Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

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

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

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

READ  Picking the Best Asus AiMesh Router Combos: The Real-World Experience

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 combos.

  • 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. (Note: Turning this feature on means you put your privacy at risk. ) I’ve used AiProtection for years, with many different routers, and it proved to be quite useful. On the other hand, Parental Control could improve 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 generally don’t update the firmware automatically.)
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. You can also daisy-chain the wired backhaul connections when having more than two hardware units.
  • 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. In fact, a Wi-Fi 6E tri-band router is more like a dual-band router, so to speak.


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

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.

Update: With AiMesh 2.0, there’s now an option to group all three bands into one network via the Tri-band SmartConnect when you use wired backhaul. This option is first available in the ZenWiFi family, but all tri-band routers will likely get it over time. AiMeshh 2.0 is more applicable to Wi-Fi 6 broadcasters. Wi-Fi 5 hardware might not get all of its improvements.

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

Generally, wired backhaul delivers the best performance. It also gives you the flexibility of using a different type of hardware — tri-band, dual-band, Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, etc. — with a high chance of success. So always use it when possible — get your home wired! And then keep the following in mind.

Tri-band and wired backhaul

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.

Important note: A purpose-built tri-band system — like the ZenWiFi XT8 or CT8 — generally has its firmware tuned for a wireless setup. As a result, developers focus on this configuration and might release firmware not necessarily optimized for the wired backhaul scenario.

Wired and wireless backhaul mix

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.

Dual-band and tri-band mix

Mixing 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.

When using a tri-band router and a dual-band node, the 5GHz-2 band is only available at, well, the router unit.

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 consistently work in all scenarios. 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 combos will get the Guest network throughout and not just at the router unit. (Applicable to only one Guest network per band.)
  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.

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.

Here’s the thing, 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.

Also, as a standalone device, each AiMesh router can deliver three Guest networks per band. However, in a mesh setup, you can only make only the first Guest network of each band system-wide, when applicable.

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 AiMesh 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 use 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: How 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 these in mind:

  • It’s 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.
  • Wi-Fi doesn’t follow human logic in terms of distances. Within a certain range where signals are consistently strong (or weak) to a certain extent, devices might not see anything better or worse between closer or father broadcasters.
  • 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.

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

  1. Hello and thank you for the excellent articles.

    Currently I have the ASUS RT-AC88U as my only router and our ISP is supposed to be giving us UP TO 400mbs. I’m currently building an addition to my home and need to rework my network. I’ve been reading the different articles here and have a few questions.

    1. Is the GT-AX11000 AiMesh compatible to use as the primary router with the old AC88U as the node.

    2. Can I connect a switch to the GT-AX11000 to serve the hardwired devices without losing too much latency?

    3. Do outlets with cat6 connections lose latency? I’m debating whether to put network connections on each wall of the 3 new rooms. Mostly for convenience, since all the outlets wouldn’t be used.

    FYI. We will have 2 Xbox’s, 2 computers, a network printer and a TV hardwired. We will also be adding a Synology NAS. As well as the 20 or so other Wi-Fi devices (phones, google tv and hubs) most of which will be on the node.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the comprehensive article, Dong, much appreciated.

    I have a zen wifi ct8 AC mesh system but am not able to enable triband smart connect across the system, even when I select wired backaul and connect via ethernet cable. Asus have indicated triband smart connect is not currently available once a node is connected via Ai mesh.

    Your update note in this article suggested this should be now possible. Is it only possible via the xt8 model?

    Reply
  3. Hi

    I have 2 GT-AC5300
    one GT-AC5300 is a main router
    last one used to AiMesh via 5.2Ghz radio
    in AiMesh node I see have 3 Radio 2.4Ghz + 2 x 5.1Ghz
    My Question:
    Could I disable radio 2.4GHz in AiMesh node and my system will work fine ?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • You can disable the 2.4GHz band on the router and it’ll be disabled on the node, too, Quang. But you can’t do that just on the node.
      Alternatively, you can:

      1. Separate the bands and just leave the 2.4GHz alone or use it for a specific set of devices. Or:
      2. Use the node in the access point mode. This way you can configure its bands however you like.

      Reply
  4. Hi Dong,

    A couple questions:

    1) Would you tweak any of the default configuration settings on the main router (ie universal beamforming, SIP passthrough, roaming assistance etc)? Or would you only tweak those if you had performance issues?

    2) In a wired backhaul AIMesh setup what RSSI signal strength of a 5ghz client (lets say an iPhone) would you recommend to place the second (and subsequent) wired nodes so as to help with client roaming and reduce overlap? Or does overlap not matter as much with AIMesh since the nodes are all on the same channel?

