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Asus’s Best AiMesh Router Combos of 2021

In this post, you’ll find the answers to picking the best AiMesh router combination that fits a particular situation. When through, chances are you’ll be able to build yourself a flexible, feature-laden, privacy-friendly Wi-Fi solution that’s also well-performing and reliable.

Unlike most canned mesh systems — like the eero, Netgear Orbi, TP-Link Deco, or Linksys Velop — AiMesh can be a bit hard to set up and use.

It can also be buggy, especially when you pick the wrong combo, which is why I wrote this piece — make sure you read the top part where I’ll explain the best way to pair AiMesh hardware.

But AiMesh also has the most to offer among all home mesh options. You’re opting for a somewhat adventurous, albeit exciting, Wi-Fi approach here. It’s worth it!

Since I have already written extensively on this subject, consider this post the supplement to my take on Asus’s AiMesh as a whole. I assumed you had read that post. If not, you should do that when having additional AiMesh-related questions.

Dong’s note: I first published this frequently revised piece on February 28, 2021, and updated it on September 20 to add more relevant information.

AiMesh with GT AXE11000
Here’s an AiMesh setup with the GT-AXE11000 as the primary router. It works pretty well via wired backhauls, but still, I wouldn’t recommend it.

How to pick the best AiMesh Router Combos: The rules of thumb

Below is the list of existing Asus routers that can work as part of an AiMesh Wi-Fi system. It’s not complete and only includes broadcasters available in the U.S. market.

AiMesh hardware

The way it works, you use one router as the primary node, and the rest will work as a satellite node(s) to scale up the coverage. The primary router decides the features of your mesh.


Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) AiMesh broadcasters

Wi-Fi 6/E (802.11ax) AiMesh broadcasters


Technically, you can arbitrarily use a combo of any broadcasters above to create a mesh system, and it will work. It’s a matter of degrees. The point is don’t do that. Instead, follow these tips to make sure you get the best out of your hardware.

For the most part, though, picking AiMesh hardware is similar to that of any mesh system.

Wired backhaul is generally recommended, especially for Dual-band (or Wi-Fi 6E Tri-band) hardware

Like all home mesh systems, you should use the wired backhaul. That is when you use a network cable to connect the main router and a satellite unit.

In this case, you can use CAT5e (or higher-grade) network cables — Gigabit or faster wiring is a must. You can daisy-chain the hardware units or place (unmanaged) switch(es) in between them.


Extra: No viable Multi-Gig wired backhaul option for AiMesh, yet

Generally, we don’t have a viable option of using a Multi-Gig connection as the wired backhaul yet.

According to the way AiMesh works, to have a Multi-Gig wired backhaul system, you need a satellite with a Multi-Gig WAN port. For now, that’s available on the following models:

  • ZenWiFi XT8: A traditional tri-band router with a 2.5Gbps WAN port.
  • ZenWiFi ET8: A Wi-Fi 6E tri-band router with with a 2.5Gbps WAN port.

Neither of the two has a Multi-Gig LAN port.

Sure, you have other broadcasters — the RT-AX86U, GT-AX11000, GT-AXE11000, and RT-AX89X — that have a Multi-Gig LAN port that can work as a WAN port. However, none has a Multi-Gig WAN port as the default. As a result, you can’t use the high-speed port as for the backhaul.

On top of that, you might want a router with two Multi-Gig ports so you can use one for the WAN connection and the other for the LAN side, and the RT-AX89X is presently the only option. But since it’s a dual-band broadcaster, it doesn’t work well with any possible Multi-Gig satellite nodes mentioned above.

And finally, for a fully Multi-Gig network, you’ll likely need a Multi-Gig switch, too.

ZenWiFi ET8 AiMesh Node
Here’s the ZenWiFi ET8 working as a Multi-Gig backhaul AiMesh node for the RT-AX89X. Note how its 6GHz band is not available to clients.

That said, I’ve personally tried all possible AiMesh Multi-Gig backhaul scenarios (all with a Multi-Gig switch in between), and none worked out well.

