Tuesday, March 21, 2023 β€’ Welcome to the πŸ’― Nonsense-Free Zone!
πŸ›οΈ Check out Today’s πŸ”₯Amazon logoDeals! πŸ›’

Asus RT-AX88U Pro: A 2023 Surprise that’s Everything the RT-AX88U Should’ve Been

Share what you're reading!

If your head hasn’t stopped spinning by the case of Asus’s RT-AX86U Pro vs RT-AX86U, maybe you should skip this post. Or at least pay good attention to the digits.

Late last month, Asus quietly unveiled the RT-AX88U Pro, clearly as a variant of the RT-AX88U that came out more than three years ago.

It’s worth mentioning that the RT-AX88U, the first Wi-Fi 6 home router with nine network ports, is the Wi-Fi 6 version of the identical-looking 9-port Wi-Fi 5 RT-AC88U, which is an AC3100 router.

And there’s a 5-port RT-AC3100 variant of the same physical shape. Just imagine the confusion if you have all of these variants together in the same place.

Unlike the RT-AX86U Pro, the “Pro” notion of the RT-AX88U Pro seems to make more sense. Despite looking the same as the older model, it’s almost an entirely new Wi-Fi 6 router on the inside.

This quick preview walks you through the differences in an RT-AX88U Pro vs RT-AX88U matchup and explains how the former might be a significant upgrade. That is if you can still consider any Wi-Fi 6 router as an upgrade nowadays, considering the availability of Wi-Fi 6E and the upcoming Wi-Fi 7.

But at the end of the day, the new router seems to have enough — considering its relatively high $400 price tag — to make the outgoing Wi-Fi 6 standard exciting again for some.

Asus RT AX88U ProRT AX88U 12
RT-AX88U Pro vs RT-AX88U (right): For the most part, the two routers look identical.

Asus RT-AX88U Pro: Practically the non-gaming version of the GT-AX6000

I haven’t had my hands on the new RT-AX88U Pro but I plan to do that when possible.

Judging from the specs, the new router is basically the RT-AX88U with a different set of network ports. Instead of one Gigabit WAN and eight Gigabit LANs, the RT-AX88U Pro has two 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig ports (one WAN and one LAN) and four Gigabit LANs. Other than that, it also has a faster CPU.

Needless to say, the new router will come with the latest Asuswrt firmware version — likely the 388 release — and will probably also get the Merlin treatment. (Both the RT-AX86U and RT-AX86U Pro get Merlin.)

Extra on Asus firmware updates

Asus regularly releases firmware updates, a Linux-based operating system called Asuswrt, for its routers. Some updates might inadvertently cause a particular model to go haywire, likely because the company tries to do so much with its routers.

As a result, firmware is a tricky thing with Asus. When it comes to updating — especially in an AiMesh system of mixed hardware units — keep the following three items in mind:

  1. Avoid the initial major release(*): This is the first firmware version of a model where the 3xx number change, such as from 384 to 386 or from 386 to 388, etc. Generally, the latest minor update of the previous major firmware release is always the most stable.
  2. Avoid using Auto-Update for firmware: You should update the firmware when you see fit instead of letting the hardware update itself.
  3. Version consistency (in a mesh system): Generally, it would be best to use the firmware version of the same major release for all AiMesh members.

(*) How to read an Asus router’s firmware: As shown in the screenshot below, in a particular firmware version, such as 3.0.0.4.386_47629, the 3xx number in the middle denotes Asus’s home-grown major release. The following number — often includes five digits such as 47629 in the screenshot — indicates a minor update.

Asus firmwaremajor minor release
The major release (3 digits) and minor update (5 digits) in an Asus router firmware version.

The part before that — 3.0.0.4 in the screenshot — is the Linux kernel version that will also change, albeit much less frequently. It’s even more significant and should also be taken into consideration.

On the one hand, moving between major releases might break your AiMesh setup or even your standalone router. On the other, new hardware comes with a specific initial version out of the box — you have no option to downgrade it — and some old models won’t get the latest release. So depending on the mesh combo, your luck will vary.

AiMesh started as an add-on feature with firmware version 384 in early 2018 — represented by the RT-AC86U — and was stable by the latest minor update of this version. In early 2020, Asus released version 386, buggy in the early stages, to add AiMesh 2.0 via the introduction of the ZenWifi product line. By late 2022, version 386 became fully mature, and Asus started releasing version 388, and the history repeated itself. So on and so forth.

As a rule, in a mesh system, it’s best to wait for a few minor updates of a major release before upgrading. Depending on the hardware combo, you might need to rebuild the system from scratch or reset and re-add a satellite node if you change the major firmware version (in one or all hardware units involved.)

