Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Asus RT-AC86U Review: A Path to the AiMesh Wi-Fi Holy Grail

If you look at the Asus RT-AC86U as a single AC2900 Wi-Fi 5 Gaming router, you’ll overlook a lot, even though, as one, it works well and has a lot to offer.

With the support for AiMesh, the router is now part of Asus’ pool of routers that can work together to create a Wi-Fi system. This mesh aspect is where it gets a whole lot more interesting, especially for those who already own an Asus router and are looking to upgrade.

In all, the Asus RT-AC86U is an easy recommendation. Currently, at about $200, this router is a steal. If you have a large home, get a pair; you won’t regret your decision!

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

Asus RT AC86U Router
The RT-AC86U resembles the design of its older brother, the RT-AC68U, but now has a fancy looking front.

Asus RT-AC86U

8.4

Performance

9.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance both as a single router and as part of an AiMesh system
  • AiProtection security for the entire network
  • Plenty of useful features for home users as well as gamers
  • Can be restored with setting backup files of other Asus routers

Cons

  • No extra network ports like other high-end Asus routers
  • Not wall mountable

Asus RT-AC86U: Powerful hardware in a traditional design

Other than the fancy-looking front, the RT-AC86U resembles its older brother, the RT-AC68U that came out four years ago. The new router is much more powerful, however, running a dual-core 1.8GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 128 MB of flash memory.

As for Wi-Fi, it has 3×3 802.11n (up to 450 Mbps) and 4×4 802.11ac (up to 1733Mbps). However, it supports 1024QAM (Broadcom’s new non-standard modulation technique), so for qualified clients, it can deliver up to 750 Mbps (2.4 GHz) and 2100 Mbps (5 GHz), simultaneously, hence the AC2900 designation.

Asus RT-AC86U: hardware specifications

Wi-Fi standard3 x3 802.11n and 4 x 4 802.11ac AC2900 (up to 750 Mps on 2.4GHz + 2167Mbps on 5Ghz)
MU-MIMOYes
Processor1.8GHz dual-core processor
Memory256MB of Flash and 512MB of RAM
Dimensions8.7 x 6.3 x 3.3 inch
Weight1.9 lbs (860 g)
PortsOne USB 2.0, one USB 3.1, One Gigabit WAN port, Four Gigabit LAN ports
Prominent featuresAdaptive QoS, Ai Protection, WTFast Gamers VPN, Media Server
Asus RT-AC86U Quick Specs

Asus AC2900 router: Detail photos

A pair of RT-AC86U units will make a great AiMesh system.
A pair of RT-AC86U units will make a great AiMesh system.

The Asus RT-AC86U is a typical Wi-Fi broadcaster.
The Asus RT-AC86U looks like a typical Wi-Fi router.

The router has no mounting option.
The router has no mounting option.

The router has an USB 3.1 and a USB 2.0 port.
The RT-AC86U comes with the usual four Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port.

Asus1
The Asus RT-AC86U looks quite good despite the traditional design.

Easy setup, universal setting restoration

The RT-AC86U shares the same well-organized, easy-to-use web interface as previous Asus routers and has the same general setup process as that of any routers with a web interface.

Thanks to a well-thought-out initial setup wizard, though, the RT-AC86U’s setup process is quick and straightforward. It took me just a few minutes to get my test network ready.

What’s most interesting is the RT-AC86U can be restored with a backup file of any other Asus routers, going back as far as the RT-N66U. As a result, if you’re using an older Asus router, you can just backup the setting of that router, then upload it to the RT-AC86U during the initial setup wizard.

And that’s it! There’s no need to program your new router to accommodate your existing network, which is a tedious process you will have to do if you get a new router from a different vendor. If your old router has many specific settings — such as port forwarding, reserved IPs, Dynamic DNS, and so on — this will save you a lot of time.

The RT-AC86U has all the settings and general features you’d expect to find in a router. These include but are not limited to port forwarding, dynamic DNS, VPN, etc. The router can work as a VPN server or a VPN client.

When coupled with an external hard drive plugged into its USB 3.1 port, it can function as and as a versatile storage server, including the ability to host Time Machine backups.

In all, whatever settings you expect from a home router, the Asus RT-AC86U has them and probably more.

Asus RT-AC86U: Generous set of helpful features

The Asus RT-AC86U comes with almost everything previous Asus routers have collectively had over the years.

Impressively, this includes the gaming feature once available only in much more expensive routers, like the flagship GT-AC5300. The screenshots below will walk you through its main features. All of them worked well in my testing.

Generally, home users will appreciate AiProtection that protects the entire network from online threats in real-time. There’s also Adaptive QoS that automatically distributes Internet bandwidth to deliver the best user experience.


Asus RT-AC86U’s features via screenshots
Here's the web interface. It's well-organized and responsive.
Here’s the Asus RT-AC86U’s web interface. It’s well-organized and responsive.

AiProtect protects the entire network for online threats. It's free to use.
The AiProtection feature protects the entire network for online threats. It’s free to use.

