For the rest, the new router is as good as can be. And its support for the last 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum is the icing on the cake.
If you're in the market for a standalone Wi-Fi 6 router, the Synology RT6600ax will likely be the best $299 you've ever spent. In fact, get a few units if you want to build a serious Gigabit mesh network.
Dong's note: I first published this post on December 2, 2021, when the RT6600ax was announced, and updated it on May 11, 2022, to a full review after thorough hands-on testing.
Synology RT6600ax Wi-Fi 6 Router: A (late) beginning of a new exciting chapter
The RT6600ax was long in the making.
To put things in perspective, this is Synology's only new router after the MR2200ac that came out in 2018. I was still an innocent teenager at the time...
Fast-forward to now, the new router does come with an exciting novelty. It's the first that supports the last 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum -- more below. (The Asus GT-AX11000 Pro will soon follow suit.)
And it sure is worth the wait. Let's start with what we've come to expect from Synology: the firmware.
RT6600ax: The first router to get Synology Router Manager version 1.3.
Synology Router Manager (SRM) is a Linux-based operating system similar to DiskStation Manager (DSM) used in Synology NAS servers.
You still use the web user interface to manage the router, but the webpage itself is similar to the GUI of a native operating system. You have a desktop, a taskbar, a Control Panel, etc., and can run multiple apps simultaneously, each in a separate window.
In short, SRM is easily one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive firmware for Wi-Fi routers. Among other things, you'll find all that you'd need in networking configurations, both wired and Wi-Fi, with it.
In fact, for home users, the OS can be a bit overwhelming though not to the degree of the Ubiquiti UDR. (Hint: opt for the DS Router mobile app instead! -- more below.)
SRM 1.3 is an incremental upgrade to the existing version 1.2 and is first available to the RT6600ax -- Synology told me that the RT2600ac and MR2200ac would also get this version later in 2022.
SRM 1.3 has a couple of major new features geared towards business and pro users, including:
- 802.1q VLAN tagging: A networking standard helpful to business-related applications and Quality of Services (QoS).
- Multiple advanced virtual networks and SSIDs: Users can create up to 5 virtual networks and SSIDs(*) and distribute them to all endpoints across different subnets to achieve network isolation and customize firewall rules.
(*) The virtual SSIDs were only available when the bands worked separately in my testing. They were not applicable when SmartConnect is in use. Synology later confirmed this to be the case. Future firmware might change this.
Those are on top of what you can already with SRM 1.2, now also with incremental improvements, including:
- Mesh Wi-Fi configuration: Additional Wi-Fi points automatically broadcast all SSIDs associated with their respective network.
- Safe Access: Built-in online protection and Parental Controls for the entire network based on Internet access rules.
- VPN Plus: Users can decide which network remote devices should connect to, and more.
- Add-on apps via the Package Center.
Generally, SRM is for advanced users. And if you have used a Synology router or a Synology NAS server before, you'll feel right at home with SRM 1.3.
If you're new, keep in mind that this firmware allows you to set up a Synology router like any standard router with a web user interface. So, if you have worked with a router web interface before or are fluent with any operating system, you will be able to figure out the SRM relatively pronto.
Note on Synology router migration
Synology routers can generally take the backup file of one another, but only when they use the same firmware version.
Consequently, if you want to migrate from an RT2600ac or MR2200ac to the RT6600ax and keep existing network settings, you first need to upgrade the existing router to SRM 1.3 (when that's possible) before you can load its backup file to the new router.
Generally, it's best to set up a router from scratch, but this type of universal restoration can save time if you have lots of settings.
Still simple QoS feature
It's worth noting that SRM 1.3 has no improvement in Quality of Control. Its support for QoS -- via its Traffic Control section -- remains the largely same as SRM 1.2, which is rather simplistic.
Users will need to configure the settings manually to set prioritization at the client level, and only up to three clients can be on the priority list.
This feature will work out in most cases but compared to other routers that can prioritize based on applications and services, the RT6600ax is quite modest on this front.
New Synology DS Router 2.0 app
With the RT6600ax, Synology also overhauled its DS Router app to version 2.0. That's the first update to this app since late 2020.
This app, the user-friendly mobile alternative to the web user interface, also works with routers running SRM 1.2 but has more to offer to those running SRM 1.3.
