If you’re the type who gets excited about nice-looking and powerful home networking devices with a ton of ports, the Asus RT-AX89X will hit you like a six-pack of RedBull. At a glance, you know instantly that this Wi-Fi 6 router, at the very least, will give you enough materials for hours and hours of bragging.
And it’s a real deal, too. The RT-AX89X did well in my testing, topping the charts in many categories. It worked well as a single router but could also be part of a top-notch mesh system if your home is ready for it.
Despite some minor issues, the RT-AX89X has more than enough to justify its suggested retail price of some $450. So, If you’re in the market for a fast-performing, feature-laden, dual-band standalone Wi-Fi 6 router, this one is arguably the best you can find right now. And the opportunity to impress your significant other, on things that probably have nothing to do with Wi-Fi, is a bonus.
Dong’s note: I first published this post on January 14th, 2020, as a preview and updated it on March 6th to a full review.
ASUS RT-AX89X AX6000 Dual Band WiFi 6 Router
- Excellent Wi-Fi performance
- Uniquely cool design with two 10Gbps network ports
- Eight Gigabit network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
- Super-fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive
- Tons of useful features, including free-for-life real-time online protection, and AiMesh
- Universal setting backup and restoration
- No game-specific features
- Smart Connect setting not available at launch
- Tweaking required to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speeds
- Bulky physical size with internal fan
- Web interface needs work
- Not wall-mountable
Asus RT-AX89X: Top-notch Wi-Fi 6 router got curves
The RT-AX89X is like no other router I’ve seen, and I’ve seen many. It demands your attention.
While helping me get it out of the FedEx box, my 4-year-old toddler uttered: “Wow, is it a new toy, daddy?”. “It’s a new toy indeed, but not for you, sweetie,” I told her, before withdrawing myself, with the router, to the basement.
Days later, she was still asking about it.
A design that screams for attention
The RT-AX89X comes in a large, almost square box. The photo on the box suggests it’s something that moves, like a robot, instead of a networking device. No surprise or disappointment there.
And the router itself is massive. For an equivalent, in terms of design and physical size, you can think of the Asus GT-AX11000, or especially the TP-Link Archer C5400X. However, the RT-AX89X has more curves, and by that, I mean angles.
That’s because it’s not exactly round, taking the shape of an octagon, measuring 13.52-inch (343.64 mm) wide and 3.15-inch (80.02 mm) tall. Physically, the RT-AX89X is like a rounded, smoothed out version of the GT-AX1100. It also has eight antennas sticking up from its sides.
The antenna themselves are not removable, but they can open outwards or collapse down on the router’s top. Either way, they give the router an intriguing look. At the very least, this piece of hardware sure is a conversation starter.
Out of the box, the RT-AX89X is something to marvel at — it has so many things you’d want to put your hands on. My kids loved moving the antennas back and forth, which is quite understandable. The odd thing is I found myself doing that, too. For no reason.
OK, maybe there are some. The mechanics of the movement is fun. Each time an antenna hits its max position, it makes a satisfying click sound. Also, right them up differently, and you can create all kinds of weird shapes with the router.
The following are a few photos so you can judge it for yourself.
Asus RT-AX89X: A powerful dual-band router with a ton of ports
While having an original appearance, on the inside, though, the RT-AX89X is similar to the RT-AX88U. That’s because it’s, too, a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router, not a tri-band one. So, it’ll work best as a standalone router, and not as part of a wireless AiMesh system.
The new router supports AiMesh just fine and will work well in one, but since there’s no dedicated backhaul band, it might be a bit inferior to the GT-AX1100. That’s unless you choose to use wired backhaul with it. In this case, it can potentially be the best AiMesh router considering the sheer amount of ports it has.
First router with two 10Gbps ports
The RT-AX89X is the first home router I’ve seen that comes with the support for 10Gbps wired networking — that’s why its name ends in X instead of U like most others.
(By the way, per Asus, U is to indicate that the router has USB-related features. The RT-AX89X also has USB ports, but the 10Gbps capability is much more significant.)
And it includes two 10Gbps ports — the multi-gig runner-up is the Netgear RAX120 that has just one 5Gbps port, and I already considered that a big deal.
One of the RT-AX89X’s 10Gbps ports is an RJ45 10Gbps BaseT that works with all existing home wired devices — you’ll be able to use a regular CAT5e (or CAT6) cable with it. This port also supports all speeds grades — including 1Gbps, 2.5Gpbs, 5Gbps, or 10Gbps — depending on the device you plug into it.
The other is a 10Gbps SFP+ port that requires a different type of network cable. You can use it to connect to a server or select fiber optic internet services.