With one click to turn on, Adaptive QoS automatically takes care of distributing the internet bandwidth to deliver the best possible online experience.
With one click to turn on, Adaptive QoS automatically takes care of distributing the Internet bandwidth to deliver the best possible online experience.

Bandwidth Monitor delivers a real-time report of internet usage of each connected client.
Bandwidth Monitor delivers a real-time report of internet usage of each connected client.

Inherited from the GT-AC5300, Game Boost helps gamers get their game on the right way.
Inherited from the Asus GT-AC5300, the RT-AC86U’s Game Boost helps gamers get their game on in the right way.

Traffic Analyzer gives users all kinds of network analytics.
The router’s Traffic Analyzer gives users all kinds of network analytics.

The RT-AC86U offers a while range of application via its USB ports, including the support for Time Machine backup and a cellular dongle.
The Asus AC2900 RT-AC86U offers a wide range of applications via its USB ports, including the support for Time Machine backup and a cellular dongle.

And with a plugged in USB portable drive, you can access data and share it over the internet, too.
And with a plugged-in USB portable drive, you can access data and share it over the Internet, too.

Dual-WAN is also a feature available in many Asus routers including the RT-AC86U. It allows for using two internet connections for higher bandwidth and availability.
Dual-WAN is also a feature available in many Asus routers, including the RT-AC86U. It allows for using two internet connections for higher bandwidth and availability.

The router also has other little helpful tools, such as the ability to wake a device up via a LAN connection.
The RT-AC86U also has other little helpful tools, such as the ability to wake a device up via a LAN connection.

I had two Asus RT-AC86U units and personally had a lot of fun with AiMesh, a feature Asus introduced earlier this year.

AiMesh allows for combining two routers into a kick-ass Wi-Fi mesh system. One works as the primary router and the other automatically extends the Wi-Fi network.

Among other things, an AiMesh network has all the features of the primary router. Also, you won’t need to register an account with Asus for it to work.

Note that the AiMesh is an on-going feature and, for now, is still in an early stage and might not have everything you’d find in other purpose-built mesh systems. Still, I believe this feature is a huge development and dedicated an entire post to it. Follow the link for more.

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

Asus RT-AC86U: Stellar performance

The RT-AC86U’s performance was stellar in my testing, both as a single router and part of an AiMesh network.

As a single router, on the 5Ghz band, it has a sustained speed of 837Mbps in close range and 801Mbps when I move the Wi-Fi client 40 feet away with a thin wall in between.

Dongs 5Ghz Wi Fi Score

It even did well in the 2.4GHz band, especially in the long-range. Though most clients nowadays support a 5GHz band, a fast 2.4GHz never hurts.

Dongs 2.4Ghz Wi Fi Score

Again, I used two Asus RT-AC86U units in an AiMesh Wi-Fi system, and they blew other systems I’ve tested away in performance. The hand-off also worked well: Clients automatically connected the closest node. What’s more, from the main AiMesh router interface, you can view what node a client belongs to in real-time.

Since AiMesh is available in many routers, the scores below only represented a case of two RT-AC86U units. You might get even faster, or slower, performance, depending on what Asus routers you put in the mesh.

By the way, I tested the mesh setup in a full-wireless configuration, which is not ideal due to the inherent signal loss. For the best performing mesh, it’s recommended that you link the unit via a network cable (wired backhaul).

Dongs Mesh Score

The RT-AC86U has an excellent range, too. In my testing, a single unit can deliver about 1,800ft² (167m²) of reliable Wi-Fi coverage. And with a second unit, the AiMesh system now easily covered some 4,000ft² with a strong signal.

Keep in mind, though, Wi-Fi performance depends on the environment, and other factors, so your mileage will vary.

READ  Internet or Wi-Fi Speed Test: How You Can Figure Out the Correct Numbers

As for reliability, the router passed my three-day stress test with flying colors. During this time, I set it to transfer a large amount of data non-stop between multiple clients. It didn’t disconnect once.

When coupled with a USB 3.0 portable drive, the RT-AC86U, via a gigabit wired connection, has a sustained copy of around 40Mbps, not as fast as the Netgear XR500 but still fast enough for casual network storage needs.

Asus RT-AC86U: Minor shortcomings

The RT-AC86U does have a few drawbacks.

For example, you can’t mount it, so make sure you have a surface to put it on. Also, it has only four LAN ports. I prefer routers with more LAN ports and support Link Aggregation to combine two LAN ports into a single super-fast connection.

That said, if you’re looking for extra LAN ports, the GT-AC5300 or the RT-AC88U is more suitable. But if ports are not a huge deal, the RT-AC86U is definitely a better deal.

Conclusion

The Asus AC2900 RT-AC86U Wi-Fi 5 Gaming router a stellar Wi-Fi router for anyone. The router is fantastic by itself.

Thanks to AiMesh, it also makes excellent use out of your old Asus router and will be useful for a long time in the future when you buy another Asus as an upgrade. No similarly-specced routers from other networking vendors can come even close to the number of features and value it has to offer.

