Aug 28, 2017 Written by: Sean_Meadows

Enraptured with the GT-AC5300 gaming router

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It’s easy to think of computing as a series of independent technologies, but evolution in one field often spurs growth in another. In 2005, laptop sales eclipsed desktops for the first time. The mass adoption of smartphones started a couple of years later, accelerating a trend toward mobile devices that would soon grow to include tablets. These intertwined developments had a ripple effect that impacted networking; wireless routers beefed up to support a deluge of portable computers with an increasing thirst for bandwidth. Rather conveniently, they relied on rapidly evolving mobile CPUs to process the networking traffic from additional devices and ensure that it didn't interfere with latency-sensitive activities like multiplayer gaming. These conditions have culminated in the ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 gaming router.

Rapture

The brains of the operation

The Rapture consists of four processors, 1GB of RAM, and 512MB of storage. The CPUs are similar to those of the Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3. Software and TCP/IP processing is handled by the new Broadcom BCM4908, a 64-bit chip with quad Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.8GHz. Supplementing the primary processor are three Broadcom BCM4366E CPUs, one for each of the Rapture’s 802.11ac wireless bands. All three contain a 32-bit Cortex-A7 running at 800MHz and are responsible for the hardware I/O processing for their respective wireless bands. That I/O processing allows each 5GHz band to achieve a peak link rate of up to 2167Mbps. The link rate doesn't have a one-to-one relationship with throughput, but a higher rate will provide better bandwidth. Meanwhile, the 2.4GHz band can hit up to 1000Mbps.

Our ASUSWRT firmware brings a bevy of features that utilize the Rapture’s additional processing power, including static routing, TCP/UDP port filtering, traffic shaping, VPN hosts and clients, and deep packet inspection. Though more typical in business-class equipment, these capabilities can bolster your gaming experience and improve real-time communications and security. Many CPUs wouldn’t be able to handle the load, but the Broadcom BCM4908 rises to the challenge, keeping packets inspected, filtered, and shaped even with very fast internet connections.

More than once we’ve seen the Rapture referred to as spider-like. With its solid black body, bronze accents, ROG emblem centered like a widow’s mark, and eight antennas, it's easy to see why. But that collection of antennas serves more than the Rapture’s badass aesthetic. 

If your game performance has ever suffered because of an overloaded WiFi network, you’ve experienced the pain of shared wireless bandwidth. A wireless access point can only send or receive via one device at a time. Your device transmits to the access point, and then the access point has to transmit to the destination, and no other devices can “talk” during this time. That’s why you get bottlenecks when lots of devices are connected to the same network. With the Internet of Things dropping more and more connected devices into our homes, and our demand for connectivity growing, these slowdowns are only becoming more common. 

A dual-band router goes some way towards alleviating the problem with two radios, one that operates on the 2.4GHz band and one that operates on the less crowded 5GHz band. The Rapture's eight antennas facilitate a tri-band design, adding a second 5GHz radio and splitting the available 5GHz spectrum between the two to create a third band. Instead of having all your 5GHz-capable device rushing the same 5GHz signal, the Rapture can spread them out over two separate bands (and toss others onto the 2.4GHz band). Secluding your gaming machines on their own band minimizes competing traffic to provide lower latency and higher bandwidth for multiplayer packets. You can manually assign devices to a given band, but the Rapture firmware can also do it for you automatically through Smart Connect Rule.

Would you like to play a game?

The Rapture has two Gigabit Ethernet switches, each with four connections. The ports on the left side, closest to the WAN jack, are labeled LAN 1, 2, 5, and 6, and have some special magic built into them. LAN 5 and 6 combine to do link aggregation (802.3ad), which means a server connected to the Rapture via 802.3ad can access 2Gbps of full-duplex bandwidth. Many NAS devices these days have the requisite dual NICs and software support to take advantage of this feature. LAN 1 and 2 are the gaming ports, and they have primacy over all traffic delivered to the switch. These ports give users a hardware method for ensuring top priority for gaming machines that's separate from any other traffic management efforts.

