 PCI-Express Fusion-MPT SAS-2 [Falcon] (rev 03)
  Super straight-forward – couldn’t be easier. The card supports hot-swapping, too.   The PIKE card is well worth a look in as an alternative to a secondhand M1015/LSI card for those enthusiasts with an Asus board with a PIKE slot.   Also see: How to install a PIKE 2008 card You can buy the Asus PIKE 2008 card from Amazon.com:

Asus P9D-E/4L – Clearance between PIKE and PCI slots

  One potential caveat of utilising the PIKE slot is that there is minimal clearance between the PIKE card heatsink and the nearest PCI slot; once the card is installed;   asus-pike-installation-03   Mere millimeters! A top view:   asus-pike-installation-04   This poses two problems. Firstly, not many PCI cards have low enough clearance to actually fit! We tried to fit a number of cards – NICs, USB cards and serial port cards – and the vast majority were unusable due to the low clearance. We did have success with an Astrotek USB 2.0 expansion card – just.   Secondly, if you do have a card that has short enough components that it doesn’t hit the PIKE card you will significantly reduce the amount of airflow available to the PIKE card. Depending on how your case is set up for airflow, this may be cause for concern.   Given that this board has plenty of PCI-E expansion and a second PCI slot, this is unlikely to be a significant issue for most people – but it is worth knowing about in case you do intend on using both PCI slots and the PIKE slot at once.

Asus Pike 2008 SAS card

  We have finally got one of these cards in-house for testing;   We’re particularly interested in how it compares to cards like the M1015 in IT mode as an inexpensive way of adding 8 SAS/SATA ports to a storage server. Expect a post soon reporting on what we find! You can buy the Asus PIKE 2008 card from Amazon.com:

Asus motherboard BIOS update error: CAP file not recognised EFI bios!

  If you see the above error – and you’re selecting what you’re sure is the proper CAP file – chances are you’re trying to use a USB disk formatted to NTFS rather than FAT32. Frustratingly, the error message for a corrupt/non-CAP file is the same as the error message you get when you’re trying to use an NTFS-formatted drive, which Asus Ez Flash 2 is not compatible with.   The solution is simply to use a FAT32-formatted drive. If that doesn’t work double check that your file hasn’t corrupted during the download and is complete, and the right BIOS for the board.

Error Code 60 on an Asus Z9PE-D16

  Today a customer’s Asus Z9PE-D16 wouldn’t boot and displayed the debug code 60 – in this case the problem was that the RAM sticks (8 total, 4 for each CPU) were in the black slots rather than the blue slots. Swapping them across resulted in a boot straight away.   Hope that helps someone!