Sunday, January 24th, 2021

AiMesh in 2021: Asus’s Ongoing Effort to Excellent Wi-Fi Coverage

Asus RT AX92U AiMesh
With the latest firmware, the RT-AX92U makes an excellent AiMesh system.

AiMesh is a free feature Asus brought to most of its routers in early 2018, and it has proved to be one of the most versatile ways to build a home Wi-Fi mesh system. I’ll explain it all in this post.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on February 24, 2018. Since then, I’ve been using/testing more than a dozen AiMesh routers, and Asus has also been released many firmware revisions to bring improvements to this feature (not without some hiccups along the way). This update, posted on January 2nd, 2021, aims to reflect the latest state of Asus’s AiMesh, including the work-in-progress version 2.0.

Asus AiMesh Wi-Fi System

8.6

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • The most flexible way to build a robust, scaleable home Wi-Fi mesh system
  • Excellent performance, top-notch feature set
  • Built-in online protection
  • No vendor login required or other privacy risks
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Certain routers combos can be buggy
  • Guest network not (yet) supported in most setups
  • Firmware updates might break certain working combo
  • The seemingly permanent "beta" status

AiMesh review: It’s like no other mesh

Available in most Asus routers, AiMesh allows for combining any two or more routers into a single mesh network, similar to the Netgear Orbi or Linksys Velop. Initially released as an add-on feature, AiMesh has proven to be Asus’s most impactful home networking feature over time.

It’s important to note that AiMesh is not a plug-n-play Wi-Fi solution like other canned systems on the market. It requires some work — or maybe even a lot of work in certain situations — before you get it the way you want. So, it’s not for everyone. But if you don’t mind tinkering with your hardware, chances are you’ll love it.

To take advantage of AiMesh, you need to get a couple of supported broadcasters. Most Asus routers have this feature.


List of Asus’s current AiMesh routers

There are tri-band and dual-band broadcasters. As a rule, for best performance, in a Wi-Fi mesh system, you want a tri-band for a wireless setup. A home wired with network cables makes more sense to use dual-band hardware, though either will likely work well.

Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) AiMesh broadcasters

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

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Like most mesh systems, you use one as the primary router (or primary node, per Asus), and the rest will be satellites (or nodes). AiMesh nodes automatically replicate the Wi-Fi settings of the primary router and extend the coverage, either wirelessly or via network cables.

And an AiMesh system can offer a lot more.

Flexible hardware setup

First of all, AiMesh enables you to scale up your Wi-Fi network as your needs grow.

You can start with a single router; then, later on, add a satellite or two. It’s also an excellent way to re-use your old Asus router as a node when upgrading to a newer one.

Best of all, AiMesh allows you to pick and choose a mesh system that fits your needs and budget.

You can get two affordable Asus routers and build a budget mesh. Or get two high-end ones to create a high-performing system. And of course, you can also mix routers of different tiers.

Generally, all AiMesh routers will work with one another, but certain combos will work better than others unless you choose to use wired backhaul — more below.

Asus ZenWiFi AX vs ZenWiFi AC
Here are the back of the ZenWiFi AX XT8 and that of the ZenWiFi AC CT8. Look closely and maybe you can tell them apart.

All the features you’d need and more

An AiMesh system has all the features and settings of the primary router. And since Asus routers currently offer the most features on the market, none of the other home Wi-Fi systems can compete on this front.

In short, AiMesh is the only way to have a mesh that gives you the same feature set as even the most feature-rich standalone router.

There are also tons of networking settings and tools that you can use via the web interface, including Wake-on-LAN — the ability to turn on a computer within your home network remotely.

What’s more, you have the option to use the Asus Router mobile app to manage your network on your phone. It’s the only app on the market that has the options for remote management without you having to register an account and log in with the vendor.

Asus router’s core feature set

To sum it up. Here is the general list of what you can expect from any Asus router, and therefore from all AiMesh combo.

  • Universal setting restoration: You can restore the backup settings of most Asus routers — so far, among those support AiMesh, all but the RT-AX89X and the Blue Cave — interchangeably. As a result, you won’t need to program the new router from scratch in an upgrade. Most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will migrate from the old router to the new one. Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.
  • A robust full web interface: Asus’s web user interface is one of my favorites. It’s intuitive and allows for in-depth customization. But the interface can be overwhelming for novice users.
  • Helpful Asus mobile app: Alternatively, users can use the Asus mobile app to manage and set up their router. It’s a well-designed app with decent access to the router. You can also turn on the Dynamic DNS-based remote access without having a login account with Asus.
  • AiProtection: This feature includes a free-for-life real-time online protection powered by Trend Micro and a decent Parental Control engine. I’ve used AiProtection for years, with many different routers, and it proved to be quite useful. On the other hand, Parental Control could use some improvement as the way Asus define categories for web-filtering is a bit vague.
  • Adaptive QoS: A quality of service engine that allows you to prioritize Internet traffic to support different applications or services. Adaptive QoS requires minimum work from the user and is effective. It also includes Bandwidth Monitor if you want to know who uses the most Internet at all and Web History that shows the websites a client has visited.
  • Traffic Analyzer: A set of tools and statistics if you want to find out what’s been going on in the network in a set amount of time and in real-time.
  • USB-related features galore: When hosting a storage device, the router has all the features you can imagine — from data sharing (locally and over the Internet) to backup (including the support for Time Machine) to a personal cloud. You can also use the router’s USB ports to host printers or select USB cellular modems.
  • Frequent firmware releases: Asus regularly pushes out new firmware updates to improve its routers. For the most part, this is a good thing. However, once in a while, new firmware can cause issues. In this case, you should downgrade the router to the previous stable version and wait for the next release. (Asus routers don’t auto-update firmware by themselves.)
Asus Router App AiMesh
The Asus Router mobile app is fun to use and helpful when it comes to firmware update.

What you can expect from an AiMesh system

Other than the features mentioned above, you can also expect the following from an AiMesh setup as a mesh Wi-Fi system:

  • Dedicated wireless backhaul: When you use tri-band routers, like the RT-AC5300, RT-AX92U, or GT-AX11000, one of its 5Ghz bands, the 5GHz-2, will work as the dedicated backhaul band.
  • Wired backhaul: Router and nodes can link to one another via network cables. In this case, you should use the WAN port of the node for the job. When having multiple nodes, you can mix wired and wireless backhaul in a system.
  • Third-party switch supported: For wired backhaul, you can use switches between the main router and nodes. For best performance, make sure you use Gigabit (or faster) ones.
  • Auto-sensing network ports: Only on the router unit, the WAN port functions as its designated role — it needs to connect to an Internet source. After that, all network ports in the mesh system, those of the router and nodes, work as LANs. That’s generally true in either a wired- or a wireless-backhaul setup.
  • No hard limit: There’s no official max amount of routers you can use in an AiMesh setup. However, in a wireless setup, Asus says realistically, you shouldn’t use more than five nodes.
  • No vendor account required: Again, no account with Asus is required to use AiMesh, even when you use the Asus Router mobile app. For remote access, Asus uses Dynamic DNS. So, AiMesh is less of a privacy risk (if at all) compared with other systems.
  • Access point (AP) mode: As a Wi-Fi system, AiMesh can work in access point mode — not to be confused with an individual router’s AP mode.
  • Here to stay: This is an ongoing feature. In fact, all Asus routers released since 2018 support this feature right out of the box. It’s safe to say future Asus routers will support it, too.
AiMesh Nodes
There’s no hard limit on how many hardware unit you can use in an AiMesh system. Here’s one with seven units in a mixed wired and wireless setup.

How tri-band routers work in an AiMesh system

Generally, you want to use the most powerful (newer) router as the main AiMesh router and a lesser (older) router as a node. But if you choose to use tri-band routers, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

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First, for best performance, consider tri-band routers if you intend to have a wireless AiMesh setup. And in this case, use tri-band hardware throughout, both as the primary router and node(s).


Important note on “Tri-band”

“Tri-band” only applies to Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers that have one 2.4GHz band and two 5GHz bands. In other words, these are routers that have an additional 5GHz band to deliver extra bandwidth.

The upcoming Wi-Fi 6E standard requires its routers, like the Asus GT-AXE11000, to have three different bands (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 6GHz) to be compatible with all devices. This type of “tri-band” is not part of what we’re talking about here.


How to manage the (dedicated) backhaul band (5 GHz-2)

As soon as you set up a tri-band unit as the primary AiMesh router, it will automatically dedicate its second 5GHz-band (a.k.a 5GHz-2) as the dedicated backhaul.

It does this by:

  1. Creating a separate network on this band exclusively for the job of linking the routers in the mesh system. And:
  2. Keeps the SSID (network name) hidden so that general users won’t see it.

As a result, 5GHz-2 band is generally not available to clients, even when:

  • A dual-band router participates as a node. (In this case, this node will connect to the 5GHz-1 band for its backhaul link.)
  • You choose to use wired backhaul for the entire system. In this case, the 5GHz-2 remains a standby backup backhaul that kicks in if you remove the network cable.
AiMesh 5GHz 2 Band Settings
The Wi-Fi setting page of the 5GHz-2 in an AiMesh router.

You can leave this 5 GHz-2 band alone, and all is well. However, you can make it work for end-clients, too, especially in the case of wired backaul. Here’s how:

  1. Unhide SSID and give it a meaningful name — the default name is a string of random numbers and letters. For now, this new name has to be different from that of the 5GHz-1 and 2.4 GHz bands even when you use these two in a Smart Connect setup, where they share the same name. And:
  2. Pick an easy-to-remember password for the 5 GHz-2 band’s SSID. The default password, again, is a long string of random numbers and letters. It’s too impractical to use.

(Note: Even with AiMesh 2.0, there’s no option to group all three bands into one network via Smart Connect when you use wired backhaul.)

Now, this band (5 GHz-2) can still work as a wireless backhaul, but it’s no longer a dedicated one. But when you use wired backhaul, it’ll work only for clients, and is available throughout all tri-band hardware units within the mesh.

By the way, if you want to switch from wired backhaul back to using the 5GHz-2 as the dedicated backhaul band, just make sure no clients connect to it anymore. You can do that by changing the SSID and hide it. And then unplug the wired backhaul cable.

AiMesh wired backhaul vs. dedicated backhaul and now it’s not a good idea to mix dual-band and tri-band

Generally, wired backhaul delivers the best performance. So always use it when possible. And then keep the following in mind.

  • If you have run network cables for wired backhauls, it makes more economic sense to go with dual-band routers. Using tri-band routers, in this case, is unnecessary. But it does give you the option to have an additional 5GHz-only network if you don’t mind setting that up manually, as mentioned above. Note, though, that a purpose-built tri-band system generally has firmware tuned for a wireless setup.
  • When using tri-band routers, it would be best to make the 5GHz-2 band available to users only when the wired backhaul is available throughout the entire system. If you have even one tri-band wireless node, you should leave this band alone. Otherwise, the mesh still works, but its backhaul band is no longer dedicated.
  • Mixing with a dual-band primary router and a tri-band node means you will likely waste the node’s second 5 GHz band — you’ll not be able to access it, even when you use wired backhaul. On top of that, the node might use the 2.4Ghz band for backhaul. This is the case even when you use AiMesh 2.0. In short, this is not a good idea.

AiMesh’s shortcomings

Like all mesh systems, AiMesh is not perfect. Below is the list of what that could use some improvement. While it seems long, most of the items are rather minor.

  • Some router combinations might be buggy. Considering there are so many routers involved, it’s quite hard for Asus to work in all scenarios consistently. Also, at times, a new firmware release that fixes one combo might causes issues in others. In most cases, though, I find that resetting your router and setting up your mesh from scratch helps.
  • Guest networking is not supported in all combos — it’s only available for sure at the main router. (With the rollout of AiMesh 2.0, most if not all combos will get that throughout the mesh system by the end of 2021.)
  • There’s no way to manually set a band of your liking, 2.4GHz or 5GHz, to work as the backhaul.
  • For the most part, you can only access the web interface of the main AiMesh router. (If you try accessing a node via its IP address, you’ll reach the router). Among other things, this means you generally can’t manage certain features of the node. (Starting with AiMesh 2.0, though, part of the node’s interface is now available for you to manage its USB applications.)

AiMesh 2.0 and the ZenWiFi family

Asus announced the ZenWiFi family in early 2020 that, so far, includes the ZenWiFi AX, ZenWiFi AC, and ZenWiFi AX Mini.

ZenWiFi products are those built with AiMesh from the ground up. It’s now a central feature and not an add-on one. It’s also the beginning of a major upgrade to the feature called AiMesh 2.0.

(Generally, ZenWiFi systems come with pre-synced hardware — you won’t need to add the nodes manually. But individually, each unit still works as part of a system built by any AiMesh router. Conversely, you can also manually add any AiMesh router to a ZenWiFi set.)

Aimesh 2 0 RT AX92U
AiMesh 2.0 has a new section for the feature. Note the Optimization button.

Among other things, an AiMesh 2.0 setup include the following added benefts:

  1. Better interface: There’s a new AiMesh, which makes managing the feature easier. There’s also a new one-button optimization (available when select routers are used as the primary node).
  2. Guest network: Certain combo will get the Guest network throughout (and not just at the router unit.)
  3. Better wired backhaul implementation: The 2nd 5GHz band of a tri-band system will be made available to clients when the wired backhaul is used (only applicable to when a tri-band router works as the primary node.)
  4. Better node control: You can now use the router’s web interface to control certain aspects of a node, including USB applications and Link Bonding (LAN Link Aggregation), when applicable.
  5. Preferable backhaul: When using multiple wireless nodes, you can force the node’s backhaul to connect to another node or the main router.

The early stage of AiMesh 2.0 and Guest networking

AiMesh 2.0 has been a slow and fluid process. By the end of 2020, AiMesh 2.0’s improvements are not fully available to all routers, including those of the ZenWiFi family.

Specifically, for right now, it’s not available to many routers, partially available to some, and (almost) fully available to just a few. But this will change.

It’s important to note, though, that the core function of AiMesh works throughout supported hardware, no matter the version a router has. Version 2.0 doesn’t change AiMesh in a big way. In fact, it’s Asus’s effort to make this feature complete compared to other canned systems.

Aimesh 2 0 RT AX92U Guest network
Look for the option to sync Guest network to the entire system in an AiMesh 2.0-ready router. Note the firmware version.

Of the improvements listed above, the support for Guest networking is the most anticipated. Here’s what you need to keep in mind on this particular feature:

To get any benefits of AiMesh 2.0, the router must use firmware version 3.0.0.4.386 or later. With this release, a node will support Guest networking as long as you can enable it on the main router unit.

No, just because the main router runs firmware version 3.0.0.4.386 or later doesn’t necessarily mean it delivers system-wide Guest networking. It must run a version that explicitly includes that in the release note.

In my experience, if your router gets a firmware update in December 2020 or later, chances are its Guest networking feature ready when hosting a mesh. As shown in the screenshot above, you can also check its web interface to see if this option is available.

Other than that, the USB applications and Link Bonding, which are generally available to most nodes running 386 firmware or later, worked well in my testing. To access these, go to the AiMesh section of the main router, click on the node in question, then on Management. The rest is self-explanatory.

AiMesh 2 0 USB Applications
AiMesh 2.0 allows for access a node’s partial web interface to manage its many USB applications.

In short, AiMesh 2.0 is promising, but unless you use a certain combo, you’ll have to wait for a while to get all of its benefits. And it might take the entire 2021 to see all of its benefits in all combos. And I’m being optimistic here.

Asus AiMesh: Excellent performance

I’ve tried many combinations using a dozen models, including RT-AX88U, GT-AX11000, ZenWiFi AC, RT-AX92U, ZenWiFi AX, ZenWiFi AX mini, RT-AX3000, RT-AX89X, RT-AX86U, RT-AX82U, and more.

Generally, AiMesh has gotten better over time but not without some flaws. But that’s the case with all mesh systems I’ve tested. And it’s safe to say any AiMesh combination can beat other similarly-priced purpose-built systems in performance and features.

Below are the real-world performance charts that show how AiMesh’s nodes are stacked up against the satellites of other mesh systems, both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5. I tested all of these systems in a wireless setup.

AiMesh Wi Fi 6

On the Wi-Fi 6 chart, keep in mind that the ZenWiFi AX cost hundreds of dollar less than all other competitors, namely the Orbi RBK852, the Alien Kit, and the Arris SURFboard mAX.

AiMesh Wi Fi 5

Keep in mind that your mileage will vary depending on the combo you pick. However, even when you use the most affordable Asus routers, your AiMesh system will likely be at least as fast as any other mesh of the same price, plus it will have a lot more features.

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Conclusion

In my experience, AiMesh is one of the best — and fun — solutions for advanced users who wants to build a scalable, robust Wi-Fi mesh system, without compromising their privacy.

Most importantly, again, it can beat all other similarly priced purpose-built systems on the market in both performance and features. But AiMesh is also far from perfect.

For one, it requires more work to set up. Also, a large number of settings and features can be overwhelming.

And finally, certain combos can be problematic and firmware updates don’t always mean improvement — sometimes they break things. In other words, it’s a work in progress and has been so since day one.

Nonetheless, the only true competitor to AiMesn in terms of features and settings is that of Synology. Unfortunately, Synology hasn’t released more mesh-capable routers for a couple of years now — there are only two, the RT2600ac and the MR2200ac — nor does it have any that support Wi-Fi 6 yet.


Getting an AiMesh system of your own

You need at least two routers to create an AiMesh system. No matter what combo you get, generally the setup process is the same, and it will work.

How to pick the best AiMesh combo

However, in my experience, certain router combinations work better than others. Depending on your situation, picking the right combo can be the key to getting the best performance, and stability out of your hardware.

Wired backhaul is the best

Like any mesh system, wired backhaul is the best way to go. That said, if you have wired your home with network cables, your chance of success is high.

In this case, you have more liberty regarding the hardware — almost all routers will work well with one another. Just use the latest or most powerful router as your primary note, and connect the nodes’ WAN port to the network.


