Synology RT6600ax Review: One of the Best
Synology’s first router in years, the RT6600ax, is finally available today. And, like the Ubiquiti UDR, it’s a near-perfect Wi-Fi machine that does not have a lot of love for Multi-Gig users.
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 machine, 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.
It does come with an exciting novelty as the first that supports the last 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum. The Asus GT-AX11000 Pro will soon follow suit.
Unfortunately, so far, the support on the clients’ side has been non-existent, though that will change. Synology confirmed that (some) existing Wi-Fi 6 clients would be able to handle the 5.9GHz portion via software driver updates.
In any case, the RT6600ax is a bit late to the Wi-Fi 6 game. Since late 2021, the world has moved to Wi-Fi 6E and is eyeing Wi-Fi 7.
But for those looking to upgrade their current Synology routers, namely the MR2200ac, RT2600ac, or RT1900ac, this new router is welcome news.
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, it 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 are not applicable when SmartConnect is in use. Synology later confirmed this to be the case.
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 not, keep in mind that SRM 1.3 allows you to set up a Synology router like any standard router with a web user interface.
By the way, if you use an existing Synology router and want to upgrade to the RT6600ax, you can load the backup file of SRM 1.2 to the new router. It’s best to set up a router from scratch, but this universal restoration can save time if you have lots of settings.
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 (Parental Controls), and Settings. Each will take the users to specific parts of the network.
I believe Safe Access will make many parents happy. It worked very well in my trial. In fact, it’s 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.
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 4×4 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||2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs|| 4X4 AX: Up to 4804 Mbps
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 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|
|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
And then there’s this sweet extra. 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 performance, without the innate reduction in range.
Without this 5.9GHz portion, both existing 160MHz channels on the 5GHz frequency band need to include at least one DFS sub-channel, which shares airspace with radar signals and can cause intermittent disconnections.
Technically, and confirmed by Synology, existing clients, such as the Intel AX2xx, could support this wireless portion right away or via driver updates. It’s just a matter of time.
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.
5GHz band: Channels allocation, DFS vs Non-DFS
Generally, a dual-band Wi-Fi broadcaster (2.4GHz + 5GHz) has two distinctive sets of channels. One belongs to the 2.4GHz band and the other to the 5GHz band.
Depending on your locale and hardware, the number of available channels on each band will vary.
This post takes the perspective of the U.S region. Here, the 2.4 GHz band includes 11 usable channels (from 1 to 11) and has been that way since the birth of Wi-Fi. Things are simple in this band.
On the 5GHz frequency, things are complex — we have DFS and regular (non-DFS) channels. On top of that, the last portion of the band — the 5.9GHz section — is generally reserved for other applications.
(DFS channels can be problematic and are the main reason we now have 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 it supports the new 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum generally has four additional channels to its upper part, including 169, 173, 177, and 181.
The splitting of the 5GHz spectrum ensures that the two bands (5GHz-1 and 5GHz-2) do not overlap each other, which would cause interference.
As a result, the total number of 5GHz channels remains the same in a traditional Tri-band broadcaster, but each channel has more bandwidth in theory because you can get two concurrently active channels out of this spectrum.
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.
For now, you can only use multiple RT6600ax together, but soon, when existing routers, namely the MR2200ac and RT2600ac get SRM 1.3, you can use a mix of them.
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. I used one for the testing.
I tried all of these apps, 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 its’ a router you’re using — it has limited resources. It is best to use only the apps you need — don’t use all of them just because you can.
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 that’s possible.
- 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.
An excellent Wi-Fi machine
As a 4×4 Wi-Fi router with a 2.5Gbps LAN port, the RT6600ax delivers excellent Wi-Fi speed. My 2×2 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, chances are its 5.9GHz bands will deliver similar sustained throughputs.
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-AX60000 or the Netgear RAX120.
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 2×2 Wi-Fi connection was the bottleneck.
That said, if you have an Internet speed of 1Gbps to 2Gbps, you can consider using it. Any faster speed grade will require a router with multiple Multi-Gig ports (preferably with faster speed grades) since you can only experience that via a wired connection.
A viable mini NAS
Synology is a known NAS maker, and the RT6600ax proved that. 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, as mentioned above.
And the throughput performance was excellent, too. 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.
In all, 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.
Fast and reliable Wi-Fi with the support for 5.9GHz UNII-4 spectrum, mesh-ready
Robust, comprehensive yet user-friendly SRM 1.3 firmware with excellent web interface and mobile 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
No Link Aggregation, awkward Multi-Gig WAN, rigid default WAN port
5.9GHz clients are scarce
For the most part and 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 price tag. And it’ll become even better over time via updates. So, you should get one today!
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? Check back soon for updates in the post on Synology Mesh.