    Reply
  5. Hi Dong,

    Read several of your articles. Very helpful, thank you.

    I have a 6500 2.5 level brick house and want good solid WiFi inside and out. Have gigabit internet. I purchased 4 x Ax82U and currently have them in AImesh mode.

    Would AP mode be better or worse in my situation?

    Reply
      • Thank you. I do have them all hardwired.

        That said, if I keep them all in AIMesh mode, would there any differences between keeping all 4 of the nodes the AX82U’s or would it help to get the AX86u/AX88u as the main unit and use either these 82u’s as the other nodes (or some other compatible Asus router as the other nodes in AIMesh)?

        Reply
        • I’d say it’ll make no difference in your case, Shawn, unless you have Gig+ or faster Internet. Check the reviews for more.

          Reply
  6. Hi Dong,

    I am using a RT-AC5300 as the main router and 2 ZenWifi AX as nodes and 1 RT-AC68U as a node. I am aware that you recommend using the newest as the main router, but I experienced I get a better result with the AC5300 as the main router (which I also believe is more powerful in certain aspects). Do you recommend that I use another (AX) router as the main router?

    Reply
  7. Dong, thank you for the in-depth review and advice. I hope you can help with this question. I have an AiMesh with RP-AC55 “repeater” in my garage, and Ethernet backhaul to an RT-AC68U router in my lower story. For devices in the garage, the repeater signal is much stronger (four bars) than the router signal (one bar). Yet they roam from the repeater to the router. Is there any way to bind the garage devices to the repeater? I don’t fully understand the interaction of roaming assist, roaming block list, and connection binding. I tried decreasing the power output of the router, but and increasing the roaming assist threshold to -55 dBM, but still the garage devices sometimes roam to the router. Even reconnecting a garage device doesn’t cause it to select the repeater. But curiously, if I go through the process of reselecting the WLAN on a garage device, it always connects to the repeater initially. If I could have the repeater (but not the router) advertised two SSIDs, then I could configure garage devices to the one SSID that was unique to the repeater, but this doesn’t appear possible. I’ve thought about putting the repeater in AP mode, with a separate SSID. But then I’d have to configure all my mobile devices with to connect to both SSIDs, and I suspect that roaming between them, as it would depend on the devices’ roaming logic (no roaming assist) would not be so seamless as it is today. ASUS has not been helpful. I’m running the current, standard ASUS firmware on both devices. Any idea?

    Reply
    • My idea is you’re being cheap and expecting the world, Randy. Spend a bit more time on the site and you might find out what you should do. Follow the linked posts on this post. Read, pay attention, and invest in a decent set of gear. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Dong,

    I have a large (4700 sq ft) house where I run two R7800 (one router and one AP mode) connected via hardline right now. I have Gig internet right now (1000/40). My plan is to buy new Asus routers and use AIMesh. If I have a lot of 5GHz devices, do I still want to get Tri-band to have more bandwidth or will having a mesh of dual-band router effectively give me enough 5GHz bandwidth? Does adding more routers give each router the same bandwidth or not because they are on the same channels?

    Reply
      • Dong,

        Just found your page today and I truly appreciate your post. I purchased the Netgear Orbi system on Monday and hate it already. It has had nothing but trouble and their tech support was horrible. That had me researching other options and today I purchased 2 x RT-AC5300 in the hopes that I will be able to get a stable Wi-Fi mesh system going.

        Do you think 2 x RT-AC5300 will work well together and be stable as they are both the same. Lastly I have been reading about the people using original firmware or the Merlin firmware. Do you have anything written up on the differences and why people use the Merlin firmware over the standard?

        I truly appreciate your time.

        Reply
  9. Hi Dong,
    Great site! I need some clarification on the wired backhaul set-up that I couldn’t find mentioned anywhere (so much info!). Your description says the node(s) must be wired through the main AiMesh router on the way to the modem/gateway (main “in front”). This ASUS page shows AiMesh set-ups where the nodes can arrive “in parallel” at a network switch or the modem/gateway as long as the main AiMesh router is in AP mode. https://www.asus.com/US/support/FAQ/1044151 Took some digging to find it. Their other pages only mention scenario 1.

    I would like to use scenario 3 as my xFinity XB7 gateway with gigabit service is buried inside a closet where my home cable/telephone/CAT 5e ethernet network all come together in a network cabinet. I already use a RT-AX88U at the front of my house as an access point like in scenario 3 and don’t use the xFinity built-in wireless (turned off).