Rapture_Rear_Physical_Ports

With voice, video, and data converging on a single network, the importance of managing and prioritizing real-time communications traffic is clear. Time-sensitive applications like online gaming, streaming to Twitch, and chatting on Discord can all benefit from traffic shaping, which is why the Rapture has rich options for software-based QoS. Game Boost intelligently juggles packets based on the application, and it can also prioritize traffic based on the device. With a bit of click-and-dragging, you can easily ensure that important machines take precedent over others, even if they're connected with WiFi. Traditional, port-based QoS is available as well. The Rapture’s traffic management goes well beyond the dedicated jacks with front-of-the-line priority that make the router unique.

Low latency is key for great gaming performance, but improving your ping on the internet is difficult. To address that challenge, we include a lifetime membership for WTFast’s GPN with each GT-AC5300. Though billed as a Gamers Private Network, GPN is simply a fancy name for a VPN. Traffic is routed to your ISP, then to WTFast, and then to your game server in an attempt to shorten the total path and reduce latency. You can test the impact using Game Radar, the Rapture's integrated gaming latency test. The interface provides a drop-down menu that lists major games; pick your title, and Game Radar pings each of the game's major data centers across the globe. Based on the results, you can then choose the regional server with the best performance.

My own experience with the traffic shaping of the Rapture was positive. With two clients on the same wireless band, one downloading and one gaming, I experienced a roughly 35-ms jump in latency without any QoS enabled. Game Boost lowered the impact of the concurrent download to just 12 ms without even separating the machines on different 5GHz bands. Most importantly, the change was imperceptible to my own gameplay and didn’t have any of the telltale signs of connection distress, such as delayed actions or hard stalls.

Getting down to business

Big companies dedicate a lot of resources to maintaining the integrity of their networks, but with the dawn of IoT, network security has become increasingly important for home and small business users. Plenty of people assume their home network wouldn't be a target or that damage from an attack would be limited. But imagine a compromised group of IoT devices or PCs in your network generating large amounts of traffic across your internet connection. If your ISP charges for data overages, you could find yourself liable for a massive bill just because you didn't think securing your network was important. The Rapture offers better traffic management and filtering than what's available in typical consumer routers to help you avoid such scenarios.

Game IPS, or Intrusion Prevention System, takes antivirus scanning beyond filtering IPs and TCP/UDP ports. Instead, it goes straight to the top of the packet, inspecting data as it flows in, and dropping malicious packets before they reach your machine. Trend Micro provides the software engine and regular signature updates that keep Game IPS ready for the latest risks. An impressive collection of additional packet filtering tools rests at your fingertips, including three at the application layer (one provided by the IPS and two more through the firewall URL and keyword filter). The firewall covers the rest of your bases with the ability block traffic through the TCP/UDP ports at the session layer, TCP/UDP segments and fragments at the transport layer, and IP addresses at the network layer. So whether you have a small business to protect or your interest in security begins and ends with ensuring your bandwidth is used only for gaming, the Rapture has your back.

The future is now

The rapid evolution of the home router, both on the hardware and software side, has been a huge windfall for home users. We’ve gone from slow, single-core MIPS devices to multi-core ARM CPUs at amazing clock speed, and our once-wired routers now sport multiple wireless APs and switches. The capabilities of the software have grown extensively, too. Originally, we had only routes of last resort, NAT, and port filtering firewalls. Today, we have the ability to implement static routes for subnetting specific devices, application layer filtering for anti-malware and parental controls, and even traffic shaping to improve latency for sensitive software and devices. 

These improvements have made business-class functionality more widely available to regular consumers. The Rapture offers numerous ways to manage and move data in your LAN, and the impact of that flexibility cannot be overstated. Whether you're plugging your console into the wired gaming ports, using QoS to prioritize gaming traffic over Netflix, taking advantage of the GPN to improve latency, or using a VPN to fetch a document from your NAS while you’re on the road, the Rapture ensures a secure, high-performance network for any gamer sharing their connection with a host of laptops, smartphones, IP cameras, and other IoT devices.

  ROG GT AC-5300
MSRP $399 USD
$499.99 CAD
Availability (USA) Newegg, Frys, Micro Center
Availability (Canada) Canada Computers, Best Buy
Articles: Networking
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