There’s a big, intriguing blue hole right in the middle of the Asus Blue Cave that catches your full attention the first time you lay eyes on it. But that’s all there is to it. I was a bit disappointed when Asus told me there was no deep meaning about this hole. It’s just a conversation — or review — starter. There you have it!
As a Wi-Fi router, however, there’s nothing blue about the Blue Cave. It’s one of the fastest routers I’ve tested with tons of useful features. It also has a surprisingly long Wi-Fi range considering its compact footprint. If you have a medium-size house of around 2,000ft² (180m²), you’ll find the Blue Cave an excellent buy.
Dong’s note: I originally published this review on May 10, 2018, and updated it on July 12 with additional information on the new AiMesh feature.
Asus Blue Cave
- Excellent performance
- Generous feature set including the ability to protect the home network against online threats
- Unique design with small footprint
- Easy to setup and use
- Not as feature rich as other Asus routers
- Unable to block secure websites
- USB-based storage’s performance could be faster
Asus Blue Cave: A weird name in an unconventional design
At a glance, the Blue Cave is like no other router you’ve seen. It’s a square piece of hardware with a big hole — big enough to put a golf ball through — right in the middle. When the router is on, the entire area surrounding the hole glows different shades of blue and remains that way until you choose to dim or turn it off via the router’s web interface.
(By the way, you can only turn the light off when using the Blue Cave as a router. When used as an AiMesh node, the router’s web interface is not user-accessible, and you, therefore, will have to live with that light being on at all times. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing unless it’s your bedroom.)
I’ve asked Asus many times about the idea behind this design since the router’s announcement. At first, the company said it had something to do with the positioning of the internal antennas, but now, it turned out; there’s nothing to it. It’s just for the look, and that works! You sure will remember the Blue Cave once you’ve seen it.
So, I like the design. While you can’t wall-mount it, you can place it on almost any surface thanks to its small footprint. The router has a nice heft and stays put; it doesn’t topple easily. Its exciting look means you won’t need to hide it, either. By the way, I dig the name, too. Blue Cave. Slightly weird for a networking device, but easy to remember.
On the back, the router has the usual ports and buttons: four Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN (Internet) port, one USB 3.0 port, a power button, a reset button, and a WPS button. It’s just like any other Asus router, such as the Asus RT-AC86U, which has a terribly generic name.
The Asus Blue Cave has powerful hardware. It’s an AC2600 dual-band 4×4 router with the top speed on the 5GHz band of up to 1733Mbps and on the 2.4GHz, up to 600Mbps (or 800Mbps for TurboQAM-ready clients).
The router sports 512MB of RAM, 128MB of flash memory, and uses an Intel (Lantiq) dual-core 1.6 GHz CPU. Lantiq originally was a company focusing on smart-home devices until Intel acquired it in 2015. But the Blue Cave doesn’t have a lot of smart-home features, just the support for Amazon Alexa & IFTTT. Both have been available in most other Asus routers, so this isn’t a novelty.
You’ll first need to activate it with Alexa before you can use your voice, but I wouldn’t do that. Among other things, anyone, including those on TV, can easily mess you up by saying a command that, for example, causes your router to restart. Voice commands and networking don’t mix.
Asus Blue Cave’s specifications
Asus Blue Cave’s extra photos
Setting up the Blue Cave is like that of any router with a web interface and is the same as the RT-AC86U.
First, you connect the WAN (Internet) port to your modem or your gateway. Then hook a computer to one of its LAN ports using a network cable, then open a web browser. You’ll automatically get to its web interface, where you’ll find a wizard that walks you through the process step by step. Alternatively, you can also use the Asus Router app (for iOS and Android) for this job.
(Note: The Blue Cave doesn’t support universal setting restoration. In other words, you can’t restore it with the setting backup file of another Asus router, but only of another Blue Cave unit.)
After the setup process, you can continue to use the app for the on-going management of the router. I prefer using the router’s web interface, however, since it has access to all of the router’s features and settings. You can always get to the interface by pointing a browser of a contested computer to router.asus.com (or the router’s default IP, which is 192.168.50.1).
Here you’ll find all of its settings and a ton of useful features.
Familiar feature set
The Blue Cave shares the same feature set as that of the RT-AC86u, minus the Game Boost — this is not a router for hardcore gamers. That said, if you’ve used any Asus router before, you’ll feel right at home.
Asus Blue Cave’s features via screenshots
The router has all the settings you would need for your network. It can work as a VPN server (or a client) and has a powerful AiProtection online security feature.
Powered by TrendMicro, AiProtection scans your network and the online connection in real-time to keep our entire system safe. While there’s no total protection, in my experience, AiProtection works quite effectively. Best of all, it’s free.
Via its USB port, the router can do all you can imagine with a plugged-in external hard drive. Apart from data sharing, media streaming, you can even set the Blue Cave to work as a Time Machine backup server. By the way, if you decide to use Time Machine backup, make sure you set a backup limit if you want to use the storage for other purposes.
Other than that, the router also has a cool Traffic Manager feature that includes an easy-to-use QoS for Internet prioritization, and a Web History that keep tap of connected clients’ online activities.
Generally, all router-related features a home user can think of, the Blue Cave has it. OK, maybe not all since the router does have some imperfections.
At launch, the Blue Cave didn’t support MU-MIMO as well as Asus’ AiMesh. Later on, both were available via firmware updates
Like most other routers from Asus, the Bue Cave can’t block secure websites, those with https in their web address. Since most sites now use https, the router’s web filtering feature is rather useless.
Note that, like other Asus routers, the Blue Cave has a Parental Controls feature, which is part of AiProtection, that can block sites based on categories. But it doesn’t allow you to pick and choose individual websites to block.
Unlike many other routers from Asus, the Blue Cave doesn’t support Dual-WAN, where you can turn one of its LAN ports into a second WAN port, enabling you to use two Internet connections at a time. This omission is not a huge deal, however, since most of us don’t have a secondary broadband connection.
As a Wi-Fi router, the Asus Blue Cave did well in my testing, being the top three on the 5GHz band. It’s faster than many routers of bulkier physical sizes.
On the 2.4 GHz band, it did even better, being the fastest I’ve seen in close range. At some 40 feet (18m) away, it was still among the top three.
The Asus Blue Cave also had an excellent range, about the same as the RT-AC86u, which is larger and has higher hardware specs. Generally, you can expect the effective range to be 150ft (46m) and even further. Note that Wi-Fi signals change depending on the environment, so your mileage might vary.
When coupled with a USB portable drive, via a Gigabit connection, the Blue Cave’s network storage speed capped at 27 megabytes per second for both writing and reading. While this is fast enough to do some light data sharing, it’s not fast enough for big tasks.
That said, if you want to get serious with network backups and media streaming, get a dedicated NAS server, like the Synology DS218+ instead.
The Asus Blue Cave is an exciting Wi-Fi router that works well for anyone living in a medium home or smaller. And if you happen to like its quirky-looking object (I do!), this is the router for you.
Considering the recently-added support for AiMesh, the Blue Cave is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting a robust home Wi-Fi network with the option to scale it up to a Wi-Fi mesh system at a later time.