Wired backhaul: AiMesh vs. Access Point mode

There are more benefits in using wired backhaul than just performance.

For one, you now have the option of using the nodes in the AP mode. In this case, you don’t have a real mesh system since you’ll have to manage the node separately using its web interface. The signal handoff is probably not working very well, either, if at all.

But in return, you can rest assured that any hardware combo will work well, and you can make use of the AP’s USB port and control its Wi-Fi bands individually.

What’s more, you can also use non-AiMesh routers, including those from a different hardware vendor. In my trial, using the satellite units in the AP role is far more reliable than using them as AiMesh nodes. So, consider this as an alternative when you have issues with a pure AiMesh setup.

AiMesh with wired backhaul: How to connect the hardware units

If you choose to use wired backhaul, the way you link the hardware units together follows the same rules as that of a standard router:

The router unit must be on your local network’s frontmost position, with the rest of the nodes behind it. It’s recommended that a node connects to the network via its WAN port.

So let’s say you have a mesh of one main router and two nodes. Here’s how you’d use network cables to link them up:

  1. Hook the router’s WAN port to the Internet source (modem/gateway).
  2. Connect the nodes to the router by:
    • Link each node’s WAN port to a LAN port of the router. OR
    • Connect the first node’s WAN port to the router’s LAN port, then connect the 2nd node’s WAN port to the 1st node’s LAN port. Or
    • Place a switch (or two) in between them. This switch can be between the router and the node(s) or between the nodes themselves. But it also must be behind the router.
  3. Now let the router works as an AiMesh router mode (default). If the Internet source is a gateway, you also can change the router, hence the entire system, to work in the Access Point mode. More on that here.

If you’re thinking of a wireless mesh, however, things can be tricky.

Asus RT AX3000 RT AX58U Routers Top
This pair of two routers with different names makes a great AiMesh combo.

Wireless AiMesh: Wi-Fi tiers and standards matter

It’s best to use the same routers in an AiMesh system. This helps make sure there are no complications. If you can’t or if that doesn’t make economic sense, try using hardware of the same Wi-Fi tiers.

And when possible, tri-band routers are the way to go in if you plan on using them wirelessly, thanks to the dedicated backhaul.

AiMesh routers: Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 5

I have tried many combos with routers of mixed standards. In this case, again, it’s best to run network cables to link them. Generally, it’s not a good idea to mix tri-band and dual-band routers or mix routers of different Wi-Fi standards (Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5).

However, if that ends up to be your case, make sure you use the compatible Wi-Fi setting for the Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster when using it as the primary router.

So, in a mixed setup, chances are you won’t be able to any of the broadcasters in the venerable 160 MHz channel width, which is required for it to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speed.

In other words, if you mix Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 in a wireless setup, expect the entire system to be Wi-Fi 5.

AiMesh with wireless backhaul: Ho to arrange hardware units

An AiMesh system follows the same rules of hardware placement as those of any other mesh and applies only to when you don’t use wired backhaul.

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Specifically, place a node some 40 ft (12 m) from the main router if there are walls in between. If there’s no wall, you can increase this distance to around 75 ft (23 m). When you have more than one node, place the nodes around the main AiMesh router.

On the other hand, if you use network cables to link them up, it doesn’t matter how you arrange the nodes.


Steps to set up an AiMesh system

If you get a ZenWiFi set, keep in mind that the hardware units are likely pre-synced. In this case, you only need to set up the router unit the way you do any other routers and your mesh is ready — you won’t need to add the second unit manually.

That said, these steps apply to when you use at least one non-ZenWiFi router in the system.

1. Update all involved routers to the latest firmware from Asus. (Third-party firmware Merlin also supports AiMesh and will work, too. You can mix routers running Asus’s stock and Merlin firmware.) Then, set up the main AiMesh router as a regular standalone router. This process is similar to setting up any router with a web interface.

2. Reset the router(s) that’ll you use as AiMesh node(s). You can do that via its interface or by pressing on its reset button with a pin. For more details on how to reset a router, check out this post.

3. Place the node router within 10 feet (3 m) from the primary router. Alternatively, you can also use a network cable to connect the node’s WAN port to the main router’s LAN port — it’s OK to use a switch in between.

4. On a computer connected to the network of the primary router, open a browser, log into the main router’s interface by going to router.asus.com (or its IP address) and click on Network Map, then on the AiMesh icon. Click on Search. After a few seconds, the node(s) will appear.

This step’s progress is shown in two screenshots below.

AiMesh1a
To start, click on “Network Map,” then on the AiMesh Icon, and then on “Search.”

AiMesh3
Within a few seconds, you will find all the AiMesh nodes, click on the one you want to add.

5. Click on a node, a pop-up prompt will appear. Click on Apply to confirm. Now, wait about a minute for the adding process to complete. This step’s progress is shown in three screenshots below.

Note: During this time, in my experience, you must not navigate to a different part of the web interface. Doing so might cause the setup to fail, and you’ll need to try again from step #2.

AiMesh3a
Click on Apply to confirm.

AiMesh4
The adding process takes about a minute.

AiMesh5
You will see the confirmation when the node has successfully joined the router.

And that’s it! Repeat from step #4 to add more nodes, else, mission accomplished.

Note: When adding more nodes at a later time, make sure you first update firmware for all AiMesh members (main router and nodes) again.

Once an AiMesh system is ready, you can always log in to the router unit’s web interface, go to the AiMesh section to manage the nodes, including updating its firmware. You can also do that via the Asus Router mobile app.

The extra screenshots below show what you can do with an AiMesh setup.

AiMesh6
You can click on any node to view its information or change the name of its location as well as the backhaul type (Auto/Wireless/Wired).

AiMesh7
For the best performance, you can use a network cable to connect a node to the main router. Note how the connection icon next to the node changes to show the type of backhaul it uses.

AiMesh8
In an AiMesh network, you use the primary router’s web interface to manage the node(s), including firmware updates.

Asus’s roaming assistance

In a mesh system, as you move around, you probably want to make sure that your phone (or your laptop) automatically connects to the closest Wi-Fi broadcaster to get the best connection speed, instead of to the one that’s farther away. And that’s called roaming assistance or seamless hand-off.

Before we go any further, though, keep in mind that it’s always the speed that matters. If your connection is fast enough for your task at hand, there’s no need to concern about which node your device connects to.

Also, for roaming to work, the clients need to support that, too. Specifically, they need to feature 802.11k/r/v standards. The good news is most Wi-Fi hardware released in the past decade has at least one of those.

So, most of the time, the default hand-off settings work out just fine. And in fact, many purpose-built systems don’t even give you the option to change this setting.

But you can do this with an AiMesh setup. And that can be quite useful.

How to set up roaming assistance in AiMesh

The act of adjusting the roaming is easy and fast. How to figure the correct values, however, is a different story entirely.

Here’s how to customize seamless hand-off with AiMesh:

  1. Log in to the primary router’s interface, navigate to the Wireless section (under Advanced Settings), then to the Professional tab.
  2. Pick the band you want to customize (2.4GHz or 5GHz).
  3. Locate the Roaming assistant setting; you’ll note that there’s a default value already in place, something like -70 dBm.
  4. Change the value to a new number that fits your situation — more on this below. Then click on Apply.
  5. Repeat from step #2 to #4 for the other band
  6. Manually restart all AiMesh hardware units.
Seamless Hand Off
To customize the seamless hand-off, you need to understand dBm.

Wi-Fi dBm explained

To know what fits your situation, you first need to understand dBm, (short for decibels relative to a milliwatt). Here are what you should keep in mind about dBm:

  • We are dealing with negative numbers, so the lower the number, the higher the value, hence the stronger the signal.
  • dBm doesn’t scale like most measurements (weight, length, etc.). It’s not linear and consistently incremental. Instead, it’s logarithmic and spiral — it’s curvy. As a result, the gap between -30 dBm and -60 dBm might not be more significant than between -60 dBm and -65 dBm.
  • Generally, meaningful dBm values range from -10 (optimal signal) to -90 (unusable signal or no signal at all). Still, the useful range that applies to each router varies.
  • Depending on the environment, a router picks a dBm value that works best. Consequently, you’ll find this number different from one router to another or one location to another. But you can use it as the base to adjust roaming assistance to your liking, generally within plus or minus five dBm points.

My test routers automatically pick the dBm value of -70, so I’ll use it as the base.

Pick the right dBm value

In my experience, where I live, that number is equivalent to about two bars of Wi-Fi signal on the client — an OK signal. That means -65 dBm is now an excellent signal, and anything below -70, like -75, is probably no good.

At this (-70 dBm) threshold, a client would disconnect itself from the current node when the signal strength gets weaker than 2 bars, and it detects another node with a stronger signal nearby. It then connects itself to the closer node.

So, if you want the hand-off to take place at a higher threshold (like 3 bars), increase the dBm value a few points from the base (-67 or so in my case). Now, your phone won’t wait till the signal gets as low as two bars before it jumps.

If you change it to an even higher value (like -60 in my example), hand-off might happen too frequently, which can be a bad thing, especially when you stay right in the middle of two nodes.

The reason is each jump takes a bit of time for the client to re-authenticate with the new node. Hence, too many of them close to one another can cause interruption.

On the other hand, if you change the value to lower than -70, hand-off might not happen at all, and your phone remains connected to a node until there’s no signal from it.

But, generally, I’d keep the value of dBm between -60 (less clingy, faster speed) and -75 (more clingy, slower performance).

AiMesh roaming assistance: The takeaway

It’s important to note that there’s no precise measurement for Wi-Fi range and signal strength since they vary a great deal depending on the environment.

That said, what mentioned above are my estimates applicable to my situation. The actual numbers that work for you depend on your environment and the routers you use. It’s a matter of trial and error.

Also, roaming is tricky since it depends more on the clients than the router. Networking vendors can’t test their products with all existing equipment. As a result, at times, it’s a matter of luck. One thing is for sure, you can always turn your device’s Wi-Fi off and then back on to get it connected to the closest broadcaster.

805 thoughts on “AiMesh in 2021: Asus’s Ongoing Effort to Excellent Wi-Fi Coverage”

  1. Hi from Australia Dong!

    First up, tremendous post. I stumbled on to this after many weeks of searching for a solution to my current problem.

    I live in a 3 storey house. Our broadband connection terminates in the garage (I know, not the most ideal location!). I currently have an ASUS RT-AC68U anchoring the network. Fortunately we do have ethernet throughout the house.

    We were experiencing wifi issues in certain parts of the house casting Netflix etc to non smart TVs thru Chromecast devices. My early research led me to deploying a Google mesh network (one puck on each floor with one of those cabled directly to the RT-AC68U) and turning off the router wifi. This certainly solved our wifi issues but it presented me with a different issue which I’ve not yet been able to solve. That is, the Google wifi network doesn’t recognize anything cabled directly to the router (via a switch) on the network – including the Synology NAS that has all of our digital music and movies stored. I should have done more research in to the ASUS AiMesh at that time!

    Which brings me here. Unless you know of some way to fix my current issue then I’m looking at swapping out the Google network and buying a newer ASUS router as the primary and using my current RT-AC68U as a node (backhauled via ethernet) and turning the ASUS wifi back on! I also have a spare NetComm N600 Dual Band and was wondering if I use it on one of the floors – again, backhauled via ethernet. Would that work?

    Alternatively, the Zen Wifi looks interesting, using the 68U as a node on one of the floors (Zen 2 pack + the 68U over the three floors).

    And finally, if I use a router as a wifi node (backhauled via ethernet) can you still use the LAN ports as a switch?

    Your input would be greatly appreciated!

    Regards,
    Gav

    Reply
    • Happy to have you, Gav. First of all, take another pass at this post — take your time! I noted you asked questions that I already addressed. I hate having to repeat myself…

      What you have right now is a double NAT. (Read the linked post before continue!) And the Google system is quite terrible because (among other things) you can’t turn it into an access point — you can only do that with a single unit. (Google incorrectly calls this mode “Bridge” by the way). That said, your best bet is swapping it out with a different system. Since you have the RT-AC68U, you can get a few more units more and use them in an AiMesh setup. Basically, you can use any dual-band AiMesh broadcasters. The Blue Cave or Lyra Trio is a great choice. Or you can go with Wi-Fi 6.

      Alternatively, you can also use the RT-AXC68U with (non-Asus) access points (or routers in access point mode.) In fact, you can reset the Google system and set up each unit individually as an access point (“bridge” mode). That will work, too.

      You have a great chance of making an excellent hone network there — I love the fact you have a Synology NAS server. Take your time and get things done right!

      Reply
  2. Great article. Thanks for the updates. I have a GT-AX11000 set up as my primary router with a wired connection to a AX92U set up as my node. The issue is that, although it is set up as, and the node shows a wired backhaul connection, the node allows non-ax capable devices to connect to the 2nd 5gh band. What I want is for that 2nd band to be a wifi 6 band that only ax devices can connect to. I do have the UI settings set for that 2nd band to only allow ax connections. It is driving me crazy trying to figure out why the node allows non-ax connections to the second band. I have all three separated with different names/passwords so know that the non-ax devices are still connecting. If the node is taken out of the equation the AX-11000 does not allow non-ax connections on that 2nd band. Any ideas on how this can be resolved? Thanks for any insight you can provide. I do have the very latest updates installed on both.

    Reply
    • The real question is, Paul, why did you ALLOW the non-AX devices to connect to the you-want-to-be-AX-only band? (They can’t by themselves if you don’t enter the password!) What are you trying to prove? Isn’t the point of separating the bands as different Wi-Fi networks so you can segment your network ON PURPOSE? But to answer your questions, from the technical point of view, some routers might just automatically allow legacy devices to connect for backward compatibility reasons — devices not being able to connect is MORE of a problem for a router than keeping the AX band exclusive. Also, you can’t change the Wi-Fi settings on the node, and you’re using a mix of different routers.

      My suggestion is: Take your time. Read. Pay attention. Try to understand how things work. Don’t assume anything.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the response. I get that I can exclude non-ax devices by not connecting them to begin with. The “why” of it is I was excited to move into the wifi 6 world but then, after upgrading, was not seeing any significant difference in speeds on the 5ghz-2 ax only band versus the 5ghz-1 band with the ax capable device (which was the only one connected to 5ghz-2 at the time because I did not think any other device could or would connect because they were not ax capable). This made me wonder why I was not seeing the expected speed increase and in fact was seeing pretty much the same speed as my other non-wifi 6 devices were getting on the 5ghz-1 band. I was just fooling around with a non-ax device when I discovered it would, in fact, connect to what I thought was a dedicated wifi 6 only band. I love the asus routers and have great coverage and speeds where ever I need it, but am just not seeing any increase of any significance for my investment into wifi 6.

        Reply
  3. Quick question on DFS – assuming I use 2 same routers (dual band or tri-band) that offer DFS, and mesh them with a WIRED backhaul: How does aiMesh behave? I.e. can I specifically frequency per node, or if DFS radio change is triggered, does each node respond to it individually to find a new frequency (in DFS spectrum) ?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I mentioned that in the post, Dan. You can’t control the Wi-Fi settings of each node individually. That’s determined by the router unit.

      Reply
  4. I have just installed an RT-AX92U mesh with a router and additional node using a wireless backhaul. Performance is very good, but I do get the occassional drop-off which is especially noticed by my son when playing games.

    I’m trying to bind his PC to a specific node. Would you know the difference between: (a) Binding a device to a particular node in the Client List on the ASUSWRT homepage and (b) Adding a device to the Roaming Block List in Advanced Settings/Wireless page.

    They sound pretty much the same to me.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I think the issue with occasional disconnection has something to do with the DFS channels used in the backhaul, Andrew. More on that here. The text of (a) and (b) explains the difference, I don’t know how to explain it further. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Hey Dong! What a great post!
    I have to update my home network and I have a big bunch of doubts about what should I do.
    I have an AC68U and I was considering buying another Asus Router to mount an AiMesh network.
    I don’t have the chance to wire the nodes so the backhaul will be wireless.
    So the question is, in 2021, with Wifi 6, tri-bands routers, etc. Is it worth to invest more budget and go for a tri-band system (because of the wireless backhaul) or a wifi 6 system?
    Or should I go with an AC86U because it is a good partner for my “old” AC68U and I am not going to see too much difference in terms of performance?
    I can do the effort with the budget if I am going to get much better performance with a newer combo.
    Any advice? Which AiMesh combo would you recommend if I decide not to use the AC68U?
    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  6. Hi Dong,
    As always, appreciate the thorough reviews and details.
    I have a pair of Asus XT8, and while the coverage and speed are great, the reliability is awful. For the first 6 months or so I was having problems with devices dropping or unable to establish a DHCP lease, and I would have to reboot daily, or several times a day, to regain connectivity. That appears to have been fixed in the last firmware update, but ever since that last update the primary node drops internet connectivity daily, or several times a day; it start looping on and offline for up to 15 – 20 min (led cycles from blue to green to white and back again), even devices attached to the ethernet ports stop working. My ISP and the gateway are up the whole time. I have contacted ASUS support the only thing I am told is turn my ISP provided gateway into AP mode (or the Asus nodes in access points). That is the fix for all problems according to Asus, DCHP lease issue- use AP mode, instability and dropping connectivity – use AP mode. I’ve never had to use AP mode with any previous routers, including past mesh systems, do you think using AP mode will magically fix this issue?. This problem didn’t start until after the last firmware update, and Asus support is no help. Have you or any of your readers had this issue and found a resolution, or have any suggestions? I have seen online that this is not an isolated issue, others are reporting it, it really makes me doubt the quality of Asus and all their products now.
    Thank you

    Reply
  7. Dong, would you recommend using two AX88U or a pair of AX6600 for the best coverage and performance? And in case I need an additional in the basement.

    Reply
    • It’s unclear what you’re talking about, Antonio. AX6600 is a standard, it doesn’t represent a specific model. Generally, it helps when you don’t get lazy in asking questions. But the Asus RT-AX88U is a great choice.

