But that crazy year is no more, and today, Asus announced the official availability of this much-anticipated router. It’s real. A clear sign that things are looking up in 2021!
That’s not to say this is a God-sent router or anything. It’s probably not! And the new router is not exactly affordable to boot. As usual, I will take my time to find out for sure how it really is. Wi-Fi 6E is totally new, after all — to be sure, I actually got two units, just in case.
So this preview is to confirm its existence and, therefore, that of the 6GHz frequency band. You’ll also find here real-life photos and details that weren’t available before. Check back soon in due time for an in-depth take complete with performance charts and what’s not.
Update (as of January 21, 2021): For those of you who are itchy to get your own, I’d recommend patience. Until there are compatible clients, there’s almost nothing extra you can benefit from this router yet.
Also, existing Wi-Fi 6E clients, namely the Intel AX210 chips, won’t work (well) yet until the next firmware, which is coming out soon. (For now, make sure you update it to the latest software driver.)
So far, my test units have been working well… as regular dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers. More to come.
Asus’s ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000: Not an upgrade to the GT-AX11000
As the name suggests, the Rapture GT-AXE11000 is the Wi-Fi 6E version of the GT-AX11000 that came out in early 2019. There are a lot of similarities between the two.
In fact, swap out one of the latter’s two 5GHz bands for a 6GHz one, and you get yourself the former. For the most part, everything else of the two remains the same.
And here’s the interesting part: While the AX11000 is a high-end Wi-Fi 6 router — it has an additional 5GHz band –, the GT-AXE11000’s band configuration is the norm of a Wi-Fi 6E router.
For backward compatibility, tri-band is now a necessity. We need all of them to make sure a router will work with all existing clients. Though each band’s specs might vary, it’s safe to say all Wi-Fi 6E routers will have at least three bands (2.4GHz + 5GHz+ 6GHz).
Hardware specifications: Asus GT-AXE11000 vs. Asus GT-AX11000
Again, these two routers share almost the same hardware specs and differentiate only by the third band. That of the GT-AX11000 is a traditional 5GHz, and the GT-AXE11000’s is a 6GHz.
Both share the same total bandwidth, but they use them differently. The AX11000 doubles down on 5GHz clients and has no support for 6GHz ones, whereas the AXE11000 has one band for each client type.
The latter’s 6GHz band’s purpose is to deliver seven more 160MHz channels that are not part of the problematic DFS spectrum. The goal is that 6GHz clients can connect at high speeds without ever being disrupted by radar signals.
A feature-richer gaming router
At the outset, the GT-AXE11000 is a gaming router, just like its older cousin. So it includes a fancy QoS-based Game Boost section within its web interface.
Asus says it has “triple-level game acceleration to boost game traffic every step of the way.” I don’t really know how to interpret that. (Seriously, how many steps are there? And what way?)
Anyhow, what I do know, though, is like the case of the RT-AX86U (or RT-AX82U), the new router also has a dedicated Gaming Port. That’s a LAN port that automatically prioritizes any connected wired device.
And probably most significant is the fact the GT-AXE11000 is the first Asus router that comes with a 90-day free trial of the Outfox gaming network. No, not the trial, the router’s support for that gaming network is indeed a novelty.
All core features and setting of an Asus router
On top of that, the GT-AXE11000 also includes all core features and settings found in most Asus routers. Following are what you can expect:
- A robust full web user 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: Alternative to the web UI, 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-Pro: This feature includes a free-for-life real-time online protection powered by Trend Micro and a Parental Control engine for parents wanting to keep tabs on their children’s online life.
- 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 or real-time.
- USB-related features galore: When hosting a storage device, the router has all the features you can imagine — from data sharing (locally and over the Internet) to backup (including the support for Time Machine) to a personal cloud. You can also use the router’s USB ports to host printers or select USB cellular modems.
- Frequent firmware releases: Asus regularly pushes out new firmware updates to improve its routers. For the most part, this is a good thing. However, once in a while, new firmware can cause issues. In this case, you should downgrade the router to the previous stable version and wait for the next release. (Asus routers don’t auto-update firmware by themselves.)
In short, as a standalone router, you likely can expect the GT-AXE11000 to deliver everything collectively found in previous Asus routers and more.
ROG GT-AXE11000: Detail photos
The GT-AXE11000 is a massive Wi-Fi machine. It’s slightly larger than the GT-AX11000.
It’s a Wi-Fi 6 router at the core
It’s important to note that the GT-AXE11000 is first and foremost a Wi-Fi 6 router.
That said, it comes with all the benefits of this standard, including Target Wake Time and the combo of OFDMA and MU-MIMO technology.
But Wi-Fi 6E does require new hardware. So if you intend to enjoy this new router’s 6GHz frequency band, it’s time to upgrade your machine to a supported adapter.
Will it be good for AiMesh?
As a new Asus router, the GT-AXe11100 sure will support the popular AiMesh feature. The question is how well, and we’ll find out soon when I’m done with testing.
One thing is for sure, though. Since the router has three different bands — it’s a traditional tri-band router — you can’t use one of them as the dedicated backhaul. That’s because you need all three to make sure the router is compatible with all clients, new and old.
Also, chances are you can’t use its 6GHz band for backhaul unless you get multiple units. That’s because, in this case, the router won’t work with any other AiMesh routers (as nodes.)
Finally, the GTE-AXE11000, for sure, will work with wired backhaul. In this case, it’s going to be interesting to find out if you can use its 2.5Gbps port for this purpose. (So far, you can’t do that with existing AiMesh routers with a Gigabit WAN port when working as a node.) And if that’s not possible, well, your Wi-Fi 6E AiMesh system will still cap at 1Gbps.
So it seems this new router suits better those needing just a single broadcaster in their home.
The most expensive Asus router to date
And that’s a good thing because GT-AXE11000 is not cheap.
Today, it’s officially available as a pre-order for a whopping $550 — the most expensive Asus router to date. You can probably get your hands on it before this month is out. By then, though, chances are there’ll be more choices from other networking vendors.
Again, bookmark this post and check back (relatively) soon for its full review that answers all the questions above and many more juicy details.