Firmware and Web Interface
We did not expect any surprises from this router’s firmware. And indeed we first saw a standard interface of ASUS’s top-end routers. It was not bad but somewhat hackneyed. As usual, we then downloaded the latest version of the firmware (18.104.22.168) available at the manufacturer’s website replacing the router’s original version 22.214.171.124. Rebooting the device, we found the web-interface completely different – and better!
We want to say a few words about the interfaces of modern home routers in general. The industry of home network equipment, including routers, is not new, but the manufacturers have mostly been focusing on the exterior design and functionality of their devices. Home routers acquired handy web-interfaces long ago but have not developed any further in this respect. The pages with settings are only superficially revised with the release of each new model, acquiring new settings and changing the design of buttons and frames, but remain largely the same in terms of visualization and convenience. On the other hand, a handy, intuitive and visual web-interface is a necessary thing for inexperienced users to be able to set the device up without problems.
So, ASUS seems to be one of the first makers of home routers that make a step towards a truly user-friendly interface. Perhaps not as handy as Synology’s, the web-interface of the RT-N15 has a number of small improvements over standard interfaces, which make it much easier to use. We guess it will become clear as we will discuss its components.
Upon successful authentication you find yourself in the start page of the setup manager. The color palette is very comfortable for the eyes, we should confess. The details of the interface are clear and pretty. All of this makes using it a real pleasure.
The web-interface window is divided into three sections: a header, a navigation menu (on the left) and a settings area (on the right). The header serves a practical purpose here, displaying the current firmware version, SSID and uptime. It allows to change the language of the interface, reboot the router or finish the setup session. The funny face in the top right corner reports the current status of the Internet connection with floating balloons.
The left frame of the web interface displays a menu in which you can choose one of six groups the settings pages are categorized into (under the Advanced Setting header) and two more items that can be useful for initial setup. When you choose a category, the menu does not show the sub-categories it contains, but it is not a big problem because the settings are distributed among the categories in a logical way and the names of the categories are indicative of their contents.
Besides, if you click the Advanced Setting link, you will see a full list of pages with settings and will be able to jump right to any page with a single click of the mouse button.
The rest of the window shows a horizontal submenu (the top line) listing all pages of the selected category and, below, the currently selected page with settings. To the left of them there is a column of the router’s integrated help system. You can hide it by clicking the appropriate icon in the corner. The help system is not comprehensive, but provides a general notion of what the particular menu option does. There is one user-friendly solution regarding the help system: the names of almost all options are designed as hyperlinks. So you can click any option and read about it in the help system window.
Before we discuss the available settings, we want to tell you about the two individual menu items we’ve noted above. They are called Network Map and EzQoS Bandwidth Management.
The contents of the Network Map item can be viewed right after you successfully log into the web-interface.
This item is meant to facilitate the initial setting up of the router and has replaced the quick setup wizard you can see in nearly every home router. We guess the Network Map is head above every setup wizard we have seen in usefulness, mainly because it is more visual. Like the name suggests, it is a simplified map of your home network. You can click any element with your mouse to display the basic settings of that element on the right. When you choose the settings you need, you can save them or perform a more detailed setup by using the More Config menu.
The EzQoS Bandwidth Management menu item is a simple traffic prioritization system that helps minimize latencies when the external connection is loaded fully.
This system has been available on ASUS routers for long and there is not much practical worth in it but it may be useful for people who do not know much about QoS or don’t care to write a lot of QoS rules manually.
The main menu then lists the categories the rest of the router settings are divided into. We will discuss them starting from the Wireless group.