      Reply
      • Sorry for not being clear. I was comparing the options of getting a set of Asus XT8 or two-three separate AX88U to build my new Wifi6 MESH home network. I also need to consider adding a third router if 2 nodes are not enough for the coverage as I need to cover 3 floors and a garden. In China, I can buy XT8 as pairs and also able to buy single units, therefore, I could use more than 2 nodes regardless of which model. Of course, this is a major upgrade, so I would like to get the best performance and try to get the most seamless roaming experience. Thanks.

        Reply
  8. Great review!

    Could you give us some information and tips please?

    We have a 4 level big stonewalled house and had 3 separate (WiFi)routers on a wired network.
    We had a bad WiFi connection in most of the levels. Wired connection were very good of course.

    Now that we are working and learning from home the WiFi connection is no longer stable.
    So we needed to upgrade out home network.

    We just bought 3x the Asus ZenWiFi AX nodes and a 1GB switch.
    We Installed the Asus ZenWiFi AX as Router/Aimesh and all connected wired via a switch.
    The switch is placed behind the first node/router.
    We do not use smart connect and have the 2.4 and 5ghz bands manual split with default settings.
    All of the other settings are also default.

    The WiFi is better now, but we think it could be more excellent by tweaking some settings.

    Could you please help us or give some suggestions of the settings to adjust?
    For example:
    – Use smart connect or split bands?
    – Aimesh priority auto or wired?
    – (It looks like the second 5 GHz band is not available when we set wired; firmware issue?
    – Best or featured settings for the 2.4 Ghz band?
    – Best or featured settings for 5-1 Ghz band?
    – Best or featured settings for the 5-2 Ghz band?
    – Others settings to tweak or try?

    Thank you in advance
    Eric V

    Reply
    • A few things, Eric:

      1. Update to the latest firmware, keep the settings as default as possible.
      2. Unhide the 5GHz-2 band and make it anew network with it. It’ll be a separate 5GHz only network that you can use for whatever.
      3. Turn Smart Connect for 2.4Ghz and 5GHz-1.
      4. AiMesh wired priority. (You don’t need to do anything here, check each node to make sure it’s using wired backhaul. It’ll say it in the AiMesh section. If not, well, make sure your wiring is good.)
      5. Configure QoS according to you needs.
      6. Don’t mess around too much.

      Reply
  9. Hi Dong.

    Thank you so much for such a great post and review.

    I am debating if the AIMesh would make sense for my 1 floor flat, which is essentially a very long rectangle (about 60ft long) with 5 rooms to go through between the 1GB fiber drop point (on the side of rectangle) and the furthest room. And a long corridor Unfortunately… no cabling in the house

    Despite your recommendation to use tri-band for mesh, it looks from your chart of Wifi-6 satellite performance that a solution with 2 RT-AX88U out performs solutions with ZenWiFi AX XT8 or RT-AX92U

    Any solution you would recommend to cover my elongated house? With currently only Wifi5 clients.

    A. A single router AX86U or AX88U
    B. A pair of AX86U or AX88U in Mesh
    C. A pair of RT-AX92U
    D. A Pair of ZenWiFi AX XT8

    Thanks for the advice !

    Reply
  10. The AX92u is the best wifi mesh solution on the market.

    The good news is its already configured to get the absolute best performance. People run into trouble when they start following tweak guides, many of which give incorrect information.

    This mesh will give your clients between 300mb/s – 500mbs of stable wifi. However you must leave everything on default, including the wifi channel selection.

    Reply
  11. Hi,

    I have an RT-AC5300 (located on second floor house) – looking to add an AiMESH node to cover a dead spot\low bandwidth area in the basement opposite side of house. I have sufficient coverage of the house except this one spot. Moving the RT-AC5300 is not really an option.

    Is the RT-AX92U the best option if I plan to use a wireless backhaul?

    I understand this will be WIFI 5 only, but the thinking is that once the RT-AC5300 dies (if it will – its 6 years old) I would replace with a WIFI 6 router down the road.

    -Mike

    Reply
      • Hi Dong,

        Thanks for the advice. One question – I was only planning to add a node to the RT-AC5300 as this is in my home office and has a number of devices connected to it (printers, NAS, etc) – plus it is working well for my needs.

        I really just need to get a better signal to the one corner of the basement – that due to the distance only gets 5Mbps (if it connects at all – from 360Mbps)

        The CT8 seems to only be available in 2 packs here in Canada @ $449 CAD. Where as I *could* buy another RT-AC5300 for $359 to accomplish the same thing (if I have read all of your posts correctly) that just seems really bulky.

        Was hoping just to add a node at a mid point between the RT-AC5300 and the corner of the basement.

        Based on your posts (which are great info by the way) it seems I should be looking for a Tri-band version if I plan to have a wireless backhaul.

        The RT-AX92U’s run $229 CAD here which is why I mentioned that one… Just wasn’t sure if that was the best choice based on all of your other articles…

        -Mike

        Reply
        • No, it’s not the best choice. It might work, but chances are it will not work reliably. Asking the same questions in different ways won’t make what you wish for come true, Mike. 🙂 You might be better off going with a dual-band Wi-Fi 5 router. That’s not ideal either (no dedicated backhaul) but still better than using 5 and 6 together that way.

          Reply
          • It is true, I was wishing for a simpler solution, but I do yield to your expertise. I am new to the AiMesh setup – but I did learn a lot from your articles and detailed product reviews. I almost impulsively bought a RP-ac1900 as they go for $159 but after reading your articles found this was not a good solution due to it being dual-band. I am (a little bit) wiser now – appreciate the input and keep up the good work!

  12. Hi, Dong-

    I am yet another person praising your excellent work and effort. Thank you!

    I recently upgraded my Comcast service, download speeds around 700 Mbps over a hard wire. But using my old Asus RT-AC87U routers, my wireless speed didn’t improve much.

    Based on your articles, I bought two Asus RT-AX86U routers. One is upstairs, one is downstairs. They are connected by an ethernet cable. I want to add the Zen units if this works.

    I set up AiMesh, and both routers allow speeds 400 to 550. Great!

    Here’s the rub: I use a SonicWall appliance, which assigns IPs within my internal network. This is absolutely necessary for my work. When I try to disable DHCP server in the Asus web interface, I get this non-specific message:

    If you disable DHCP Server, your AiMesh router’s Wi-Fi connectivity will be affected.
    Do you want to proceed?

    I have had several calls with Asus support, and they tell me if I disable the DHCP server, AiMesh may or may not work. No specifics, unfortunately.

    So I see three options:

    1. Change the second Asus to an AP, and lose the AiMesh features, including expandability (although I could add the Zen as AP only)
    2. Disable SonicWall DHCP server and set up manual addresses in the Asus interface (if this is possible; might be a lot of work)
    3. Try to disable the DHCP in the Asus web interface, and take my chances.

    I thank you in advance for your advice!
    3.

    Reply
  13. Dong – great article. Your site is SO informative! I wish I knew networking a little better. I’ve held out on WiFi 6 waiting for something like Zen Wifi’s AiMesh. But before I go off and purchase it, is the following a feasible scenario (the way I read in your article, seems like it should be).

    1. I start today with purchasing and setting up a primary + node ZenWifi XT8 WiFi 6 pair
    2. When ASUS eventually releases a primary AiMesh supported WiFi 6E router, i upgrade to THAT 6E router as the primary and switch the two XT8’s to nodes. Theoretically, that gives me the upgraded 6Ghz band (within range of that primary router) and the whole house coverage remains at 2.5/5Ghz. True?

    3. By the way, not sure if i saw this answer, but how does wired backhaul work with two + nodes and a primary? Does this setup just use the normal LAN ports of the primary router to link to the WAN port on each of the nodes?
    Thanks, Chaz

    Reply
    • Hi Chaz,

      1. Go ahead.
      2. Don’t make any assumptions on Wi-Fi 6E for now. But check back soon. My take is it will be tricky and you should only use a Wi-Fi 6E router in a wired backhaul setup. That’s because it has three DIFFERENT bands — there’s no dedicated backhaul.
      3. Yes, you can use more than two nodes via wired backhauls. In fact, almost as many as you want. I’ve tried 6 or 7. You can also use switches in between the router and node(s).
      4. Take another read at the post. It seemed to me that you skimped it. 🙂

      Reply
  14. Hi Dong,
    Thank you for the in depth explanations, it helps me a lot in purchasing an installing an AiMesh system (RT-AC86U router of which 2 LAN ports are occupied by 2 ZenWiFi CT8 nodes, positioned in opposite corners of my house). It works as a Mesh system but contrary to your explanation, AiMesh 2.0 didn’t free up the backhaul WiFi channel, also not after turning on “Ethernet Backhaul-mode”. Moreover, the Web interface warns that the nodes aren’t suitable (message popped up first time after AiMesh optimalization). My experience is thus that not all AiMesh 2.0 features are available to ZenWiFi type CT8 (probably due to its Qualcomm CPU?). Can you confirm please, or do you have a tip for me?

    Reply
    • That’s to be expected, Rob. You’re using a mix of tri-band and dual-band (not a good idea). Read the post again, the tri-band section, and pay some attention. 🙂 Also, no, AiMesh 2.0 is not available full to all hardware, at least for now. I mentioned that in the post, too.

      Reply
      • Do you mean that in order to free up the CT8 nodes’ backhaul WiFi channel in AiMesh “Ethernet backhaul” mode, I should swap my Asus dual-band router (RT-AC86U) by an Asus tri-band router? I’m now considering a RT-AX92U: same CPU (speed) as RT-AC86U & cheaper than a XT8. FYI, I don’t want a CT8 as router, because I read in other posts that its CPU slows down dramatically i.c.w. professional VPN router s/w. And I don’t mind AiMesh adjusting the wireless signal of a WiFi6 router to the WiFi5 nodes.
        Thank you for your patience and attention, much appreciated 🙂.

        Reply
  15. Thanks Dong

    Have you tried GT-AX11000 as a main router and 1 RT-AX92U as a Node vía Wireless mesh?
    I have the GT as a main router now but I want to extend my range and I am planing to buy the RT due they are tri-band and I have more than 30 clients (some of them wifi 6) I want to run a wired mesh system but I don’t want to spend too much money in other GT-AX11000.

    Do you think it will work?

    Thanks again for all your words, it helps a lot for those who are new into this Ai Mesh thing, like me.

    Reply
      • I too have the Get-ax11000 and am currently using the older ac3100 as a wired node in my son’s room. We both game fairly regularly and I have gig internet with xfinity, although it’s cable and fiber. I’m curious about how much improvement there would be to functionality if I was upgrade the wires node to the Rt-ax82u. He has a gaming computer, xbox, and smart TV all wired into the node in his room. I do love the ax11000 and just want to be sure he is adequate for what he is doing in his room.

        Reply
        • Giving out the rooms, applications, users, what you want, etc., only works if you have somebody standing next to you, Bryan. It’s important to know what you’re talking about, even when asking for help. Read the post again and pay attention. You’ll be able to figure things out yourself. This post on mesh, in general will help, too. Better yet, check out this post on routers in general. Take your time! There’s no easy way to get the networking done right. Read these posts with an open mind, don’t make any assumptions.

          Reply
          • Thank you for the quick response Dong! I appreciate your advice and links to the articles. Apparently I had some typos in my question and wanted to apologize for that. While I consider myself capable, I’m not a network genius. I’ll continue to look over your posts to make sure I get the appropriate compliment for the RT-ax11000 router in my living room, to have in my son’s room which I ran a wired backhaul to. I guess I was just trying to get an opinion or advice on one, example ax3000 or Rt-ax82u, and whether it was best to setup for access point or mesh. Again, appreciate you response and hope you continue writing these excellent pieces.

  16. Hi Dong

    Happy new year.

    I have been reading your article with great interest and it has been very helpful. It’s just a great article. Thanks. It just inspired me to go for the Asus AiMesh. As I want to have a smooth and even covered WiFi.

    Therefore I reasonably bought an Asus RT-AC88U to go for AiMesh so I don’t have to bother turning on and off my WiFi on my cellphone when I’m walking around the house. My fiber internet comes into my house in the basement in the center of the house. From here I have 8 wired connections to my rooms in the basement, the 1st and 2nd floor which fits the RT-AC88U great as it has 8 LANs. I want to go for a solution where all nodes are wired. The problem is that the WiFi coverage from that room is very bad as the walls are thick why the RT-AC88U router’s WiFi potential will largely not be utilized. My second thought was to place it on the 1st floor as that is where I need the best WiFi coverage and:

    1) To use my current Ausu RT-AC3200 as a router without WiFi together with a switch in the basement and then put the RT-AC88U as a node on the 1st floor and in addition put a node on the 2nd floor and one in the basement (ex RT-AC68).

    2) To buy a Router without WiFi (eg Ubiquiti EdgeRouter ER-10X) to place in the basement and then put the RT-AC88U as a node on the 1st floor and in addition put a node on the 2nd floor and one in the basement (ex RT- AC68).

    3) To use RT-AC88U in the basement and then buy 3 new Asus AiMesh routers as nodes (ex two RT-AC68 and one ??? for the 1. floor).

    A) After reading your article as well as the subsequent comments and answers, I am a little in doubt as to whether the first two thoughts are possible solutions? And can you explain in a few words if it’s not a good solution. As I am missing that in the main article.

    B) Furthermore does ASUS ZenWiFi AC Mini CD6 fit with the RT-AC88U in a AiMesh setup?

    At the moment I’m running a setup with 1. Router in the basement (TP-link) and 2 routers in AP mode one on the 1. floor (Ausu RT-AC3200) and one on the 2. Floor (TP-link). I know none of them supports Mesh/AiMesh and that’s the problem as I have to turn on and off my WiFi on my cellphone as I am moving between the floors.

    Thanks again for a great article.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Reply
    • Take another read, Johan.

      1. The RT-AC32000 doesn’t support AiMesh.
      2. That’s not how AiMesh works. You need ALL Asus hardware.
      3. Generally you can use different AiMesh routers together.

      Again, give the post another read, and also check out this post for more.

      Reply
  17. Dong,

    Curious as to your thoughts relative to the best configuration to handle coverage across a 4,200 sq. ft., 2 story home?:

    1) Mesh system (Google WiFi w/ 3 nodes- all backhaul wired)
    2) Same as #1 but with a Wireless node included in the mix (only three spots in the house have Ethernet connection availability)
    3) Netgear Nighthawk R7000 AC1900 router with an Asus RT-AC66R as an AP (wired, use WAN connecting to the Nighthawk)
    4) Same as #3 but purchase a new router (possibly one of the newer Asus you have recommended and use the Nighthawk and AC66R as APs)
    5) Another, superior setup?

    Priorities would be coverage, stability, and speed. Would also like “hand-off” capability (devices automatically switch to the fastest signal depending on current location) but don’t believe those protocols are available in any of the routers listed or the devices owned.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  18. Dong – I want to set up a Wifi 5 mesh network in my home. However I need 7 LAN ports at the router in the garage, located in one corner of my property. And in the other 3 corners where I plan to install each node, I need 2 to 4 LAN ports.

    My thought is to set up an AiMesh network with an Asus RT-AC88u (8 LAN ports) running Merlin firmware as my main router and a wired backhaul to 3 Asus Blue Cave (4 LAN ports) mesh nodes (purchased second-hand).

    Are there other options (router with 8+ ports / nodes with 3+ ports) that I have failed to consider?

    And is it okay to run an AiMesh network with the main router running Merlin but with 3 nodes that are not Merlin compatible?

    Reply
  19. Dong Ngo, I just came across your site a few weeks ago. As I mentioned
    above I spend way to much geek time playing,discussing Asus routers and firmwares on other pages, and chat. You are one of the few sites doing
    reviews that actually understand what your writing.
    Good work!

    Reply
  20. Hi Dong, I am considering buying another Asus router to try out AiMesh but i have a small question. I am currently on a 400 MB speed from my isp. If i wirelessly connected the 2 routers (Aimesh), should i expect my internet speed to cut in half for the node (200 mb)? or it is more routers peak speeds that will be cut in half ? (Main router RT-AX86U)
    Thanks

    Reply
    • You probably mean Mb (megabit, not megabyte). I spend way to much time on the asus router forums, asus irc chat,etc. If you buy a decent router you shouldnt lose much speed. But that also depends on how good the signal is between them. Wired mesh is always better, but obviously alot more work. I wouldnt go for anything below a ac86u, another AX Router would be great as they would talk to each other with wifi6. New firmware is being worked on (you can run beta now) for AIMESH 2.0. Its pretty cool, im running it on a AX86u (main) , 2 AC86us, and 2 AC68Us.

      Reply
      • Sorry meant Mb, yeah would be looking at ax router since my main one is ax probably (ax58u) but my main issue is speed. Sadly, i can’t connect them via ethernet and i heard that with a wireless connection, it will cut in half for the node. Is it the routers peak speeds of the router or my download speed that will be affected ?

        Reply
    • It’s Mbps, and no chances are it will not be cut in half, Karim. The RT-AX86U can probably handle your Internet in full. But of course, that varies based on the distance between devices, what you use as nodes, and how your home’s layout is. So you can’t count on that. The only way to make sure you get the fastest speed is via using wired backhaul.

      Reply
  21. An update to my issue. I’ve used WiFi Analyzer and found the new node (second AX92U) put 2.4G and 5G-1 together. My original setup is 3 distinct names: ABC, ABC5-1, ABC5-2, and adding the first AX92U node preserved the Tri-band perfectly. However, the second AX92U, despite repeated reset and reconnect, shows only ABC and ABC5-2 so that made me think somehow it dropped ABC5-1. But using WiFi Analyzer it shows it’s emitting 5G-1 under the name of ABC instead of inheriting the name ABC5-1. So my my main router (AX11000) and first node shows 3 distinct WiFi names, but the second node only shows 2 (with 2.4G/5G-1 together under the name ABC). I did NOT turn on Smart Connect (couldn’t anyway hardware reset and then immediately added to Aimesh), and shouldn’t Aimesh force the main router settings on the node?

