ASUS routers RT-AC1200 and RT-AC1200GU

Jun 8, 2017


Asus routers are excellent but choosing a model can be tricky due to all the variants available.

If you don't want to invest in the ultimate beast, you can still get some great value for money in budget-friendly models like the RT-AC1200 and RT-AC1200GU once you know where and what to look for...








The right place and the right time...

I wanted to replace my excellent but ageing Billion 7800n with a 5Ghz-capable router.

Based on my experience with the RT-N56U (used as a network extender in Access Point mode), I decided that my new primary router would be an Asus.

Although I'm not very superstitious, I interpreted the current Gearbest flash sales as a mystic sign to act now (but otherwise I'd have made up another excuse 😏).

I narrowed down my choice on two apparently similar models with different prices:
RT-AC1200:  €45.63
RT-AC1200GU: €67.54 (instead of 83€)
...so where's the difference???

There will be two parts to this review, the first will be a short comparison of the respective specifications and a short guided tour of what both models have in common.

Making some sense out of the Asus models

RT, ok that must be for "router"
AC, well, it does 802.11ac obviously
1200, rounding of max wireless speed of 1200Mbps (867 + 300 Mbps)
So we know they have the above in common, but the fun begins here:
G, indicates Gigabit Ethernet, if missing, expect 10/100 BaseT ports only.
U, seems to be a tag for models supporting Nvidia GameStream.



Model Specifics

RT-AC1200
Released in 2015
CPU: MediaTek MT7628AN (580 MHz)
RAM: 64MB, Flash 16MB
LAN ports: 4, speed 10/100
WAN ports: 1, speed: 10/100
USB ports:1, USB2
Default IP address: 192.168.50.1
Available USB Apps: Media Services and Servers
Latest firmware: 3.0.0.1.380_9474



RT-AC1200GU
Released in 2016, only on the Chinese market (manuals only available in Simplified Chinese. The English manual from RT_AC1200 can be used safely)
CPU: MediaTek MT7621AT (880 MHz, 2 cores)
RAM: 128MB, Flash 16MB
LAN ports:4, speed: 10/100/1000
WAN ports:1, speed: 10/100/1000
USB ports:1, USB2
Default IP address: 192.168.1.1
Available USB Apps: AiDisk, Media Services and Servers, Network Printer Server, 3G/4G Dongle support, Download Master (BT client)
Latest firmware: 3.0.0.4.380_5973

Sources: 
https://wikidevi.com/wiki/ASUS_RT-AC1200
https://wikidevi.com/wiki/ASUS_RT-AC1200GU

RT-AC1200GU and the smaller RT-AC1200

The newer and faster MT7621AT is a very popular CPU, used by other brands like Draytek, D-Link, Linksys, Buffalo, ... and is supported by 128MB RAM.

The RT-AC1200 performed very well however with it more modest MT7628AN w/64MB RAM and you don't feel as significant difference in use.

The most important difference however, which also justifies the change of processor on the "GU", is the Gigabit Internet ports. It does make a difference in particular if you have to transfer large amount of data through the wired LAN. The backup time from my PC to my NAS took a hit with . However if you do most via Wi-Fi, this factor won't be determinant.

More memory allows more applications, and where both routers support "Media Services and Servers", the GU has a few extras:
AiDisk, Network Printer Server, 3G/4G Dongle support, Download Master (BT client)

Additional note: the RT-AC1200G and G+ currently found on the Western market are Broadcom-based, which are good candidates for custom firmware.
Don't expect to flash DD-WRT or AsusWRT-Merlin on a Mediatek chipset.

Common Area...

Both routers came in a Chinese packaging and are initially made for the Chinese market. This is not a problem for the user interface which is localised in many languages, including English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, ...



The only important point to be aware of during the initial setup is the Wi-Fi Region.

At first, only my 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi AP was visible from certain devices. It's only once I found and changed the Region from China to Europe, that the 5Ghz AP became usable.
Go to Wireless > Professional, select the appropriate Band, and then change the Region to match yours.



The very next thing to do is to check for a newer firmware (link provided above in the Model Specifics section)

The RT-AC1200GU already had the latest version while a more recent security update (April 2017) was available for the RT-AC1200, which addresses some specific MT7628AN chipset vulnerabilities.

"A user interface is like a joke, if you have to explain it, it's not that good"

The excellent ASUSWRT interface has been a big factor in my decision to get an Asus router.
It is such a great change from the austerity of my old Bipac 7800n.
One of the coolest feature of the Asus interface is the network map and what you can do from there!


Parental Controls are not just there for your kids!

My former router had an effective packet filter. A similar way to control what can access the Internet exists in the Asus although it is separated from the firewall section, called Parental Controls.

The "kids" that I have to keep an eye on here are my IP Cameras. Even with UPnP, DDNS and NTP disabled, these nasty little gremlins always try to call their motherland for some obscure reason.

Keeping them quiet just requires to locate them in the network map, and select "Block Internet Access" for each of them. The selected clients will then be found listed in the Parental Controls section. The "Parental controls" switch does the same thing but also opens the schedule table to define the permitted hours. When such hours are not defined, the client is effectively unable to access the Internet. This is ideal for those chatty IP cameras which then can only talk to my NVR, providing the only permitted secure access from the outside.



When receiving visitors, the opposite strategy can be used with the Guest network. It provides up to 3 Access Points (per band) with possibility to forbid access to your LAN and only provided access (timed or not) to the Internet.


The firewall section has the usual protections against DoS and ICMP flood attacks and a choice of packet filters based on URL, Keywords and Network services.  

Assigning building a static DHCP table is also just a matter of selecting the desired elements from the network map and decide what their fixed address will be. 

QoS control is also made simple and each client on the LAN can have its bandwidth individually controlled

The router can act as a DLNA compliant media server. The port is USB 2.0 only in both models which might be a bit slow for streaming UHD content.


System logs are conveniently grouped and the router can also send them to a syslog server.




Companion app: Asus router.
The mobile companion is a nice-looking app giving access to the essential router functions but I got quickly tired of it and prefer the complete web view of the router interface, which looks as good, even on a mobile phone.

I don't recommend this practice but if If you want to access the router interface from outside your LAN, this can be configured under Administration > System>Enable Web Access from WAN.

I can't stress enough the importance of accessing the router via HTTPS only in that case!


Last but not least, both routers can be wall-mounted. Their slight size difference is also reflected in the space between the screw holes (8.3cm for RT1200, 9.5cm for Rt1200GU).



Conclusion:
Asus RT-AC1200 and RT-AC1200GU are 2 excellent routers delivering reliable performance, good  Wi-Fi coverage and a very clever user interface that makes everything easy.

The whole point in deciding between these two models is to know what you need: If only the fast Dual-Band Wi-Fi connectivity matters, then the cheaper RT-AC1200 (~€45) is a perfect choice.

If you have Gigabit-capable clients on your wired LAN, the RT-AC1200GU (~€64) (coming from 83€) justifies the slightly higher price tag.




Special thanks to Kylie @ GearBest for providing the GU sample.


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