The Asus RT-AX3000 (as well as its RT-AX58U variant) is among the most affordable Wi-Fi 6 routers in the market, and that’s the least interesting thing about it.
This little Wi-Fi machine delivers a lot more than its compact design suggests. It has a ton of useful features and the support for the venerable 160 MHz channel bandwidth. Featuring Asus’s AiMesh, you can use a couple of hardware units as (part of) a versatile Wi-Fi mesh system.
On the downside, as a mid-tier router, the RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U doesn’t have the power of its more expensive dual-band cousins, like the RT-AX88U or the RT-AX89X. But comparing with similarly-specced and priced counterparts, it’s an easy winner.
For those living in a medium or smaller home, the RT-AX3000, as well as the RT-AX56U, is worth their sub-$200 price tag. And if you wonder which to get — in case you have the option to pick — either will do. They are the same hardware.
Dong’s note: This review, first published on April 6, 2020, was initially about RT-AX3000. On May 6, I updated it — based on questions and requests from readers — to include the performance of the RT-AX58U as a single router and part of an AiMesh system formed by the two.
ASUS RT-AX3000 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Router$179.99
- 160 MHz channel support
- Fast and reliable performance
- Ton of useful features with excellent AiMesh support
- Full web interface and well-design mobile app
- Compact design, wall-mountable
- No multi-gig port or Link Aggregation
- Modest hardware specs
- Relatively short Wi-Fi range
- The Parental Control feature could use some improvement
Asus RT-AX3000 vs RT-AX58U: A tale of two identical twins
The RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U are both AX3000-rated Wi-Fi 6 (802.11AX) routers. They have the top speed on the 5GHz band of 2400 Mbps and the 2.4 GHz, 600 Mbps. In other words, again, you can call both AX3000 routers.
So the RT-AX3000’s name makes things a bit confusing, while the RT-AX58U uses Asus’s traditional naming convention. What’s important, however, is the fact the two are of the same hardware.
Still, to make sure, in testing, I even tried flashing RT-AX58U with the RT-AX3000’s firmware, and then the other way around, and that worked. Though the routers’ model names remained the same, the flashing went through without a hitch, and both functioned normally afterward.
Asus told me that the only reason for two separate model names is that the AX58U is a Best Buy exclusive router in the U.S., while the RT-AX3000 is more of a generic version. So if you want to blame Best Buy for this, I don’t blame you.
There you have it. Again, these two routers are of the same hardware. Note, though, that they might still be some differences at the firmware level.
In other words, as time goes by, Asus might choose to make one have (slightly) more or less than the other. In this case, it’s safer to get the RT-AX3000 since it’s more of a “world” version.
But if you use the Merlin firmware, which is the same for both routers, you’ll see that there’s no difference between the two.
Asus RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U: A compact traditional design that packs a punch
You’ll be a little surprised getting either router out of the packaging. They are much smaller than the photos on the box suggest, easily among the most compact Wi-Fi 6 routers.
The two router’ boxes show two different model names, Asus RT-AX3000 vs. Asus RT-AX58U. The fact that the latter box shows a seal of Broadcom while that of the former doesn’t might suggest they use two different Wi-Fi chips. That’s not the case. They both use the BCM6750 1.5Ghz Triple-Core CPU.
Traditional design, non-removable antennas, wall-mountable
Both routers take the shape of a traditional design, with four antennas sticking up from their back. These antennas are not removable, but you can swivel them around.
You’ll find the four usual Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port between the antennas. There’s also a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) port to host a storage device, a printer, or a supported mobile cellular device.
Neither router has a multi-gig port, nor do they support Link Aggregation. However, both offer Dual-WAN and allow users to turn one of their LAN ports or the USB port into a second WAN port.
There are four little rubber feet on the underside for the routers to stay put on a surface. But you can also mount them on a wall.