    Weird, just weird.

    Reply
    • You want to use the default setup for the backhaul band first before changing anything (not recommended). In other words, reset your entire mesh and it up from scratch.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong,

        I figure that is the last step to try. Thanks for your help. I’ve returned the AX92U. Do you think ZenXT8 will be better, or the exact same problem will persist? I’m trying to not reset my entire mesh…

        Thanks

        Reply
        • It’ll be better. Just make sure you set up the whole thing and don’t worry too much about speeds — you’ll never get the number you want if you believe in the specs or advertisement.

          Reply
          • Thanks Dong! Exactly as you’ve said, ZenXT8 meshed in with absolutely ZERO problems, and it’s a true WiFi6 Tri-band so I get WiFi6 5G-1 when I’m close to it. Had I know AX92U was only giving WiFi5 (after Aimesh) I would of never bought it but use ZenXT8 instead.

            Thanks! You are the best and keep it up, your website has helped millions!

            To other interested. I have Asus AX11000 has main router, with ZenXT8 and AX92U as nodes. I’ve tried AX92U as a second node but it kept giving me problems so I’ve returned it for a ZenXT8, and ZenXT8 meshed in as second node instantaneously with zero problem.

            ShGuy

  22. Hi Doug,

    Great review. I have one problem. I’ve got AX11000 as router and added AX92U, it worked great. But, when I got another AX92U to expand the Aimesh, there is no signal for 5GHz-1. The new node would only broadcast 2.4 and 5GHz-2 bands. I’ve tried multiple resets to all routers, hiding and unhiding 5GHz-2, didn’t work. Help?

    Reply
  23. Hi Dong,

    I am so glad I found your website here. I am trying to set up a mesh system in a 4000 sq ft home. Currently, there is an Asus Blue Cave that is providing ‘ok’ wifi signal throughout the entire house for most applications, until streaming was attempted upstairs…I’m looking to upgrade the system to an AX86U and hope that will be enough. If it’s not enough, I will likely get another AX86U. Ethernet was not wired in the house. How much of a performance hit will be noticed if I have to resort to two dual-band routers for Aimesh vs having started out with a tri-band? I’ve looked into the AX88U and the AX92U, however the reviews for the AX86U is significantly better than either of those two and that’s why I feel more comfortable sticking with the AX86U. The people I am setting this up for are not in the least bit tech savvy, so I really want something that is very stable and more or less maintenance free (not requiring multiple reboots, multiple attempts to tweak settings, etc). I want a set and forget solution. What are your thoughts? I would say the most intensive thing that this internet will be used for is streaming Hulu, Netflix, or Prime.

    Thanks!

    Ned

    Reply
    • That depends on your Internet speed, Ned. My guess, from the fact that you’ve been using the Blue Cave, if a single RT-AX86U doesn’t cut it, a set of two (wireless or wired) will do. Go for it!

      Reply
  24. Hi Dong,

    Great article, lots of really good information that is difficult to find anywhere else.

    I have a question for you. I currently have an AC88U and I’m thinking of upgrading to the AX88U. To handle some minor range problems that I have currently, I was also thinking of operating the AC88U in a mesh system with the AX88U as the main router.

    I can see that you’ve recommended to use routers of the same WiFi tier but these two are different. I was wondering if you know the level of penalty of operating a system like this? Would the network, while having greater range, perform worse to the point of it being better to just not use mesh at all and run only the AX88U?

    Thanks,

    Conor

    Reply
  25. Hi Dong,

    I have wired ethernet connection at my place, and I’m intending to get the RT-AX56U as my primary router, and either the XT8s or more RT-AX56Us as my node.
    1) Does the RT-AX56U support wired backhaul?
    2) If I use the XT8s as my nodes, will the inferior primary router be the limiting factor in the wifi setup?
    3) Does this setup make sense? Please feel free to suggest a better/ more efficient setup

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  26. Hi! I’ve been seeing your articles on google as I’m searching to a solution to my problem. Thanks to u I now have more idea on wifi.
    I have a smart home setup with about 50 smart lights and after adding the other devices it is about 70-80. My apartment is just 1300sqft with almost no blind spot. I’m not sure if mesh is the answer, I was told that mesh can support more devices. But I also read that wifi6 can support more devices (my smart lights are not wifi6). I just bought a 3 pack Dlink covr 2200 triband with dedicated wireless backhaul but it is AC.
    Now, I’m wondering if I should stick to the current one, or return it to get Asus XD4 that is AX but without the dedicated backhaul? My internet bandwidth is 1ghz max.
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  27. Thanks for this great article! Please comment on using some less expensive AiMesh models: I was thinking of getting a RT-AC66U B1 as my primary router and connecting a RP-AC1900 via ethernet to reach my garage and daughter’s room with wireless. My internet is less than 200Mbps, so I’m thinking I wouldn’t need the more expensive equipment with higher speeds. In case the north side of my house still doesn’t get adequate coverage, I thought adding another RP-AC1900 there would do it (again, with an ethernet backhaul), all for around $300. My old dual-band linksys EA6350 is failing and never reached the two extremities of my house well anyway — and doesn’t seem to handle the number of devices my family is using either (esp. with work-and-school-at-home). Does my “newbie” plan make sense? If the RT-AC66U B1 is ill-advised as a primary, perhaps the RT-AC86U for a better match? Thanks!

    Reply
  28. Hi Dong,
    Had a question for you: I bought two Asus RT-AC5300s to setup in an AiMesh, and one of them shows a manufacturing date of 2019 and the other is 2020. Would there be any difference between the two? Should I return one to make sure they are both from the same year of manufacturing?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Hi
    I am wondering if anyone has been able to use the dual WAN function for ethernet backhaul?
    My story: RT1900P with a busted/fried WAN port, have been using Dual Wan and Lan 1 port with no issues for a year or so. It’s getting a bit unreliable, so got an AX3000 to use as the main router. I’d like to use the “old” RT1900P as an AIMESH node, but the WAN port is bad. I have Ethernet drops to use a wired backhaul. The AIMESH setup defaults to Wifi instead of wired because it is looking for a plugged in working WAN port. I can’t figure out a way to tell the AIMESH to look at the ethernet line plugged into LAN 1 port. The 1900P is powerful and would be great supplement for the “dead” areas in my home. Right now, I have it set up as an wired Access Point (LAN 1) and it is working just fine, but AIMESH would be cooler!

    Reply
    • You can use a LAN port of a node to connect it to the main router, Sunil. It just will take a bit longer to settle, so give it a minute or two after you plug the cable in. So here are the steps:

      1. Reset the RT-1900P.
      2. Hook it up as a wireless node.
      3. Hook it up to the router via a network cable using one of its LAN ports.
      4. Wait a bit.

      Reply
    • @Dong Ngo, Thanks so much. I tried like you said, and it’s been over an hour, but the RT1900P node stays with the wireless backhaul. On the main AX3000 page, where I can manage the node, under “Connection Type” it says wireless, when I click on it to change it, the following message pops up: “If you want to hardwire your AiMesh router and the AiMEsh node together, please connect your RJ-45 cable to the LAN port of the router and the WAN port of your AiMEsh node. The AiMesh system will automatically switch to an Ethernet backhaul.”

      So it looks like I can not use the LAN port at all for AiMesh. Staying with Access Point mode for the RT1900P and using the LAN port is not that much of a downside for now, only when I have a wifi issue and I have to run upstairs and manually turn off the radio and start troubleshooting.

      Again Thanks! and if you have any other ideas, please reply.

      Reply
    • ssh into the router with broken wan port (install merlin if needed).
      run nvram show|grep wan . look at the settings for dual wan. Set it up, like
      it was before it became a node. nvram set wan-whatever-setting=”value”
      then type nvram commit.
      Pretty much anything on a node can be done via command line just like the main router.

      Reply
  30. Dong, I have an AX86U as the primary router and an AX82U as a node. I have a wireless printer and not all PC’s on the network can see it. I think it is because the printer may be connected to the primary router and the PC in question is connected to the node. Any suggestions to fix this? Also, when plugging via ethernet to the router, I cannot get an IP address which is strange. Roaming is enabled and set to -70db.

    Reply
  31. I am thinking of upgrading my Tp-link Deco M5 2 pack with a combo of asus wifi 6 routers.

    Do you think it’s worth it to go for the aimesh xt8 or a combo of either of the following will do the job:

    1) 2× Asus Ax88U

    2) 1× Asus Ax88U & 1× ax86U

    I have gigabit internet and the house is 3 story and with the current system I am having some speed and signal issues. My budget is upto 500 usd, and I have no issue tinkering in the advanced settings.

    Also open to other suggestions.

    Reply
    • @Dong Ngo, I do not have the ability to easily wire the home. I am not sure if just the 1 router will be enough as they are more powerful then the Deco M5 units which are ac1300. Would you suggest maybe starting with just a single AX88U unit to see coverage?

      Reply
      • No, a single Wi-Fi 6 router generally won’t have the same coverage as a 2-pack Wi-Fi 5 system, unless you can place the former more in the center of the place. But yes, you can start with the RT-AX88U.

        Reply
      • @Dong Ngo, Okay I appreciate your input on this and suggestions. I guess I will start with the single unit placed somewhere central and see how that goes.

        Also really do appreciate your site it’s been a huge help in seeing the many options.

        Reply
  32. I have an RT AX 88U router which I am very happy with. The wifi 6 speeds are terrific. I want to add more coverage to my garage (3700 sq foot home) and was wanting to add a RT-AC66U_B1 in mesh mode to do this. Obviously it is not a wifi 6 router but I do not need wifi 6 in my garage. If I use the 66U will I still get Wifi 6 in the main part of my house from the 88U and wifi 5 in the garage area or will adding a non wifi 6 router to create a mesh system disable wifi 6 and the 88U will just broadcast wifi 5 along with the 66U? Hope this makes sense! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Your question makes sense, Maxx. It will not disable Wi-Fi 6 but chances are your RT-AX88U will work in a compatible mode, unless you have a cable to link the two. But it might already be working in that mode anyway since I’m sure you have Wi-Fi 5 clients in the house. Your suggestion is not ideal but give it a try.

      Reply
    • The 66u_b1s are known to not be the greatest for mesh. I have 3, that
      im finally ditching. Id look for a newer model if your doing wireless aimesh. OR, you can buy all mine 🙂
      Look at snbforums.com asuswrt , youll see alot of complaining.

      Reply
  33. Dong, excellent!

    I did not find any comments or suggestion in how vpn can be used in AiMesh.

    I have an RC-AC5300 where I installed nordvpn. It is working great. I have the house CAT6 wired so this router in in the lan but it is not close to the Viasat modem. Of course to take advantage of router/vpn all the clients are wireless, the wired clients need to run their own vnp app.
    My plan is to buy a second RC-AC5300 and connect it between the Modem and the wired lan so the whole lan both wired and wireless has VPN.
    You would wonder why I do have the RC-AC5300 between the modem and the lan, and the problems is if I want to use the wireless connection I am too far from this router.

    Q To use AiMesh/vpn is OK to have 2 RC-AC5300 or you have a better suggestion. The AiMesh will have a wired backhaul.

    Thxs again Dong.

    Reply
    • @Dong Ngo, Thank you. I read your VPN link, excellent. Sometimes I use European servers to watch European channels that are only geophysical bound. But of course may mainly use for security and your link explains well many of my false assumption.
      Finally thanks again for your article about AiMesh, it is basically a complete tutorial.

      Reply
  34. Due to my frequent Malaysian Telco Wifi disconnections, I have my Asus RT-AX88U dual wan on, cat6 to a TP-Link Archer MR600 on 4G sim card only, as a failover, which works well. However this Archer MR600 could not act as a switch when I cat6 it to my Sonos setup.
    The Sonos still shows on the Asus as Wifi connected.

    Do you think an ASUS 4G-AC68U can act same as above, cat6 ethernet to the main Asus RT AX88U as a dual wan failover and at the same time act as an Asus mesh repeater/switch.
    Will my Sonos, or any notebook PC Ethernet to this 4G-AsusAC68U show up as a wired connection on the Asus RT-AX88U?

    Thank you.
    Trying to kill many birds with one stone. 😅

    Reply
    • No, Kaynis. You can only have one router in a setup like that, and only the router can be the party that gets access to the Internet.

      Reply
  35. Hi Dong, connecting from —-Norway!

    I have a question regarding setting up a mesh system that could max out the wifi-card on my Macbook Pro (3×3). My internet connection is 1250/50 and my network now consists of two ZenWifi XT8 but as I have been reading your tests i figured out they dont have a 3×3 signal/antenna(?) and therefore the maximum internet speed will be wirelessly 600Mbps +-60mb. Correct?

    That is why I am now considering upgrading with a new Asus router to work as my new router and use the other two XT8 as nodes (no cables only backhaul). Is it possible to buy a tri-band Asus router that has 2×2 3×3 and 4×4 that will give my Macbook Pro WiFi 5 computer about 850Mbps connection as long as I am connected to that router? Like this one: Asus RT-AX92U? I am mostly in the living room where the main router would be set up.

    The reason I would like to keep the WIFI-6 stuff is because I might in the future upgrade to the M1 Mac that comes with wifi6 support. I see that the Asus RT-AX92U does not support WIFI 6 in wireless mesh so maybe the Asus GT-AX1100 would be a better match?

    Reply
    • @Dong Ngo, it is way too cold here! :/

      I checked up the prices and I will probably end up not buying it…whoops!

      Mixing in a 2-band router would probably not be a good fit for the XT8 but could it work if I connected (for example AX86U) wired to the first XT8 node. Then the second node XT8 would be connected wirelessly to the first xt8 in the chain?

      Thank you for the fast reply

      Reply
  36. Dong thank you for the great content and for maintaining this discussion!

    I have an AX86U as a node to an AC88U. I was holding out to get the AX89 and use that as the router and switch the AX86U to be the node. However the AX89 can’t be found and I am considering using the AX86U as the main router and adding the pair XT8. Can I connect these via wired back haul and once I do that will I have issues since the XT8 is tri band? Would I be better off adding two AX3000 instead of the XT8?

    Reply
      • I have to add at least one more device to get best coverage. So, maybe I could add either the AX3000 or the AX5400 and use the AX86U as the main router? I thought about getting the AX88 and using it as the main and the AX86 as one of the nodes but since AX86 has the 2.5 WAN port it seems like that should be the first router. So 1. Is AX86U preferrable to AX88U (I don’t need 8 LAN ports). 2. Assuming I add at least one more device to use as a node, is the AX3000 or the AX5400 better? Thinking of getting the AX5400 just because it looks cool, but for the extra money I could either save and go AX3000 or spend a little more and add a second AX86U. The third and last node I will use the AC88U since it seems like that is preferred set up.

        Reply
  37. I currently have a Blue Cave and am looking to create an AiMesh network. Second router suggestions? RT-AC68U seems like the best candidate based on price. I have extensive ethernet connections through the house, so wired backhaul should work fine, right? I appreciate any thoughts you may have. Thanks!

    Reply
    • You’re right, Shahid. You can use either as the main router and the other as a node. YOu won’t be able to restore the settings of the Blue Cave to the RT-AC68U (or vice versa), though.

      Reply
  38. Hi Dong.
    I currently use AiMesh with two routers, and it works for me.
    I’d like to add nodes.
    Does Asus provide dedicated low-cost AiMesh nodes without having to use an entire expensive separate router as a node?

    Reply
      • I did see that when searching.
        I also saw a couple little range extenders that claim to be AiMesh Compatible if used with an AiMesh router, such as this: https://amzn.to/36ekTkt
        Or a newer one on Asus website for WiFi 6: https://www.asus.com/Networking-IoT-Servers/WiFi-6/All-series/RP-AX56
        That’s what I’m hoping for, just don’t know if they really work or have decent range.
        I’m on the older technology (AC1900) at the moment, so maybe I’ll give that older version a shot.

        By the way, I used to watch CNET a lot years ago, and enjoyed your knowledge, and especially your humor very much!

        Reply
        • Glad you found me here, Martin.

          Use the one I mentioned earlier and make sure you have wired backhaul. A wireless setup will work but far less effective in terms of speed. Good luck!

          Reply
          • FYI – I tried this AC1200 (RP-AC55) https://amzn.to/36ekTkt
            It’s perfect for me, just a little plug-in for under $50 that provides easy connections to devices upstairs and a doorbell camera that’s not near the router.
            It’s AiMesh-ready by default from the factory, just power it up near my RT-AC1900-type router and wait about a minute, then add it as an AiMesh node.
            Then move it to an upstairs outlet, and good-to-go.
            In fact, no need for two routers, just the main router and this device.
            I’m sure I could add more if needed.
            It has a port for wired backhaul, which would configure automatically, but I don’t have the wiring.
            So I’m sure LAN speed is not great, but I can’t tell and I’m happy just to be able to connect those other devices without having them drop off.
            So I would say a very cost-effective (if not high-performance) mesh solution is an RT-AC1900, and one or more of these RC-AP55 nodes.

  39. Thanks for the great article! Very helpful!
    I have just one question, related to combination of Wi-Fi 5 + Wi-Fi 6.

    My intention is to use 1x RT-AX56U as a primary.
    And 3x ASUS RT-AC52U B1 as a nodes(Really big old house without chance of wired connection…)

    It is clear from your article that all devices using AC52U will get Wi-Fi 5 only, but devices nearby AX56U which is the primary router, will get also only Wi-Fi 5?

    Thank you very much for your time!

    Reply
  40. I have an Asus 5300 in almost the center of a large single story with the 5ghz2 as a dedicated backhaul. I have blue caves on both ends of the house. For some reason one blue cave is connecting through the other blue cave. Is there a way to force them to stay connected to the 5300main router and not utilize the other blue cave for backhaul? Hard wiring backhaul is not an option for me at this point, maybe when I get some time this spring.