    To improve speed at the back of my house I am considering plugging in one XT8 as a node at an ethernet connection at the back of the house (will look nicer in the open than another 88U) and using the 88U where it is now as the main AiMesh unit still in AP mode. Due to distance and because I am wired already, I don’t want to use wireless backhaul. I also don’t want to stick the 88U in the closet and maybe have to buy a third router to get good coverage in front.

    1) Any issues you see with this or why you don’t mention scenarios 3 and 4?
    2) In #3 and #4, I see they show the Main AiMesh Router connected with the LAN port, not WAN port. Look correct to you? Why?

    Thank you. Scott

    Reply
    • Some of the info on the page seems completely wrong, Scott. But you need to bring that up to Asus. Just follow what I said on this page. I can’t afford to address the stuff that other people do.

      Reply
  10. Hi Dong,

    I purchased the RT-AX92U and am enjoying the quality of the AI Mesh.
    But on the node under management there is a setting called Bonding/ Link aggregation. You can either enable of disable it. Do you know what that setting is for?

    Thank you,
    Frank

    Reply
  11. I consider the AIProtection to have a strong element of privacy risk. Trend Micro can legally obtain the knowledge of every website the user visits, and at one time the router owner was required to tell those using their system that their emails might be sent to Trend. I spent a half hour digging through multiple layers of what I find to be “shell gamed” EULA and privacy agreements and did not find that, but here is my citation.
    {Link removed}

    Don’t get me wrong, I am running AI protect on the router that this message will go through, and I appreciate you and your site. OTOH ignoring risks does not make them go away. Risks need to be assessed and accepted, ameliorated, or eliminated.

    Reply
  12. I have 2 nodes now on my AiMesh, AX82U with TUF-AX3000 (Asian version only I believe) and AX55U as nodes.

    Was discussing about Mesh system in another forum, their conclusion is that having a high end node is unnecessary in Asus AiMesh system, as the main router will handle all the processing and routing. Is it correct?

    I have to add, all my nodes are connected by wire to the main router.

    Reply
  13. Hi Dong,

    I am wanting to increase my wifi coverage and speeds in my house as well eliminating my extender to have only one SSID network. I currently have ASUS RT-AC68R router in my home office, and am using bonded MoCA 2.5 adapters to carry signal to the range extender in the basement.

    Would you suggest purchasing a new ASUS router to take advantage of AiMesh, with the new router in the office/cable modem and AC68R in AiMesh mode or AP mode in the basement connected via the MoCA? Or would I be better off purchasing a mesh wifi system?

    My internet speeds are 200/10. No Wifi 6 devices. ~10 clients in household.

    Thanks for the help!

    Reply
      • Yes I have read that article as well, for my setup, where one router does not provide sufficient Wifi coverage in a home, you suggest using a mesh network solution. With my ability to do wired backhaul via MoCA and sub-gigabit speeds you suggest ZenWifi AX Mini, so that would be a better solution than pairing my current AC68R with a AC86U?

        And if I wanted to future proof a bit for Wifi 6 devices and/or increasing internet speeds a pair of Asus RT-AX8xU routers would be recommended.

        Reply
        • Update: I purchased AC86U to use as AiMesh router, it is connected to my old AC68U as AiMesh node with ethernet backhaul via MoCA 2.0. I can now get reliable 5 gHz wifi and internet speeds (200/10 with my ISP) throughout the house with one SSID. I am very pleased. More expensive mesh solutions wouldn’t have provided any additional benefit for my household. Your website was very helpful understanding wifi better, thank you!

          Reply
  14. Dong, thanks much for the great info – it sure helped me get my AIMesh setup and running. Still have to work on keeping the right clients connected to the right nodes!

    Do you see AIMesh as the home and smaller system answer to separate routers and distributed APs like in large commercial setups? If so, what do you think about putting the primary router close to the network switches and patch panel and incoming cable modem where a router belongs, and adding (wired) nodes where they belong so radios can give the best signal coverage? Turn off the primary router radios, or just assume they will not do much good in the basement 🙂

    Currently using AX86U primary in living room, AC86U node in family room. If I went this way, move AX86U to basement network area, add something like AX92U as living room node? Make any sense?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Read the post again, John. What you want to do works. However, you don’t want to use a tri-band router as the node of a dual-band primary router.

      Reply
  15. Regarding the anticipated Guest network over nodes, I understand that firmware v3.0.0.4.386 and latter DOES support this. There are comments in forums to work with Guest network#2 and not #1.