Specifically:

  • RT-AX89X router + ZenWiFi XT8 node + ZenWiFi ET8 node: There’s no way to make use of the XT8’s 5GHz-2 band or the ET8’s 6GHz band.
  • GT-AXE11000 router + ZenWiFi ET8 nodes: The mesh system was very buggy with the node getting disconnected at least once a day.

That said, until Asus releases firmware to make a router’s Multi-Gig LAN port work (well) as the backhaul link, the dream of a Multi-Gig backhaul AiMesh system is still out of reach, even if you don’t mind putting money into the hardware.

Extra: 6GHz wireless backhaul is no good in an Asus AiMesh setup

If you can’t run network cables and think the new 6GHz band of the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard will bail you out, you’ll be deeply disappointed. (This applies to other non-Asus systems, too, such as the Linksys AXE8400.)

After trying out two GT-AXE1100 units, the 2-pack ZenWiFi ET8, and a combo of these two, I can say for sure that you can’t count on the 6GHz band as backhaul in an AiMesh setup at all. Its range is just too short.

Chances are a Wi-Fi 6E AiMesh wireless system will use the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band as backhaul when you place the hardware units father than 50 feet away from each other or if there’s a wall in between them. As a result, you’ll get a system with much inferior performance to a traditional tri-band alternative, such as the ZenWiFi XT8.

Again, the point is this: Don’t count on the 6GHz unless you’re live in a small or open space.


But with network cabling, you can use almost any router combo without worrying about performance or reliability.

(“Almost” is the key here. There are some specific sets that you might want to avoid using wired backhauls — more below.)

That said, if you intend to mix hardware of different Wi-Fi grades or standards — dual-stream (2×2) vs. three-stream (3×3) vs. quad-stream (4×4), or Wi-Fi 5 vs. Wi-Fi 6 — then you should think about getting your home wired first.

But generally, if you use dual-band hardware or mix Wi-Fi grades, it’s best to use wired backhauls. And vice versa, if you have wired your home, there’s no need to use traditional tri-band hardware.

Finally, wired backhaul is necessary if you use Wi-Fi 6E hardware — namely the GT-AXE1100 or the ZenWiFi ET8. My general recommendation is that, for now, you should wait a while before getting Wi-Fi 6E mesh hardware at all.

Traditional tri-band hardware is generally recommended in a fully wireless setup

In a fully wireless setup, you should consider tri-band hardware. Specifically, you want to use broadcasters with an additional 5GHz band that works as the dedicated backhaul. (Again, Wi-Fi 6E hardware doesn’t apply.)

In most cases, using dual-band hardware works, too. However, you will get only 50 percent of the satellite (node) unit’s speed due to signal loss.

So, if you don’t need the node’s top Wi-Fi speed, then dual-band hardware will do. The key is what type of performance you want.


Minimize mixing hardware

It’s always safest in terms of performance and reliability when you use the same routers across the entire system.

However, that’s not a must, and also not exactly economical. Sometimes, you want to mix a router with the best feature set with a more affordable node. Of course, in this case, you’ll get the Wi-Fi performance at each mesh unit according to their hardware specs.

Again, if you use wired backhaul, there’s not much concern here. But if you think of a wireless mesh, it’s best to use routers of the same Wi-Fi standard (Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6) and performance tiers for better reliability.

Specifically, if you use a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 router as the primary node, the rest of the nodes should also be 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 hardware. The same goes for Wi-Fi 5 equipment.

Rules in mixing hardware

If you have broadcasters of different Wi-Fi standards or Wi-Fi performance tiers — often the case when you buy a new router and want to keep the old one as part of a mesh — then here is what you should do in this particular order when possible:

