I first tested the Synology RT2600ac back in early 2017 and found it excellent for geeks and nerds. Now, almost two years later, Synology manages to make it cool again -- probably for everyone this time around. So, I decided to take another crack at it.
Note: The RT2600ac is mostly the same as the recently released MR2200ac, with a few significant differences with the latest firmware version. This review will focus on those differences -- I hate repeating myself.
That said, it's a good idea that you first check out my take on the MR2200ac, which talked about the standard features of Synology routers.
To cut to the chase: The RT2600ac is an excellent standalone router that's well worth its $200 price tag. And it can do a lot more than being a standalone router.
Synology RT2600ac vs MR2200ac: An excellent pair
For the most part, the RT2600ac is superior to the newly released MR2200ac. I believe Synology designed the MR2200ac to compliment the RT2600ac. The two make a near-perfect combo to create an effective Synology mesh, with the latter being the main router and the former a satellite.
For the RT2600ac to work as part of a Synology mesh, it needs to run firmware 1.2 or later. Keep in mind that generally, Synology routers can't always skip-update their firmware.
In other words, if your unit runs a firmware version, say 1.0, you might need to update it one or two releases in between first, incrementally.
Being almost two years older, the RT2600ac inevitably has its disadvantages. Let's find out in detail about its pros and cons.
Synology RT2600ac vs MR2200ac: Hardware specifications
|Wi-Fi standard||Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)||Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)|
|Wi-Fi bands||Dual-band: 1x 5GHz, 1x 2.4GHz)|
|Tri-band (2x 5GHz, 1x 2.4GHz)|
|Mes Role||Router||Router or Satellite|
|Dedicated backhaul||Virtual||2x2 (5GHz-2) 867Mbps|
|Dimensions (no antennas)||3.03 x 11.02 x 6.65 in|
(77 x 280 x 169 mm)
|6.1 x 7.8 x 2.6 in|
(154 x 199 x 65 mm)
|Weight||1.54 lbs (0.7 kg)||1 lb (0.45 kg)|
|Apps available||Cloud Station Server|
|Gigabit Port||1x WAN, 4x LAN||1x WAN, 1x LAN|
|USB||1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0||1x UB 3.0|
What makes the RT2600ac better than the MR2200ac
- More network ports: It has four LAN ports (and one WAN port) and hence can provide Dual-WAN -- you can turn its first LAN port into a second WAN port. The MR2200ac has just one LAN port and one WAN port.
- More USB ports: It has one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port, meaning it can host an external storage device and use a cellular dongle as a backup internet connection at the same time. The MR2200ac has just one USB 3.0 port.
- SD card slot: The RT2600ac has an SD card slot (the MR2200ac doesn't). This slot comes in handy when you want to add more semi-permanent internal storage space to the router, which is significant considering the number of add-on apps Synology offers.
- Faster Wi-Fi: The RT2600ac is a quad-stream (4x4) Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) router. The MR2200ac is a dual-stream (2x2) router. That said, the RT2600ac has the top ceiling Wi-Fi speed of 1733Mbps, and the MR2200, has just 867Mbps.
- Better security: The RT2600ac has an advanced online protection app that's not available to the MR2200ac.
Where RT2600ac lags behind the new MR2200ac
- Dual-band v.s tri-band: The MR2200ac is a tri-band router (the RT2600ac is a dual-band.) In other words, the former has three access points (two on the 5GHz band, and one on the 2.4GHz band) and the latter has just two access points, one on each band.
- Mesh satellite: The MR2200ac can work either as a router or a satellite hub in a Synology mesh. The RT2600ac can only work as a router.
- Quad-core CPU: The MR2200ac runs a quad-core CPU while the RT2600ac uses an older dual-core model. Among other things, the MR2200ac has much faster USB-connected NAS performance when hosting an external drive. More on this below.
All things considered, though, the part where the RT2600ac is better than the MR2200ac is more significant than the area it's not. If you're looking for a standalone router, it sure is a much better pick.
The RT2600ac has the same set of settings and add-on apps as the MR2200ac, plus Threat Protection. At first, this app seems redundant considering the availability of the Safe Access app, which takes care of both Parental Controls and online protection.
However, Threat Protection is much more advanced. With Safe Access, you can turn on or off the online protection, and that's it! On the other hand, Threat Protection gives you more information and options to protect your network.
For example, not only can you find out how many times your network has been under threat in a given period, you can even pinpoint where the attacks come from, based on their WAN IP addresses. If you're into that kind of detail, you'll love this new app.
By the way, if you choose to use this app, make sure you use a fast SD card (or portable drive) of decent capacity. The app itself needs some 4GB of storage space to work correctly.
Synology RT2600ac’s detail photos
Synology RT2600ac: Solid Wi-Fi performance
The RT2600ac did well in my testing. It's not as fast as some new routers I've reviewed recently but still plenty fast.
Note: For the sake of consistency, I tested the RT2600ac with the 3x3 client I've used for the rest of the routers. I'm in the process of getting a 4x4 client and will update the review when I get a chance to retest it.
On the 5GHz band, the router average more than 660 megabits per second at a close range of fewer than 10 feet (3m). When I moved the client to 40 feet (13m), it now still registered almost 500Mbps.
On the 2.4GHz, the router did even better with speeds fast enough to deliver even a fast broadband connection in full.
As for coverage, by itself, the RT2600ac is slightly better than the MR2200ac. When placed in the middle, I found that it can cover an average home of some 2000 ft² (186 m²) with reliable Wi-Fi to every corner. This coverage, of course, varies depending on the number of walls and furniture, but overall, this router has excellent Wi-Fi coverage.
It's also reliable. I stressed it for three days with continuous heavy usage, and it didn't disconnect once.
Middling NAS speeds
Unlike its Wi-Fi, the router's NAS performance was somewhat disappointing when hosting an external storage device. I tested it with Samsung Portable SSD T5, and via a Gigabit connection, it averaged just around 35 megabytes per second for reading and 33 MB/s for writing.
These numbers are not enough to deliver the vast amount of NAS features the router has to offer. For comparison, the MR2200ac's NAS performance was some 70 percent faster in my testing.
That said, if you use the RT2600ac, either as a standalone router or one in a Synology mesh, you better get a dedicated NAS server, like the DS218+ or the DS1618+, if you seriously want network storage.
Synology RT2600ac's Rating
Advanced firmware with a vast amount of network settings and features
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
Ability to host a robust mesh system
Can turn one of its LAN ports into a second WAN port
Powerful online protection features
Can't work as a mesh satellite
Slow network storage speed when hosting an external drive
No link aggregation
The RT2600ac router is far from perfect -- it's a relatively old device, after all. What's important is with updated firmware, it's now much better than what it was when first released.
Indeed, with a vast amount of valuable features, a state-of-the-art interface, reliable performance, and most importantly, the ability to host a robust Synology mesh, the RT2600ac ranks among the best routers you can get.
After almost two years, the RT2600ac now remains Synology's flagship router and will likely be relevant for years to come.