    Reply
    • No, you’re mixing tri-band and dual-band routers. There’s no dedicated backhaul (it’s not being used at all that is — read the post’s tri-band part again!). If things are working out right now, that’s about the best you can get out of the current setup until you get your home wired.

      Reply
  41. Dong,
    You have presented a lot of information, and I appreciate it greatly. The nagging question that I have is which is the better combination: two ZenWifi XT8 units or two RT-AX86U units? I have wired backhaul. The cost is roughly the same, or at least close enough that it is not a factor. I have seen conflicting recommendations from you, but perhaps they were situational. In your article, you have said that the ZenWifi is the best wifi 6 mesh system available, but I have also seen you recommend RT-AX86U over ZenWifi in the comments section. Is the RT-AX86U really a better unit overall with wired backhaul, or are they roughly equal? Would you mind providing a brief explanation of why you think one is better than the other?

    Reply
  42. Hello. Thank you for your informations…

    I have a question…hopefully you’ll can provide me with clear and complete answer.

    I have an asus RT-AX58U setup as primary aimesh node and a RT-AC68U as satellite node. I use a cable backhaul to link both.

    This works perfect so far except that I cannot use an external drive connected to the USB of the satellite. Otherwise wifi performance are good, the fact that I can manage both node in the app and web interface is really nice and raoming is also good.

    My question now…what would the pro/cons to use the satellite no longer in mesh mode but as access point…should the wifi performance be even better? Will I still be able to get the centralized management of both nodes in the app and web interface? Will I be able to use the external drive connected to the USB of satellite? what about roaming? will this setup will be 2 different SSIDs or 1 like in a mesh?

    Thank you very much

    Reply
  43. So I have two ZenWiFi AX nodes and I really like them. Very stable and excellent connections.They are connected wirelessly with 2 thick walls in between (on the 5G-2 band). I notice that sometimes the satellite falls back to using the 2.4G band as back-haul. Of course the cool thing is that the routers are able to use dynamically different bands as wireless backhaul.

    What I don’t like of the Asus solution is that some settings are only available in the (phone) app, and some settings are only available in the web-interface. For instance: in the app it is possible to ‘group’ devices to a person, and restrict the person (parental controls, for instance no gambling). A very nice feature, as I can block my child in one click on all devices. In the web interface I can only see separate devices and not the link to a person. It gives strange situations in the app: when trying to add a device to a person, who only has 2 devices registered, you can get the error “Only up to 16 devices supported”. This references to the fact that you can only have 16 devices registered in total for parental controls. It took me some time to understand.
    On the other hand: in the web-interface I can setup dual-WAN (which is really a great feature as I also have a spare 4G router, now configured as fallback WAN). This option is not available in the app. So I am switching all the time between app and web-interface.

    Reply
  44. Hey. I bought the ax 11000 as my main and I have 3 Ax6100 through out house. My main router is in my addition which is separated by a brick wall into the main house. I put main in addition because that’s like my gaming room. I did hard wire to one of the Ax6100 and the rest interact wirelessly. Any tips on getting better performance or the best solution for me. Its about a 3000 sqft house with 2 additions total that are separate by brick walls..

    Reply
    • Since you have one with wired backhaul, chances are things are pretty good right now. If possible, connect the rest of the RT-AX92U units via network cables and you’re all set.

      Reply
  45. Hi,
    I have an ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000. I am looking for another router (Wifi 6 and preferably tri-band) via AiMESH. Please advise if Asus AiMesh AX6100 Router (RT-AX92U 2 Pack) is good choice or shall I add another ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000. I liked the ZenWiFi-AX-XT8 but not clear that if I add it do I need to make my Zen wifi router as main router and use ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 via AiMESH or both Zen wifi router can be simply added via AiMesh and keep ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 as primary router.

    Reply
  46. Hi
    I bought a RT-AX88U as my main router. This router has not enough signal stenghth on 2.4 and 5Ghz to cover my whole house. I want to buy a second unit to extend the signal strenghth and still keep the max wifi performance. My current thinking is to add a RT-AX92U cabled via a switch that is also used by other systems. Is this the best choice? will i loose features or capabilities advertised for the 88U (such as wifi 6)? Thank you for your response.

    Reply
      • Hi Dong,

        First of all thank you for the fast response! Although i have wired my home there are still many wireless units around. The wired units can all be connected to the 88U, so i need the additional unit solely for the wireless signal. Forgive me if i do not understand but if I look at the 58U (Ax3000) is the wifi performance not noticable slower if you move around the house and signal picked up by the 58U?

        thanks

        Reply
          • Hi

            Understood, i hope. The wired backhaul and not mixing tri and dual band are the main recommendations. I try to work thru all the material again, but still feel unsecure about choosing the right combination. You did not mention the new Zenwifi AX mini (duo set) to set up a mesh. Is that a better solution to ensure much better coverage, even if it does not match the performance of for example the 58U? And will i wire both units? Is no problem but i do not know if it makes sense.

          • You can use the AX mini as nodes of the 58U being the router. Like I said in the post, using wired backhaul gives you more flexibility in terms of hardware combos.

  47. Hi Dong,

    Great post and analysis!

    I’ve a two-storey house and have a AC86U already as a router. I’m getting low/poor wifi on the upper floor so I’m thinking of creating a Mesh.

    I understand it’s best to pair with another AC86U to have a great mesh. For a lower price point, which other Wifi 5 router(s) will you recommend?

    Thankyou.

    Reply
  48. I already mentioned on your AX82U review how I’m planning to wire an AiMesh node to my AX82U and use another node wirelessly. The main router is on the first floor, and the node(s) will be on 2nd floor.

    Is it possible to wire an AiMesh node to another node? The plan is to use 2 nodes on my second floor.

    Or since you mentioned about switch on this AiMesh review, is it possible to wire 1 cable from my router to the 2nd floor, use the switch to connect to 2 nodes? Will this work?

    Sorry if this has been mentioned. Thank you for all your reviews.

    Reply
  49. Since “An AiMesh system has all the features and settings of the primary router” is there any reason not to buy an entry level ASUS Router for the node?

    If I connect a wifi 5 router as a node to a wifi 6 router will all of the wifi be wifi 6?

    Reply
  50. Hi, and thank you for the fantastic articles and reviews!

    I would like to create an AiMesh network using a WiFi 6 (AX series) device as the primary router, and one or more WiFi 5 (AC series) devices as nodes.

    I’d like to save some money in the short term by using less expensive WiFi 5 nodes (until I upgrade them later to WiFi 6), but not if this is going to lead to a lot of problems/headaches/time spent on solutions, which I would like to avoid.

    I read your article carefully a few times, and I know that you recommended keeping the devices matched, but I also read in a previous response that you posted (on August 15, 2020 at 9:15 am), that AiMesh networks will work with a mix of WiFi 6 and WiFi 5 devices.

    My questions are:

    1. Did you experience any connectivity issues when transitioning from a WiFi 6 session on your primary router to a WiFi 5 session on your nodes when you were conducting your tests?

    2. Should I expect to run into any annoying or odd problems if I mix things up?

    3. Is AiMesh just using the available radios on the nodes to extend the mesh network, but using the primary router to manage all aspects of the sessions?

    Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • The tricky part is the backhaul link, Frank. It’s always a hit or miss when you mix two Wi-Fi standards. Clearly, when that works, it’ll be Wi-Fi 5, so the Wi-Fi 6 router will need to work in the compatible mode. Depending on the routers you use, chances are things will work, just not ideal. If you use wired backhaul, though, then the issue is minimal, if at all.

      Reply
      • I have set up a mesh using AC88U as the primary and the AX86U. I have noticed devices connecting then disconnecting. I am not sure why. Both routers are using latest firmware and are connected via wired cat 6. They are in different rooms but on the same floor. I have had the set up for about a week and didn’t notice until today. I have had this happen on a PC and an iPhone XS. When I use the app I see both routers active with devices connected. No more than 10 devices currently in the house as we are not fully moved in yet.

        Reply
          • I have the node (AX86u connected via Ethernet to the Primary (AC88u). I’m using Ethernet cable from a lan port on the AC88U connected to the Wan port on the AC86u. Isn’t that the correct way to create the back haul?

  51. Dong,
    Thank you for the wonderful writeup. I am not a tech person and can understand much of what you are explaining. We have a 3600 sq ft home with 2100 sq ft on the main floor. On one side of the home is my office with the modem and our rt-ac5300. Performance in that room of course is fine. On the other end of the home is my husbands office, and he has a difficult time playing any online games. A wired backhaul is not the easiest to achieve.
    In between the two offices is one of our nest doorbells (outside on brick) that constantly drops signals.
    I would appreciate your input as to what equipment to use for an aimesh system. Should I upgrade my rt-ac5300 to the gt-ac5300 and use my current rt-ac5300 as a node in my husband’s office? I appreciate and look forward to your input. I am trying to look for a smaller footprint in his office, but want the best performance throughout the house. Thank you, Regina

    Reply
  52. Doug,
    Great review !
    Two questions:
    – is it possible to configure the mesh so that it is a bridge or not a “router” in order to use it behind another combo router/modem which provides the routing/NAT functionality toward internet? It would be either a ZenFi AX or AX1100.
    – Can the ZenFi AX8 be configured in a wired mesh so that the 5Ghz-2 band is visible and useable by client devices like the AX1100?
    Thanks

    Reply
  53. Doug, great review indeed, I have a few questions.
    1. Is it possible to setup a mesh and have the main “router” or mesh system being configured as a bridge so that there is no routing/NAT on the mesh system? That would allow to have the mesh system behind a combo modem/router such as a comcast business gateway. Would this work with either a ZenFi AX or AX11000 mesh?
    2. With the ZenFi AX, is it possible to use the 5GHz-2 band for wireless clients in the case of a wired backhaul? I believe you said that this would work with a AX11000 mesh right?

    Reply
    • 1. Yes, I mentioned that in this post, that’s called the “Access point mode” by the way.
      2. I also answer that in this post, in great detail. Check out the Tri-band part.

      Reply
  54. Great article Dong!

    Could you help me choose efficient and cost effective solution for my home network.

    I have a house with 5 floors of residence + 1 floor of maintenance. I have ISP modem on maintenance floor with Cat6 running to all 5 floors from this maintenance floor. Each floor’s of 2300sq. ft. The entire house’s on automation with app. 100 lighting automation circuits, 50 IOT devices such as IP cameras, security, sensors and 50 personal devices such as mobiles, PCs, TV, etc . I’m planning to install a WiFi6 mesh system with smooth handoff and multi gig support for a long lasting solution.

    A router can be placed on maintenance floor, connected to a gigabit switch and further 5 nodes connected to this switch. So, which model shall I proceed with? I’m looking for something which is a true mesh network with extensive and easy customisability for a home network.
    *Note gaming isn’t a preference as such

    Thanks

    Reply
  55. Hi Dong – firstly, many thanks for writing such an informative and interesting article, it’s much appreciated. I had a couple of questions 1) I was hoping to build an aimesh network with a gt-ac5300 as the main router. What would be your suggestion for the best so node with this setup a) if I was to use a wired connection and b) for a wireless connection between the main router and node? Also I was planning on connecting a backup device to the node and carry out nightly backups from a NAS drive connected to the primary router. Would I be able to access/control a usb device on the aimesh node (sounds from you article as if I may not be able to do this?). Maybe I would be better connecting a NAS to the aimesh node instead of a usb drive?

    Reply
    • There are answers to your questions in the post, Ian. Do me a favor, read it again, and pay a bit of attention. You won’t get a different answer from me just by asking the question directly. 🙂

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong, I’ve done my homework and read the article again – still learning more each time I read through, but there are a few things I am a bit confused with. If I physically connect a PC directly to the LAN port on an aimesh node, and enter 192.168.50.1 or router.asus.com, does it bring up the web page for the primary aimesh router (rather than the page for the node)? It sounds like once aimesh is set up, the router takes over the nodes and you get a single view of everything (except the USB port on aimesh nodes, which is disabled).

        Reply
  56. Planning to use an RT-AX88U as router, and single XT8 as node. I’m wondering if I can use one of the radios on the XT8 node just for backhaul, or is AiMesh not flexible enough to do that with a 2 radio router? I’d like to try the AiMesh functionality, even though I have MoCA to use the XT8 as in AP mode.

    Thoughts on whether this might work well with AiMesh?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • AP mode is the way to go, in this case, Doh. Else you won’t be able to use the XT8’s 2nd 5GHz band at all. More here. But an AiMesh setup will work well, too, just make sure you upgrade the XT8 to the latest firmware first (one of the old versions has a bug that causes the wired backhaul not to work.)

      Reply
  57. Hi Dong,
    Thanks for your answers, I have 1 last but a bit complicated question:
    the vdsl modem is located in a closet. I also have ethernet port in each room which provides connection to modem’s lan ports. For example, if I connect the main unit to an ethernet port in my room, then connect the second unit in same way in another room, is it possible to have a wired-mesh system?
    I’m not a native English speaker, hope that I could explain the situation well.
    Thanks again for your effort.

    Reply
  58. First of all, thanks for those grate articles!
    I want to setup a mesh system with ax86u and ax56u. Is this combination fine?
    Second question, is it possible to use the lan port instead of wan?
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Yes, that combo will work, especially if you have wired backhaul. And yes, you can use a LAN port on the node, though the WAN is better as backhaul.

      Reply
          • Thanks for your answers, I have 1 last but a bit complicated question:
            the vdsl modem is located in a closet. I also have ethernet port in each room. For example, if I connect the main unit to an ethernet port in my room, then connect the second unit in same way in another room, is it possible to have a wired-mesh system?
            I’m not a native English speaker, hope that I could explain the situation well.
            Thanks again for your effort.

          • Here’s the diagram, Cagri: Modem -> (WAN) router (LAN) -> other wired devices. You can’t put anything between the modem and the router (other than the network cable, which can be of almost any length). By the way, English is not my mother tongue, either. 🙂

  59. Hi, we’re going to be moving into a 6,750 sqft house plus garages. I’d like to have full coverage throughout the indoor space (Tesla in garage) as well as the pool and backyard areas if possible. What do you recommend for that type of large property? Thanks!

    Reply
  60. Hi Dong,

    So glad I found this page, super helpful how you break down some of these features from Asus.

    I’ve had 2 RT-AC68U’s (one main router, one as hard-wired AP) for quite a few years, without having upgraded the firmware to the latest version supporting aimesh. Have more going on in the house now with myself/kids working/schooling from home. I upgraded the firmware and find it much more useful to understand what devices are using the most bandwidth etc. Also now have support for the mobile app which is fun to play around with.

    I configured Aimesh and it seems to be working as advertised, with wired backhaul… but the prior setup seemed ok too. I assume with Aimesh it is more actively managing client handoffs between the router/node, and managing whether a client is connected to 2.4 vs 5Ghz.

    Turning on Aimesh hasn’t changed the fact that there are some low-reception zones in my house. Part of the issue is I have the main router in a closet with the modem and some other peripherals (NAS etc.) to just have them out of the way. It is in the center of the house in the basement, but still the signal strength is fairly low.

    I’m considering adding another node to the current 2x RT-ac68U setup. What would you recommend? I’m really just looking for better overall coverage within the house, and I have some options to locate a node that I think will achieve that (with wired backhaul). Speed/bandwidth of the existing setup really isn’t an issue.

    Reply
    • Happy to have you, Tim. Since you have wired backhaul, just get another RT-AC68U. But if you want you can use a better router as the main router, like the RT-AC86U, or even the RT-AX86U. Those will give you more features. As for AiMesh vs AP mode, among other things, the former allows you to change the Wi-Fi settings just at the router units, while with the latter, you have to manually change that at each AP. Hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Sure, that would be the safe play, definitely wouldn’t have any compatibility concerns. But the RT-AC68U is getting a bit old, isn’t it? Just wondering if I should be investing in something a bit newer, future-proofing if you will… while still maintaining compatibility with my existing hardware.

        Reply
  61. Would it work to use the following wired network path? Cable modem to switch to two ai mesh routers. Or does the primary router have to be directly wired to the secondary router?

    Reply
  62. Hello
    As I have AC68U router as main which has been running for 6 years. It’s also connect to AP RE450 via lan as 2nd wireless access point in 3rd bedroom which has 20cm thick concrete room & another gigabit hub at 2nd bedroom for wired network.
    I wanted to know which router to buy as main router AC or AX ?
    The AC68u to be as a aimesh node or ap connect to backhub via wired lan to main router.
    As have 15-20 devices connected. All the walls are bricked also one room is thick concrete wall where the AP is. The main router is at Kitchen open space to living room.
    At 2nd bedroom I get no 5G signal from main router,only 2.4G getting -71dBm, can get 5G signal from AP at -65 dBm.
    Main bedroom can getrouter 5G at -71 dBm & AP -68dBm.
    So what are the best router to suit for better signal range through the whole home.
    Thanks

    Reply
  63. Thank you for the article! It’s very helpful and I just bought the Asus ZenWiFi AX8 last month. It’s been good. Just a note, I am able to update firmware on Asus mobile app without going through desktop web download flash process.

    Reply
    • Yeap, Andy, the mobile app is better with firmware updates. However, don’t mess too much using the app, you might create issues inadvertently.

      Reply
  64. Hi Dong,
    1st of all I love your articles!
    I have a situation at home that drives me crazy. I have bought RT-AX88U and it seems to have very weak signal. Standing 1m away from it and using Samsung Note10+ with WiFi Analyzer I see -38dBm on the 5GHZ and -41dBm on the 2GHz4 channels. when I move away for about 7-8m (~24ft) I am loosing another 20dBM. It is open space and it seems odd. What do you think?
    I am also considering creating aimesh. The house I live in (rented) has an U shape. Living room is on one arm of U on the ground floor and offices and sleeping rooms are on the floor above in the other U arm. The 20dBm drop of signal is on the path that follows U shape from my AX88U located in the living room toward the “bottom of U”. The aim is to have new node that would cover the upper floor. Wired back-haul is very difficult to achieve as landlord objects. What would a good partner device for the AX88U? My aim is to have preferably both 5GHz and 2GHz4 signals in the office and sleeping rooms. I am also rather excluding another AX88U. Potentially I would rather go for ZenWiFi 6. Though I am not sure if this routers are as powerful as AX88U in terms of advanced features (must have req for me is two Open VPN tunnels one with Nord VPN and another to different house to extend LAN with another subnet [on a side note I would love Asus to include Preshared Key site to site VPN in their Home solutions]).