Specs-wise, the new RT-AX88U Pro reminds me of the ROG Rapture GT-AX6000. But the two have distinctive hardware designs, and only one is an official gaming router.

With that, let’s check the RT-AX88U Pro’s hardware specifications against those I mentioned.

Asus RT AX88U Pro 2.5Gbps PortsRT AX88U 5
RT-AX88U Pro vs RT-AX88U (right): The former has fewer LAN ports but now comes with a 2.5Gbps WAN and 2.5Gbps LAN.

Asus RT-AX88U Pro vs RT-AX88U vs GT-AX6000: Hardware specifications

RT AX88U 12Asus RT AX88U ProAsus ROG Rapture GT AX6000
ModelRT-AX88URT-AX88U ProGT-AX6000
Wi-Fi BandwidthDual-Band AX6000Dual-Band AX6000Dual-Band AX6000
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs
(channel width)
4×4 AX: Up to 1148Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4×4 AX: Up to 1148Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4×4 AX: Up to 1148Mbps
(20/40MHz)
5GHz Wi-Fi Specs
(channel width)
4X4 AX: Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4X4 AX: Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4X4 AX: Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Backward Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac802.11a/b/g/n/ac802.11a/b/g/n/ac
AP ModeYesYesYe
AiMesh-readyYesYesYes
Gigabit  Ports8x LAN, 
1x WAN
4x LAN4x LAN
Multi-Gig PortsNone1x 2.5Gbps WAN,
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
1x 2.5Gbps WAN,
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
Link AggregationYes 
(LAN and WAN)
Yes 
(LAN and WAN)
Yes 
(LAN and WAN)
Dual-WANYes YesYes
USB Ports1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0 1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
Mobile AppAsus RouterAsus RouterAsus Router
QoSYesYesYes
Parental ControlYesYesYes
Processing Power1.8 GHz quad-core CPU, 
256MB Flash, 
1GB RAM
2.0 GHz quad-core CPU,
256 MB Flash,
1 GB RAM
2.0 GHz quad-core CPU, 
256MB Flash, 
1GB RAM
Built-in Online ProtectionYes Yes Yes
Asus Gaming FeaturesNoNoYes
Dimensions11.8 x 7.4 x 2.4 in
(30 x 18.8 x 6.04 cm)
11.8 x 7.4 x 2.4 in
(30 x 18.8 x 6.04 cm)
13 x 6.6 x 2.6 in 
(33.02 x 16.76 x 6.6 cm)
Weight2.1 lbs (945 g)2.23 lbs (1.01 kg)2.47 lbs (1.12 kg)
Release dateOctober 2019January 2023
(unveiled)
January 2022
Power Input100 – 240V100 – 240V100 – 240V
US Price
(at launch)
$299.99$399.99$399.99
Hardware specifications: Asus RT-AX88U Pro vs RT-AX88U vs GT-AX6000

Highly likely a familiar experience

According to the specs above, it’s highly likely that the RT-AX88U Pro will deliver a similar experience as the GT-AX6000 — the two share the same Wi-Fi grades, processing power, and network ports.

The new router is not part of the ROG Rapture gaming family — it doesn’t have Asus’s gaming features, so it will likely be a bit cheaper than the older cousin. We’d hope so, anyway.

The street price of the GT-AX6000 has decreased a fair bit since the review.

But the new router will come with new business-oriented features unavailable in most non-pro previous Asus routers, such as VLAN.

Asus and VLAN

VLAN, short for virtual local area network, is a business feature that allows users to create a logical network on an existing physical network. It’s similar to building a mini mother-in-law guest house within your property.

All Asus routers have Guest Wi-Fi networks which are a form of VLAN. However, only select models — generally the “Pro” segment, such as the GT-AX11000 Pro, RT-AX88U Pro, or RT-AX86U — also support a more advanced VLAN future applicable to their network ports.

Compared with the RT-AX88U, the new RT-AX88U Pro will likely be much faster, and its two Multi-Gig ports are enough for users to look past the fact it has three fewer LAN ports.

And I love the shared design of the two. It has that distinct look of a no-nonsense Wi-Fi router.

Asus RT AX88U Pro 2.5Gbps Ports
A closeup of the Asus RT AX88U Pro’s network ports. Its first two ports (WAN and LAN) feature 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig.

Other than that, it’s safe to say the RT-AX88U Pro will share the same feature set as other Wi-Fi 6 Asus routers.

Per Asus, it comes with the usual goodies, including a robust web interface, a helpful mobile app, support for AiMesh, and a ton of network settings/features — as I detailed in this primer post on Asus Wi-Fi routers.