    Reply
    • This depends on the combo, Liviu. But yes, that works now for most combos, as long as the router unit support system-wide Guest network and all units run 386 firmware or later.

      Reply
  16. Hi, I just purchased a set of three ZenWifi Mini’s (XD4) and am trying to get the Traffic Analyzer function to work but it does appear in the menu. Does the XD4 support the Traffic Analyzer function?

    Reply
  17. Dong,

    Great and informative article. Thanks for your efforts! I have a simple question that may have been answered in the article, but I’ll ask it anyway. You said that it’s possible to mix Merlin and stock FW devices in an AIMesh setup (I did read the article lol), so here’s my question…I have an RT-AC88U (running the latest version of Merlin) currently, and I’m going to add an RT-AC66U B1 as an AIMesh node (it should be here this weekend). Is it better to update the AC66U to Merlin or leave it stock? Obviously, part of the answer has to do with the FW version that is on the device when it arrives, but what is the best practice? IDK if it matters, but I’ll be using ethernet as backhaul. Thanks in advance for your assistance with this.

    Reply
      • Thanks to your fantastic and in depth explanation, I’ve had my AIMesh system up and running (merlin firmware) for almost 2 months. It’s been great! I do have another network/fiber internet connection question, but I don’t know where to post it, so I’m posting it here. Sorry if it’s the wrong place. I have AT&T gigabit fiber, and when I run speed tests from the ATT modem interface, I get speeds commensurate to that. BUT, when I run a speed test from my wired PC (or really any wired connection), I get speeds closer to 700Mbps up and down. My router is an ASUS RT-AC88U, and I’m wondering what is a normal level of speed loss between the modem and router. When I had Spectrum cable, I’d usually get download speeds in the 975Mbps area so I know my hardware will work at higher speeds. If I’m out of the normal loss, can you point me to an article that might help me tune the router settings? Thanks, and again I’m sorry if I posted this in an incorrect area,

        Reply
  18. Hi Dong,

    Great networking site, fantastic work! I admit I have not read every comment but has there been any mention of the use of “Wi-Fi Agile Multiband” and/or “Protected Management Frames”? I was having issues with the hand off between wire-backhauled aimesh router/node on the 5Ghz band, even after adjusting the roaming settings. I noticed in one of your screen shots you hade those 2 setting off on your 5GHz band and I believe they are off by default on the 2.4GHz band. I disabled them and now I’m changing nodes flawlessly and almost instantaneously. My question is why do they need to be off (or really what the heck do they do)? Is there a short answer or a link that could explain those settings?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Hi Dong,

    Thank you for your wonderfully informative posts, they have taught me a lot. My situation is that my house is between single router and mesh size. I have a 2,500 square foot old house with plaster walls and the cable internet only comes into the house via a single spot against a cinderblock wall in the basement, making wiring/rewiring a burden and putting a lot of barriers on the wifi signal. My previous router (an ARRIS SBG10) just wasn’t cutting it (probably obvious to you). I upped my internet service and got an ARRIS SB8200 modem, with the goal of also strengthening the wifi network and adding parental controls (I did read your post where you proposed they were a gimmick, but for now my kid won’t be able to figure out how to beat it). I also need the new wifi setup quickly . I purchased a Netgear RBK572 system and it’s working great but Netgear hasn’t figured out how to add parental controls to RBK572 yet, a point I missed when I was researching mesh systems. Anyway, the Asus XT8 dual packs are sold out everywhere, so I cant get them quickly. There are single XT8 router units available for the same cost as RT-AX86U routers. If needed I would be willing to eventually swallow the extra $50 to buy 2 single XT8s as opposed to the pair. However, given my in between size, would you recommend buying the single XT8 unit, and seeing if that’s sufficient on its own, knowing I could always add a node or is it better to get the stronger RT-AX86U also with the possibility of adding a node but being stuck with a dual band wireless mesh.

    Thank you,
    Dan S

    Reply
    • I believe the RBK572 has some blocking features, Dan. If you’re looking for something you can use on your mobile device via an app with a login account, it’s likely doing your children more harm than good. Sure it might be able to keep your kids from certain things, but the app will collect information on your children for marketing purposes. Anyhow, if your home is not wired, I’d always go with Tri-band hardware.

      Reply
      • Thank you!!! I appreciate your advice and quick reply. When I chatted with Netgear tech support they said there were no parental controls yet.

        Best,
        Dan

        Reply
    • Dear Mr Ngo, would the converse be ok? I live in an apartment with thick concrete walls. I have 1 Gbps plan. I currently have an AC88u as my router and an AC66u as a node. Geographically the AC88u is in the middle of the apartment and the AC66u with wired backhaul is in the front. But I have poor wifi signals in the back of the apartment.

