Synology is best known for its NAS (network-attached storage) devices, but in the past few years, it has expanded into selling routers and access points. I am satisfied with my existing Synology router. But lately, I’ve been looking for more throughput now that I have a gigabit cable speed as well as an increasing reliance on active intrusion detection. So, I upgraded my home office router, a Synology RT2200ac, to the new Synology RT6600ax Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router shortly after it came out. It has an MSRP of $299, but is currently $399 on Amazon.
As with its NAS units, part of the appeal is Synology’s easy-to-use and well-supported software This is especially true for those already familiar with Synology’s NAS OS or its DiskStation Manager (DSM). If you’ve experienced them, its router OS, Synology Router Manager (SRM), will be completely familiar.
I waited to write a review until the Synology SRM was updated to allow use of the new router with my old router and MR2200ac access points, so I could evaluate its mesh routing performance. Overall, the new router is a huge upgrade and a very competitive offering.
Synology RT6600ax by the numbers
The 6600 upgrades the 2600’s dual-core 1.7GHz CPU to a quad-core 1.8GHz model. More cores make the system more responsive and seem able to handle more applications at the same time. There are also two more antennas and an Ethernet port that can handle up to 2.5Gbps.
Gone is the SD card reader, but there’s a USB 3 port for external storage. You will need it for certain applications like intrusion detection. Its maximum speed is increased to 4.8Gbps using 802.11ax. It’s significantly larger and heavier than its predecessor, but that won’t make a difference for most uses. The 6600 comes with the same two-year warranty and has about the same 11-watt power consumption when active.
As far as theoretical total throughput goes, the RT6600ax is a tri-band AX6600 router, rated for speeds of up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, 4.8Gbps on its first 5GHz band, and 1.2Gbps on the other 5GHz band. A possible total of 6.6Gbps. It supports the 5.9GHz band, giving it some extra channels. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6e, although the 5.9GHz band gives you the same benefits if you have hardware that supports its 160MHz channels.
Placed next to the 6600ax (top 4 Wi-Fi test), I was able to get twice the throughput of what I could get from the same device when it was next to our old 2600ac (bottom Wi-Fi test). My speed dropped off fairly quickly with distance. For more detailed testing, our sister publication Lab, PC Magazine, was used in their review.
A few other specs have been bumped up that could make the router more exciting for advanced users – including the addition of VLAN support. In the case of our home + office, we have about 50 devices on our LAN, of which about 30 are related to some form of IoT. Considering how prevalent security issues are for low-level devices it would make a lot of sense to move them to their own VLAN.
There are some enhanced secure access and parental control options, but I haven’t had time to experiment with any of them. There are also a number of packages you can install if you want to further tweak the router’s functionality, for example by adding a DNS or VPN server. Synology’s packages are essentially curated versions of Linux apps with a simple interface to install and update them.
Synology’s SRM Router OS provides a fully-windowed user interface that is a close cousin to its DSM NAS interface.
Synology SRM 1.3 software
Synology’s router app
As someone who spends too much time dealing with gross router, switch, and ATA configurations to get my work done, I appreciate Synology’s ability to provide a simpler, mostly-clickable, interface to its devices’ functionality than command-line. Many other tools are needed. It’s not perfect though. In particular, finding the list of DHCP clients always seems elusive. However, SRM’s search feature is great for finding commands and settings, and the screens are well designed, with good feedback when you make a change or when a change is inconsistent. There are plenty of options for how and when you want to get upgrades for both packages and OS, and I’ve always found the upgrade process to be seamless.
Mesh routing using RT6600ax
One of the reasons I waited to publish this review is that mesh routing was not fully supported until recently. With SRM 1.3.1, you can use your RT2600ac and MT2200ac devices as Wi-Fi connection points. The interface is very similar to the older model, and allows you to connect Wi-Fi access points either wired or over Wi-Fi. I was confused at first because the help file says to reset access points before adding them, but it also says they need to be upgraded to the latest OS version. I assumed that a reset would reset the OS, I went in circles a bit until Synology support helped me by saying I could upgrade and then reset without losing the new OS.
Synology makes it easy to create a mesh Wi-Fi network using routers. My current MR2200ac devices worked well with good performance. Surprisingly, my old RT2200ac did not perform well as a mesh access point.
The only problem I’ve had with the mesh solution so far is that if I put two access points and routers in a triangle, the devices can sometimes drop out. I thought it might be because one AP switches from being fed by the router to getting its backhaul from another AP. I locked it in the settings (a nice feature), but it wasn’t the answer. Finally, I just moved the APs from the router to another “line”.
High performance threat prevention
A problem I’ve found with many routers is that although they may offer an option for intrusion and threat protection, that option greatly reduces the throughput of the device. With the RT6600ax, I was pleasantly surprised that I could run Synology’s active threat prevention and still get about 1Gbps from our cable provider through connected devices. On the 2600ac router, enabling its equivalent package took a performance hit even at lower speeds.
Synology updates and support
In my experience, Synology’s software updates and support are the highlights of the company’s offerings. Every product I’ve tested has a straightforward interface that lets you check for, download, and install updates New releases let you set them up to happen automatically. Especially useful for video surveillance or other low-level functions if you have some “appliance” NAS units that you’re not actively spending time managing. All releases have comprehensive release notes. Synology support has also been quite responsive, always better than 24-hour turnaround in my experience.
Price and Availability
At an MSRP of $299, the Synology RT6600ax is a bit more expensive than some models with similar specs, but you get a great set of prepackaged applications, a simple interface for adding and managing new packages, and a well-tested router OS. . However, it’s hard to find one for that price right now for some reason. Hopefully, this will change soon.