Synology’s RT2600ac is a high-speed, feature packed alternative to Apple’s AirPort products

Now that Apple has officially discontinued its AirPort wireless router line-up, many folks are looking for an alternative. One good candidate is Synology’s $200 RT2600ac, a high-speed, security-focused router.

RT2600ac big.jpg

Except for the ability to handle Time Machine backup, printer and hard drive sharing, guest WiFi, the RT2600ac comes with a lot of handy features such as parent controls, QoS (more on that in a minute), and VPN Plus. Regarding the former, parents will appreciate the powerful filtering of the router. 

Its multiple, and constantly updated, web content categories allow you to filter out the majority of inappropriate or dangerous materials; plus, there are extra white and blacklist functionalities for additional domains. Parents can create and customize filter profiles on a per-device or default policy basis. You can also schedule times when Internet access is allowed (or isn’t) and monitor the website access history of your kiddos.

VPN Plus allows you to remotely connect to your home network, implement an on-premises VPN solution, or stay safe on public WiFi. There’s an array of permission and traffic management tools to visualize and optimize a network, as well as support for protocols such as SSTP, OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP over IPSec, 

WebVPN gives users clientless access to internal web-based services, making remote work as simple as opening a browser. If you need connect to a file server or perform remote maintenance, Synology SSL VPN is backed by SSL encryption. 

VPN Plus offers one free concurrent account with access to WebVPN, Synology SSL VPN, and SSTP. The folks at Synology say that, to allow more concurrent access, licenses will be available for purchase in the future.

RT2600ac big 2.jpg

When you connect an external hard drive, the router also works as a network storage (NAS) server so you can share data and stream contents to local as well as remote clients. Since the router doesn't have a lot of built-in storage space, connecting an external drive is a good option.

The RT2600ac isn’t as handsome as some routers such as the AmpiFli, eero, and Orbi systems, but it’s beefy. It’s powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and comes equipped with the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 certified radios featuring MU-MIMO support, ensuring more devices can connect at higher speeds. Together with its “Smart Connect” feature, the RT2600ac can intelligently optimize connection quality and balance devices on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios for maximum wireless speed and range. 

It’s powered by the Synology Router Manager (SRM) operating system. Application Layer QoS (Quality of Service) allows you to monitor and control bandwidth consumption according to not only devices, but also individual applications.The hardware acceleration engine serves to maintain high performance and throughput for all connected devices.

What’s more, you don’t have to put your AirPort away. You can wire it with Synology Router to extend the network, and enjoy expanded WiFi coverage. 

At 3 by 11 by 6.6 inches (HWD) the RT2600ac is an average sized, and average looking, router. It has four removable and adjustable antennas, four gigabit LAN ports, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, a dedicated WAN port, and an SD card slot. LAN port number one can be used as secondary WAN port to support 2Gbps WAN in addition to providing a failsafe if the main WAN connection is lost. 

The left side of the device sports a WPS button and a Wi-Fi button; there are reset and power buttons on the back.

Setting up the RT2600ac isn’t too complicated, though it’s not as easy as configuring Apple’s late, lamented AirPort products. A Control Panel stores most settings. It allows you to: set up attached storage shares with permissions for each client; configure Mac, Windows, and FTP file services; add network printers; configure email, SMS; and push notifications for when there are USB storage issues or when system updates are available. 

RT2600ac 3.jpg

The Package Center (which is basically an app store) offers links to Synology and third-party applications including VPN utilities, cloud file-sharing software, photo album sharing software, and more. The Security Advisor application scans your network for potential malware and other cyber threats and offers detailed reports and recommended actions.

If you don't like the web interface for managing the RT2600ac, there’s a free DS Router app (available at the Apple App Store) for iOS devices that allows you to manage some of the router's settings and built-in features on your smartphone, both locally and when you're away from home.

If you need a powerful alternative to Apple’s defunct products, and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve to take advantage of all its powerful features, Synology’s RT2600ac is worth a look.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★