Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Asus RP-AX56 Review: A Solid and Versatile Budget Mesh-Ready Broadcaster

I’d get the Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater in a heartbeat. At $100 apiece, it’s a steal.

And that’s a grand statement since, for years, I’ve made it clear that I’m no fan of Wi-Fi repeaters, especially dual-band ones. But the RP-AX56 is much more than just a range extender. In fact, you should not get one if you intend to use it as such — opt for a tri-band instead.

Indeed, this little puppy works much better as an AiMesh node, especially if you can use it via a wired backhaul. Or, if you don’t have an AiMesh ready router, you should use it as an access point (AP).

To cut to the chase, if you’re an Asus AiMesh fan, this one is the least expensive way to extend your network effectively. And if you have wired your home, this modest piece of hardware will also deliver the type of Wi-Fi speeds I’d call excellent, considering how little you pay for it.

Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater has the plug-in design
Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater Plug in Deisgn

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

$99.99
8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

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

Cons

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

Asus RP-AX56: The Wi-Fi 6 mesh add-on for the budget-minded

At a glance, the Asus RP-AX56 resembles that of TP-Link OneMesh’s RE300. It’s a snap-on Wi-Fi extender designed to work with any existing Wi-Fi network or as part of an intended mesh system.

The idea is you plug it somewhere the range of the current network is about to wane, and it will extend it farther. Being a dual-band device with modest Wi-Fi specs, it sure will suffer from signal loss — it’ll be slow.

Flip it up, though, and you’ll note that the RP-AX56U has a Gigabit network port, and that changes everything.

Apart from an extender, the RP-AX56 can also function as an access point or a media bridge. And that means, via a wired backhaul, it can deliver double the speed when working as an extender.

(You can use this port to host a wired device when the device works as an extender or a wireless AiMesh node.)

And here’s the best thing about the RP-AX56: It’s (almost) AiMesh 2.0 ready. In fact, it’s the very first non-router AiMesh broadcaster I’ve worked with. And it didn’t disappoint.

Asus RP-AX56: Hardware specifications

It’s important to note that the Asus RP-AX56 is the most modest Asus Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster I’ve tested. It’s a 2×2 machine with no support for the 160MHz channel width.

The good news is you won’t need to worry about the finicky DFS channels. On the downside, well, you’ll be stuck at the wireless ceiling speeds of just 1.2Gbps on the 5GHz band and 570 on the 2.4GHz band. As a rule, expect the real-world rates to be significantly lower.

Full NameAsus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater
ModelRP-AX56
Dimensions5.91 x 3.43 x 2.83 in (15 x 8.71 x 7.18 cm)
Weight6.7 oz (190 g)
Wi-Fi TechnologyDual-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX1800
5GHz Wi-Fi Specs2×2 AX: Up to 1.2Gbps
Channel width: 20/40/80MHz
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs2×2 AX: Up to 574Mbps
Channel width: 20/40 MHz
Backward Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac 
Wireless SecurityWPA2, WPA3
Mobile AppAsus Router
Web User InterfaceYes
Available Operating ModeAccess Point (AP)
Reaper (Extender)
Media Bridge
AiMesh Node
Mesh-ReadyYes (AiMesh 2.0) with wireless or wired backhaul
Gigabit Port1x LAN
Multi-Gig PortNone
Release DateFebruary 26, 2021
Price (at Launch)$99.99
Asus RP-AX56’s hardware specifications

Compact yet bulky design

The RP-AX56 is light and quite compact, as you’ll see in the detailed photos below. However, it’s also bulky. Plug it into a wall socket, and it’ll block the adjacent ones, especially if you want to use the network port.

You can use it with a power stripe or extender, but the way it’s designed, you best find a wall socket for it.

Asus RT-AX56: Detail photos

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater Out of box
The Asus RP-AX6U and its retail box.

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeaters Left Side
From the look of it, the Asus RP-AX56 seems like a typical plug-in Wi-Fi 6 range extender.

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater Network Port
But this Gigabit port make all the difference. It now can work as an Access Point, a Media Bridge or a wired AiMesh node.

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater from Top
The Asus RP-AX6U AX1800 Repeater is relatively compact and light.

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeaters quite compact
But look can be misleading, here’s a close-up from another angle. Note the thickness and the extra bulk at the bottom.

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater in AP mode
The Asus RP AX6U in action. Note how bulky it is, especially when using a wired backhaul or hosting a wired device.

Full web interface, simple setup

Out of the box, the Asus RP-AX56 comes with a clear, quick setup booklet. But chances are you can skip it if you have worked with an Asus router before.