Specifically, users can now configure Internet connections and manage VPN connections directly from the mobile phone. What's more, essential functions like port-forwarding, multiple SSID management, and traffic control are also included within the app.
The app also has other improvements in user interface and accessibility. It now comes with a better-thought-out design that includes four tabs, including Overview, Device, Safe Access (that includes Parental Controls), and Settings. Each will take the users to specific parts of the network.
I believe Safe Access will make many parents happy, though this app is much more than just Parental Controls. You can use it to manage many security and privacy aspects of the network, including adblocking. Most of that is available via the DS Router app, but certain in-depth settings of the feature require the web interface.
If you choose to block ads at the router's level, which is the default when you pick the "Child" blocking profile, remember to make a note of that and add certain sites to the allowed list when necessary. Adblocking can cause webpages and services, including those of this website, not to function as expected. And it can be frustrating if you're not aware of the cause.
Safe Access worked very well in my trial. It proved to be one of the most comprehensive features of its type, and it's free.
It's worth noting that, just like the web user interface, you can use the DS Router app locally or remotely -- when you're out and about. In the latter case, you can opt for the easy route via a login account with Synology and use QuickConnect -- privacy risks implied -- or via Dynamic DNS.
The DS Router app worked well on my Pixel 6 for the most part. It did crash a few times, likely due to first-release bugs but not to the point that caused concerns. I have no doubt Synology will work out the kinks via future updates. On top of that, I'm a fan of the web user interface, anyway.
During my partially pre-release trial, the interface had minor bugs, too, which was normal for a new router. Generally, it's a good idea to wait for at least one incremental firmware update before expecting the hardware to be fully functional.
Besides the Router app, SRM 1.3 comes with a few other mobile apps to manage its many add-ons that you can install via the Package Center, as mentioned above.
Synology RT6600ax: Hardware specifications
The Synology RT6600ax is a Tri-band 4x4 Wi-Fi 6 router with a top speed on the 5GHz-1 band of up to 4804Mbps. The other two bands, the 5GHz-2 and 2.4GHz, cap at 1200Mbps and 600Mbps, respectively.
|Name||Synology RT6600ax Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 Router|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Tri-band AX6600|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2x2 AX: Up to 600Mbps|
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs|| 4X4 AX: Up to 4804 Mbps|
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||2x2 AX: Up to 1200 Mbps|
|Mesh-ready||Yes (Synology Mesh)|
|Gigabit Port||3x LAN, |
1x WAN (permanent)
|Multi-Gig Port||1x 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN|
|Dual-WAN||Yes (WAN + 2.5Gbps or cellular)|
|USB||1x USB 3.0|
|Mobile App||Android and iOS: DS Router, VPN Plus, DS cloud, DS file,|
Android-only: DS Get (Download)
|Processing Power||1.8 GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM, 256MB Flash|
|Built-in Online Protection||Yes |
(Threat Prevention add-on App)
|16.9 x 12.6 x 7.9 in |
(175 x 320 x 200 mm)
|Weight||2.65 lbs (1.2kg)|
|Power Specs||Input: 100-240V 50/60Hz|
Output: 12V 3.5A
(per 24 hours)
|≈ 280 Wh|
|Release Date||May 11, 2022|
Entry-Level Multi-Gig support, no Link Aggregation, a bit rigid port configuration
As you can see in the table above, the RT6600ax is the first Synology router with Multi-Gig, but it's quite modest on this front.
Indeed, the router has just one 2.5Gbps port that can work as a LAN (default) or a WAN. As a result, there's no way to have a full 2.5Gbps connecting through the router -- you need two Multi-Gig ports for that.
While the 2.5Gbps port can work as a WAN port, that's only applicable in a Dual-WAN setup. There's no way to make it the router's only WAN port and set the original Gigabit WAN port as another LAN port.
In other words, if you choose to use the 2.5Gbps port as your WAN, applicable for those with Gigabit or faster broadband, you'll have no use for the original WAN port -- unless you have a real Dual-WAN setup which is rare for most homes.
Also, the lack of support for 10Gbps means this router is not suitable for those with a 10Gbps broadband connection. And that's such a shame.
And finally, there's no Link Aggregation support. That's not a huge deal, but it sure makes the new router inferior to its Asus counterparts.