      I was planning to get a CT 8 and use 1 as my main router, move the AC88u to the front of the house with a wired backhaul and the other CT 8 node in the back of the apartment on a wireless backhaul. Keeping the 2 CT8 as wireless backhaul as per your advice.

      Would that work?

      Reply
  20. Hi,
    I have Asus RT-AC5300 as my primary router and I only use dual band mode.
    I’m planning to buy ASUS RT-AC1200 as AiMesh node and connect it wirelessly.
    Will it work ?

    Reply
  21. Hi Dong – thanks so much for the excellent website, I’ve learned a lot!
    I’m running an ZenWiFi AX XT8 AX6600 combo with dedicated, wireless backhaul (wired backhaul is not possible for that node). I want to add an additional node, which I could connect with a wired backhaul to the router unit. In general, you mention that mixing tri-band with dual-band is not recommended, but I wonder whether in this specific situation I can simply get a dual-band node and connect it directly to a LAN port of the router? Will this impact the existing wireless backhaul & other wifi settings? And do I have to configure the new node specifically (eg. “binding” it to the router or preferable backhaul) to prevent the dual-band unit from slowing down my other node? Finally, any suggestion re. which (dual-band) router to get for my set-up? Thanks a lot & sorry if you already answered these specific questions

    Reply
  22. Hi Dong, I’m replacing my current AP setup of AC86U primary + AC66U as AP, with AIMesh: new AX86U primary + current AC86U as node. Merlin firmware. Of course will use ethernet between, but the path goes through 2 switches, shared with other traffic, and about 50+ meters of cable total. Is there any concern with using this shared switched path for backhaul? Any good way to check or test if the backhaul path is causing any issues? Pings all < 1 ms.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • No, that’s fine, John. I have had the same setup for a couple of months now. The switches won’t cause any issues. Just make sure they are Gigabit (or faster).

      Reply
      • Hey Dong, I have a similar set-up, dsl-AC68U as the main router, connected via Ethernet to an RT-AC68U in a garden office 30 meters away. I’m thinking of upgrading my LAN to 2.5g with AX86 units and a new NAS. I’d need a switch between the routers to make use of the 2.5g on the NAS. I tried putting a 1g switch in between my current routers and the mesh failed. The node just seemed to act like a dumb switch with no WiFi. Any ideas?

        R

        Reply
        • What you said didn’t make a lot of sense, Rory. Try reading the post again. Using a switch in between the routers should be fine but if course that depends on what kind of switch and how you connect the hardware.

          Reply
  23. Hello…2 aimesh questions based on the following scenario:

    1 Asus RT-AX as aimesh router, WPA3 only enforced (no WPA2 etc allowed)
    1 Asus RT-AC as aimesh node, no WPA3 available in the regular firmware

    for both questions I am under the node coverage at the 2nd floor

    1) will my connection work with WPA3 knowing that the node normally does not support it? Does the Aimesh override this and WPA3 will work?

    2) will my connection work in AC with theorical max of 866 mbps or in AX with max of 1201 mpbs for the 5 GHZ band?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • You do NOT want to use WP3 exclusively, Ark. Most legacy clients don’t support that, and therefore won’t be able to connect. If you really LOVE WPA3 (why?), use the WPA2/WPA3 mode.

      1. No. You can’t even set up the AiMesh system if you use a node that doesn’t support WPA3 (most AC routers don’t support that for now.)
      2. No. That’s because NOTHING works at the theoretical speeds. It’s called “theoretical” for a reason. But sure, you can get 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 out of it.

      Reply
  24. Hi Doug,

    Really appreciate the revisit and thorough updates of all the information on AImesh 2.0. However, one thing I wanted to ask you about was 802.11k/v/r support. According to many of the change logs, 802.11k/v support has just recently been added in the .386 firmware update (12/07/2020) but still lacks 802.11r (which brings handoff down from ~600ms to ~50ms) support as seen on the TP-Link Deco M9+ kit and/or competing Eero, Google Wifi, and other such kits.

    Can you comment as to how AImesh has matured in handoff transitions due to this upgrade and compared to the other tried and tested systems (especially on Whatsapp Video calls and Facetime calls).

    Reply
    • It’s the nuances, but you should stand at one place when doing a video or voice call, Jign. That’s the ONLY way to make things work well.