Asus RT-AX3000 vs Asus RT-AX58U: photos
The RT-AX3000 vs RT-AX58U: Hardware specifications vs. competitors’
|Asus RT-AX3000||Netgear RAX40||TP-Link Archer AX50|
|Full Name||Asus RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U|
Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router
|NETGEAR Nighthawk AX4 |
4-Stream Wi-Fi 6 Router
|Archer AX50 AX3000 |
Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router
|Dimensions||8.82 x 6.06 x 6.3 in |
(224 x 154 x 160 mm)
|13.38 x 8.11 x 2.24 in |
(340 x 206 x 57 mm)
|10.2 × 5.3 × 1.5 in|
(260.2 x 135.0 x 38.6 mm)
|Weight||1.19 lbs (538 g)||1.32 lb (600 g)||1.24 lbs (.56 kg)|
|Hardware Specs||1.5 GHz Tri-core CPU, |
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
|Dual-core CPU||Intel AnyWAN GRX350, |
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 |
|Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 |
|Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 |
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 2.4 Gbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 2.4 Gbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 2.4 Gbps|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 AX: Up to 574Mbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 574Mbps|
|2×2 AX: Up to 574Mbps|
|Wireless Security||WPA, WPA2, WPA3||WPA, WPA2, WPA3||WPA, WPA2|
|Mobile App||Asus Router||Netgear Nighthawk||TP-Link Tether|
|Web User Interface||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|USB Port||1x USB 3.0||1x USB 3.0||1x USB 3.0|
|Gigabit Port||4x LAN, 1x WAN||4x LAN, 1x WAN||4x LAN, 1x WAN|
|Link Aggregation||No||No||Yes (LAN 2 + LAN 3)|
Modest hardware, dual-stream Wi-Fi 6
Standard Asus feature set
Like most Asus routers, starting with the RT-AC86U, the RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U comes with what I call the Asus core router feature set, which is the most generous on the market.
If you have used an Asus router before, you’ll feel right at home with this pair. Specifically, you can expect the following.
Universal setting restoration
You can restore the backup settings of most Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers interchangeably.
As a result, you won’t need to program the new router from scratch in an upgrade or replacement. Instead, most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will migrate from the old router to the new one.
This feature is a huge time saver if you have many settings, such as IP reservation and port-forwarding entries.
Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts. But I’ve personally used this feature countless times and hardly ran into any issues.
Tip: After the migration, adjust applicable specific settings, such as the router model name, to make sure they match the new router and perform a deliberate backup and restore. This step will make the old setting become “native” to the new router.
A robust web user interface
Asus is one of a few networking vendors that stays true to the web interface and doesn’t coerce users into a cloud-based web portal, which is excellent for those caring about privacy.
(All Asus routers allow remote management, which is turned off by default, via Dynamic DNS.)
The interface allows access to a router’s tons of settings and features — some are listed below. Savvy networking enthusiasts will love that though it can be a bit overwhelming for novice users.
Standard setup process
Thanks to the web interface, all Asus router has the standard setup process as I detailed in this post on building a home network from scratch.
However, here are the general steps:
- Connect your router’s WAN port to the Internet source, be it a modem, an existing gateway, or the Fiberoptic ONT. Turn it on.
- Connect a computer to the router, either via a network cable to one of its LAN ports, or the default open Wi-Fi network, generally named “Asus xx”.
- Open a browser and navigate to the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.50.1 (or router.asus.com).
The rest is self-explanatory. The first time you get to the web interface, you’ll run into a wizard that walks you through a few steps.
(Alternatively, you can also use the Asus mobile app in step #3 if you use a phone or tablet instead of a computer. However, I recommend the web user interface even when you use a mobile device for the setup process.)
Helpful mobile app and doesn’t require a login accout
Again, the Asus mobile app works for both the setup process and ongoing management.
This app is common for all Asus routers and is quite comprehensive. It’s one of the best mobile apps for routers you can find on the market. But, still, it’s not as in-depth as the web interface.
The best thing about it is that you can use it to manage the router remotely without a login account. Instead, just like the web interface, it operates the remote management via the router’s built-in support for Dynamic DNS feature that includes a free SSL certificate.