While the RT6600ax is better than the Ubiquiti UDR on the port speed front -- the latter has no Multi-Gig port but two PoE ports -- it still gave me the same fleeting feeling of disappointment.
I knew I'd not use it for myself right out of the box, considering my new 10Gbps broadband. But this new router has a ton, if not everything, to offer to those happy with the Gigabit speed grade.
The first router with the 5.9GHz band support
The RT6600ax is the first router that supports the entire 5GHz spectrum -- where that's possible for Wi-Fi. It can broadcast signals using the last UNII4 portion.
You can read more about UNII4 in this post, but for decades, this controversial portion of the 5GHz spectrum was reserved for other applications. In late 2020, FCC approved it for Wi-Fi use and made it available for unlicensed use in early 2021.
This 5.9GHz part of the spectrum opens up new possibilities -- for the first time, there's a clean 160MHz channel on the 5GHz. And that makes the 5GHz band comparable to the new 6GHz band of Wi-Fi 6e in reliability, without the innate reduction in range.
Without this 5.9GHz portion, existing 160MHz channels on the 5GHz frequency band need to include at least one of the DFS sub-channels.
DFS shares airspace with radar signals, which have priority. Using DFS for Wi-Fi, therefore, can cause intermittent disconnections.
Unfortunately, there was no supporting client during my testing for this review, but I'll come back when they are available, hopefully later this year. But even without them, the RT6600ax's performance proved excellent -- more below.
Extra: Wi-Fi 6's pre-UNII4 channel allocations
This portion of extra content is part of the posts on Dual-band vs Tri-band vs Quad-band.
Channels allocation, the 5GHz’s DFS, and band-splitting
A Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (or Wi-Fi 5) broadcaster (2.4GHz + 5GHz) has two distinctive sets of channels. One belongs to the 2.4GHz band, and the other to the 5GHz band.
By default, each channel is set at the lowest width, which is 20MHz. When applicable, the hardware can combine adjacent channels into larger ones that are 40MHz, 80MHz, or even wider.
Depending on your locale and hardware, the number of available channels on each band will vary, depending on how wide the band is.
In the US, the 2.4 GHz band includes 11 usable 20MHz channels (from 1 to 11) and has been that way since the birth of Wi-Fi. Things are simple in this band.
The 2.4GHz band uses channels of 20MHz or 40MHz width. The wider the width, the fewer channels you can get out of the frequency -- the entire band is only so wide.
On the 5GHz frequency, things are complex -- we have DFS and regular (non-DFS) channels. (On top of that, the last 5.9GHz portion of the band was reserved for other applications until late 2022 -- more in this post on UNII-4.)
The 5GHz band uses channels of 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz, or 160MHz width. Wider channels are desirable since they deliver more bandwidth -- faster speeds. And the problematic nature of DFS channels is the main reason behind Wi-Fi 6E.
Here is the breakdown of the channels on the 5GHz frequency band at their narrowest form (20MHz):
- The lower part of the spectrum includes channels: 36, 40, 44, and 48.
- The upper part includes channels: 149, 153, 161, and 165.
- In between the two, we have the following DFS channels: 52, 56, 60, 64, 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120, 124, 128, 132, 136, 140, and 144. (Channels from 68 to 96 are generally reserved exclusively for Doppler RADAR.)
In a dual-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz) broadcaster, the 5GHz band gets all the channels above (#1, #2). It'll also get #3 if the broadcaster supports DFS.
In a traditional Tri-band broadcaster (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 5GHz), the first 5GHz band (5GHz-1) will get the lower channels (#1), and the 2nd 5GHz band (5GHz-2) gets the upper channels (#2).
If the broadcaster support DFS then the 5GHz-1 gets up to channel 64, and the rest (100 and up) goes to 5GHz-2. If the hardware also supports the new 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum, it generally has three additional channels to its upper part, including 169, 173, and 177.
The splitting of the 5GHz spectrum ensures that the two narrower bands (5GHz-1 and 5GHz-2) do not overlap each other. So, here's the deal with traditional Tri-band (2.4GHz+ 5GHz+ 5GHz):
- The good: While the total width of the 5GHz spectrum remains the same, we can use two portions of this band simultaneously, theoretically doubling its real-world bandwidth.