      Reply
  25. Hi Dong,

    First off, thanks for this site. I spent quite a few hours reading through here over the holidays to upgrade my setup. I ended up with an RT-AX86U as my main router in the office (NW corner of the basement) with an RT-AX82U as a node in the loft (SE corner of the 2nd floor). The AiMesh was simple to set up (like < 10 minutes) and I'm using a Cat5e wired backhaul running through the house. Life is good.

    I'm really happy with these two devices. In addition to the ease of AiMesh setup AND the Dual-Band Smart Connect AND the (free) AiProtection AND the Roaming Assistant, another feature that I love is the built-in speed test right at the router… no more wondering if speeds are slow at the router or somewhere in the home or at the device. This will definitely help me with network debug if necessary.

    Two questions though…

    1. Am I correct to understand that AiMesh does not support modifying the Roaming Assistant threshold for all of the nodes? I get an error saying this isn't supported when I try to set the Roaming Assistant threshold from the (main) RT-AX86U when the AiMesh is active.

    2. The router-based management of multiple nodes with the Roaming Assistant as well as the Dual-Band Smart Connect choosing 2.4G-vs-5G has been great for all my home devices… except one. I have an older weather station at my home that can only use 802.11-b/g/n. It seems that it can't handle the router testing/trying to change its band. Is there a way that I can tell the main RT-AX86U router to always use 2.4G for this device? The only way I've gotten around this problem to date is to create a separate SSID-hidden 2.4G "guest" network with that weather station as its only client. That DOES work, limiting that network to 2.4G, but it is a hack of a solution.

    Thanks for the help in advance.

    Reply
    • That’s an excellent setup you got there! About as good as it gets.

      1. You are correct. You generally have little control over the node. Even with the latest firmware, you can only do the USB ports and Link Aggregation. But generally, that’s the point of a mesh. If you want total control, use the RT-AX82U in the AP mode. It’s more work.

      2. For that, you need to separate the two bands. Or you can turn on one Guest network for the said band. If you allow the intranet access, the Guest Wi-Fi is now a segment of your main network. More here.

      Reply
  26. Hi Dong,

    Regarding your response to my recent email—I have reset the AC88U several times, and still no Ethernet signals. I will give the Merlin firmware a try before purchasing a new router….

    I was not clear in my reference to recommended routers… What I meant to say was that I intended to follow your recommendation of staying in the same “family” of devices when putting together a mesh setup—as opposed for example, to using an AC88/86U as the primary router and CT8s as nodes/satellites. (Although for aesthetic reasons, I was tempted to do, since the nodes would be located in living areas and the primary in the basement…)

    Reply
    • As I mentioned in the tri-band section of this post, Bob, it’s not a good idea to mix tri-band and dual-band routers though it will work. In that case, it’s best if you use wired backhaul.

      It helps if you read a post in its entirety instead of skimping over to get what you want. In that case, you’ll likely find incomplete information. Again, networking is a complicated thing. 🙂

      Reply
  27. Dong,
    Excellent article. Well done but had to re-read a few times.

    I have a different setup but currently use a single AC-68U with pretty good results over the past year or so.

    ISP modem to a Cisco RV-325 router. Wired to most of the house including the AC-68U. For AIMesh, I want to wire the units direct for backhaul. Not sure which ports but assume their WAN ports.

    If I use the central Cisco router (used as gateway/dhcp) across a single LAN, do I need to wire the Primary AIMesh router to the main LAN and disribute cabling from this router to potential AIMesh nodes? If not, then what is your suggestion and what should I use as the main AIMesh router assuming I re-use the AC-68U as a node.

    Ideally it would be nice to just use a simple LAN but currently I am doing the Double NAT without too many issues….I assume the above maintains that unless there is something I may have missed.

    Great work….and very thorough. Enjoyed the read….and re-reads. Hahaha.

    Reply
    • I’d continue with the double NAT setup and wire the main AiMesh router to the gateway, Scott. After that, all the node units (and the rest of your network for that matter) must be behind the main AiMesh router. Since you’re into reading, maybe check out this post, too.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong,

        I can see why you have such a wide following given your quick reply…

        I’m curious if in your many experiments with AiMesh, whether you have found any performance differences when using these Asus routers in AP mode or Router mode? I’m considering ditching the double NAT and just using a main ZenWiFi AX6600 XT8 router in AiMesh AP mode with another XT8 as a AiMesh node and my old AC-68U as an AiMesh node for my basement lab….

        I have a very nice Cat6a wiring arrangement in the house, hence the question about collapsing the second NAT in the WiFi Router.

        Thanks again.

