Best known for its network attached storage (NAS) solutions, Synology now enters the Wi-Fi 6 router arena with the RT6600ax Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router ($299.99). Easy to install and manage, the RT6600ax delivered strong 2.4GHz throughput performance in our tests, and offers some nice features like free network-security and parental-control software, along with a multi-gig network port. That said, you’ll get better 5GHz and file transfer performance with our Editors’ Choice pick for mainstream routers, the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400.
Six Antennas, 6,600Mbps Max Speed
The RT6600ax uses a black 2.5-by-12.5-by-8-inch (HWD) enclosure that sports six adjustable, non-removable antennas. Grillwork covers the top and front panels. Seven status indicators on the top of the router indicate power and LAN, WAN, and Wi-Fi activity. The right side of the router has Wi-Fi On/Off and WPS buttons, while you’ll find all of your physical ports around back. There are three gigabit LAN ports, a gigabit WAN port, a 2.5 gigabit WAN/LAN port, a USB 3.2 port, reset and power buttons, and a power jack.
The RT6600ax is a tri-band AX6600 router. That means it’s capable of data rates of up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, 4,800Mbps on one of the 5GHz bands, and 1,200Mbps on a second 5GHz band, for a total theoretical maximum of 6,600Mbps. The router is powered by a quad-core CPU running at 1.8GHz and 1GB of DDR3 memory. Supported Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technologies include Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), 160MHz channel bandwidth, MU-MIMO simultaneous data streaming, WPA3 encryption, and beamforming (direct signal transmissions). It also uses the UNII-4 (5.9GHz) spectrum to access additional 20MHz and 160MHz channels.
As with some routers from other manufacturers, the RT6600ax and can be configured as a mesh router using additional compatible Synology routers that you purchase separately as Wi-Fi nodes.
The RT6600ax can be installed and managed using Synology’s web-based Synology Router Manager web console, or with the DS Router mobile app. The web console offers a more visually pleasing interface, with the same look and feel as Synology’s DiskStation Manager console, which is used to control the company’s NAS devices. It sports a colorful Windows-like desktop, with icons that guide you through the various management screens. The Network Center screen lets you manage network connections, monitor resources, configure QoS settings, and configure port-forwarding and port-triggering settings. The Wi-Fi Connect icon opens a screen where you can configure Wi-Fi settings, enable guest networking, and view a list of currently connected clients and which band they are connected to.
Four more settings screens offer adjustments for additional features. You can use the Safe Access screen to create user profiles, assign devices to each profile, and assign web filters to each profile. Preset filters include Child, Employee, and Guest, or you can create a custom profile or select None for no filtering. Here you can also enable Network Protection to safeguard network devices against phishing, malware, and access to potentially dangerous websites. The Network Protection feature also blocks attempts to access dangerous or inappropriate sites, and lets you see how long each client has been online.
Finally, the Control Panel is used to configure external storage devices, enable Windows and Mac file services, view router status information, and backup and restore router settings, while the Package Center is where you go to update Safe Access software and install Synology’s VPN Server Plus software.
Testing the Synology RT6600ax: Strong 2.4GHz, Weaker 5GHz
Installing the RT6600ax was fast and easy. I unplugged my modem, connected the RT6600ax to the modem, and powered up both devices. I connected a desktop PC to the router, opened a web browser, and typed “router.synology.com” in the address bar, which launched the web console setup wizard. I created an account, gave my new network an SSID and password, configured it as a router, selected Auto IP, and tapped Apply. After roughly 30 seconds, the router was configured, and the installation was complete.
The RT6600ax turned in mixed results on our throughput performance tests. It had a strong showing on the 2.4GHz tests: Its score of 126Mbps on the close-proximity (same room) test was faster than the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400 (121Mbps) and the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600 (120Mbps), and just a tad slower than the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (128Mbps). The RT6600ax’s score of 60Mbps on the 30-foot test beat them all: The Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400 managed 42Mbps, the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600 scored 46Mbps, and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 delivered 44Mbps.
The RT6600ax’s results on the 5GHz tests were decent, but also couldn’t keep pace with the competition. It garnered 791Mbps on the close-proximity test. The Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400 scored 830Mbps, the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600 scored 840Mbps, and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 scored 846Mbps. Similarly, the RT6600ax’s score of 301Mbps on the 30-foot test lagged the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400 (400Mbps), the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600 (339Mbps), and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (424Mbps).
We use an Ekahau Sidekick Wi-Fi diagnostic device and Ekahau’s Survey mobile app to test wireless signal strength. The Survey software uses data collected by the Sidekick to generate heat maps that show 2.4GHz and 5GHz signal strength throughout our test home. (Ekahau is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)
Synology RT6600ax 2.4GHz (top) and 5GHz (bottom) signal strength maps
The colors on the maps represent signal strength: Darker greens indicate the strongest signal, yellows indicate a weaker signal, and gray indicates no detectable signal. The circle on the map represents the location of the router in the home. As illustrated, the RT6600ax was able to deliver 2.4GHz Wi-Fi to the entire house, but the signal was noticeably weaker in the corners and in the kitchen area. Its 5GHz signal performance was somewhat better, but it still waned in the far corners and in the garage area.
Finally, to test the router’s read and write file-transfer performance, we time how long it takes to move a 1.5GB folder containing photos, video, music, and office document files back and forth between a USB 3.0 drive that’s connected to the router and a desktop PC (also connected to the router).
Here, as with the throughput tests, the RT6600ax had trouble keeping up with the competition. Its write score of 39MBps was much slower than those of the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400 (55MBps), the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600 (70MBps), and the Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 (69MBps). Results from the read test were similar: The RT6600ax managed 40MBps, compared with the Linksys Hydra Pro 6 AX5400’s score of 57MBps and the TP-Link GX-90 AX6600’s score of 68MBps. The Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400 took top honors, with a score of 85MBps.
The Verdict: Impressive Features, Only Average Value
If you’re looking to upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 network, the Synology RT6600ax Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router is worth a look. It offers an impressive feature set, including a high-speed WAN/LAN port, free parental-control and network-security software, and an intuitive web-based management console. It provided speedy throughput on the 2.4GHz band, but 5GHz throughput and file-transfer speeds were not as fast as what we saw with the similarly priced Asus ROG Strix GS-AX5400, our top pick for mainstream wireless routers.
Synology RT6600ax Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router
The Bottom Line
The Synology RT6600ax is a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router that offers multi-gig connectivity and strong parental-control and network-security software. It’s a solid performer but not a particularly good value.
Like What You’re Reading?
Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.