- The bad: Each portion (5GHz-1 or 5GHz-2) has fewer channel-forming options, making it harder for them to use the 80MHz or 160MHz channel widths required for high bandwidth. Physically, the channel-width options are now more limited than when the entire 5GHz spectrum is used as a single band.
- The bottom line: Limited bandwidth for each sub-5GHz band. In an area crowded with 5GHz Wi-Fi broadcasters, practically everywhere these days, this band-splitting practice likely adds little, if at all, in terms of extra real-world total bandwidth.
Supporting Synology mesh, the RT6600ax's new 5.9GHz band is an excellent backhaul in a wireless mesh configuration. That's the case when you use multiple units together.
However, in this case, its 5GHz-1 band is only available to 5.9GHz-ready clients (which weren't available at this review.) So for practical reasons, it's best to use one of the lower channels on this band for the job. Or better yet, use a network cable as the wired backhaul.
By the way, Synology mesh is the only real rival to Asus's AiMesh. Both allow multiple standalone routers to form a flexible mesh system with lots of customizability.
Synology even hinted that SRM 1.3 would also allow the RT2600ac to work as a satellite instead of only in the router role as it has always been. That'd give Synology mesh more options in terms of hardware, though still really far behind AiMesh.
I did try the two RT6600ax units in a mesh setup briefly, and they worked well. I plan to keep testing this and update the post on Synology Mesh later with more information.
Synology RT6600ax: Detail photos
Excellent free add-on apps (packages)
As mentioned above, SRM allows the additional app to run within the router, and the RT6600ax support seven apps by default. These are Linux applications (or packages) that add more functionality and features to the hardware.
You can run some apps using the router's built-in storage. Others will require plugged-in storage, namely a portable drive. It's generally recommended that you have an external storage device to run multiple apps -- the router has limited flash storage. I used one for the testing.
I tried all of these apps -- one at a time -- and they worked as intended. What I loved the most were the Download Station and Threat Prevention.
The Download Station is the same app found in Synology NAS servers that allows users to search for items they need and download them. You can also enter the download link manually. It then works by itself. It's an excellent tool for computer-less downloading.
Download Station also has a mobile app, the DS Get, which allows you to manage downloads from anywhere. So you can start a download when you leave work, and the file will be ready for you when you get home.
When coupled with the router's network-attached storage feature -- more below -- and the Media Server app, the RT6600ax can function as one of the best router-based mini NAS servers. It's the closest experience to a real Synology NAS server.
Threat Prevention, on the hand, is a comprehensive online protection app that detects threats in real-time and blocks them based on user-defined policies. It's an excellent tool for those wanting to keep tabs on their network's security.
Overall, the add-on apps add tremendous value to the router, and they are all available for free. Remember, though, that it's a router you're using; it has limited resources. It's best to use only the apps you need and not all of them just because you can.
A note of caution
Just because a router can do many things doesn't mean you want to use them all simultaneously. Generally, you want to give the hardware some breathing room.
Like previous cases of Synology routers, the RT6600ax might need a few firmware updates to work fully as intended.
Synology RT6600ax: Stellar performance
I tested the Synology RT6600ax for over a week -- almost 10 days, in fact -- and it exceeded all expectations. A couple of things to note:
- I couldn't test its 5.9GHz portion of the band since there was no supported client yet. I'll come back to this when possible, though the result will likely be the same. (*)
- I tested all of its bands separately, and in the case of the 2.4GHz, both with the router's USB port working in USB 3.0 and 2.0 modes.
- This review is mostly on the RT6600ax as a standalone router. I will cover its mesh function in a separate post.
(*) I was able to connect the 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 test client to the router's 5GHz-1 band via a 160MHz connection (at 2.4Gbps). As mentioned above, this negotiated speed would also have been the best possible had I been able to use the 5.9GHz portion.
Update, May 21, 2022:
During extra testing for the post on Synology Mesh, I used a second RT6600ax solely as a wireless client and connect a Multi-Gig computer to its 2.5Gbps port, effectively turning it into a Multi-Gig media bridge.
With this setup, I was able to test the router's sustained Wi-Fi speeds and ranges via a 160MHz connection using the 5.9GHz portion. As expected, they were similar to that of any other 160Mhz channel of the band.