RP AX56 AP Mode Interface
The web interface of the Asus RP-AX56 when working in the Access Point mode. Note the similarity to that of any Asus router.

Indeed, plug it into a power socket, and you can connect to its default Wi-Fi network, or you can also use its Gigabit port.

Now, access its web user interface by pointing a browser from the connected computer to the known default IP address of the Asus router, which is 192.168.50.1 (or router.asus.com), and you’ll reach its set up wizard where you can pick its operating mode. The rest is self-explanatory.


Extra: Tips on the setup process

If you intend to use the RP-AX56 as a wired AiMesh node, plug it into the existing network via the network port and follow this detailed guide — you finish the job on the AiMesh router’s end. Otherwise:

  • Don’t connect the device to an existing network via its network port before starting the setup process. Doing so will make it use an IP address given out by the existing router instead of the default mentioned above. That would make the job a bit harder.
  • Do the same when you intend to use the device in the AP mode — you can always connect the cable at the end of the setup process.

As mentioned above, you should use this device either as an AP (with any existing router) or an AiMesh node (with supported Asus routers). I tested it in both roles.

By the way, the RP-AX56 took quite a short time to start up, which was nice for my testing. Generally, you can fully switch it from one role to another within a few minutes.

Notes on AiMesh and firmware issues

In my testing, the setup process of the RP-AX56U generally went well via a wired backhaul (AP or AiMesh). But like most of Asus’s new hardware, you should expect some bugs. I ran into a few myself during the different setups.

For example, if you choose to use the wireless backhaul, you might not be able to add the RP-AX56 as a mesh node if your main router is set to work in the 160MHz channel width — the process would fail at the end with no specific reason.

This makes sense because the device doesn’t support DFS channels or 160MHz bandwidth. But it would be nice if there was a warning.

RP AX56 AiMesh Page
The RP-AX56 working as wireless AiMesh node hosted by the RT-AX82U.

Also, I tried the RP-AX56 as the AiMesh node with a few routers, including the RT-AX82U, RT-AX58U, and RT-AX89X. It worked well with the first two. With the RT-A89X, for some reason, the RP-AX56’s 5GHz band was not available to clients, no matter what I tried.

(The RP-AX56’s AP mode worked fine with all routers)

Another issue is with certain routers; some features might not work. For example, when working with the RT-AX82U, the Wi-Fi schedule feature will not affect the RP-AX56 — this node continues to broadcast signals no matter what.

And finally, no matter what router you use, keep in mind that RP-AX56 doesn’t currently support a system-wide Guest network — the Guest SSID remains at the router (and other supported nodes).

Asus told me that most if not all of these would change (presumably for the better) via future firmware updates. (I tested it with the initial release, version 3.0.0.4.386_26131.)

Knowing Asus, though, I wouldn’t hold my breath, but chances are you’ll find the RP-AX56 (even) better before the year ends. Or not.

Asus RT-AX56: Solid performance

Clearly, the Asus RT-AX56 has nothing to brag about in terms of performance — it’s a very modest device. With that low expectation, though, I had a good time testing it. This little thing delivers!

Excellent Wi-Fi speeds (considering the cost)

You can find out how its numbers stacked up against other mesh satellites — all of them are more expensive and of higher Wi-Fi specs — in the chart below.

But the gist is generally, if you only care about sustained speeds of 300Mbps or slower, you can use the RP-AX56 however you want. Any faster speeds will require wired backhaul, and then you can get close to 800Mbps. Not bad at all.

Asus RP 56U Performance
(★) A one-off test via wired backhaul — the rest on the chart were via wireless backhaul.

I tested it both as an AiMesh node (both wired and wireless) and as a standalone Access Point.

As expected, as a wireless mesh node (similar to an extender), the RP-AX56 scored some half the speed compared to when it works as an AP or a wired mesh node — the latter two had similar performance. Signal loss is a real thing.

Good range, reliable signals

The Asus RP-AX56 passed my week-long stress test with no issue. The repeater proved to be reliable.

As a small device, it also has quite good Wi-Fi coverage. It’s hard to put a number on this, but it’s safe to say it can cover some 1500ft2 (140 m2). You might get even more out of it if your home has a lot of open space.

Conclusion

The Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater is a safe buy for those with a wired home or looking to extend an Asus AiMesh-ready network wirelessly to deliver a modest broadband connection of around 300Mbps lower.

Just make sure you have enough wall sockets around the house for optimal placement. And also, don’t use it as a standalone extender.