    Reply
    • A couple of things, Piotr.

      1. dBM is NOT linear, it’s logarithmic, so the difference in numbers doesn’t mean much. More here. You need to do a real test to know how the connection speed truely is.
      2. Get another RT-AX88U (or any dual-band AiMesh) and place it at the bottom of the U. But a 2-pack of the ZenwiFi AX, or RT-AX92U will do too.
      3. VPN is more tricky than you think. More here.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong,
        1. I know it’s log10 (I am electronic engineer working in Cyber for years with little love for EM fields). I think it is still very low to have ~-40dBm just 1m (3.2ft) away from the signal source, isn’t it? I would expect something in the range -30dBm to -25dBm.
        2. 2xAX88U is about 650EUR bit expensive; 2xZenWi AX us about 400 something, so way better. The thing is that nobody does any comparison between non mesh features, so hard to say how they would fare (better or worse in the areas of interest).
        3. I have no problem with VPNs, just with their buggy implementations 🙂 Obviously I am more accustomed to pro equipment but I can handle home grade and OpenVPN, no worries there.

        Reply
  65. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for the article and explanations. I have a question regarding whether adding a rarely used AiMesh node via non-dedicated wireless backhaul will slow down my main router’s single 5GHz band? I have a RT-AX86 as a main router on the 2nd floor of my house, which is linked via wired backhaul to the other side of my house with a RT-AC86 in AP mode. This gives pretty good coverage but it’s weaker in some parts of my fairly long basement. I get good 5GHz signal on one side of my basement from the RT-AX86, and I was thinking of using a spare RT-AC68 in the basement as an AiMesh node to get better coverage in the basement. However, it’s not a place that is frequently used and I did not want to slow down the single 5GHz band on my main router. Will maintaining the connection with my rarely used AiMesh node in the basement via 5GHz wireless backhaul have much of an effect on overall 5GHz throughput on my main router?

    Reply
  66. Hi! great post!!….wondering if you can help:

    I have a 3300sq ft house…I re-purposed phone jacks to be ethernet (luckily they ran cat 5e!)….I currently have 2 AC86u’s running using wired backhaul aimesh…have about 80-90 devices connected….and have gigabit Xfinity…I still don’t get a very good blanketing of wifi in the house because of many walls and stuff….if I were to add another aimesh node, is it best to stick with a wifi 5 asus router and run it as a node? or should I get a wifi 6 model and make it the main router, and the 2 ac86u’s as the aimesh wired backhaul nodes?…i also have one of those tmobile routers but don’t think it runs aimesh anymore…should i run it as just a wired AP, or is it best to stick to just aimesh? THANKS!

    Reply
  67. Hi Dong, I’m having terrible trouble with my ASUS / AiMesh setup and I am hoping you might be able to help me… Based on reviews/discussions, I purchased 3 AC-RT1900P routers to blanket my home with good wifi. I have the main router upstairs and two nodes (wired backhaul) downstairs at opposite ends of the house. When I am stationary, things work well for the most part, but my issue is with wireless calling on my cellphone. Whenever I move around the house I drop calls, or there is a delay of silence when I can’t hear anything. Often times the wifi will drop me to the cellular network and will not simply transfer me to the node with the strongest signal. It’s really annoying and I am at a loss as to what to do. I’ve tried using the normal ASUS firmware with AiMesh and Roaming Assistant turned on, I’ve tried using Merlin in both AiMesh and AP mode. I’ve also experimented with turning Roaming Assistant off. Nothing seems to work. Just lots of dropped calls and/or cutting out. I tried adjusting the signal strength down to 60 for Roaming Assistant, and that made “Microsoft Teams” on my laptop unusable. The machine would keep disconnecting me from the closest node and defaulting me to the main router upstairs. Putting it back up to 67 solved that issue, but I still have the cellphone Wifi Calling problem. I have QoS turned on also. I have a 600Mbps connection and can get over 300Mbps consistently when running a speedtest anywhere in my house. Should I sell my ASUS routers and get something else? Please help me 🙂 Thanks, Matt.

    Reply
    • You need to stop moving around, Matt. No system, even the most expensive one, can support Wi-Fi calling as you move around. When hand-off takes place, there’s always a brief disconnection.

      Reply
      • I never have any problem roaming while on WiFi calling using my Orbi system either wireless backhaul or wired backhaul. I believe most mesh systems or access point systems with a controller should handle WiFi calling while roaming without any issues. Dong, are you saying the Asus mesh systems don’t do that? Plenty of others do.

        Reply
          • I’ve actually used separate access points which aren’t controlled by a controller in the exact same locations as the orbis and the WiFi calling drops happened all the time when roaming. We use WiFi calling daily and never have any problems with it’s the orbis no matter where we go and we have almost 5000 sq ft covered by only two orbis.

          • That’s great, but generally, in my XP, Orbis are not as good as others in terms of lags. Also, discontions will happen in a hand off, but different clients will experience that differently.

      • Hi Dong, I can handle the 3 seconds of silence, but what really annoys me is the dropped calls. When I turn Roaming Assistance off it’s totally useless, with it on, it seems to be OK, but I will open get dropped calls. I think it has something to do with the -dBm setting. Is there anyway to measure my dBm signal in different parts of my house? I know where the trouble spots are. I can shut off one node at a time and see what the signal strength is of each of the trouble areas. This will tell me how to set the value. Conversely, I didn’t feel like I had this issue with my old Google Wifi. My speed sucked, but I never dropped wifi calls when walking around my home. Would going to back to stock firmware from Merlin help?

        Reply
    • I have your fix my friend. I had the same issue where roaming between routers would cause a brief period of network silence. From wifi calling to scrubbing through a youtube video while walking around.

      To fix your issue, you will need to disable “NAT Acceleration”. Log in to your router, go to Lan, then to the Switch Control tab. In there you will have the option to change “Nat Acceleration” from Auto -> Disable. Go ahead and test if roaming now no longer causes the silences as well as maintains Wifi Calling staying activated. You can google what NAT Acceleration is if you care to find out. disabling it will not cause any issues in itself. The only thing that might happen is an ever so slight decrease in speed if there are many devices downloading a bunch of data at the same exact time. My case: I have 300 down, 10 upload from my provider. I have about 60 devices on the network. I have had no issues in my experience.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  68. Hi,
    I needed to upgrade my wireless router due to an increase in Smart Connected devices so, after reading many articles on your site, I went with an ASUS GT-ax11000 as the main router with an ASUS RT-ax92u as the satellite in a mesh configuration. My house is wired with coax and cat5 to all the main areas but the cat5 cables all terminate in the furnace room in the basement under stairs with metal runners. I have a gig switch at that location. I wanted to do wired back haul and didn’t want the connection limited to a gig from the switch so I purchased a set of paired MoCA 2.5 endpoints to handle the back haul. I came out of the multi gig port on the ax11000 through the MoCA 2.5 system and into the wan port of the ax92u. Everything is running stable. It was a little more expensive but I didn’t want to limit the speed of the satellite node.
    I am wondering though how to check if I’m using the 160 MHz channel?
    Thanks,
    Tom

    Reply
    • A couple of things, Tom:

      1. MoCA can’t give you a faster speed than 1 Gbps, Tom. No matter how fast the endpoints are claimed to be, the speed is limited by their Gigabit network port (as well as those of the routers). So definitely return those, you’re neutering your network for no reason.
      2. Gigabit backhaul is fine since it’s full-duplex and Wi-Fi is half-duplex, (so is MoCA). Again, NOTHING can beat network cables, and CAT5e is fine. It can deliver THE SAME speed as CAT6.
      4. Your setup certainly is NOT working in 160 MHz channel. That’ because the majority of devices you have at home don’t support this channel width. That said, don’t worry about it.
      5. In your case, using tri-band routers is not necessary, but you can turn the 5GHz-2 band into a separate 5 GHz-only SSID. In this case, by the way, you can set it to work exclusively in 160 MHz channel width for supported devices.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your reply and the informative articles.
        The new MoCA 2.5 are full-duplex (confirmed with the company) but you are correct that the network ports are only 1 Gbps so I could just use the hardwired cables and go through my switch saving myself some money.
        I realize tri-band and WIFI 6 are not necessary at this time but since I needed a new router I figured it would be best to prepare for the future instead of updating now with a dual-band mesh arrangement and then updating again in a couple of years to tri-band.
        I have to figure out what all the settings are in the AX11000 to make sure it is set up correctly. My initial setup was just to follow the basic prompts.
        Cheers!

        Reply
  69. AMAZING write up, thank you. Can you still use wired lan ports on an aiMesh Node like you would in media bridge mode for non-wifi clients? I’m planning to use my ac1900 as a mesh node and get a zenwifi for my new router. Sorry if I missed this somewhere in the comments

    Reply
  70. Quick question hoping you can help. Currently have 2k square foot home with ax11000 and modem on other side from kids room and master bedroom. Having some issues since we have about 20-30 devices on network usually. What’s best option to pair with the ax11000 being the main router? Can’t do wired backhaul so would probably need matching triband router

    Reply
      • I couldn’t figure out how to post a question… But I am going to set up a mesh system. I have moved to a larger home (two floors) total about 3800 Sq feet. I was looking at the AC88U or the AX3100. I know this is wifi 5 vs wifi 6, but most if not all my clients are wifi 5 anyway. I will connect them via ethernet back haul. I can’t seem to find any comparison of wifi 5 mesh and wifi 6 mesh or direct comparisons of these units. If there is one, I apologize. But, if price is the same, which of these would serve better for range? I think the speeds should be fine as I will still connect my primary PC’s via gigabit ethernet.

        Reply
      • In the article you mentioned when using wireless backhaul it was best to keep with the tri-band routers. If I used a dualband router would it decrease network performance? I’m trying to get better signal across the house so open to not just the aimesh but anything that helps boost the performance of the ax11000 I have.

        Reply
        • That’s right, Andrew. More here. Dual-band will work but not as well as tri-band if you want the best performance. Getting your home wired is always the best, though (and use dual-band in this case.)

          Reply
  71. I’m in the market to finally upgrade my RT-N66U; probably with an AC 2900.
    I realize that the 66U is not AiMesh supported, but could it be effectively utilized as a node in an AP Mode? It would be wired.
    And how difficult is it to set up AP Mode? (I’m not a tech novice, but I’m no networking guru by any means.)
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • It would, Skip. And that’s super-easy. Just set it up as a normal router (like it currently is), now log into its web interface. Go to Administration -> Operation mode -> Access Point mode. Now, connect its network port (any) to your new router. That’s it.

      Reply
  72. Hi Dong,
    I’ve read many of your related post to Ai-mesh and XT8, but I still need some advice from you pertaining to WiFi coverage for my 1.7k sqft single-story rectangular-shaped non-hardwired apartment.

    Currently I only have a Asus RT-AC87U placed at my living area which is one end of the apartment, and I faced slight signal dropping issues 2 bars signal after 13m 2 walls Away in my toilet, and almost losing connection after 15m 3 walls in my 2nd room. So my 3 rear rooms with at least 3 walls away near the other end of the apartment is losing connection at most times unless we are lucky, but speed is very slow as well even if it is connected. My 2.4ghz speed test within 3m from my router is only clocking in at about 80-100mbps even though I have a 1gbps network to my apartment. 5ghz speed test at around 200mpbs only.

    So I’ve decided to upgrade to wireless mesh. I’m not sure if the XT8 will be sufficient to solve my issue as it is 2 pack only and I can only place the node in my 1st room i.e 1 wall at about 10m away as this room will have decent signal. Or I should get the zenmini 3pack or even the Deco X60 to serve the purpose of coverage but at the expense of drop speeds due to 2nd node in place. Do note that besides wired connection to main router, I can only rely on full wireless network and wireless backhaul throughout my apartment.

    Appreciate your professional advice, Thanks!

    Reply
    • A couple of things, Jay.

      1. The 2.4 GHz band is generally slow. Even new routers won’t give you much more than 100 Mbps.
      2. Depending on how you test, the number you see might be that of the client and not the router itself, since the speed between a pair is that of the slowest party. More here.
      3. Walls are ALWAYS problematic. Some types of walls can block signals up to 100 %. More here.

      That said, the 2-pack XT8 will be better than the RT-AC87U for sure, that’s not to mention you can still reuse it as an additional node. How much better depends on how you arrange the hardware units. More on that here. So I’d say go ahead with the XT8 (or even the CT8 if you want to save). After that, keep in mind that you likely won’t get 1 Gbps to your end-device. Good luck! 🙂

      Reply
  73. Hi Dong thanks for the thorough review and article super helpful. I currently have a GT-ac5300 and am looking to add on a tri-band ai-mesh node. I was leaning towards the rt-ax92u as it seems like one of the most cost effective options, but I saw some mixed feedback on other sites if it would be compatible. I also saw your guidance of not mixing AC and AX routers. Would the 92U work with the GT-AC5300? Would it be better to get a RT-AC5300 or spend even more on the GT-AC5300 (which seems a bit overkill)? Any other things I should consider.

    Thanks in advance

    Reply
      • Thanks for the quick reply and for confirming my fears, I’ll stick to wifi 5. Going wired is pretty challenging given the house set up but something for the future. Do you think the gt-ac5300 would have a noticeable performance win over the rt-ac5300?

        Reply
  74. Great article!
    I am looking to get a second 86U as a wireless aimesh Node on my 3rd floor.
    One thing I did not see mentioned, can the open LAN ports on the AIMesh Node still be used when participating as a wireless node? I understand you may not get top notch speeds as its still a wireless node but this would be greatly beneficial for a few devices without wifi(or outdated wifi options).

    Is there any speed gain when hardline to a aimesh node over Wifi or at that point would it be the same?

    Thanks Dong! Great stuff.

    Reply
  75. Hi Dong

    We are now supporting distance learning with two work-from-home parents, plus three kids running day-long zooms on my wifi. I currently have a RT-AC88U as my router that is connected via ethernet to my modem. I want to purchase a 2nd router to setup as my first node and enter into the AiMesh world. What router should I purchase to be the first node? Please note that I have a 3500 sq ft house and my RT-AC88U is in the downstairs corner of the house. The dead zone is in the upstairs, opposite corner of the house, where I’d like to place the node.

    Leveraging speed tests, I get ~320mb/s when standing next to the router and ~30mb/s when standing in the dead zone. How can I increase the dead zone speed closer to ~300mb/s?

    Do I purchase the same RT-AC88U router again and set it up as a node. This is not the economical choice. Or should I purchase a RT-AC1900 and set it up as a node. I will set this node up wirelessly and it is not in any location to be hard wired.

    I’ve already determined that I should stick to dual band and wifi 5, since the RT-AC88U is both dual band and wifi 5.

    Thanks for any insights!

    Reply
    • We’re about the same as you, Brian (OK slightly better — only two toddlers). So, I’d recommend getting your home wired, maybe with just one cable. After that, you can get another RT-AC88U, or an RT-AC86U, or even a RT-AC68U and you’ll be OK. If you want to go full wireless though, any of the mentioned routers will work but cut the speed of the node in half. For more, check out this post. Hang in there!

      Reply
      • Dong – Thank you for the quick reply. I don’t think wiring my house is an option. Therefore, if we stick with wireless, why do you recommend cutting the speed in half and how do you do that?

        Also, knowing that I’m staying wireless and that I have an existing RT-AC88U, should I look at buying one of the ones you recommend above; or should I look at upgrading the entire mesh to ASUS ZenWifi AC3000, 2pk. It comes with tri-band (vs I currently have dual band) and it comes with wifi 6 (vs I currently have wifi 5). I’m not wanting to invest an entire day of reconfiguring to only receive a slight uptick in performance so which is the best option from an labor ROI perspective? Thanks again, this has been very helpful!

        Reply
        • It’s called signal loss which always happens with dual-band mesh systems. More on that here, Brian. The ZenWiFi AC3000 is NOT Wi-Fi 6 (any that has “AC” in its name is not Wi-Fi 6.) I’d just go with another dual-band router for now. But the XT8 will be better overall.

          Reply
  76. Thanks Dong for all the great content and articles. Wanted to get your opinion on two directions. I have a 3600 sq ft single story house with about 30 clients consisting of entertainment, smart, & security (none Wifi 6 yet), 1Gb connection, and am currently running only the ASUS RT-AC86U which hasn’t been horrible. Looking at upgrading and future proofing for 6. Read your articles on RT-AX86U, XT8, & AiMesh. Very interested in going to AX86U based on performance results both on 5 and 6 and then using my existing router as either a mesh or hardwired node (house not currently hardwired). If understood correctly, are there risks of meshing the 5 & 6 models? You stated that hardwiring is extremely beneficial in strength and reliability, in my scenario, would hardwiring resolve the issues of having the 5 & 6 models paired and would a powerline extender work almost as well or is directly hardwiring the best practice? Planning as I won’t be hardwiring in Phx anytime soon. The 2nd route is the XT8 but I read its drawbacks and if I read correctly, didn’t perform as well with Wifi 5 and many of my clients won’t be upgraded anytime soon. How would these two scenarios compare? With scenario 1, I have the option to upgrade my node to 6 when it makes sense – either direction, would be in about $500. A lot here, but if you could weigh in and help me sort it out and provide other facts to consider, would greatly appreciate it!

    Reply
  77. Hi Dong. I live in a 5500 sqf house with 3 floors. I place my main router on the 3rd floor. I have wired connections throughout 3rd and 2nd floor. No internet problems. But on the 1st floor signal suffers. Poor signal and unstable. I currently have one AP on the 3rd floor and 2 APs on the 2nd floor. I can’t put an AP on the 1st floor as there’s no ethernet wiring in that floor.