  1. Use wired backhaul. A mix of wired and wireless backhaul is still better than full wireless. In this case, the primary router unit should be wired to the first node, but you can also wire just the nodes together.
  2. Pick the best router for the primary node (this is the device that decides the features of your network):
    • It should be one of the highest Wi-Fi tiers, measured in the number of streams (4×4, 3×3, 2×2, etc.).
    • It’s the one with the most bands. So, pick the tri-band instead of the dual-band if you have both.
    • Use the latest router with the most feature. So pick the Wi-Fi 6 router if you also have Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters.
  3. Pick the right nodes (you generally have little or no control over the node’s feature or settings):
    • Wireless backhaul: Use nodes of the same Wi-Fi tier as the router, at least on the 5GHz (backhaul) band. If not, make sure the main router and the satellite node use the same Wi-Fi standards and tier. In most cases, this means you have to use them in the compatibility mode. Else, they can’t connect.
    • Wired backhaul: Use (dual-band) nodes with the performance (when working as a standalone router) of your choice.
  4. Expect some bugs: Since there are so many possible combos, mixing hardware arbitrarily likely will result in unexpected bugs. This is especially true when you use a fully wireless setup. Again, think about running network cables!
  5. AP mode (applicable only to a wired home): Consider using a node as a standard access point (AP). While this setup will not give you a real mesh system — you can’t control the AP’s Wi-Fi settings via the main router — it’ll give you excellent performance, reliability, and more control. Specifically:
    • You can take full control of the satellite hardware, including some extra features availabe in the AP mode (Wi-Fi settings, USB-related, lighting, and others).
    • If your primary router is a dual-band and the AiMesh satellite is a tri-band, you can then use the node’s 5GHz-2 band, which is not available in the AiMesh mode.
    • You can use a third-party router (or AP) or a non-AiMesh Asus router, such as the RT-AC3200.

With that out of the way, below are my experience with certain AiMesh combos.

Best AiMesh routers and combos: The battle-tested list

This part results from many hours — days, weeks, and months in most cases — of testing and real-world usage via dozens of AiMesh combos I’ve used (or had access to) since Asus first introduced this feature in early 2018.

Indeed, it consists of AiMesh routers and purposed-built systems, all after my extensive first-hand experience from a couple of weeks to tens of months.

I sorted this list in the order of my experience, newest on top — the order is not the ranking. Go through the entire post, and you’ll find out which fits your needs and budget.

15. GS-AX5400 (or GS-AX3000)

Asus GS-AX5400 vs GS-AX3000
The Asus GS-AX5400 (left) and GS-AX3000 works well in an AiMesh setup.

These two new gaming routers are the alternatives to the RT-AX82U and RT-AX3000 mentioned below. And they are excellent AiMesh members.

The two are very similar in terms of design and features — they are part of Asus’s new ROG STRIX gaming series. However, the GS-AX5400 is a higher-end version with a stronger 5GHz band and better performance, especially in a wireless mesh setup.

Since these two are dual-band broadcasters, it’s best to use them (either as primary routers or satellite nodes) in a wired setup. But a wireless configuration works, too, especially in the case of the GS-AX5400, which has the top-tier 5GHz band.

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 router with a 4×4 5GHz band, namely itself.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with the initial firmware.
  • Nodes I’ve used: Themslevses, RT-AX86U.

Asus ROG STRIX GS-AX5400 Gaming Router

0.00

Pros

  • Excellent overall performance
  • Complete AiMesh 2.0 support, including system-wide Guest network
  • Robust web interface, well-designed mobile app, no login account required
  • Lots of useful features including those for gamers
  • Cool Aura RBG lighting

Cons

  • No Multi-Gig port or Gamer VPN (WTFast)
  • Performance as a NAS server could be better
  • A bit boring

14. RP-AX56

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater Out of box
The Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater comes in a plug-in design.

The RP-AX56 is an extender (repeater) by design and can work with any router. But it works best as an AiMesh node in a wired (recommended) or wireless setup.

Note, though, that this is a modest piece of hardware. It features 2×2 80MHz Wi-Fi 6 and therefore caps at 1.2Gbps at best. Most importantly, it can’t handle DFS or 160MHz channels and won’t work with a router that uses these settings in a wireless setup.

That said, this is a node for those using an entry-level AiMesh router or a high-end one set up with wired backhaul or in the compatibility mode (wireless backhaul).

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable).
  • Recommended router:
    • Wireless: Dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 routers without the use of DFS or 160MHz channel width.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers. AP mode is available.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes, with system-wide Guest network (with the latest firmware.
  • Routers I’ve tried: RT-AX82U, RT-AX3000, RT-AX89X.

Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater

$99.99

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Reliable and relatively fast Wi-Fi with good coverage
  • Can work as an Access Point, a Media Bridge, an Extender, or an AiMesh node (via wireless or wired backhaul)
  • Convenient design, excellent web interface

Cons

  • No 160MHz bandwidth, modest specs
  • No Guest network when working as an AiMesh node (for now)
  • The Initial firmware is a bit buggy
  • Bulky

13. RT-AX68U

Asus RT AX68U 3
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The RT-AX68U is likely one of the most affordable AiMesh routers.

The RT-AX68U is a bit special. It’s the only 3×3 Wi-Fi 6 router on this list, and it’s also quite affordable. It’s a better version of the RT-AC68U that came out a couple of years ago.

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 router with a 3×3 5GHz band, namely itself.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with the initial firmware.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX68U, ZenWiFi Mini XD4 (wired backhaul).

Asus RT-AX68U AX2700 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$199.99

Pros

  • Fast performance, excellent range, reliable
  • Tons of helpful networking features and settings, including AiMesh 2.0
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Excellent NAS performance and features when hosting a storage device
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No Multi-Gig ports or 160MHz channel width suport
  • Not wall-mountable

12. RT-AX86U

The Asus RT-AX86U is an Excellent Gaming Router
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX86U is an excellent AiMesh host

The Asus RT-AX86U is a safe choice to be an AiMesh host. It’s so far the best dual-band router on the market, after all.

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41535.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX86U, RT-AX82U, RT-AX88U, RT-AX58U, RP-AX56, ZenWiFi XD4, GS-AX5400, and GS-AX3000.

ASUS RT-AX86U AX5700 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

Pros

  • Fast performance, excellent range, reliable
  • Tons of helpful networking features and settings
  • Useful settings for online gaming
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Multi-gig, WAN/LAN Link Aggregation support
  • Excellent NAS performance and features when hosting a storage device
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No support for WTFast Gamer VPN
  • Not wall-mountable
  • Gaming features turn Adaptive QoS off
  • The single Multi-gig port caps at 2.5 Gbps

11. RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U

Asus RT AX3000 RT AX58U Routers Top
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U makes an excellent AiMesh pair.

The RT-AX3000 is virtually the same as the RT-AX58U, and the pair makes an excellent AiMesh setup when you use the wired backhaul.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (not recommended).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router with a 2×2 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier or lower.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX58U, RP-AX56 (wired and wireless), ZenWiFi XD4 (wired), RT-AC86U (wired).

ASUS RT-AX3000 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$179.99

Pros

  • 160 MHz channel support
  • Fast and reliable performance
  • Ton of useful features with excellent AiMesh support
  • Full web interface and well-design mobile app
  • Compact design, wall-mountable

Cons

  • No multi-gig port or Link Aggregation
  • Modest hardware specs
  • Relatively short Wi-Fi range
  • The Parental Control feature could use some improvement

10. RT-AX82U

Asus RT AX82U Front
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX82U and its unique programmable front-facing Aura RGB lighting.

The Asus RT-AX82U is almost the same as the RT-AX86U above in terms of performance and features. The two share the same 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 band, which is strong enough to handle both backhaul and clients in most cases.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4, RT-AC86U, GS-AX5400 and GS-AX3000.

Asus RT-AX82U AX5400 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Beautiful design with tons of helpful networking, game-related features and settings
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No support for WTFast Gamer VPN
  • No multi-gig network port
  • Network storage performance (when hosting a portable drive) could use some improvement
  • Not wall-mountable

9. RT-AX89X

The Asus RT AX89X Router Entennas Folded
Best AiMesh Router Combos: That’s my hand on the Asus RT-AX89X Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Asus RT-AX89X is quite different since it’s the only Wi-Fi 6 router on this list that uses a Qualcomm chip. As a result, it doesn’t have the best support for AiMesh — it works best as a standalone router. But if you’re building a wired network, it can still work as an excellent host.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired only. I didn’t have a good experience using this router in a wireless AiMesh setup.
  • Recommended nodes: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes with system-wide Guest network (via latest firmware).
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX88U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4, RT-AC86U, GS-AX5400 and GS-AX3000.