To be even more specific, this is an excellent add-on mesh node for a home currently with a budget AiMesh router, such as the RT-AX58U, or RT-AX56U, or ZenWiFi XD4. If you have a higher-end one, it might not fit in well, at least not before newer firmware is available.

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

16 thoughts on “Asus RP-AX56 Review: A Solid and Versatile Budget Mesh-Ready Broadcaster”

  1. Is it possible to connect a switch to the rj45 port to connect several devices (2 desktops and a NAS) to internet? I have my old Dlink bridge (wifi n) that way, but I know all repeaters don’t run the same ways. Is this a good replacement? Or the port is only for one device? Thanks

    Reply
  2. Hi Dong,
    I am considering about purchasing NETGEAR® Nighthawk® 8-Stream WiFi Mesh Extender (EAX80). Now this item is sale for $199.99. Is this item will work with Rt-AX86U much better? than RP-AC56?

    Many thanks,
    James Cody

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong,
    I can’t find the past review of NETGEAR Nighthawk WiFi 6 Mesh Range Extender EAX80 that I’m considering to buy this item. I had purchased new ASUS RT-AX86U.
    Greatly appreciate your help.
    Many thanks,
    James Cody

    Reply
    • I don’t have time or resources to review everything, James — considering I really review them. It’s easy to expect something for nothing, isn’t it? 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi Dong, would you say the 2×2 performance of an 80MHz Wi-Fi 6 device is comparable between the RP-AX56 and an RT-AX86U? I don’t have any 160MHz devices in my home so I’m not able to take advantage of that. Looking for an extra AiMesh node to add to my house, which is wired for Ethernet, and this looks like something that would be more unobtrusive in a bedroom than a RT-AX58U.

    Reply
  5. That is impressive performance !!! I tried the TP-Link RE605X AX1800 extender as a wired access point recently and that was disappointing so this is all the more impressive. The RE605X was only doing about 300-450mbps with an AX Samsung S20 FE. For download it matched a Netgear EX6150 AC1200 unit set up also as access point. And for upload the tp link was much slower and had slightly worse range. Same position wall plug and same phone positions and orientation. So not all extenders are made equal! The to link was so bad (in that it could not beat an ac1200 unit) I gave it away.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for taking time to evaluate this product at the low end of the food chain. Good to know it provides some value even though its a relatively low cost item. I tried to order one from your amazon link above, but it sent me to a TP-Link router page rather than the RP-AX56 you reviewed. If I maneuver from there to an RP-AX56 page, do you still get the affiliate commission or only if I get there on the first try?

    Reply
    • Thanks for being considerate, M. I really don’t know. But generally, if you get to Amazon from any of my links and then buy something, anything, not just the linked product, and never return it, then I might get a tiny cut, so you can bookmark this link as your Amazon shortcut if you’re so inclined. But it’s Amazon who decides what qualities or not. Hope the device works out for you!

      Reply
  7. If you look through your article on the RT-AX86U “Asus RT-AX86U Review: The Best Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router to Date”, you will see a few comments from me as I was researching how to build my setup – Thank you! I went with a RT-AX86U as my master and then have an RT-AX55 as an AiMesh node. I’m very happy with this setup! I wanted to add a 2nd RT-AX55 but my wife informed me that everywhere I tried to hide it was an eyesore. This new one isn’t available in Canada yet. But, I’m wondering how would you compare this to the RT-AX55 (AX1800) in terms of range? I see in your Con list that the guest wireless isn’t supported and that will rule this new RP-AX56 out as an option for me unless it is added with a future Firmware updates because I’m hoping to have it located just inside the wall of my house near our backyard deck so that we could enjoy better reception in our backyard, along with our guests. In the end, I’m trying to decide if I should consider this RP-AX56 in place of another RT-AX55 which my wife may need to hind behind a plant or something if she wants better WiFi range 🙂

    Reply
    • It’ll likely be the same coverage, Tim. I suspect that the next firmware release will likely include the Guest network, but don’t quote me. Wives are hard to please, ain’t they? 🙂

      Reply
      • I have been playing around with Asus AiMesh system.
        My system comprises of the following Items:
        Router RT-AX86U
        Nodes RT-AC68U
        Node RT-AX56U
        Node RP-AX56
        On the 5G channel it seems RP-AC56 is stuck on 44.
        If I change the channel to anything else on the 5G side. RP-AX56 stays on channel 44. Others do change.
        I have seen this on a Wi-Fi analyser.
        I can also add all node are hard wired.
        The problem I have with this AiMesh the Wi-Fi speed test varies a lot. My fiber speed is 100Mbps up and down.
        At times I get the full 100Mbps other time only 1/3 of the speed.
        Regards

        Reply

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