The takeaway

Three years ago, the Asus RT-AX88U Pro would have been a tremendous Wi-Fi 6 router. While Wi-Fi 6 is no longer a hot commodity today, its dual 2.5Gbps ports still play a huge role for those wanting to truly enjoy Gigabit or faster Internet.

And if you’re thinking you’re missing out on Wi-Fi 6E, that FOMO can be quickly fixed via upgrade hardware. So yes, the RT-AX88U Pro will still be a relevant, even exciting, Wi-Fi machine for the foreseeable future.

The router is available to order now and will ship in mid-March — it’s expensive compared to the current cost of the GT-AX6000 though the street price will likely change depending on the demand. I’m contemplating a quick review, then. In the meantime, below is the rating of the similar-specced GT-AX6000 for reference.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX6000's Rating

9 out of 10
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX6000
Performance
9.5 out of 10
Features
9.5 out of 10
Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
9 out of 10

Pros

Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage

Dual Multi-Gig ports with Dual-WAN, Link Aggregations, and more

Tons of helpful networking features and settings, including AiMesh 2.0 and gaming-related applications

Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app, no login account required

Multi-Gig, WAN/LAN Link Aggregation support

Excellent NAS performance when hosting a portable drive

Bold-looking design, no fan, runs cool

Cons

Lowest Multi-Gig grade (2.5Gbps), there could be more ports considering the router's massive physical size

A bit pricey

Impractical antenna design, bulky, not practically wall-mountable

Share what you just read!

Comments are subject to approval, redaction, or removal.

It's generally faster to get answers via site/page search. Your question/comment is one of many Dong Knows Tech receives daily. Β 

  1. Strictly no bigotry, profanity, trolling, violence, or spamming -- including unsolicited bashing/praising/plugging a product/brand (β€’).
  2. You're presumed to have read this page in its entirety, including related posts and links in previous comments -- questions already addressed will likely be ignored.
  3. Be reasonable, attentive, and respectful! (No typo-laden, broken-thought, or cryptic comments, please!)

(β€’) If you represent a company/product mentioned here, please use the contact page or a PR channel.

Thank you!

28 thoughts on “Asus RT-AX88U Pro: A 2023 Surprise that’s Everything the RT-AX88U Should’ve Been”

  1. FYI…according to this FAQ on ASUS site — [Wireless Router] What is VLAN and how to setup? — (https://www.asus.com/us/support/FAQ/1049415) it looks like VLAN supported for this model (and others) — Product GT-AX11000 Pro, GT-AX6000, ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000, RT-AX86U Pro, RT-AX88U Pro, ZenWiFi Pro ET12, ZenWIFI Pro XT12

    Reply
    • I mentioned that in the post, Shawn. Guest networking is a form of VLAN by the way and all Asus routers have that. Thanks for the input, though.

      Reply
  2. Hi Dong,
    Just wanted your clarification. In your article, you mention that Asus RT-AX88U pro has 2 x USB 3.0 ports, while ASUS global website mentions as 1 x USB 3.2 gen 1. Can you help here?

    Reply
  3. Dong, thanks for your work and education of the public.

    I have the RT-AX88U and it works fine in my 4000+ sq ft house as a single router with 70 devices (including 7 wifi streaming cameras and 2 streaming doorbell cameras). I do occasionally get a few seconds of buffering from my streaming fire tv devices, so I wonder when my current Asus router dies (seems like my routers live about 4 years or so before they start to get flaky) should I just splurge for the GT-AXE16000 with more bandwidth or should I consider something else. Spending $700 for a router is not an issue for me — I just want raw power and range — and I want the simplicity of a single router vs going with a mesh system.

    Reply
    • Yes, the GT-AX16000 will work for your situation if the current RT-AX88U has been sufficient. It might not fix the buffering issues, though, since that might have had something to do with your Internet.

      Reply
  4. People interested in future-proofing their home network setup should SKIP this already outdated trash. Why? Let me explain:

    1. Apple and most device manufacturers support 160 Mhz channel width only on 6Ghz Wifi 6e band. So you will always get 1.2 Gbps link speeds if you use Wifi 6e iPad Pros from late 2022 with this router and not 2.4 Gbps link which your iPad is capable off if you had a REAL Wifi 6e router.

    2. This router is not taking technology any further and it seems to be a rehash of RT-AX6000 with few USB Port changes.

    Price for same SOC and tech SHOULD be lower but it’s on sale for same price as RT-AX6000 which makes it an extremely poor buy.

    Reply
    • There’s so such thing as “future proofing” — get what works for your needs today — and, as I mentioned, it’s easy to add the 6GHz band to your network.

      But nobody has to buy this router, or any particular tech product, either.

