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.
(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 a wireless access point (WAP).
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.
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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. It’s the very first non-router AiMesh broadcaster I’ve tested, 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 demanding 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 Name||Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater|
|Dimensions||5.91 x 3.43 x 2.83 in (15 x 8.71 x 7.18 cm)|
|Weight||6.7 oz (190 g)|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX1800|
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 1.2Gbps |
Channel width: 20/40/80MHz
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 574Mbps|
Channel width: 20/40 MHz
|Wireless Security||WPA2, WPA3|
|Mobile App||Asus Router|
|Web User Interface||Yes|
|Available Operating Mode||Access Point (AP)|
|Mesh-Ready||Yes (AiMesh 2.0) with wireless or wired backhaul|
|Gigabit Port||1x LAN|
|Release Date||February 26, 2021|
|Price (at Launch)||$99.99|
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 strip or extension cord, but its design best fits a wall socket.
Asus RT-AX56: Detail photos
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.
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, 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 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 primary router works in the 160MHz channel width — the process would fail at the end without giving you a specific reason.
Though that makes sense because the device doesn’t support DFS channels or 160MHz bandwidth — it just can’t connect — it would be nice to get a meaningful error message.
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 126.96.36.199.386_26131.) So, chances are you’ll find the RP-AX56 (even) better before the year ends.
Update: Starting with firmware ver. 188.8.131.52.386.42792 the RP-AX56 supports a system-wide guest network when working with a supported AiMesh router.
Asus RT-AX56: Solid performance
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 performance 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.
I tested it both as an AiMesh node (wired and wireless) and as a standalone Access Point.
As expected, as a wireless mesh node (similar to an extender), the RP-AX56 scored 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.
Asus RP-AX56 Repeater's Rating
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
No 160MHz bandwidth, modest specs
The Initial firmware is a bit buggy (at launch)
Bulky for a snap-on device
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 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.
If you have a higher-end one, it might not fit in well, at least not without some tweaking or before newer firmware is available.