However, one thing to note is that using the app can inadvertently turn on or off specific settings that could cause the router to behave unexpectedly. In this case, you’ll have to reset the router and set it up from the beginning.
The point is is this, while this app is convenient and fun to use, it can be dangerous for those who like messing around too much.
The AiProtection is one of a feature that adds so much value to an Asus router.
It includes a free-for-life real-time Network Protection powered by Trend Micro and a Parental Control engine.
Network Protection is designed to keep the entire local network safe. In many ways, it’s somewhat like a strip-down version of an add-on firewall, like the Firewalla or the subscription-based Armor from Netgear.
Still, for a free product, it’s excellent. I’ve used it for years in multiple networks, and it has proven effective against many malicious websites and malware. Don’t expect it as total protection (there’s no such thing!), but just a helping hand, and you’ll love it.
On the other hand, the Parental Control portion has been a bit too rigid, in my opinion, and the way Asus defines categories for web-filtering is a bit vague. On top of that, you can’t use it to block a particular website. This simplistic approach is not a big deal for me since I don’t believe in Parental Controls anyway.
(While AiProtection is available in all Asus routers, some routes get a stripped-down version due to their limited processing power. The XDR, which is the router unit of the XD4 mesh set, is an example. Its Network Protection and Parental Controls are neutered.)
The Adaptive QoS is a common feature available in all Asus routers and is one of the most easy-to-use QoS features among all home routers.
“QoS” stands for the quality of service, and it enables users to prioritize Internet traffic to support different applications or services.
Asus’s Adaptive QoS requires minimum work from the user and is quite effective. It also includes Bandwidth Monitor, Web History, and an Internet Speed test if you want to know more about your resources and keep tabs on your network’s online activities.
AiMesh is a valuable feature available in all Asus Wi-Fi 6 and most Wi-Fi 5 routers. First introduced with the RT-AC86U in early 2018, AiMesh allows each standalone hardware unit to work as part of a robust Wi-Fi mesh system.
Since this feature is very significant, I detailed it in this separate post.
Other useful features
Other than the above, you can also expect the following from all Asus routers:
- Networking tools: Wake on LAN, Ping, Netstat, and Smart Connect Rule can come in handy for advanced users.
- Auto-reboot: You can set your router to restart by itself on a schedule.
- Traffic Analyzer: A set of tools and statistics in case 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 seven make the router handle PC-less downloading, and use the router’s USB ports to host printers or select USB cellular modems.
- The usual set of network settings and features: These include Dynamic DNS, IP reservation, Port-forwarding, VPN server, and some Alexa Skills.
- Frequent firmware update: Asus pushes out firmware updates on a regular basis to, for the most part, fix issues and improve its routers’ performance and function.
AiMesh support and other features
On top of that, the RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U also features AiMesh. It can work as the main router or a node when coupled with any AiMesh router from Asus. The router can work as a VPN server or a VPN client.
It also includes some nifty networking tools, including the Wake-on-LAN function, which will come in handy if you want to turn on a local device via its interface. I’ve used this tool many times on my Synology servers.
It’s worth noting that the RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U doesn’t have all the features you can collectively find in Asus routers. Notably, it doesn’t include any game-specific features.
But in all, the router has plenty more compared to those of the same physical size and hardware specs. In fact, it’s comparable to Asus’s top-of-the-line dual-band router, the RT-AX89X, in terms of features and settings.
Standard setup process
Setting up the RT-AX58U / RT-AX3000 is the same as any Asus router and similar to how you do all routers with a web interface.
Specifically, from a connected computer, point a browser to the router’s default IP address (192.168.50.1) or router.asus.com, and you’ll run into a wizard that walks you through the process step by step. After that, the rest is self-explanatory.
I managed to get the RT-AX3000 up and running in less than 20 minutes as a standalone router, including the time to update it to the latest firmware. The RT-AX58U took even shorter since I just uploaded the backup file of the RT-AX3000.