    What do you recommend regarding the 1st floor problem Dong? Thank you so much.

    Reply
      • Before I can figure it out myself, my question is this: for AiMesh node with wireless backhaul are they able to communicate with each other when placed on different floors? You wrote recommended distance between nodes is 12 meters with walls, or 23 meters with no walls. Can i assume walls also applies to floors? 🙂. If they can then my thought is to place an AiMesh node (wired backhaul to main router on 3rd floor) then another AiMesh node on the 1st floor backhauled wirelessly to the node on 2nd floor. What do you think Dong?Thank you so much.

        Reply
        • Sorry. I realize I’m not being very clear in my description. Let me clarify. So my idea is:
          1. Asus RT-AX58U as main router on 3rd floor
          2. RT-AC86U as AiMesh node on 2nd floor (wired backhaul)
          3. Then get a Lyra for the 1st floor node backhauled wirelessly to RT-AC86U on the 2nd floor.

          What do you think Dong? Thanks!

          Reply
          • You don’t want to use a tri-band (Lyra) in the mix, Albert. For one its the worst router, also it’s 3rd band will not be used at all. Again, just to be clear, I can’t go into specifics since I’m not there.

            Also, if you actually read the posts in their entirety, you’ll already know the answers. This is my last reply to this thread.

  78. Hi dong. I have an RT-AC86U which cannot connect to the internet. If i’m lucky it connects for 2 minutes. It’s very very unstable. But it works well as an AP. My question is
    1. can i use this an AiMesh node? Wireless or wired backhaul? Because i read for wired backhaul you’ll need to connect to the WAN port. Will it work?
    2. Is it feasible to repair the router? It’s out of warranty.

    Thank you .

    Reply
    • Albert,
      1. Yes, either will work but wired backhaul is the best. You can use any port but it’s recommended you use the WAN port. If you use the LAN port, it might take a bit longer (up to 5 mins) to establish the connection, during this time the entire network might be offline.
      2. If the WAN port is broken, chances are you can’t. If not, try putting Merlin firmware on it.

      Reply
  79. My current setup is an AC3100 for the host and an AI mesh node of an AC5300. I’m looking to start using WiFi-6, and so am thinking about replacing my main node with an AX11000, and retain the AC5300 node. Will this set up be compatible? I’m not sure how wifi 5 and wifi 6 routers interface with each other in an AI mesh node

    Reply
  80. Hi Dong,
    I’m still considering going with either wireless access points to some parts of my house or going with a mesh system like the AIMsesh, but one of the things that I “think” is different between a wired Mesh vs wireless access points is the channel overlap. In other words, all the nodes/devices on the 5ghz would be on channel 36 and all of the 2.4 ghz would be on channel 6 just to give an example of what I’m talking about. I would think wireless access points all setup on non-overlapping channels would provided better performance than a Mesh system with multiple nodes all on the same channels.

    Do you know if the AIMesh system uses the same 2.4 and 5 ghz channels for all nodes?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • If you leave the settings at Auto (which you should) the channels will change depending on the environment on each unit, Sean. If you put them in manually, they will (likely) remain the same across the mesh (not a good idea). But you can find out quite easily. More on that in this post.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong for the quick reply.

        I believe the Orbi will use the same channel across all mesh nodes. Are you saying the AIMesh system will use different channels for each mesh node if their is interference at that node location? That’s pretty cool.

        Reply
          • That’s cool and that used to not be the case according to a another forum post. If the auto setting allows this, why can’t I manually set each node to whatever channel I want?

          • You can, just not on each unit individually — you can’t configure a node directly in an AiMesh setup. But isn’t the best performance what you actually want? 🙂

          • Thanks again for your advice. Yes that makes sense and I definitely want the best performance. 😀

            I like the idea of having the nodes in a mesh or wireless access points on different channels from each other. If they are all on the same channel, they do have some overlap on the channel causing some congestion but I know I’m being picky here.

            I’ve considered Going with access points running with a controller to manage them, but most of the tp link and Ubiquiti access points are all ceiling mounted and I don’t want to run wires up to the ceiling. I already have wired my home using standard wall jacks. The ceiling mounted access points have the best performance when on a ceiling or placed strategically on a wall, and I want to place them on a table instead. There are some table mounted ones but they are either too expensive or not capable of being controlled by a software or hardware controller.

            Of course, I could just keep my current Orbi rb50 system which is great but I’m antsy to tinker a bit more. 😀

  81. Thank you for a thorough review.

    I have a 9000 sq ft house and am looking to do a wifi only mesh upgrade. Somehow, I have gotten better than you would think coverage using a nighthawk xr700 with two ex8000 extenders perfectly placed. I was thinking of upgrading this with 4-6 zen wifi routers in a wifi only mesh system, or using 4 zen wifi xt8 and an ax 88u as my the main node. Your review above makes me think sticking to the same routers through the aimesh is the best option. I’m trying to get the best combination without having to tear down walls and do wiring.

    What I am looking for is better coverage at the margins of the house, and more flexibility of where I can place the satellites. One ex8000 is placed where i need an ethernet connection, and i have sacrificed significant mbps by putting it there.

    Also, can aimesh routers be daisychained? I am okay with it loosing speed further out as some places only need 3-4 mbps. Asus makes it seem like they can but then they don’t come out and say it.

    Reply
    • For a home that large, Adeel, running network cables, at least for a part of it, is a must. Tri-band hardware helps but setting them up in a daisy chain topology is never a good idea. That said, what you have right now is about as good as can be in terms of speed.

      Reply
  82. Thanks for a comprehensive dive into Asus’ AI Mesh. My main router is the AC-RT88U and I’m thinking of getting something else to create the mesh but don’t want to spend too much because my house isn’t too large, and the only reason I need a mesh is that only one part of the house suffers dropout. I was thinking of getting a single Lyra Trio. Would love your feedback or alternative suggestions.

    Reply
    • The Lyra Trio will work, David. It will work really well if you have wired backhaul. You can keep the 88u as the main router.

      Reply
  83. My house isn’t huge, but being tri-level I have dead spots from the central router.

    The Asus Lyra mesh is only $99 for 3 refurb units on Amazon right now. Could it be coupled with Asus Blue Cave ($136) to get a 2-band/3-band combo, something like the Synology RT-2600ac/2200ac pair? I realize Synology has more Pro features, but I’m not so sure that I need them.

    Elsewhere, you mention that “in a wireless mesh setup, the RT2600ac will create a virtual 5 GHz network that works only as the backhaul band.” Can these Asus pieces be tweaked to do that?

    Reply
      • I just got my new modem (Moto MB8600) connected to Comcast. I’m starting with one Synology MR2200AC. Internet performance is vastly improved over the stock xFi gateway (Arris TG1682G). I had a lot of problems with intermittent data flows and am very happy with the change. I’ll add a second MR2200AC if it becomes necessary. Thanks for the solid advice.

        Reply
  84. Hello!
    I have just setup a new AIMesh system using a GT-AC5300 and RT-AC3100 that I recently acquired. I understand the issues with mixing bands, and have the GT is the primary and I’m using wired backhaul to the 3100.

    I already had all three bands setup on the GT individually not with Smart Connect as it has been my primary router for a few years. Am I correct in assuming the 3100 will offer the 2.4 and 5.1-1Ghz SSIDs backhauled to the GT, and the GT also the 5.1-2GHz for any device in its range in this configuration?

    I wasn’t sure if I should turn on the Smart Connect or leave it as is.
    Thanks!
    Bob

    Reply
    • If you use wired backhaul, Bob, then the RT-AC3100 will not use any of its bands as backhaul. In your situation, you can use Smart Connect, however, the 5GHz-2 band of the GT-AC5300 will likely be available as a separate SSID.

      Reply
      • Thanks. The 3100 is wired. And the 5Ghz-2 band is also available as you said as a separate SSID. It’s labeled as backhaul in the GUI fwiw, but I can connect to it np.

        Could I add a Lyra Voice AC2200 as a wireless mesh node and then use the 5Ghz-2 band as the backhaul?

        I think the way my house is layed out there is still one spot that might have a need…and that would cover everywhere.

        Thanks,
        Bob

        Reply
        • Yeap, that’s how it works, Bob. And yes, you can use the Voice as a wireless mesh node. It will automatically use the 5GHz-2 as the backhaul.

          Reply
          • Hi Dong,

            I’ve been experimenting with a setup in a new home. The home is wired with CAT6 an unmanaged switch.

            I recently purchased the 2 pack of the ZenWifi XT8. Setting those up with my 1Gbps connection was impressive. I got 500-700mbps both ways in most of my testing throughout the house. That was with a 2020 iPad Pro which supports WiFi 6.

            My problem is I don’t want to keep one of the XT8 units near my media panel. I have an ASUS RT-3100 in my old house that I was thinking I could keep in the media panel. I don’t need to use Wifi at all on that unit. I just want it to be a router and manage the PPPoE and vlan tag with CenturyLink. It will then be the uplink to my 8 port unmanaged switch that wires the house.

            When I set this system up via AiMesh. My top connection speeds dropped down to below 200mbps. I confirmed I had smart connect disabled. This is even with the 2.4ghz + 5 Ghz radio disabled in the professional tab.

            Is this a lowest common denominator problem with AiMesh and WiFi 5 vs 6? Is there anyway to utilize the AiMesh system to backhaul to my 2 XT8’s and have them exclusively provide WiFi 6 bands?

            If I set the 3100 up as a standard non AiMesh router and disable WiFi I still have to figure out some wiring/port scenarios to do the backhaul between the two switches. Not as clean as the AiMesh would have been.

            I’m also questioning if I should just return the XT8’s and get the 3 pack of ASUS AX Minis? I think I could live without the switch ports on the XT8’s. The mini’s don’t have the 160hz band though according to your review so feel like I’m capping myself? Or is that not important with a wired backhaul?

          • The main router determines most aspects of the AiMesh system Brent. So it’s not a good idea to use the oldest router at the position. But yes, getting the XD4 is a good idea. You can even get a combo of the RT-AX86U (as the router) and the XD4 as nodes.

          • Wow thanks for the super fast reply and confirming what I thought. Allows me to move forward with things faster.

            Per your review, although the Mini’s do not support the 160mhz it doesn’t seem to restrict performance and even gets faster than the XT8 in some of your tests. Is the 160mhz band used mostly for the 5ghz backhaul channel that minis don’t include?

            If I got 500mbps plus with any device I think I would be happy enough, even with the reduced management features of the XD4. Now I just hope I can fit it in my media cabinet.

            Love the site. Miss you Cnet videos! Will recommend this site to anyone looking for detailed reviews.

  85. We are in the midst of an extended power outage, and also no cable, so I’ve been running our network off of my Android phone thethered via USB to the RT-AC66R. which all of a sudden makes me want to always have an ASUS router. So maybe I just do as you say, get a new AIMesh capable headend router, and move the RT-AC66R to my wife’s office. I have another AP on the main level in old school AP mode, so maybe I really don’t need a real mesh system for now. Thanks.

    Reply
  86. It seems that I won’t be able to use my RT-AC66R as it’s too old to upgrade to AIMesh (correct me if I’m wrong). I would like to do this on the cheap if I can, and I’d like the main router, plus two satellites. I have a wired Ethernet on each floor. On the 3rd floor, I’d love a pass-through situation, whereby the wired Ethernet connects to the satellite, but I can still plug my wife’s computer via Ethernet. Any recommendations? Would these do the trick: https://amzn.to/3gJ6mjt

    Reply
    • Since you have wired your house, you can still use the RT-AC66R in the access point mode, Kenny. Just set it up as a normal router, then change the Operating Mode into “Access Point” then connect its WAN port to your main router. That will give you similar effect as AiMesh. And yes, the one you linked will get the job done. You can also put Merlin firmware on it, too.

      Reply
  87. Dong – amazing site and incredibly insightful/thorough analysis – thank you so much for your efforts. Here’s my issue:

    I have a 4000sqft 3.5 story brick house, and elected to go with full tri-band mesh setup — Asus GT-AX11000 as primary router with AI mesh setup for a RT-AX92U node. Although I will eventually use wired ethernet for backhaul, I went with wireless backhaul to start while we are still getting settled in the house. Generally very impressed with signal quality and throughput throughout house (I have 500Mbit fibre into house). One issue that has been popping up is with Sonos and Airplay wifi connectivity to various tvs and speakers (all bot within last year). It has worked seamlessly at times, but other times I’m not able to connect. When I check on things from the Asus Router app, it appears like issues arise when one of the devices is connected to the node at a time when the device looking to stream is connected through the primary router (or vice versa).

    Is this a common issue? Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening? I have latest firmware updates applied to each router as well as the speakers and tvs.

    ***Please note that I followed your suggestion and changed the name on the 2nd 5Ghz network — so it is not dedicated for wireless backhaul — doesn’t sound like this should be causing my problems but I mention just in case it is a factor

    Any ideas appreciated!!!

    Reply
    • Apparently not insightful enough since you still have questions, Geoff. 🙂

      In your case, most of the time is the IoT devices’ fault. They are rigid in terms of what Wi-Fi settings they can work with. That said, use your Wi-Fi settings in a compatible mode (or you can use a separate network for them, use one of the Guest networks but turn on the Intranet access — more here.) Name this network simple both in the name and the password. Make the name something sort with just a few letters, no number, spaces, or special characters (like “DKT” and NOT “Đông Know Tech”) and the password a string of numbers.

      Don’t use the app, use the web interface instead.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong. I am setting up a simply-named guest network with intranet access this weekend (using the web interface, not app;). Is the idea that all my problematic IoT devices (smart TVs and Sonos) use this Guest network exclusively? Now what about the devices doing the steaming – will they also need to be on this guest network all the time to avoid hiccups, or can I leave on regular wifi? Thx!

        Reply
        • Generally, Darling (I couldn’t help it! :)), you don’t want your IoT devices to be isolated (some might not work). So if you use the Guest network for them, make sure you turn on the Intranet access. Streamers that do NOT stream from a local source (like your NAS server) can be isolated, else they need to be part of your Intranet, too. More on that here.

          Reply
  88. Hey Dong, first let me say that you have one of the best sites out there for wireless solutions. I have a question that maybe you can help with. I purchased a zen wifi ax system that is giving me a lot of trouble and Asus support can’t figure it out. The main issue is that the node doesn’t seem to connect with anything but the couple wired devices I have near it. Everything else connects to the main router no matter how poor the signal or slow the speed. Unfortunately I have no option for a wired backhaul at this time so I guess no AP mode. Do you have any tips for improving this? I’m open to suggestions on either network or client side. I’m at a loss and currently regretting not just buying one powerful router (especially since neither Newegg or Asus will refund me so I’m out almost $500 if I can’t find a usable solution).

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • I’d recommend you update the system to the latest firmware, then reset it and set it up from the beginning, Stephen. After that, refrain from making too many changes, see how it works before further customization, and do that one step at a time.

      Reply
  89. Thanks. Follow-up question: Since (A) is non-mesh, can it be set up as an access point without being wired to the main router? Or maybe more generalized: can any of these nodes be AP’s without being wired? I didn’t know you could do that. I thought (probably wrong) that was the whole point of Mesh — you could have multiple “AP” nodes without having to wire them.

    Reply
  90. Hello. Thanks for a VERY thorough write-up. I wanted to ask your opinion about best way to set up my hardware.
    I have:
    A) RT-AC1750-B1 (non mesh)
    B) RT-AC86U (mesh)
    C) Two “Blue Cave” AC2600 units

    I have a wired connection from location of cable modem / router to back of house. Currently running (A) and (B) this way, with (A) as main connected to cable model and (B) as an AP via the wired connection.

    Now wanting to add the two AC2600’s as additional wireless mesh nodes.

    Any suggestions here?

    I’m suspect that the first (based on your article) is: Move the RT-AC86U to the be the main one connected to cable modem. Then, probably replace the RT-AC1750-B1 with one of the AC2600’s. Then use the other 2600 wirelessly. And just get rid of the AC1750-B1 ?

    Or is it OK to leave the non-mesh as the main, which would put the AC86U in a wired config as an AP, driving the mesh connection to the two wireless 2600’s ? Would that create a problem with overlapping signal from the mesh-capable 2600’s to the main non-mesh at front of house? Will they handoff OK?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • You can always use A as an access point (if you need another broadcaster), Geoff. Use B as the main router unit. Use the rest as AP or mesh node. Cable as backhaul is recommended. Hand-off is always hit or miss.

      Reply
  91. After your thorough review I took the plunge… got the GT-AX11000 paired with RT-AX92U running AiMesh for the first time via ethernet backhaul. Seems to be working alright, but not sure if related— my VPN client on the router cannot seem to connect to my VPN provider (NordVPN in my case). Before I bought the AX92U and ran the AiMesh I had no problem connecting the AX11000 to my VPN to enable all connected devices to work through it. Is this a known issue? Thank you!

    Reply
  92. Thanks Dong for a great review.
    I have the following setup:
    ASUS RT-AX88U as the mesh router at 192.168.1.1 and
    ASUS RT-AX86U as the mesh node at 192.168.1.18.
    I have them meshed via an Ethernet back haul and so far they are working well together.
    When I try logging into the GUI of the mesh node it redirects me to the GUI to the RT-AX88U.
    Is this meant to work like this? I am not supposed to log into the node directly once it is part of the mesh?
    If I reset the dBm value on the mesh router, will this be replicated on the mesh node?
    Thank you.

    Reply
  93. Thanks! I’ll give it a shot later and test the speeds out. Currently my desktop (wifi6 enabled) in my room is far away from the main router position, and couldn’t benefit from the 5G network. Hoping to see that I can get wifi6 in my room now

    Reply
  94. Hi Dong Ngo,

    I have a ASUS RT-AX58U(wifi6) and a RT-AC86U (wifi 5).Both are dual band and I’m currently using the 58U as the main router. Now I can get wifi 6 bandwith when I’m near it (58U), but I’m wondering if it is possible to swap things around? Say to use the 86U as the main router, then use 58U as the aimesh node. Will I then get wifi 6 when i’m around the 58U?

