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Hands-on review: This Wi-Fi router is both aesthetic and effective
Mon, 16th Apr 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I've always wondered why there has not been a high gain wireless router that tries to migrate itself into part of our everyday furniture. Instead, we found high gain wireless routers tend to look more like an alien spaceship with multiple antennas sticking out, totally ruining the look of our home.

Is this absolutely necessary though? Do I have to trade my lifestyle for a better Wi-Fi coverage? I left this question deeply in my heart until recently, when I come across the ASUS Blue Cave. It is a dual-band wireless router which claims to provide superior Wi-Fi coverage with a Smart Home friendly look. Does the Blue Cave deliver its commitments? Let's find out. The ASUS Blue Cave is 160 x 160 x 80cm in dimension, weights just below 800g. I won't call it super tiny; however, it certainly isn't going to take as much space as other high gain wireless routers either.

There is a big hole at its centre that emits gradually changing blue lights when the internet is active. The brightness of the LED can be adjusted in the ASUS GUI if desirable. There are four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port at the back to service your wired connectivity.

In terms of Wi-Fi connectivity, it supports up to 1734Mbps over 5GHz and 800Mbps over 2.4GHz band respectively with its four internal antennas specially arranged to maximize coverage.

There is also an additional USB 3.0 port for fast and easy USB device sharing of storage, printer, or even 3G/LTE dongles as a backup internet source in the unlikely event of internet outage.

Out real-life test results show some remarkable readings while we put the Blue Cave to the test. Out of our surprise, it is actually one of the rare Wi-Fi routers that can sync at the advertised max speed, which is 1734Mbps over 5GHz and 800Mbps over 2.4GHz respectively.

What we found most surprising is its actual throughput comparing with existing routers with an external antenna. In most tests, we are seeing up to two times better throughput than most WAVE1 AC routers we came across before. 

In terms of coverage, it actually manages to cover a two-story double brick house from one corner to the other, closely in-line with high gain WAVE 2 routers with large external antennas.

This being said, this is actually comparing with something that is double the size of the Blue Cave, not actually a fair test, but it made it and beyond. This is something we definitely have not expected on a router under such small footprint before the test. Despite its surprisingly good coverage and performance, the software features offered by the Blue Cave is not short from its performance. It comes with a router level commercial grade internet security called AiProtection powered by TrendMicro.

Very similar to TrendMicro's own Home Security that safeguards everything going through the network from potential hazards. We are told the Blue Cave also comes with two bonus copies of TrendMicro anti-virus license when you are outside the protection of AiProtection, which we found quite thoughtful. It can also support VPN Server, VPN Client and VPN pass-through if desirable.

The internet speed is managed by ASUS's own Adaptive QoS where you will be able to easily prioritize the traffic in your network with a few easy drag-and-put actions.

Calling it a router for the Smart Home, it definitely shouldn't be short from the support of popular IoT management services. It can perform simple home automation actions through IFTTT (If This Then That), interacting with the change of status from other compliant devices.

If you prefer cool voice commands, simply link it with your Amazon Echo, the Alexa voice assistant will help you to make the desired changes. I can really feel the power to be the man in the house when I can easily command Alexa to turn the Wi-Fi on and off with my command. Oh, you can manage the Blue Cave from any network with internet connection with ASUS's own Router app, which comes handy when you are away from home. The ASUS Blue Cave really blows me away with the performance and the rich add-on feature sets they have included in the package. Most importantly, it delivers the result without damaging the look, fit into my home just right, proving my concept achievable. I won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to buy a new router this year.