READ  Asus RT-AC88U Revisited: A Fine Wi-Fi 5 Router that Ages like Wine

If you’re in the market for a great, scalable Wi-Fi solution, look no further than the RT-AC86U (or one of its AiMesh-ready cousins).

READ  Best Wi-Fi 5 Routers: On a Budget? You Should Get One of These

93 thoughts on “Asus RT-AC86U Review: A Path to the AiMesh Wi-Fi Holy Grail”

  1. Hello – thanks for your great info! I currently have a single AC86U and would like to add a 2nd router in aimesh mode to cover a larger home that I’m moving to. I’ll use a wired backhaul. I’m trying to decide between a 2nd AC86U or going with an AX86U. Would the AX86U provide any benefit over a 2nd AC86U in this setup to justify the extra cost? Is there a different combination you’d recommend?

    Reply
  2. Did you find this router reliable over the years? Almost every other review on Amazon either says the 2.4 GHz died, the whole router died or it drops connection and needs to be rebooted all the time. I want to get this to replace my AC68U which has been rock solid for years. I’m only thinking about replacing it because I’d like faster file transfers and recently on 5GHz I’m getting limited connectivity issues on Google TV with Peacock refusing to play and images and icons aren’t loading on Twitter on my phone.

    Reply
    • Yes, I’m still using mine so are some I know. But it’s your call. You want to reschedule a periodical reboot on any Asus router, by the way. You can do that via the web interface.

      Reply
      • Thank you. I’ll probably take my chances, but now I’m undecided between the AC86U and the AX92U for $30 more. Obviously if I decide to go with a wireless mesh I’d be better off with two AX92Us, but I’m leaning towards going with a single router with 20 to 30 Wifi 5 clients. Would there be any advantage to going with the AX92U in that case? I’m assuming either of these routers can handle the same amount of clients that the AC68U has.

        Reply
      • I have the router setup in access point mode behind an AT&T Gateway. I wonder if that is why I’ve gotten away with only rebooting during firmware updates and why I’ve almost never had any connection issues until recently. Maybe the actual routing, traffic monitoring, security, and other features are what cause these to need periodical reboots.

        Reply
  3. The only thing i really wanted to know about wasnt covered? Id like to know details about the 3g/4g mobile data dongle / tether feature.

    Reply
    • You need to read the router’s manual to find out which dongle it supports, Justin. After that use the router’s web interface and change (one of) the WAN source(s) to be the USB port. That’s the only detail.

      Reply
  4. Hi Dong,
    thank you for your detailed reviews.
    I wish to set up a mesh network in my 2 storey house, without network cables. I believe that best choice for me could be 2 rt-ac86u or a kit with 2 ZenWiFi CT8 (and now 2 rt-ac86u are a cheaper solution than CT8 kit).
    From your rt-ac86u review it seems that performance from them is very good but I’m afraid that you tested them with a cable as backhaul.
    What do you think about the choice? Is the rt-ac86u kit with more setup options but with lower performance than CT8 kit if set without cables?
    Thank you

    Reply
  5. Hi Dong. getting tired of my Velop… performance is worse with time. I have 3 Velop connected via ethernet. (Main Velop to router and from there to switch)
    I do have the home wired with CAT 6. the issue was where the cable enters the home in a corner, so we got ethernet ports in that corner, in the other corner and upstairs.
    Despite this, the Velop is not able to cope with all the devices. I think it is a combination of multiple devices (more than 60) and the router being a 2×2.
    I have Fiber at 500 MBPS.

    I got 2 Asus AX86U and an AX11000. I know maybe overkill but was not sure whether to get 3 AX86 instead.
    Planning to set it up as a Mesh.
    Are there any recommendations to make the Mesh work seamlessly ?

    thank you

    Uriel

    Reply
  6. That is what I figured, but I just bought the ASUS router on NewEgg and they refer to it as the AC 2900 not the ac86u. I have also seen the AC 3100 very often online instead of the ac88u.

    Reply
  7. I apologize if you have already answered this… What is the difference, if any, between the AC86u and the AC2900? Thx!

    Reply
  8. Hi Dong, thank you for your help back in 2018. I got the 86u and it has been working great. Unfortunately, at one end of my house, the 5GHz signal is very weak. I was thinking of buying another Asus router to use the AiMesh system. Since Wifi 6 routers are starting to become more common, do you think I should get a Wifi 6 router? And if yes, which should I get, and which router would then be the main router in the AiMesh system?