    Reply
    • In any case, Y, you can get Wi-Fi 6 speed when you use a Wi-Fi 6 client and connect it to the RT-AX58U, Y. And yes, you can switch their position around. Keep in mind though, in a wireless setup, the speed of the node unit (the extender) will be cut in half. More on that here.

      Reply
  95. Dong, nice article and helpful tuning point on signal hand-off between nodes. I would note that sync’ing the nodes was more of an adventure than I expected with a 5300 and Zenwifi AC where I only got it to work when using ethernet cable between units (upgraded to latest firmware for all with reset); it never worked with wifi even though signal was great and units were right by each other. Another thing Asus should put in their Aimesh FAQ on when things don’t work.

    Reply
  96. Allen Lai: I can tell you that dual RT-AC1900P routers with AiMesh and Merlin firmware have worked very well so far for me in two different homes I’ve set this up in. The routers can be bought more affordably than some of the newer ones but they are great performers. I’m using wired backhaul for the AiMesh node in both cases I’ve bought these for.

    Reply
  97. Dong, what a brilliant review and “how to”. Informative and real world which is so important for people who want to go into things with their eyes open. Thank you SO much.

    I’m about to embark on my 3 yearly home network upgrade, the $AU is not great bow days and being semi retired cost is a factor. I have a large two level home, I run a full domain with all the associated servers and have foster kids (5 currently) which adds up to 10 or more hardwired desktops and servers, a couple of games consoles and who knows how many mobile devices at any one time so I need plenty of routing power and good wifi coverage and dead spots have been an issue at times. I’ve been running multiple APs but it’s clunky.

    After your great work here the plan is to install a RT-AX88U as the primary router and two RT-AC66U-B1 as nodes with wired backhaul. I realise it’s not going to be plug and play buts that’s all part of fun right?

    Regards

    Ari

    Reply
    • Happy to have you, Ari. Your setup will work well. I’d recommend trying Merlin firmware on those, too. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  98. Ahhh right.

    I am struggling to choose between the ZenWifi AX XT8 and two RT-AX88U for a wireless backhaul mesh. The main reason being your reported speeds for Wi-Fi 5 clients connected to the satellite. The AX88U boasts 615 Mbits at 40ft while the XT8 is at 403 due to the XT8’s 5GHz-1 being 2×2; About a 25% drop. While the 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client performance is about equal, all of our devices are 2×2 and 4×4 Wi-Fi 5. I don’t know how much of a real-world effect this difference would have. It’s unlikely there will ever be more than 1 bandwidth hungry device connected to the satellite.

    Currently, two RT-AX88U would cost $620 and a set of XT8 is $450. $170 difference. I am also considering the CT8 since it has very similar numbers to the XT8 for Wi-Fi 5 clients but for $330. However, the satellite may be a bit further than 40′ from the primary router and I know the backhaul over Wi-Fi 6 4×4 will help overcome the distance.

    Reply
  99. In your AC-XT8 review, you report 792 Mbit for a Wi-Fi 6 client at 40 ft. Here you report 826 Mbit for a Wi-Fi 6 client at 10ft from the satellite router which is 40ft from the main router. How is this possible? The satellite router is a Wi-Fi 6 client (of the main router) at 40ft, right? Presumably this would mean it would have a speed of ~792 Mbit. So how is it possible to deliver a higher speed of 826 Mbit to its clients?

    I think I am missing something there.

    Reply
  100. I’d like to stay within a <$500 budget, so I was thinking of getting the RT-AX88U as the primary router and the RT-AX58U as the satellite. Together, it comes out to around $489 ($310.68 + $179). Thoughts? Would you recommend a different combo?

    Reply
  101. Now I’m really confused because the AC68 and AC86 each have two filters, one for each band, with the option to allow or disallow based on mac.

    Reply
  102. Susan – see my set up (Dong’s recommended mix) – GT-AX11000 (beast) as primary router along with XT8 as two nodes. Consider XT8 devices as nodes. And an extra XT8 few weeks later or so.

    Reply
  103. Update on Zen XT8 with GT-AX11000 (as primary router) – almost 10 days of continuous network with zero downtime, stable internet throughout the house and seamless switching between nodes. Super happy with the set up and thanks to Dong. He is the Tech Guru!

    When the prices come down and the units become more available, I want to add an extra node of xt8.

    Current firmware versions appear to be stable at least with my wired backhaul.

    Reply
  104. Thank you, Dong, for all this information. I am very grateful for your knowledge!

    We have an Asus ZenWifi AX XT8 pair, working well, but our house is L-shaped and multistory, with many stone, brick, and metal obstacles, so we are still having trouble getting wifi to certain corners and I’m interested in additional nodes. Do I understand you correctly that it would be best to select another ZenWifi triband product (and should it also be WiFi 6?)? If so, this seems to limit me to the XT8 and CT8 models (the AX mini is dual band). I assume adding another XT8 would be the simplest route, but I’m wondering if the less expensive CT8 will work just fine–can you advise? Thanks again.

    Reply
    • It’ll work, Susan, but unless you use wired backhaul (in which case the Mini is great!) mixing Wi-Fi standards in an AiMesh system is generally not a good idea.

      Reply
  105. I may very well be confused regarding backhaul but earlier you also noted under AiMesh’s shortcomings:
    “There’s no way to manually set a band of your liking, 2.4GHz or 5GHz, to work as the backhaul.”
    What I’m wondering is if using the MAC filter to restrict a device(s) to 2.4 or 5g would work?

    Reply
  106. Thank you Dong. Your responses are greatly appreciated. Day 2 and still no connection issues or lags or downtime etc. Working flawlessly.

    I think having a wired backhaul is probably removing some of the issues others are reporting about connection losses, lags on AiMesh infrastructure.

    Reply
  107. AiProtection takes away half my WiFi speed. Is that how its supposed to work?. Another thing is how do I get rid of all those Offline devices that I no longer have in the Asus Router app? I managed to delete them on the Web UI but not on the app. Thanks Dong and have a great day

    Reply
    • Nope, that shouldn’t be the case, Peter. And I’m not sure how to do that. I don’t use the app at all. I’d rather use the mobile browser and the regular interface instead.

      Reply
  108. Hi Dong – Rocky here. I received my Zen XT8 last evening and set up it as two nodes to my GT-AXC11000 creating Aimesh. Since my whole house is wired, I connected the nodes to the router directly using a wire. Updated the firmware on all. So far, the connection seems stable but its only been 12 hours.
    For security – Disabled UPNP, WPS, changed default admin and password names, changed default LAN IP, and not connected to Trend Micro given their questionable data collection for QOS etc.

    Questions:
    1. On the Aimesh page, I clicked on each node and under the connection priority type, removed Auto and clicked “Ethernet” for each of the two nodes. Is this now a wired backhaul?
    2. The second 5 Ghz band – I have unhidden it and chosen the option of “AX Mode only” /”Wifi 6″ – it works but then I notice that my old laptop with N mode wifi also connected to it. So, am I missing anything
    3. Any specific setting I should do to make Wifi more streamlines – I saw a Smart Connect enabled and clicked on it and it took me to a page with a lot of jargon. Anything I should do here.
    4. Would it make a difference in one of the nodes speed if I connect the 2.5 Gigabit port on ax11000 to one of xt8 nodes. I did this but then the nodes was showing as wifi and not wired for some reason
    5. Also, i did not create a separate 2.4 and 5 ghz channels. Just one SSID for both. Is this a good idea.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Rocky,

      1. Yes. You’ll also see a wired icon next to each node on the list.
      2. That’s probably because the AX-only mode doesn’t propagate to the nodes, or it’s just wrong reporting of the interface.
      3. Nope, just ignore those.
      4. I haven’t tried that but stick with the Gigabit port for now.
      5. That’s fine. You do have the 3rd band separate, that’s enough.

      Reply
  109. I just want to say thanks again for this great guide and information. I’ve setup an AiMesh network now using the latest ASUSWRT-Merlin firmware release with two Asus RT-AC1900P routers. I like the single interface for both devices and seeing the devices transfer to the closer/strong signal router right in the GUI. With Merlin supporting AiMesh as of last year there is no longer any reason to pick between the stock firmware to get AiMesh, and going with the more functional Merlin firmware.

    Reply
  110. I had the same problem and adressed it to Asus, also the backhul degraded itself to 2.4. An engineer contacted me soon and offered a beta firmware with a fix. Installed and now I have the star topology steady as a rock ánd on wifi6 (5.2 ghz). He said next firmware the fix would be incorporated

    Reply
  111. Rats! I hadn’t clocked that the RT-AX88U was only dual band. Had I known that at the time I would have spent the extra £80 and got the GT-AX11000… however I’ve just noticed that I can return my RT-AX88U up until the 31st of July. Amazon to the rescue! Thanks Dong…

    Reply
  112. Hi, and thanks for the very comprehensive review.
    So I took the plunge bought a RT-AX88U a couple of months back which has been working great.
    However we’ve just moved to a bigger house in the lsat week and a half, so I got a twin pack RT-AX92U to use as an AiMesh system (intended to run over wi-fi) with the AX88U connected to the modem. The set-up seemed very easy via the ASUS Router app, but I’m finding that when my devices connect via the 92U’s they seem to intermittently lose internet connectivity. It was actually better when I switched them off!
    Where do I even start to try and figure out what’s wrong?

    Reply
    • As I mentioned in the post, Paul, it’s not a good idea to mix tri-band and dual-band in a wireless setup and is a terrible one when you use the dual-band as the main router in this case. (Read the post again). You can try using one of the 92U as the main router. Or better yet, get your home wired and get a couple of dual-band AiMesh routers.

      Reply
  113. I have a tri-band Asus AX89X router as my main router and want to set up in an IMesh network using a dual band ASUS AC88U as the slave node using an Ethernet backhaul . Is there anything I have to adjust on the AX89X for this system to work well?

    Thank you

    Reply
  114. Dong, that’s great info. I have an Aimesh setup in a small building. I have 1 router and 4 nodes – all are RT-AC68U models. I notice that the nodes just seem to randomly connect to another node instead of the node closest to it. Is there a way to configure them so that the nodes will connect in a linear formation? For example: Router sends signal to the 1st node that node passes the signal to the next closest and so on. I can see on my Asus Router app on my phone that the nodes are not connecting to the node that would serve it best and in some cases, it connects to a node that’s the farthest away from it. Thanks.Jim

    Reply
  115. I have a RT3100 and want to add another router as a node (satellite). Any recommendations for something under $100?

    Also, are the LAN ports in the back of the node active? I have a device that will be near the node that has to be hardwired for internet.

    Reply
    • There’s a list at the top of the post, Joe. Pick one that fits your budget, or you can get a used/refurbished one. And yes, you can use the network ports in the entire mesh as mentioned in the post.

      Reply
  116. Great posts, thanks for all the ASUS advice so far in helping me with my purchases of new network equipment t to wifi6. My question is that if the Ethernet backhaul connection is a max speed of 1GBS on a gigabit connection from a ASUS AX6000 router to another ASUS router to create the AiMesh system, is there any point in the node router being able to deliver more than 1GBS via its Wi-Fi? I’m looking at the AX3000 router over the AX1800 router as a second node and am thinking the AX3000 would be a waste of performance in the set up as the most I could ‘feed’ into it would be the 1GBs from the Ethernet backhaul? I’m I missing something here? Would there be a be if it of the AX3000 over the AX1800 as a node point when using a Ethernet backhaul connection? Thanks in advance for your comments.

    Reply
  117. Hi, found out what the problem was, it was the firmware on the main router rolled it back to previous firmware and its now working. Thanks for the reply though.

    Reply
  118. Hi, I have a gt-ax11000 as the primary router as soon as I add a zenwifi ct8 as a node the asus app no longer works. Its says its doing it ie rebooting router, but nothing happens. Any ideas please.

    Thanks Andy

    Reply
    • Restart your phone, maybe, Andrew. But honestly, I don’t use the app. I only use the interface. You can use the interface with the phone’s mobile browser, too, much better that way.

      Reply
  119. Dong, Thank you for this amazing detail. I have been following this page for some time and finally pulled the trigger on a AiMesh system. My main router is an RT-AX56U and I recently purchased two RT-AC66u_B1 units. I have everything setup from following your walk-through.
    My other issue/concern is some of my Nest cameras are still showing 1/2 bars of signal strength when connected. I have reset the cameras thinking it was still connected to my main router and its still an issue.
    The odd thing is out of 36 wireless devices – one B1 has two devices and the other has 11 then my main is handling everything else.
    Ideas?

    Reply
  120. Hi Dong. So here is the setup I have: 2 GT-AC5300 Tri Band Routers. Now, a couple of things. The main router I am using (as the “Control Router”) is not in the best place, but I have no real choice. It is in my office (bedroom 3, I suppose). It is at least in an open space away from my Desktop and Laptop, and on a sturdy desk. My house is what you would call “Medium Sized”…not sure about the square footage, but I can find out. Anyways, the second GT-AC5300 is oh 15-20 feet away in the living room connected to my consoles and my Dish network Hopper. The XBOX ONE X and PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo switch are all connected to the node router with ethernet cables, but the connection between the source and node is still “wireless”. So, I am not the most tecnical guy on this stuff, so please bear with me. My XBOX One X…when I do the speed analysys on it, goes from a low of 326 to a high of 650 mps. I have used two different “WiFi Anaylzers” to figure out the best consistent channel and the green bars on the router node page of ASWRT show full 4 green bars. So it looks like the connection from the node is as good as it can be. My question to you (sorry if I gave way to much detail here)…is, with comcast’s 1Gig service, what would you expect say the Mps to be on say my XBOX ONE X…the other console connected is a PS4 Pro, it varies from say 127 mps to a high of 230 mps. I have NO idea if this is what I am supposed to be getting, or if I should be getting more. I am sorry this is a long message, I know you are a busy person, but if you could take the time to just let me know if this sounds right, or I am doing something wrong…I would very much appreciate it.

    PS. By the way, I thought about doing a “wired Connection” to the GT node, but I would be using power line adapters. My house has “looped Wiring” and so I am unsure if that would or would not interfere with said powerline adapters, any thoughts on that?

    Again, any help would be great, just whenever you get a chance. Thanks very much Dong:)

    Devin Leonard

    Reply
    • The distance is not as important as the stuff you have in between the routers, Devin. More here. Also, it’s generally not a good idea to use the internet to test your Wi-Fi speeds. More here. I’d be more concerned if you have bad online experiences, don’t get too hung up on the numbers.

      Reply
  121. Okay, thanks for your info re: requiring a single main router to connect to the ISP. I was hoping AiMesh would be a suitable replacement/upgrade to my aging OpenMesh/CloudTrax wireless ‘g’ (OLD) mesh that was capable of dynamically routing traffic across 8 notes and multiple ISP connections. Really liked the ‘self healing’ aspect (i.e. if a node went down, it would find another path within the mesh to reach the outside world)

    Reply
  122. First time considering AiMesh– does the tech allow for different nodes within the same AiMesh to connect to different internet sources (ISP)? I know I can dual-wan on a single unit for load balancing, but I’m thinking of plugging in different nodes into two separate ISP internet sources within my same house.

    Reply
    • No, Limbo. You can think of AiMesh (or any home mesh systems) as a single router plus some extenders. Everything is handled by the router unit, other units are just there to expand the network.

      Reply
  123. Dear Dong Ngo,

    Should I get Asus Zenwifi XT8 or get of AX58u/ax56u combo aimesh? This is for a double storey house. Does the 802.11ax really make a difference? Or just get the Deco M9 plus without 802.11ax will be just as good? Main applications are web browsing, video/music streaming and some gaming. Appreciate your inputs. Thanks so much!

    Cheers.

    Reply
  124. I have been using Asus router and access points for many years without an issue. For roaming assistant, I usually set the values around 70dBM.
    Last year, I changed to Asus AIMesh, and found it is not very stable, sometimes devices disconnected. AIMesh still needs roaming assistant, but it can only be configured at main router with one fixed value. I prefer to have different value on router and nodes, so, after 2 months, I changed back to Access Point mode. (main router kept in AImesh mode, does not matter).
    After reading your review of AIMesh, I decide to give it another try last week. And after just 3 days, I had to changed back to AP mode.
    I guess the main issue is that under AIMesh, router and nodes are sharing the exact same control channel, devices interfering with each other.
    With AP mode, I can customize each individual nodes channel, avoiding conflict with my neighbors channels.
    Most people choose AIMesh are tech-savvy, and they can handle most settings, I assume mesh network works for those who are not familiar with router setting. Anyway, they still need to configure the main router, which is the most challenging task.

    Reply
    • Your observation is on point, Brian. Thanks for sharing. AiMesh generally works better when you use the same routers or routers of similar specs.

      Reply
  125. Bugger, missed that. So I’m really limited for a tri-band wireless mesh setup to another 5300 then?
    Maybe I can find another one for a decent price…

    One more question if I may. Why are there so few tri-band routers? Is/was it just overkill?
    And would two 5300s perform better then say the AC88U and say the AC1900 extender? I’m guessing yes.

    Thanks again for your time and insight!

    Reply
  126. I have another question for you. AIMesh mode vs AP Mode STA roaming. I know this also heavily dependent on the client if they support 802.11k/v/r/. Have you tested roaming hand-off between AIMesh and AP Mode? Mostly how well each mode handle WiFi VoIP.

    Reply
  127. Dong – Thanks for all your effort! You clearly know your tech!

    I’ve read through most of this and wanted to confirm my suspicions.

    I have the ROG GT-AC5300 (got a great deal on it, otherwise I would not have purchased it, very $$), that is in AP mode. I have an OPNsense firewall as my main router. My house i