        Reply
        • There’s a big difference between AP and Router mode, Scott. More on that here. (Quick replies are a matter of timing — I do so when I get a chance. It’s best that you *read* and find the answers yourself. Also, I’m not too fond of offhanded compliments :).)

          Reply
        • I hope Dong’s link with the only relevant part being 1 sentence in the final note answered your question!?
          Definitely do as you suggested!
          I ran mine that way for a while before switching ISP to one that allowed a modem that was just a modem and it’s definitely favourable to double NAT.

          Reply
  28. Brilliant review, thank you. Extremely informative. I would be grateful if you could just confirm my suspicions, regarding mixing and matching dual and tri-band nodes. If I had an XT8 pair and then added a single (for example) XD4 to it as an AIMesh node with wireless backhaul, I would lose one of the channels on the XD4. Would I lose the 5GHz or the 2.4GHz band, and would I have any control over which band was used for the backhaul? I realise this is, in general, a bad thing to do, but I only want coverage for my back garden, which is not worth spending a lot of money on.

    Reply
      • Thanks. So much useful information I missed the key part, which I think is “(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.)”

        So in other words (I think), adding a dual band node into tri band mesh means that the dual band node doesn’t use the dedicated wireless backhaul, and shares its 5GHz band with both the client connections and the connection into the mesh.

        Reply
  29. Hi,
    I have spent the last 2 days reading your reviews and comments/responses regarding AiMesh, and I am overwhelmed a bit!
    My house has FIOS internet service (300/300) and is hardwired with coax. The house is 2 stories with a basement, ~4,000 sq. ft. total. my plan is to get MOCA adapters and a splitter, and have a Mesh WIFI with wired backhaul. I have multiple tablets/phones accessing wi-fi, and will need a wired connection in 2 separate rooms.
    From reading your reviews, Asus XT4 seems to be like a good solution, along with a Asus RT-AC86U, since it’s a two-band solution. If I go this route, I may need to get 2 unmanaged switches for my wired connection needs, and the router will stay in the basement close to FIOS ONT and MOCA splitter. I did read that XT4 may be underpowered/slow. Please let me know what you think a good mesh network solution may be for my case.
    Thanks!

    Reply
      • Dong, thank you for the reply! I really don’t want to open the walls and run network cables (unless there is an easy way to follow coax runs). Is there a reason you do not recommend MOCA?

        Reply
          • Hi Dong, Hi dm-BK. This is a great post Dong, thank you, very informative. I just wanted to note that I have had great success with MOCA as the backhaul for my AX88U/AC88U mesh on either ends of my house – full 1GB connection showing “Great” on the AX88U’s AiMesh web page. I have Centurylink’s fiber service and that terminates in my study where I have the AX88U. [Side note – if you can get Centurylink’s fiber at your location it is highly recommended – ~1GB up and down, uncapped, no contract, and just $65/month – and it has proven 100% reliable since I switched from Cox gigablast cable internet 5 months ago.] I have an Actiontec Bonded MOCA 2.0 box off the back of my router that provides the MOCA for the house. Our family are TiVo folks with 3 TiVo Bolts (and some Minis) around the house, all connected via MOCA, with Cox providing the Cable TV – hence the coax everywhere. Each TiVo Bolt has an ethernet port that presents ethernet from its MOCA. So in the living room at the other end of the house my AC88U is connected to the TiVo and gets full 1GB speeds. My setup is extremely fast and MOCA has proven very reliable for many years. I originally had the AC88U as the master and an AC68U as the mesh, and upgraded to the AX88U last year. Bottom line – don’t be afraid of MOCA – just get the right components!

  30. Whattup Dong! Long time man. Nice to see you are crushing it as usual here. Wanted to let you know that based on your reviews I bought an ASUS ZenWifi Mini mesh system for my house and it’s great. I wired both nodes and converted my old router (EA9500) into a switch for my hard-lined clients. If we end up here longer term, I may go with a more robust system but this is great for now.

    I now have a question for you regarding my father in-law’s set up. He’s got 500mbps Frontier Fios and has their router that they provide. Then he has an EA9500 (coincidentally) but it’s not bridged, it’s just connected. I’m thinking of getting the ASUS ZenWifi AX and running the mini’s as nodes for his house and bridging the Frontier router to retain their landline/voice feature. He’s got a 5000 sq ft 2 story house so I’m wondering if the AX base router is enough or if I should just get a standalone mesh enabled router (Like the Asus RT-AX86U) and get the mini’s as nodes. Or should I try a separate mesh system??

    Anyway, this is just a long-winded question / love letter to you my man. Thanks for all the help!