    Reply
  9. Hello, I love your articles and they have been very helpful to me. I am wanting to set up AiMesh and was looking at the AC86u to pair with my current AC3100. Do you think this would be a good pairing or would you recommend a different router? Also, if I go this route which one would you make the primary and the node? Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Evening Dong, apologies for not replying earlier. yup regular user of speedtest.net. i figured it out, i named the ssid which covered both 2.4 and 5ghz i.e. i did not split them. i need to get to know my router better and see how i can achieve best results before i get my rc ac68u that i just bought and is on its way from the US so i can set up my Aimesh. My cable provider assures me i have gotten everything from them in bridge mode so its a case of sniffing out whats what i guess, thanks again. I have found your articles fantastic and updated regularly. cheers

    Reply
  11. Hi Dong, well i hooked my router up today using my cable provider modem and bridge selection and i thought i set up 2.4 and a 5ghz but i cannot find the 2.4 and its not hidden. My main issue it the speed and what i can do about it. I am subscribed to 600mbps but my speedtest.net gives me 93. maximum and this is perturbing. So something is happening between my bridged modem and the new router to slow things down. Any guidance would be respectfully received.

    thanks

    Reply
    • Keith, assuming that you know exactly how to test the Internet, (if not check out this post) that’s very odd, especially the fact that the network is hidden. I’d check the device you’re using, make sure it has the lastest driver, etc. Also, check with your provider to make sure that their gateway deliver full speed in bridge mode.

      Reply
  12. Hi Dong. Thanks for all you reviews, really enjoy them. We currently have a Netgear AC1750v1 in a bedroom that’s not covering enough of the house. We have the house wired with an Ethernet connection between the bedroom to the kitchen (where we use the internet most).

    I’m considering either this Asus 86u, or the Netgear 7800, and then using either our current Netgear AC1750v1 router or an Asus Blue Cave as an access point in the kitchen. What do you think about the Netgear 7800, and what would you recommend for the access point?

    Regarding the router, I was hesitant with the 86u b/c people on amazon were commenting about dropped signals.
    Regarding the access point, I wasn’t sure if the old Netgear AC1750 router would bottleneck any performance gains from the main router.

    Thank you!! (Family of 4, for a sense of our devices).

    Reply
    • I’d go with Asus, Robert. Since you have wired backhaul, you can just reverse the roles of the current hardware units and you’re set. Make sure the two use the same Wi-Fi name and password. Or you can use the RT-AC86U as the main route and the Blue Cave as a node in an AiMesh setup.

      Reply
  13. Hi Dong,

    I think you’ve answered this before so I’m sorry for asking again / possible complicated quesiton, but I’m looking to get a wide coverage router. I’m looking at the AC-86u or the AX3000/AX58u. I live in a 1000 sqft apartment but have a backyard and have been having a lot of issues with reception out there. the only wifi 6 devices we have are our phones, everything else is AC or N and will likely not be getting many wifi6 devices in the next couple years. We also only have 200mbs internet and will likely not be getting much faster anytime soon either. so 2 questions. 1. In your opinion with basic AC / N did devices did you see better performance with the AC-86u or the AX3000/AX58u and 2. is it worth future proofing with a device that gives you worse performance now with your older devices and possibly gettig better performance 2 years from now or should i get the better performance now and wait for the later rounds of wifi 6 routers that will perform better? Sorry again if that was confusing.

    Reply
    • Any router can do your apt, Anthony. The backyard is different storage since it depends on how large it is. But if you place the router in your home, near the side of the yard, that will help.

      Reply
    • Always wireless, Cyro. Wired backhaul will produce the same result as when the node works as a single router.

      Reply
  14. Just two days ago my family wifi stopped workings (it was an old Netgear, at least 10 years old), it would not turn on, so we started looking for a solution that could be implemented fast (pick up same day). Live in a rather large home, and found a two pack RT-AC86U for $220 open box with 1 year microcenter warranty (1 month return) and 2 year asus limited warranty (usually $350 new, on sale for $320 but they were out of stock). After comparing it to other mesh systems and routers, this seemed like it would be faster/cheaper (thank you for your review and benchmarks, one of the only ones I could find comparing to other mesh systems). Set it up and it is working great, with the second router as a node. Much better coverage, especially outside the house. My only 2 issues I have found so far is that sometimes it won’t switch between nodes unless it has to (not really a problem, still get great speeds) and sometimes it will switch my devices that are right next to one router to the other. The other issue is that port forwarding seems gimmicky, at least with online tests. Online port checkers only show my port is open if I have my server running. However, a simple local port test shows that the ports are indeed open, so this is not really a problem, just confused me for a bit as I thought port forwarding did not work. For right now the second router is upstairs at the other end of the house in a bedroom where there was already an ethernet cable to set up a backhaul, but I have been requested to move it out of their bedroom so I might have to ditch the ethernet and set it up somewhere else, I’ll update if that affects my performance.

    Reply
  15. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT. Worked nicely for about a month and a half, then the dropped connections started. Spend the next month and a half emailing and calling tech support. Many setting changes, many firmware “Up Grades”/ “Down Grades”, factory resets. Finally, ASUS Tech Support agreed to provide and RMA. They will not send you one. You must pay to send it to their “Repair Facility”. After 3.5 weeks, I got a router back. It was a new router, possibly refurbished, but the serial Number was different. They never called or notified me about what was going on with the repair. During this time, I ran with my older router with no problems at all. I put the new router online, and BAM, within 36 hours, I have the same problem with dropped/disconnect wireless connection. The 2.4Ghz would drop first, then the 5Ghz. Most of the time a soft reboot would work and the connection would come back ok. For a little bit. After a week of this I had, had enough. I started emailing again, several times. Finally, after 4 days, I got a response.
    Thank you for contacting ASUS product support. My name is Saleem D. Let me start off by first apologize for the delays in responses, due to the COVID-19 outbreak our support at this time is limited. We hope to get this back to normal in the shortest possible time, we want you to know that we appreciate your patience during this time. I’m very sorry to hear that you are also experiencing issue with the replacement router provided. I would be happy to assist you further.