ASUS RT-AX89X AX6000 Dual Band WiFi 6 Router

Pros

  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Uniquely cool design with two 10Gbps network ports
  • Eight Gigabit network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Super-fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive
  • Tons of useful features, including free-for-life real-time online protection, and AiMesh

Cons

  • A bit buggy at launch, relatively expensive
  • Smart Connect setting not available at launch
  • Tweaking required to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speeds
  • Bulky physical size with internal fan
  • Web interface needs work
  • Not wall-mountable, no universal backup restoration

8. RT-AX88U

Asus RT AX88U
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The RT-AX88U comes in a traditional design of a Wi-Fi router.

In many ways, the RT-AX88U is the Wi-Fi 6 version of the RT-AC88U, which is an excellent router. The two look almost identical and share many similar features, including the eight Gigabit LAN ports and the lack of a multi-gig port.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX88U, RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4 (wired backhaul), RT-AC86U (wired), RT-AC88U (wired).

ASUS RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$310.99

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance
  • Tons of useful features
  • Eight network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Universal setting backup and restoration
  • Fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive.
  • Merlin firmware support

Cons

  • No multi-gig network port
  • Buggy firmware (at review)

7. RT-AX92U

Asus RT AX92U 2 Pack
Best AiMesh Router Combos: A 2-pack Asus RT-AX92U makes an excellent wireless AiMesh.

A 2-pack Asus RT-AX92U makes an excellent AiMesh wireless mesh system. It also supported wired backhaul well. In many ways, it’s the mini version of the GT-AX11000 below.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired or wireless (tri-band routers only).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier, namely itself. 5GHz-band works as the dedicated backhaul.
    • Wired: Any Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band is available only at tri-band nodes.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41712.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX92U.

ASUS RT-AX92U AX6100 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router

$219.98

Pros

  • Compact design, tri-band specs
  • Good performance, large coverage
  • Excellent set of features, including online protection, WTFast VPN for gamers, and system-wide Guest network when working as a mesh
  • Link Aggregation and Dual-WAN support, wall-mountable
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Wi-Fi 6 available only on one of the 5GHz bands
  • No Multi-Gig port

6. GT-AX11000

Asus GT AX11000 2
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus GT-AX11000 is a massive Wi-Fi 6 router.

The GT-AX11000 is the full-size version of the RT-AX92U above. It’s an excellent full-feature AiMesh host.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired or wireless (tri-band routers only).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier, namely itself or the RT-AX92U. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band works as the dedicated backhaul.
    • Wired: Any Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 (dual-band) routers. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band is available only at tri-band nodes.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41712.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX92U, RT-AX88U, RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi AX XT8, ZenWiFi XD4 (wired back), Lyra (wired), RT-AC86U (wired), RT-AC88U (wired), Blue Cave (wired).

ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Gaming Router

Pros

  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance with excellent range
  • Lots of useful features for home users
  • Unique and effective settings for online gaming
  • Multi-Gig network port, Dual-WAN, Link Aggregation
  • Mesh ready

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Bulky design, loose antennas, non-wall-mountable
  • Fewer LAN ports than previous model
  • Long boot-up time, buggy (at launch), fluctuating Wi-Fi throughputs

5. ZenWiFi AX XT8

ZenWiFi XT8 Box
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The ZenWiFi AX XT8 includes two identical routers.

This set is the first purpose-built tri-band Wi-Fi 6 AiMesh set. As such, it’s intended primarily to work as a standalone wireless system (no network cables or other hardware involved.)

As a result, while this set support wired backhaul well, using a network cable to connect the two might cause issues when new firmware is released or deliver worse performance, which has happened multiple times since its release.

Important note: Unless you have issues, don’t update to a new firmware immediately. Instead, wait for a subsequent version. When running into problems after an update, revert to the previous firmware version.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (with caution) or wireless (recommended).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (vis latest firmware). with system-wide Guest network.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 2-pack set.

