The Asus RT-AC3100 is a pricey router, aimed at consumers who are willing to pay for the fastest speeds and widest coverage around. All of my family members use the Internet a lot, and this router met their gaming and HD video streaming demands with ease. What's more, this router was extremely easy to set up . It was online and running in 10 minutes.
Speed and Coverage
I use this router upstairs in my small house (1750 sq feet). I have Comcast Cable's "Blast" Internet service which is a step higher than the standard broadband service they offer. Connected to an Arris cable modem, the router allows me to get 170-185 Mbps (megabits per second) on my PC connected directly via Ethernet cable. The RT-AC3100 of course offers wifi broadcasts in the 5ghz and the 2.4 ghz bands simultaneously. In the 5ghz band most of my house is covered - with only a few "dead zones" (usually directly behind thick walls). But almost everywhere else I get at least 60% signal strength, and most often around 75-90%. This allows me to get around 60-120Mpbs speed via the 5ghz band. In some cases I get as high as 160Mbps (when near the router of course). In the 2.4ghz band my entire house is pretty much covered without much drop in terms of signal strength. The catch is that 2.4ghz tends to be slower. In my case it varied around 30-80Mpbs. Suffice to say, whether I was using the faster 5ghz band, or the 2.4ghz band for a particular device - speed and coverage are not an issue - always speedy.
Prioritize the data
This router has a feature that Asus calls "QoS," or Quality of Service. This feature allows the router to prioritize gaming, streaming video/audio, and websurfing. What's more, the priority can be controlled in any order. For me, I put gaming as the highest priority followed by streaming video and audio. I didn't really notice a difference in speed to be honest. The good news is that even when someone else is playing online games in the house, watching HD video streams didn't suffer at all.
I have several family members that play online PC games such as Dota 2, Starcraft 2, CS Go, and others. We are often playing at the same time and this router performs without lag, or hitching. Using my Xbox One, which is connected to the RT-AC3100 by wireless signal (5g band), I have had no problems. Online games like Destiny, and Halo 5 mulitplayer are smooth, and lag-free as well. Even devices that use the 2.4ghz band like my Wii and PS3 work without lag.
This router is advertised as coming with a feature known as WTFast. This is a sort of gamer's VPN which optimizes a connection to various online games such as Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, etc. It's normally a paid-service, but Asus supposedly gives you free access with the purchase of the RT-AC3100. To even access this feature, I had to update the firmware which added a new tab to the set-up menu called "Game Boost." Here I could activate a new WTFast account. Needless to say, I didn't activate it as most of my gaming was fast enough already.
Similarly, streaming performance of Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu is flawless - whether its on the 2.4ghz or the 5ghz band. There have been no issues of latency/buffering at all. Most movies start within a few seconds. Even when one of my family members is already streaming an HD quality video on his iPad, other members of my household can start watching their own streaming video on the Xbox One, or their own smartphone without any hiccups.
This is one of the most surprising things about this router - I actually had it up and running within 10 minutes! The quick start guide was easy-to-use, and the web-based interface of the router is well-designed. Finding the right settings for both security and usability was very intuitive. I even had static IPs assigned, and guest network settings configured with no problems. I am using a Comcast Cable as my ISP, and this router had no trouble communicating with my Arris cable modem. However, there is one thing that the web-based interface didn't do so well: and that is checking for new firmware. There is a function in the web-based interface that "checks" for the latest firmware from Asus. This did not work at all because it told me I had the latest firmware. When I went to Asus' website myself I found that they had in fact released a new version, despite the fact that the web-based interface of the router told me otherwise. Still, it wasn't hard to download the new firmware myself.
Connectivity and Physical Design
The router is definitely larger than most routers I've used, and shaped like a flat rectangle. It comes with 4 antennas that you must screw on yourself, though that is pretty easy to do. The antennas are all fully adjustable (tilt, twist). The RT-AC3100 comes with 4 Ethernet LAN ports located in the rear. It also has a single USB 3.0 port on the front for easy access. The unit comes with a CAT5e network cable in the box, but I ended up using my own CAT6 cable (which works flawlessly).
I bought this router because my 4-year-old Netgear R6300 router began to drop its signal, and I had to replace it. That particular router from Netgear performed reasonably well. By comparison, the RT-AC3100 gives me about 30% better coverage and eliminated most of the dead zones in my house. The RT-AC3100 is also faster, and never had any buffering problems while watching HD video on my HDTV. Gaming performance is lag-free both on LAN (PC) and Wifi (Xbox One). And while updating the firmware required me to manually download it, and the fact that the WTFast feature seems unneeded; I would still recommend this router to anyone willing to spend a bit more for its high performance.