    Regrettably refunds are not covered within the manufactures warranty and we are not able to authorize it. Refunds are provided by your place of purchase within their policies. You would be required to process another RMA to have the item returned.

    Please make note of your case number for future reference: N200482652
    Regards,
    Saleem D.
    ASUS Product Support

    What?? Another case number??? Below was a list of names and case numbers they provided for the same issue, not sure why they change the case number, maybe so they can have good numbers on their resolved cases.
    [email protected]
    Marie Valerie G. CASE NO= N200300304
    Psalm Joseph D. CASE NO= N200320588
    Yannick E Service No=N200321669
    James Marc M. Service No=N200325248
    James Marc M. Service No=N200358497
    Psalm Joseph D. Service No=N200359312
    Adam P Service No=N200360698
    Adam P. Service No=N200365607
    Hermibic Kenneth T Service No=N200368543
    Psalm Joseph D Service No=N200377145
    Yannick E Service No=N200383556
    John T. Service No=N200403576
    Efraim E Service No=N200406346
    So, for $168 for the router, $43 for the RMA back to them, I have a $211 piece of plastic. Pretty good business model on their part.
    Best thing to do when considering buying an asus product, DON’T.

    Reply
  16. Hi Dong…first, thank you for your efforts in keeping this excellent source of helpful tech info.
    I am looking to replace my old Buffalo N router, in a 2,600 sq ft two story home. We don’t do heavy gaming but we have a family of 4 doing lots of video chats, streaming, working from home, and an old NAS on a 1Gb Ethernet switch. The best speed in my area is 40 Mbps. I want to have good wireless data copy speed on the LAN, and would prefer a single router. I like your review of the RT-86 ASUS but many Amazon and Other reviews note that the 2.4 GHz fails after a month or other short period. Are those all duds? I know, you can’t speak for those cases but have you heard or seen similar?
    Also, are the TP-Link Archers like the AC2300 Or the A10 any good? The price is nice on that.
    Thanks, and keep up the great stuff!

    Reply
    • ALL new routers have terrible 2.4 GHz performance (compared to their specs) but they will be faster than the Buffalo you have. Go with the RT-AX86U, you’ll like it. And you’re welcome, Joey. Glad you’re here. 🙂

      Reply
    • Hello, i just was reading this post and review of ac86u, thought i should add my little experience info. @Joey, i havent tested any asus routers for longer than a month….the online reviews might be right (regarding dropped connections). as for ur question on tplink routers, i have a long experience with them. they r very stable. no dropped connecctions, no hangs, nothing. have been using them since many years (diff. models) . i am no tplink affiliate. i just give my truthful opinion. Dont buy tenda routers. they have same issue like asus. only after 2/3 months the problem starts. it hangs up and have to switch on/off. they give no problem for first 2/3 months.

      @dong, i dont know what changes after first 2 months ???? what could it be? any idea?

      Reply
      • Not to contradict your experience, Jinx, but the RT-AC86U has been quite great. I’ve had a few friends who have used this one for years. But the hardware quality can be hugely different from one country to another. I only tested stuff made for the U.S. market.

        Reply
  17. I have a one floor home with a partial basement. The livable area is around 2400 s.f., but the various rooms in the house are somewhat separated by walls, and in some cases up to a max of three (3) walls. I need a router that will support streaming on several devices at a time and that can also throw a very strong signal across the expanse of the house as well as even out in the backyard. The router is in my den which is in a front room of the house. I don’t want a mesh system and need one single stand alone router.

    Right now I’m using a Netgear AC1450 running DD-WRT firmware and it just doesn’t cut the mustard with coverage or speed.

    Please, please recommend a top notch router that will meet ALL my needs before the wife and kids disown me…HELP!!!

    Reply
  18. Thanks Dong. The reason I ask is because unless connected to a wifi 6 client (none of which I have), it seems as though the RT-AC86U has the best 5GHz range. For example, on the 5GHz band at 40 ft, the Asus RT-AC86U is 837 mps and the Asus GT-AX11000 is 800 mps when both used with wifi 5 clients at 40ft. Even the Netgear RAX200 is less at 797 mps Am I reading the speed charts correctly?