Asus AX3000 routers: Excellent performance
Both the RT-AX3000 and the RT-AX58U worked well in my testing with almost the same performance throughputs.
Note: Initially, with the launch firmware, I found that RT-AX58U had some issues with certain Wi-Fi 5 clients, similar to the case of the RT-AX92U. Specifically, my test PCE-AC88 4×4 Wi-Fi 5 adapter, also made by Asus, had difficulty connecting to it. However, with the latest firmware, this was no longer an issue.
Fast mid-range Wi-Fi speeds
Both routers support the 160 MHz channel width, and my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients had no problems connecting to them, as standalone routers, at 2.4 Gbps within a short distance.
However, since there’s no multi-gig LAN port, the data rates of my test methodology will still cap at 1 Gbps. Nonetheless, both routers still delivered quite impressive and almost the same sustained speeds.
With 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, at less than 10 feet (3 m) away, both routers averaged faster than 880 Mbps. And when I moved the client to some 40 feet (12) away, they still scored almost 750 Mbps. Both were faster than the Netgear and TP-Link counterparts.
The routers did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients, too. At close range, my 4×4 test client sustained at 770 Mbps with the RT-AX3000 and almost 780 Mbps with the RT-AX58U. Farther out, my 3×3 device drew higher than 530 Mbps. Again both were quite impressive compared to their peers.
On the 2.4 GHz band, I test Wi-Fi 6 routers using only 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, and both the RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U did quite well, averaging almost 170 Mbps and more than 130 Mbps for close and long ranges, repetitively. Again faster than their direct competitors.
Asus RT-AX3000 + RT-AX58U = a viable AiMesh solution
When testing the RT-AX3000 solo more than a month ago, I tried it as an AiMesh node with the GT-AX11000, and it worked quite well. This second time around, since I also had the RT-AX58U on hand, it only made sense to test them out as a system of their own.
And the two didn’t disappoint. It was easy to combine them into a mesh system, just like any other AiMesh router. And the performance was quite good, too.
Since they are dual-band routers, there’s no dedicated backhaul band — devices connected to the satellite unit will perform slower than those connected to the router. That’s just the nature of any dual-band wireless mesh system.
One thing to note, though, in a wireless mesh configuration, for some reason, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients only connected at 1.2 Gbps (instead of 2.4 Gbps) at the satellite’s end.
But overall, the system delivered speed fast enough to take care of any typical residential broadband connection in full.
By the way, the two also worked well via a wired backhaul. And in this case, I got the same performance, from either unit, as when they worked as a standalone router.
Reliable performance with a decent range
Like the RT-AX3000, the RT-AX58U passed my three-day stress test with no disconnection at all. And both routers had the same coverage. If you have a medium home of around 1800 ft² (167 m²) or smaller, either will be able to take care of it when placed in the middle.
As a system, depending on how you arrange them, the two can handle about 3000 ft² (279 m²) to 4000 ft² (372m²) easily. Considering their Wi-Fi specs, it’s best to use them with wired backhaul, however.
Modest USB-based NAS performance
The RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U shared the same network-attached storage performance. Considering their hardware specs and the lack of a multi-gig port, you couldn’t expect much from them, by the way. But they worked quite well as a mini NAS server.
When coupled with the Micron X8 via a wired Gigabit connection, the two delivered sustained copy speeds of some 65 MB/s and 44 MB/s for reading and writing, respectively.
These weren’t terrible and faster than the Netgear RAX40 or the TP-Link Archer AX50. Still, you should definitely consider a real NAS server if you want to get serious about network storage.
Considering there are currently only 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, the Asus RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U fits in the sweet spot where it will deliver the best bang for your buck, thanks to the rich feature set.
While the router has less bandwidth than higher-end options, it has enough to deliver almost full Gigabit Internet to a couple of Wi-Fi 6 clients simultaneously. And that means it can handle any household with a typical broadband connection with ease.
That said, if you live in a small home and want to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, either of the two is an excellent choice. And if you have a large house wired with network cables, get the couple of them to form a real mesh system. You won’t regret it.