      Ready the post in it’s entirety, please! πŸ™‚

      Reply
      • I replied only after reading your post in entirety. I stand by my opinion that this RT-AX88U Pro should be skipped unless it is available for RT-AX88U (Non-Pro’s price) of $249. I see that amazon.com has already dropped the price of Pro by $50 even before sale which tells us how much of poor value this product is. If someone has an itch and just wants to spend money because they can’t sleep peacefully, they better buy Zen Wifi ET12 single for $429 as one is at least getting Wifi6e and better aesthetics.
        No disrespect to you Dong. Love your site and you are doing God’s work in exposing all these Wifi intricacies.

        Reply
        • No offense taken. I just wanted to note that I had already mentioned in the post most of what you said, which was a little harsh, though not without merit.

          I haven’t tested this new router, so I’d give it some benefit of the doubt. And I like the design. In any case, it’s not a must-have, and folk can tally skip it.

          And thanks for the kind words.

          Reply
      • Have always been an ASUS Wi-Fi router fan. I’m upgrading my network since getting gigabit service from Spectrum. This is replacing an RT-AC3100 AiMesh primary node and 4 RT-AC1900s as satellites with wired back haul. I cover a mixed use 54,000 sq ft building and a 5 acre parking lot with 28 Wi-Fi security cams feeding a Synology DS718+ running Surveillance Station. The current 3100 struggles a bit these days, so I’m hoping this new router lives up to the hype!!

        Reply
      • Thanks to FedEx my RT-AX88U Pro didn’t arrive until today. One big difference between the Pro and the standard 88U is the port config. There’s one 2.5gig WAN, one 2.5gig LAN and only 4 1gig LAN ports!! I’ll install this weekend and post any other things I find.

        Reply
  5. Hello Dong, I noticed the rt-ax88u pro and rt-ax86u pro are now available on the Asus website {…}. I am upgrading my home router and are considering these two options, but not sure if they are worth the extra $. Are you planning to do a review on one or both of these models?

    I have a 3000 square foot house with a finished basement – our needs are that of a standard suburban family. Do you have a suggestion between rt-ax86u at $250, rt-ax88u at $250, rt-ax86u PRO at $300, or rt-ax88u PRO at $350?

    Thank you! Mark.

    Reply
    • To add on to my above comment, I am not price sensitive so am willing to spend more to get the best model — but I obviously also don’t want to throw away money if a certain “upgrade” isn’t worth it. -Mark

      Reply
      • You might need two, Mark, considering how large your place is. I’d recommend getting the 88U Pro (I haven’t tested it yet) first and seeing how it pans out. If you indeed need one more, another RTA-AX86U as the node (preferable via wired backhauling) will make a great setup. If you need more help, check out this AiMesh setup guide post (in the related posts box up top.)

        Reply
  6. Hi Dong –

    I’m in the market for a new router as I just moved into a larger home (3500 sq. feet but it’s a single story with 800 sq. feet finished basement) and my old cheap router isn’t going to cut it anymore. I just started researching new routers this last week and have been torn between the RT-AX86U and RT-AX88U. I was actually very close to ordering the RT-AX86U and then I saw your new post about the new 86U and 88U Pro versions. Based on your previews it looks like I might be most interested in the 88U Pro. Do you think it is worthwhile to hold off on purchasing a new router until the Pro version is available? I’m not the type who is interested in frequently upgrading my router hardware (maybe every 3-4 years) so I’d be okay in waiting if you think it might be worthwhile. Appreciate your input!

    Z

    Reply
    • I can’t say about the RT-AX88U Pro since it’s not available yet (and I don’t know when), but the RT-AX86U is excellent. Go for it! Chances are the RT-AX88U Pro won’t make much of a difference. Or you can go for the GT-AX6000, which is the same in terms of hardware specs but better in features.

      Good luck, Zander!

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong! Appreciate your input. In the above article you mentioned the following:

        β€œAnd if you’re thinking you’re missing out on Wi-Fi 6E, that can be quickly added via upgrade hardware. So yes, when available, the RT-AX88U Pro will still be a relevant, even exciting, Wi-Fi machine for the foreseeable future.”

        Do the non-Pro versions have the same upgrade capability?

        Lastly, when Asus releases their new Pro models, do they typically reduce the price for the older models (non-Pro)? β€” (similar to when Apple releases a new iPhone) β€” or is that typically not the way it works for new router releases?

        Reply
  7. Dong, great thorough update as always.

    Your readers may be interested to know that Asus is currently beta testing vlan support and configuration in the gui for a couple models, namely the RT-AX86U Pro and the GT-AX11000 Pro, and it is expected that the remaining “Pro” devices, such as the RT-AX88U Pro, will gain this feature as well.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the input, Ozzie. I think that’s the company’s new direction with its new Wi-Fi 7 product lines. We’ll see how it pans out.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

πŸ“Œ