    Reply
  19. Dr. Ngo (007), I’ve been all over reading about wireless routers to use along with our Tablo/OTA antenna and for streaming to 2 Samsung TVs. And for coverage for only 2 cell phones. I happened on your website doing research and I’m impressed with the technical level of your reviews. I’m on the same wavelength as how you think and write. Great minds do think alike 🙂
    My question: I’m down to deciding what Wifi Router to buy for a FIOS Internet only 300Mbs plan. And I’d like to buy something that will take me into the future. But we’ll never do more than 2 devices… TV / PC / Samsung S7 at the same time. I’m kinda stuck between the Asus RT-AC68U and the Asus RT-AC86U. I’m going to run Ethernet cable from the FIOS ONT to the router. If I need a modem for a different ISP later… I’ll add it later.
    Reason for my not being able to go forward with one specific router is the following: Ratings are higher on the 68U but the 86U is newer. (Your Wifi and Wifi Mesh bar diagrams above are quite awesome! Great job!) We are retiring soon, maybe to a larger home so I will probably set up an Asus Mesh in a bit more than a year. Would you start off with the 68U and later buy either the 86U or see what the next new one that Asus has in this model line? Or would you start off with the 86U right now? I’m a very good technical person, I do GC/MS, but the differences between the 68U and the 86U get me a bit lost with all the protocols. Of course I see the processor upgrade and double the RAM on the 86U.
    BTW, I was real surprised when I found out today how many years since the release of the 68U.
    Last question: Do you think Asus will come out with a router just like the 86U/68U type of router any time soon? I went to Asus website to look, I guess that is best I can do. Personally, I like the way these routers stand up and have a smaller footprint. I guess the next big thing will be Triband?
    If your answer is just “buy the RT-AC86U,” that is fine. I just want to make sure I haven’t missed a difference in the two routers that I don’t understand. And any suggestions of things to look into…. I am very good at research and learning so whatever you mention you don’t have to get too detailed, I can find out about it. I take personal responsibility. Hey! Thank you for your website! And don’t let the bozos take away from your family and personal time. This stuff should be secondary. God, family, taking care of yourself and spouse comes first. Soon you’ll end up at 63 yo like me without personal stuff done and taken care of. Thanks again! billy the chemist

    Reply
    • Thanks, Billy. I hear you on the family time. In this regard, I think I’ve gotten my priorities straight. But it’s always nice to have that reinforced by those of my seniority like you.

      As for your network, you have 300Mbps Internet, which means you won’t need Gigabit-class Wi-Fi to deliver it. You also don’t have a lot of devices. That said, I’d recommend getting the RT-AC68U now, and later on, maybe add another unit (or the RT-AC86U) to build a mesh. In this case, also use a network cable to connect the two — if you get a new home or remodel, make sure you run network cables around the house.

      I’m pretty sure Asus will have an AX version of the RT-AC86U at some point. That’s good design.

      Hope this helps. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Thanks for the review. Being an ASUS router fan, and due to your review, I bought the RT-AC86U to create AIMesh system with my previous router, RT-AD68P, as the node. In your opinion, is it best with this setup to name two separate SSIDs, one for 2.4Ghz and one for 5GHz, and select which one to go with depending upon device/client or to leave as one SSID where the device has the choice of whichever GHz is best at the time and based on location? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Either way is fine, Mike. If you want (and need) to dictate to which band a device is connected, that’s a great way to go. Using a single SSID for both bands is convenient but can be a pain in terms of of band-steering.

      Reply
  21. Hey Dong,

    Circling back on this. In February you said you, “haven’t had time to write a ‘how I test’ piece which I will do soon’. It’s November. How do you test WLAN & Wi-Fi router performance?

    Reply
    • Hey Craig,

      I said that back in September and haven’t forgotten about it. Been super busy with life and other projects. It’s coming.

      -Dong.

      Reply
      • Hi Dong, really enjoy your work. I am limited to having my router in a closet even though I know the problems associated with this. Would the 86U be the be.st choice. This’s is for a 2000 sq rt apartment.
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Hi Steve,

          This depends on how your closet is and where it is inside your home. If it’s near the middle, chances are the RT-AC86u can cover the whole house. In any case, it’s a good router to get, if need be you can get an RT-AC68U later and extend the network via AiMesh. Also, if the 86u doesn’t work out, I don’t think any other single router would.

          Hope this helps. 🙂

          -Dong.

          Reply
  22. Hi Dong, how does the 86u compare to the 88u? And which would you get? I live in a 4000sqft, 1 storey house which is long. I intend to place the router in the middle of the house. We don’t play games, and I am using a desktop switch (in the storeroom) to have LAN to all of the bedrooms. Most of the devices around 10-15 will be connected mostly on WiFi.

    As the 86u is newer and cheaper, I am leaning towards it compared to the 88u. I’m just slightly worried about the wireless range on the 86u.

    Reply
    • Either one will work for you, Wei. The 88u is only more useful if you want more LAN ports at the routers location and Link Aggregation. I’d go with the 86u.

      Reply
  23. I can transfer a 1 TB file in under 30 seconds if I can create the file, build the to/from endpoints, choose the protocol and decide on the compression used. There’s a reason network professionals use tools like iperf that remove as many of these variables as possible, and instead only report on the actual throughput of usable data received over a given PHY.

    Looking forward to reading to a clear explanation of your hows & whys. More importantly, as to why your results differ so drastically with pretty much everyone else’s, including Jim’s and mine.

    Reply
  24. Your GIF demonstrates nowhere near the 800+ Mbps throughput claimed. Would you please detail what tweaks to the AP and client were used to get your originally-quoted numbers?