In short, this new portion of the band is only significant when you live in an area where the use of DFS channels is problematic -- as mentioned above -- or when you want to use the 5GHz-1 band as the wireless backhaul of a Synology Mesh setup.
An excellent Wi-Fi machine
As a 4x4 Wi-Fi router with a 2.5Gbps LAN port, the RT6600ax delivers excellent Wi-Fi speed in my testing. My 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 test client indeed got Gig+ sustained speed from it.
In fact, its 5GHz-1 (upper channels) was one of the fastest Wi-Fi 6 routers to date. Again, note that I tested this band using regular channels. However, per the standard, its 5.9GHz bands will deliver similar sustained throughputs -- it's just more reliable.
Its 5GHz-2 band is of modest specs but faired well among its tiers.
On the 2.4GHz band, the RT6600ax performed about the same as its peers. This band has always been slow in my testing across the board.
The Synology RT6600ax passed our days-long stress test with no disconnections at all. It always worked as expected.
The range was excellent, too. It's always hard to gauge this, but the RT6600ax has about the same coverage as any high-end Wi-Fi 6 router I've tested, like the Asus GT-AX6000 or the TP-Link Archer GX90.
Generally, my experience suggested that this router could cover a home of some 2000 ft2 (186 m2) when placed in the center. But your mileage sure will vary.
As for real-world Internet speed, the router's 2.5Gbps port proved capable of delivering Gig+ broadband in my anecdotal testing, as you can see in the screenshot above -- chances are the 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 connection was the bottleneck.
The Internet speed tests were done with the router's only 2.5Gbps port working as a WAN port, instead of as a LAN during the Wi-Fi tests above.
If you have Internet speeds up to 1.5Gbps, the RT6600ax is your safe choice. Any faster speed grade will require a router with multiple Multi-Gig ports -- preferably with faster-than-2.5Gbps speed grades -- since you can only experience that via a wired connection, for now. (I detailed the reasons in this post on super-broadband.)
A viable mini NAS
Synology is a known NAS server maker, and that showed via the RT6600ax.
When coupled with an external storage device -- I used a WD My Passport SSD -- connected to its USB 3.0 port, the router can work as an excellent NAS server.
Apart from hosting shared folders with advanced user management, the router can also stream media and work as a download station, as mentioned above. Most importantly, it has the performance to match.
Indeed, in my testing, the throughputs were excellent. Clearly, to make it work as a mini server, you'll need to use the USB port in the USB 3.0 mode and sacrifice a bit of the 2.4GHz band's performance. I tested the router in that setting, and it did very well, as you can see on the chart.
If you're looking to dabble in the world of network-attached storage, the RT6600ax is the next best thing besides a real Synology NAS server. For causal network storage needs, just get a nice, spacious portable SSD (or hard drive), and you're all set.
Synology RT6600ax's Rating
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi with support for 5.9GHz UNII-4 spectrum, mesh-ready
Robust, comprehensive yet user-friendly SRM 1.3 firmware with excellent web interface and DS Router app
Lots of useful built-in settings and networking features, helpful add-on packages with accompanying mobile apps
Can work as a full-featured NAS server
Practical design, wall-mountable
Only one 2.5Gbps port
No Link Aggregation, awkward Multi-Gig WAN, rigid default WAN port
Only client-based QoS, 5.9GHz clients are scarce
For the most part and for most users, the Synology RT6600ax is worth the wait.
It's an excellent Wi-Fi 6 router that meets or exceeds what you'd expect from Synology, with similarly well-designed firmware, a rich feature set, and stellar reliability. It's worth every penny of its reasonable $299 suggested retail price tag. And it'll become even better over time via updates. So, you should get one today!
The router is entirely new. Like all such routers, generally, you should wait for one or two rounds of firmware updates before counting on it, especially if you intend to use all or most of its features and apps.
On the downside, the lack of a second Multi-Gig port and 10Gbps ports means the RT6600 will forever remain behind in the wired speed curve. While that doesn't affect the general audience, advanced users and hardcore geeks will find this shortcoming rather painful simply because the RT6600ax is so close yet too far to be that perfect router.
And I speak from experience.
Want to know how the new router performs as a member of a mesh system? Find out more in the post on Synology Mesh.