Synology RT2600ac review: Not the fastest, but one of the smartest

This router has one of the nicest web consoles around, with tons of nifty features to boot

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£180
  • Superb web portal; Heaps of useful extra features; Excellent file-handling tools
  • Top-line speeds aren’t the fastest; Only four Ethernet ports; Single 5GHz radio

Synology is a name more usually associated with NAS drives than routers -- and when you first open up the RT2600ac's web portal you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally logged into a storage device, because it looks an awful lot like the company's DiskStation Manager software.

That's no bad thing: the slick, intuitive graphical interface makes many rivals look embarrassingly clunky and outdated. Icons, live graphs and illustrations help you find your way around with ease - yet this is no Fisher-Price front-end. As you click through the various tabs you'll find no shortage of technical stats and network settings, including some notably upmarket features. Those include a true wireless repeater mode, email and SMS notifications for specified errors and events, and the option to fall back to a connected 3G/4G USB adapter if your main internet connection goes down.

The physical design is just as thoughtful. Alongside its four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the RT2600ac has a convenient switch for enabling and disabling Wi-Fi, a nice clicky WPS button and a sensible arrangement of USB connectors -- a USB 2 slot at the back for an always-connected 4G dongle or printer, and a more accessible USB 3 port at the side for storage. Uniquely, there's also an SDXC card slot at the front, offering an easy way to get photos off a camera if your laptop doesn't have a built-in reader. And a physical Eject button lets you ensure storage devices are safely dismounted before unplugging them -- a very nice touch.

On the subject of storage devices, you won't be surprised to learn that Synology's router beats the rest hands down when it comes to file-handling capabilities, with entire pages of features transplanted directly from the company's NAS platform. For example, you're not just able to create password-protected user accounts for access to connected USB drives: you can let users choose their own passwords, enforce complexity rules and even insist on two-factor authentication. Or, you can use LDAP authentication -- or join a Windows domain. And as well as basic file-sharing, you can enable services like WebDAV and Apple Time Machine.

To further expand the RT2600ac's capabilities, it's even possible to install apps from the built-in Package Centre. Synology's Cloud Station and Download Station add-ons are a few clicks away, if you want them, as is the DLNA streaming server. Other services are more business-like: a VPN server, a plugin for RADIUS authentication, and Synology's DNS server are also on offer.

While the RT2600ac ticks a lot of feature boxes, its compact case and quartet of modestly sized aerials don't exactly scream high-performance. In use, we found it couldn't match the top speeds of bigger, more expensive rivals: connecting from the same room yielded a maximum download rate of 22MB/sec -- a clear step behind the 28MB/sec we got from the Linksys EA9500, and the ludicrous 30MB/sec of the enormous D-Link DIR-895L.

Yet the RT2600ac did impress us with its consistency. Moving up to the bedroom saw download speeds barely dip, to 21MB/sec, and even in the bathroom the Synology kept up 14MB/sec -- on par with the vastly more expensive Netgear Nighthawk X10, and faster than anything else on test. In short, we're dealing with a more powerful radio than the headline speed might suggest.

At 217 inc VAT the Synology RT2600ac isn't exactly a bargain. If you're looking for an office-friendly workhorse, the Draytek Vigor2762ac costs nearly 60 less -- and if it's pure performance you're interested in, the similarly priced Linksys EA9500 offers has higher speeds and twice as many Ethernet ports, not to mention a second 5GHz radio to keep things running smoothly when your network gets busy. But if the RT2600ac's features suit your needs, it's a superb little router -- and every time you open up the interface to check your network status or change a setting, you'll be glad you chose it.

Verdict

The Synology RT2600ac isn’t exactly a bargain, but if its features suit your needs, it’s a superb little router – and every time you open up the interface to check your network status or change a setting, you’ll be glad you chose it.

Price (inc VAT)£180 (£217)
Manufacturersynology.com
Warranty2yr RTB
Dimensions (WDH, without antennae)280 x 169 x 77mm
Wi-Fi standards supported802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Radios2.4GHz + 5GHz
Quoted 2.4GHz speed800Mbits/sec
Quoted 5GHz speed1,733Mbits/sec
MIMO channels4x4
MU-MIMOY
Gigabit Ethernet ports4
USB ports1 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3
Other portsEthernet WAN, SDXC card reader
3G/4GVia USB
Featured Resources

Defeating ransomware with unified security from WatchGuard

How SMBs can defend against the onslaught of ransomware attacks

Free download

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

How artificial intelligence and machine learning could be critical to your business

Free download

The path to CX excellence

Four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Free download

Becoming an experience-based business

Your blueprint for a strong digital foundation

Free download

Most Popular

What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

8 Sep 2021
Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit
exploits

Apple patches zero-day flaw abused by infamous NSO exploit

14 Sep 2021
Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks
Security

Hackers develop Linux port of Cobalt Strike for new attacks

14 Sep 2021