    Reply
    • The GIF wasn’t of a test but it sure was faster than 300Mbps, right? 🙂 Sure, check back in a while. I’m intending to write a “how I test” piece.

      Reply
  25. What’s the purpose of this conversation, the past day or two? Just to argue? Plug in the router and try it. Does it work for you? No? Swap it for something else. My original post in May was a complaint about the advertised functionality of the router and crumby customer service. That remains. But what I discovered by swapping it out for other routers such as the Synology 2600ac …. The ASUS AC86U smokes as a router in speed and coverage. Nothing beat it. So I’ve kept it. By choice. I wish it was all it was supposed to be from advertised USB features and that their customer service existed – but I have adapted other means to achieve goals that were expected by USB advertised features. Bottom line… plug it in … how’s it work? So many variables exist. Move on.

    Reply
  26. You clearly aren’t familiar with my testing methods or models. I use real, simultaneous HTTP traffic from four or more machines distributed around the house, in multiple profiles aimed at emulating real traffic patterns and workloads.

    The only reason I’m using iperf3 here is to give you every possible benefit of the doubt for the extremely inflated throughput numbers you’re claiming. If I used netburn and an Apache back end – let alone CIFS – the numbers would diverge *further* from what you’re claiming here.

    > if you tweak both the router and the client to favor speeds (over compatibility) you will get what I saw.

    I have absolutely no interest in doing that, both because it isn’t how readers actually use the equipment, and because many of the tweaks involved actually make performance even *worse* on a real network with multiple active devices.

    Reply
  27. I was an Apple Genius and certified technician. MacBooks use proprietary NICs and there were no special order parts for their wireless components. All MacBooks since the late 2013 models use 3×3.

    I happen to have two of the Roswill PCIe cards you mentioned next to my desk. They’re dual-stream and won’t top 400 MBps even sitting on top of the access point. You’re measuring the wrong things.

    Reply
    • I used Mbps, not MBps, Craig. Most routers can easily deliver more than 400 Mbps these days. Have we been talking about the same thing?

      Reply
      • Dong, you linked a 2×2 adapter, and we all know we’re all talking about megabits.

        I’d *love* to see you post a step-by-step document – preferably with a video clip – of yourself doing that file copy at >800 Mbps. It’s simply not an achievable data rate, 3×3 adapter or no. An Orbi RBR-50 and RBS-50 – with Qualcomm 4×4 adapters in them – can almost, repeat, *almost* hit that kind of throughput – with raw iperf3, not with chatty protocols like CIFS – at about half that distance + 1 wall.

        I’ll start: here’s me doing a test of an RT-AC-86u in open air at precisely fifty point two feet, and I handwaved the interior wall (and any RF multi-path issues). I saw 115 Mbps, and that’s using iperf3 – again, NOT a chatty protocol like CIFS or AppleTalk. Yes, I know, the BCM4356 adapter in that Nexus 6 is a 2×2 adapter, and the BCM94360 in your MacBook Pro is 3×3. AT BEST that implies an additional 50% throughput, though – which would come out to 170 Mbps or so, well under a quarter of what you’re claiming.

        Reply
        • Hey Jim,

          Yeap, I guessed I sent the wrong link. But 3×3 or faster is a must.

          I don’t have a RT-AC86U readily available to repeat the test, nor do I have time for that right now. But I appreciate your input and can tell you that your numbers are low.

          I don’t use test apps, but just copy data from one computer to another and time it. That said, I just made a quick demo to show how I’d test a router’s Wi-Fi speed. Note in the GIF below how I could get close to 500Mbps and I wasn’t sitting anywhere near the router, which is in my basement.

          https://dongknows.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Speed.gif

          I agree that Wi-Fi speeds vary a lot depending on many factors, which is why when reviewing a router, I tend to test it at different hours during a day, over a few days, and pick the best results to report (‘cause that’s what the router is capable of).

          The RT-AC86U is one of the fastest routers I’ve worked with. But it’s just my experience and I don’t intend to discount anyone’s account should they have a different experience.

          Best,

          -Dong.

          Reply
          • That gif shows about 400 Mbps throughput, not 800+ – and that much is achievable, IF you have a MacBook pro with the BCM94360 (other 3×3 adapters are rarer than hen’s teeth, particularly for mobile or laptop), and IF you have no congestion at all and IF you’ve got near ideal RF conditions – little or no multipath, near range and few obstacles (not buying that rate at 50′ away plus a wall, short of cheating with a high gain directional antenna).

            What’s really bugging me is you keep using the term “real world”, and even IF – and I am very skeptical here – you’re achieving the throughput you’re claiming under the conditions you’re claiming, you absolutely cannot expect that most (or even many) of your readers will be achieving anything similar during their own “real world” usage.