    Reply
    • What’s up, dude! Hope you guys are doing well! It’s been crazy.

      Anyhow, if the place is wired, you can just start with the ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4). That should do it. Or, if need be, you can get another dual-band router, like the RT-AX86U, as the main. If the place is NOT wired, though, then you need a tri-band set. In that case, the ZenWiFi AX XT8 is a great choice, or the CT8 will do, too. You might need 3 or four units. Bridging the Fios gateway is the way to go. Or you can do a double NAT.

      Take care and stay safe! 🙂

      Reply
      • Definitely been a wild year! So I’m seeing a small issue with my network now – I’m thinking of just replacing the EA9500 with an unmanaged switch, I’ve been trying to mess with the configurations (Turn of DHCP, change the IP address, and rename the networks) but it seems to create issues and I can’t access my ASUS admin portal. So I end up just keeping reverting back. If I get an unmanaged switch I won’t have to bother with any set up right?

        Also for my in-laws place. Rather than getting four AX units, I was going to start with 2 AX units and using 3x minis as nodes. It’s just more cost effective but do you think I’ll get any significant speed/coverage losses?

        Reply
        • You should just turn the EA9500 into an Access point and you’re all set, Clay. To do that go to its Intenet setting and turn on the “bridge” mode. You can keep the IP automatic.

          For your in-law, read my previous replay again and check out this post.

          Reply
  31. Hello Dong,

    First of all, thank you for your extension write-ups and responses on this site. After spending several hours reviewing posts over a couple weeks, I ended up getting an Asus system and so far it is running great.

    One question that I have not seen a lot about on the site is outdoor routers – my search yielded one post with the word ‘outdoor’ but if there is another post I’ve missed, let me know. Specific to the zenwifi system, I found that the AX mini is so compact that I can fit one in a weatherproof ‘sockit box’ and, although it may get cold, it will stay dry.

    Is this AX-mini-in-a-weatherproof-box combo a reasonable alternative to an outdoor router, or should I connect a true outdoor router (like the old RBS50Y from my RBR50 setup I am getting rid of)? More generally, I would think there is a healthy audience of folks that would love to hear your thoughts on outdoor routers in general, even briefly.

    Thanks again and take care,

    Paul

    Reply
  32. 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
      • Thank you Dong.

        I’ve reread the article, plus the Double NAT and also your Lyra Trio review! I must admit, I did skip over some of the content in my first read which clearly showed in my questions!! I’ll be heading down the swap-out road (Google for Lyra with ethernet backhaul) and repositioning my 68U. It’s the slightly cheaper option to get me into the world of AiMesh’ing. If all goes well, I’ll look at replacing the 68U in time (business case will need to be submitted to the Secretary of Internal Affairs!!!!!).

        Many thinks for drawing my attention back to your articles!!

        Cheers,
        Gav

        Reply
  33. 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
  34. 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
  35. 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
  36. 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
      • Thanks Dong!
        Ah, I forgot to mention that, right now I have 600Mbps symmetric, that in few weeks will be upgraded to 1Gbps. Based on that speed, what would you recommend?

        Thanks again!

        Reply
          • Dong, ASUS just pushed an update for AX11000 and ZenWifi AX systems.

            Can you tell us how that impacts performance? These articles are amazing and gave me confidence to buy my AX11000 and (6) ZenWifi AX nodes.

            I can from a 8 node velop system and this is just SO much better.

            4 of my ZenAX nodes are Ethernet back haul and 2 nodes are wireless.

  37. 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
  38. 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
  39. 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
  40. 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
  41. 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
  42. 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!

  43. 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
  44. 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
  45. 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
  46. 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.

  47. 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
  48. 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
  49. 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
  50. 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
  51. 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
  52. 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

  53. 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
  54. 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
  55. 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
  56. 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
  57. 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
  58. 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
  59. 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
  60. 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
  61. 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
  62. 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
  63. 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
  64. 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
  65. 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
  66. 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
  67. 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
  68. 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
  69. 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.

  70. 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
  71. 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
  72. 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
  73. 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
  74. 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
  75. 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
  76. 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
  77. 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.

  78. 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
  79. 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
  80. 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
  81. 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?

  82. 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
  83. 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
  84. 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
  85. 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
  86. 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
  87. 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
  88. 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
  89. 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. 🙂

  90. 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
  91. 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
  92. 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
  93. 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
  94. 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
  95. 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
  96. 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
  97. 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
  98. 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
  99. 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
  100. 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

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  101. 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.

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      • 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
  102. 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
  103. 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
  104. 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
  105. 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
  106. 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