ASUS ZenWiFi AX Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (XT8)

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance and large coverage at a comparatively affordable cost
  • Improved and flexible AiMesh
  • Lots of network settings and useful features, including free real-time online protection for life
  • Full 4×4 dedicated backhaul band with optional wired backhaul support
  • Multi-gig WAN port with Dual-WAN and WAN link aggregation

Cons

  • No 160MHz 4×4 support for Wi-Fi 6 clients, in a dedicated wireless backhaul setup
  • No multi-gig LAN port or LAN link aggregation
  • Only four network ports on each hardware units
  • Firmware can be buggy
  • Storage performance (when hosting an external drive) could be better

4. ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4

Asus XD4 Mesh
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The XD4 is the first complete AiMesh combo.

As the name suggests, the XD4 is the mini version of the XT8 above. It works best in the wired backhaul setup, either as a standalone system or the nodes of another dual-band router among those mentioned above.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommend) or wireless (OK with low performance).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes, with a system-wide Guest network, right out of the box.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 3-pack set.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) AiMesh Wi-Fi 6 System

Pros

  • Reliable performance
  • Improved AiMesh feature
  • Guest networking works throughout the system
  • Useful network settings and feature

Cons

  • No dedicated backhaul band or 160MHz channel width support
  • No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
  • Stripped-down, borderline useless QoS and Parental Control features
  • Limited number of network ports, switch needed for a complete wired backhaul setup
  • Non-pre-synced hardware, not wall-mountable

3. ZenWiFi AC CT8

Asus ZenWiFi CT8
Best AiMesh Router Combos: You should use the ZenWiFi CT8 mesh Wi-Fi system in a fully wireless setup.

The CT8 is the Wi-Fi 5 version of the XT8 above. It would help if you used it as a standalone mesh set via the wireless backhaul without other AiMesh routers. While it supports wired backhaul, using a network cable to link the hardware might cause firmware-related issues.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (with caution) or wireless (recommended).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Partially. No system-wide Guest network yet.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 2-pack set

ASUS ZenWiFi AC CT8 Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh System

Pros

  • Significantly improved AiMesh feature
  • Fast performance, excellent Wi-Fi coverage
  • Tons of useful features and settings, including free network real-time online protection for life
  • Fast dedicated backhaul, wired backhaul supported
  • Helpful mobile app

Cons

  • Web user interface doesn’t always work as intended (bugs)
  • Only 3 LAN ports per router
  • Not enough setting instructions
  • Guest networking still has issues
  • The combo of buggy firmware and auto-update

2. RT-AC88U

Asus RT AC88U
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT AC88U is an all-around great router.

This one is the Wi-Fi 5 version of the RT-AX88U above, and that’s the only difference between the two. In an AiMesh system, though, the RT-AC88U, when working as the primary router, should host only Wi-Fi 5 nodes unless you use wired backhaul.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41535.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AC88U, Blue Cave, RT-AC86U.

Asus RT-AC88U Wi-Fi Router

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage
  • Tons of useful features including the ability to guard the network against online threats
  • Eight LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Excellent support for Asus’s AiMesh
  • Merlin firmware support

Cons

  • Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports
  • Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive

1. RT-AC86U

A Pair of Asus RT-AC86U Routers make one of the Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems
Best AiMesh Router Combos: A pair of RT-AC86U units will make a great Wi-Fi AiMesh system.

This router is the first that supports AiMesh. In other words, together with it, Asus released these mesh features, paving the way to scaleable home Wi-Fi.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.40451
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AC86U, Blue Cave, Lyra Trio (wired).

Asus RT-AC86U

Pros

  • Excellent performance both as a single router and as part of an AiMesh system
  • AiProtection security for the entire network
  • Plenty of useful features for home users as well as gamers
  • Can be restored with setting backup files of other Asus routers

Cons

  • No extra network ports like other high-end Asus routers
  • Not wall mountable

The takeaway

There you go. Pick a combo mentioned above (using the recommended backhaul), and I can almost guarantee you’ll get yourself an excellent mesh system.

Keep in mind that there might be other excellent combos I’ve not tested, and also, I haven’t used all the different scenarios of those mentioned here.

The key is not to mess around too much when everything is working. Keep that in mind, especially when you choose to use the Asus mobile app.


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