          • Come on Jim! I used that term once, only to explain why I didn’t use xChariot, which generally no one would use in daily life. And yes, if you tweak both the router and the client to favor speeds (over compatibility) you will get what I saw. I haven’t had time to write a “how I test” piece which I will do soon, but I’d recommend you try copying a single large file instead of using test software. Do that over a cause of a few days, at different times of day, manually pick a channel for each test. Make sure your laptop is plugged in (not on battery). Btw, I use Windows on my Mac. Let me know what you find after.

  28. I’m using a ’14 MBP now and can’t get even close to your numbers. Tim @ smallnetbuilder.net couldn’t get past 450 Mbps to an 86u in an RF-isolated anechoic chamber @ 0 dB of attenuation. FSPL (free space path loss) of 50′ + a wall would be over 70 dB.

    Your testing methodology is flawed and your results aren’t producing actual throughput. Use iperf3 to a separate device wired to the 86u and re-test.

    Reply
    • Not all Macbook Pro have the same Wi-Fi adapter. Mine actually was a special order. But that’s not the point. You can try a 3×3 adapter, like this one. https://amzn.to/2LGWDdi. If you get less than 400Mbps on the 5Ghz at relatively close range, it’s just really odd. Say hi to Tim for me!

      Reply
  29. I asked what device, not what type. Are you using iperf/IxChariot/etc to a wired device connected to the router? Your figure at 50′ through a wall sounds outrageous and I’d like to try to duplicate it in my home lab.

    Reply
    • I don’t use ixChariot. Used it a while back and it’s just not real world. Instead I just copy data and time the process. One of my test laptops is a MacBook Pro 15″ 2013.

      Reply
  30. Hi Dong,

    Curious as to what wireless client device you’re using and what method is being used to measure actual throughput? Other reviews I’ve found on this unit barely crack 300 Mbps.

    Reply
      • I asked what device, not what type. Are you using iperf/IxChariot/etc to a wired device connected to the router? Your figure at 50′ through a wall sounds outrageous and I’d like to try to duplicate it in my home lab.

        Reply
  31. Hi Mr Dong Ngo,

    i would like to enquire comparing Asus rt ac86u and Synology rt2600ac for wired connection. Which router are able to support regular huge file download without disconnection? As currently i’m using 1Gbs fibre internet with TP link c5400, it internet will just stop working when the huge data start flowing but wifi still worked. Secondly the TP link c5400 just suddenly stop working and give 5ghz is not supported in your country/region. So i’m looking for an alternative router to replace my current router. Thanks in advance!!!

    Reply
    • Definitely get the Asus. However, if you really have a large amount of clients (like more than 50 **active* at the same time**) I’d recommend getting an enterprise router. But, try the Asus first.

      Reply
      • Hi Mr Dong Ngo,

        Thanks for the quick responses, In regards to an enterprise router, is ASUS BRT AC-828 as compare to Asus rt ac86u able to provide a better fail proof plan in regards to speed and wifi coverage? Thanks in advance !!!!

        Reply
    • I’ve had 2 rt-ac86u, and both are a pos. Have to reset it 2 or 3 times a day… drops the wifi constantly. Scheduled a reboot of it once a day and still have to reboot it…. currently looking at a TPlink. Not sure if Dong works for ASUS, but seems to always lean that way. I did until last year. Btw, ASUS tech support sucks, had to pay good money to sent the original back, only to get another one that does the same thing

      Reply
  32. I bought this router in part based upon this review and other reviews. I’ve had nothing but problems with it. The advertised Mac Time Machine feature doesn’t work easily at all and the eventual work around left to be found by the user (not Asus help desk) ends up shutting down the wifi signal causing continued failure. Other file transfers via USB fail as well. As a matter of fact two USB drives became corrupt and caused me major recovering inconvenience. A lot of user error you may think uh? Me too. So I call Asus for help. They’re very nice people and very polite at all times but act like deer in the headlights. They like to call you back. They like to send you emails with obscure links to things that have nothing to do with your problem. They never spend time with you to ask about your router settings. This router is total junk to me. I’ve gone back to my old router and I’m left to search for a replacement. What a waste of two hundred bucks.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear Tom and thanks for your input!

      But it’s indeed an excellent router though I mostly focused on the Wi-Fi aspect in my testing. I did try out the Time Machine backup (with an NTFS portable drive) briefly and it worked fine… If you can send me an email on the details of what happened in your case, I’ll see if I can find the answers for you. My email in the About page.

      Reply
  33. My network has distributed gig ports throughout my house. I use 3 Asus ac68 routers in WAP mode (ethernet back to my wireless router Asus ac87r) to provide wireless coverage over 3 floors. What would AiMesh do better? The 87r is not AiMesh compatible and I prefer not to buy a new router unless there is a significant advantage to AiMesh.

    btw your tech testing/review is always on the spot.

    Reply
    • In your case, AiMesh would only help unify all of the APs’ Wi-Fi networks into a single one, instead of multiple networks (of the same name). You’d also be able to manage the entire network at one place. It’s OK what you have right now, however. Don’t get a new router just for AiMesh. Hold it till you can find another use for the current router.

      Reply
  34. Excellent review as always Mr Ngo but I would like to see a video equivalent. And you know why? It’s because you’re Dong Ngo.

    Reply

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