Asus RT-AX88U vs. RT-AC88U is an interesting comparison since they are of two different Wi-Fi standards.
Right off the bat, it seems the former, the Wi-Fi 6 version, is a straightforward replacement of the Wi-Fi 5 counterpart. But is that the case? Find it all out in this post.
Just take a good look at them. They are almost identical. Indeed, these two routers share the same design, dimensions, weight, number of network ports (eight LANs and one WAN), and antennas. And there's more.
On the inside, they both have the same set of features, including gaming, online protection, QoS, and so on. The two can also work together to create an AiMesh Wi-Fi system. (In this case, it's best to use them via a wired backhaul.)
Most importantly, you can put Merlin firmware on both and turn them into much better Wi-Fi machines than what you get out of the box. The support for Merlin is among the main reason I'd consider these two.
Asus RT-AX88U vs RT-AC88U: Hardware specifications
|Name||ASUS AX6000 Dual-Band |
Wi-Fi 6 Router
|ASUS AC3100 Dual-Band |
Wi-Fi 5 Router
|Model||Asus RT-AX88U||Asus RT-AC88U|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX6000||Dual-Band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) AC3100|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||4x4 Wi-Fi 6: up to 1148 Mbps||4x4 Wi-Fi 5: up to 1000 Mbps|
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||4X4 Wi-Fi 6: up to 4833 Mbps||4x4 Wi-Fi 5: up to 2167 Mbps|
|Supported Wi-Fi Standards||802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax||802.11a/b/g/n/ac|
|Mesh-ready||Yes (AiMesh)||Yes (AiMesh)|
|Channel Width Support||20/40/80/160 MHz||20/40/80 MHz|
|Gigabit LAN Ports||8x Gigabit LAN, 1x Gigabit WAN||8x Gigabit LAN, 1x Gigabit WAN|
|Link Aggregation||Yes (LAN 1 and LAN 2)||Yes (LAN 1 and LAN 2)|
|Dual-WAN||Yes (WAN + LAN/USB)||Yes (WAN + LAN/USB)|
|USB||2 x USB-A USB 3.0||1x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0|
|Mobile App||Asus Router||Asus Router|
|QoS||Yes (Excellent)||Yes (Excellent)|
|Built-in Online Protection||Yes||Yes|
|Merlin Firmware Support||Yes||Yes|
|Gaming Features||WTFast Gamers VPN, |
|WTFast Gamers VPN,|
|Processing Power||1.8 GHz quad-core CPU,|
256MB Flash, 1GB RAM
|1.4 GHz dual-core CPU, |
128MB Flash, 512MB RAM
|Dimensions||11.8 x 7.4 x 2.4 inches |
(30 x 18.8 x 6.04 cm)
|11.8 x 7.4 x 2.4 inches |
(30 x 18.8 x 6.04 cm)
|Weight||2.1 lbs (945 g)||2.1 lbs (945 g)|
The most significant difference between the two is the fact the RT-AX88U is a more powerful router. For one, it uses Wi-Fi 6. It also has a faster quad-core CPU and doubles the amount of RAM and flash memory.
The RT-AX88U also has two USB 3.0 ports (instead of one 2.0 port) and, in my testing, delivered much faster network storage performance when hosting a portable SSD.
In many ways, the RT-AX88U supersedes RT-AC88U as it's intended to be. However, the lack of a multi-gig port means, in reality, you likely won't see much difference between the two in terms of network Wi-Fi performance.
It's expected that the RT-AX88U would outdo the RT-AC88U, and, for the most part, it did in my testing. However, having no multi-gig port, it wasn't that much faster when working with Wi-Fi 5 clients.
By the way, I initially tested the RT-AC88U using only Wi-Fi 5. There was no Wi-Fi 6 when I reviewed it, and it doesn't have support this standard anyway. (Wi-Fi 6 clients do work with Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters).
But like all Wi-Fi 5 routers, it works with Wi-Fi 6 clients, or the other way round -- Wi-Fi 6 clients work with Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters.
In any case, for this post, I did some additional tests using 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, which connected to the router at 867 Mbps of negotiated speed. That's the ceiling speeds of 2x2 Wi-Fi 5.
By the way, both routers can host network storage via a portable drive. But of the two, only the RT-AX88U can work as a mini NAS server. It had much faster NAS speeds, as shown here, thanks to the higher hardware specs.
Asus RT-AC88U's Rating
Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage
Tons of valuable features, including the ability to guard the network against online threats
Eight LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
Excellent support for Asus's AiMesh
Merlin firmware support
Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports
Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive
Asus RT-AX88U's Rating
Fast Wi-Fi performance
Tons of useful features
Eight network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
Universal setting backup and restoration
Fast network-attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive.
Merlin firmware support
No multi-gig network port
Buggy firmware (at review)
Which to get
In many ways, the RT-AX88U is better than the Wi-Fi 5 counterpart. But it's also much more expensive while sharing the same feature set.
And then, when you're ready to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, keep it. It'll still work great as an AiMesh node, especially if you have wired your home with network cables.
The RT-AX88U is also a great router. But unfortunately, the lack of multi-gig network ports means you won't almost see its full potential. For that reason, you should consider the more affordable yet multi-gig-ready RT-AX86U instead.
Looking for more Wi-Fi solution matchups? Check them all out here.