Synology Router RT 2600ac
Easy setup and performance
Routers have come a long way. Back in the 1990s, the first router I saw was used at the company I worked at to manage the company’s internet connection. It cost about $100,000 and required an expert to install and configure. Today, you can pay between $50 and $400 for a router that offers multiple wireless radios, the ability to connect storage, printers and other USB devices, and network protection all in a package that can be configured by anyone with a web browser.
Synology’s RT2600ac router is priced at the high end of the home and SME router market. At a tick under $400 it promises fast performance and easy set up.
I installed the RT2600ac at home, connecting it to a Telstra BigPond cable internet connection. Alas, the NBN is not slated to pass by my door for a couple more years. From opening the box to having the router operating with my preferred network settings took about ten minutes.
The reality is, network hardware such as routers and NAS devices have become commoditised. The bits and pieces required to make these devices are available to almost anyone. Where Synology stands out is their Synology Router Manager (SRM) software. Rather than presenting all the different settings as a confusing list of options, SRM looks like a computer operating system.
Routers are purpose-built computers. Their purpose is to take an inbound internet connection and distribute that to other devices wirelessly – the RT2600ac does this over 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac – or via the router’s four Gigabit Ethernet ports. That network traffic is managed so that the flow of data is optimised.
SRM lets you easily configure them names of the wireless networks. As it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, you can create multiple wireless networks as well as enable guest access for visitors. Guest access limits your visitors’ traffic from the rest of the network so all they get is an internet connection without access to your printers, shared folders or other resources.
If you use one of the RT2600ac’s two USB ports to connect an external hard drive, you can configure it as a Time Machine backup location easily from SRM. Or you can simply make the disk available as shared storage to Mac and Windows users. The USB ports can also be used to share printers that lack their own network interfaces.
Wireless performance was excellent in my testing. The RT2600ac boasts for external antennae with MU-MIMO (multiple user multi-input/multi-output) radios to optimise wireless performance. You can also prioritise specific applications and devices by using the Quality of Service settings. On my home network with about 20 connected devices, I streamed movies from Netflix using an Apple TV as well as multiple high resolution YouTube streams on three computers at the same time with negligible latency.
With other routers, I’ve had to wait a few seconds for the streams to start.
One of the advantages of treating the router as a computer is that Synology has made it easy to add extra functions to the router. In the past, this would have required deploying unsupported software but Synology (as well as several other router manufacturers) has built an ecosystem of apps that can run on the RT2600ac.
I installed an intrusion prevention system that identifies malicious network traffic trying to enter my network. There are also apps for adding a VPN so you can securely connect to your network when out of the office as well as other apps. The selection is quite small at the moment but I expect this to expand over time as it did for their NAS systems.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice: The Synology RT2600ac Router is the company’s second router product. It is easy to set up, offers great performance and delivers a solid range of power user features.