Versatile multi-gig applications
In terms of usage roles, here are how the RT-AX89X’s two 10Gbps ports work:
- Both as LAN ports (default). In this case, they don’t support LAN Link Aggregation — you can’t combine them into a single 20Gbps connection.
- Both as WAN ports. In this case, they don’t support WAN Link Aggregation but can work as Dual-WAN, where each connects to a different service provider.
- One as a WAN port, and the other as a LAN port.
By the way, as a WAN port, the SFP+ supports multi-mode optical fiber. As a result, depending on the Internet provider, the router can connect directly to the broadband connector, without the need for a fiber modem. With a single-mode fiber connection, however, a modem might be necessary.
That said, again, you can get multiple units of the RT-AX89X and use network cables to link them up to via 10Gbps connections to form an AiMesh setup. In this case, you’ll get yourself the fastest home mesh Wi-Fi system that can deliver multi-gig Internet throughout.
Nine Gigabit network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
Similar to the case of the RT-AX88U, the RT-AX89X also has one Gigabit WAN port and eight Gigabit LAN ports. So, yes, it has the most amount of network ports among home routers I’ve seen.
There are also two USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) ports that can host storage, printer, and USB cellular modem.
Like most Asus routers, the RT-AX89X’s Gigabit ports feature Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation. For the former, you can use a combo of the WAN port and a 10Gbps port or a USB port, and the latter — the LAN 1 and LAN 2 ports — can work together to form a 2Gbps connection.
RT-AX89X’s hardware specifications: The RT-AX88U on steroids
On the inside, the RT-AX89X is a souped-up version of the RT-AX88U. It has more powerful hardware and more ports, as mentioned above. It’s safe to say, the RT-AX89X is the most powerful, dual-band router on the market, to date.
It’s worth noting that the RT-AX88U’s 5GHz is a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 band, which caps at 4800 Mbps. The RT-AX89X’s 5GHz band also caps at 4800 Mbps. However, Asus calls it an 8×8 band. As a result, when combined both bands, the company calls the RT-AX89X a 12-stream router.
That’s just a marketing ploy, used quite widely among networking vendors, like Netgear with its RAX120, or Ubiquiti with the Alien. In this case, Asus told me that it just wanted to emphasize on the router’s use of the popular 80MHz channel bandwidth. I explained more on that matter in this post about Wi-Fi 6 speeds.
The same feature set
Though unique in shape and specs, at the core, the RT-AX89X is just like all Asus routers released in the past decade.
It has the same web interface, uses the same Asus Router mobile app, and, for the most part, the same feature set. That said, you can set it up like any other Asus router, which is the same way you do any router with a web interface.
During the setup process, you’ll get the opportunity to upload the settings from any other Asus router. So yes, it, too, supports universal restoration. So, for example, if you decide to upgrade to it from another dual-band Asus router, you won’t need to program your network from scratch.
As for settings and features, like other Asus routers, the RT-AX89X has one of the most comprehensive sets on the market. You’ll find standard features, including Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, IP reservation, VPN server (and client), Wake-on-LAN, and a lot more.
Other than that, the router comes with a standard set of Asus’s useful networking features.
Asus RT-AX89X’s core features
Below are the common things you’ll find in the majority of Asus Wi-Fi routers, as well as the RT-AX89X.
- Universal setting restoration: Asus routers can use the setting backup files on one another. As a result, when you upgrade from one to another, just back up the old router’s settings to a file, then restore it to the new router. Most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will remain the same with the new router. Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.
- A robust full web interface: Asus’s web user interface is one of my favorites. It’s intuitive and allows for in-depth customization. But the interface can be overwhelming for novice users.
- Helpful Asus mobile app: Alternatively, users can use the Asus mobile app to manage and set up their router. It’s a well-designed app with decent access to the router. You can also turn on the Dynamic DNS-based remote access without having to have an account with Asus.
- AiProtection: This feature includes a free-for-life real-time online protection powered by Trend Micro and a decent Parental Control engine. I’ve used AiProtection for years, with many different routers, and it proved to be quite useful. Parental Control, on the other hand, could use some improvement. The way Asus define categories for web-filtering is a bit vague, and you can’t block a specific website, which is a significant shortcoming.
- Adaptive QoS: A quality of service engine that allows you to prioritize Internet traffic to support different applications or services. Adaptive QoS requires minimum work from the user and is effective. It also includes Bandwidth Monitor in case you want to know who uses the most Internet at all and Web History that shows web sites a client has visited.
- 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 also use the router’s USB ports to host printers or select USB cellular modems.
- Frequent firmware releases: Asus regularly pushes out new firmware updates to improve its routers. For the most part, this is a good thing. However, once in a while, new firmware can cause issues. In this case, you should downgrade the router to the previous stable version and wait for the next release. (Asus routers don’t auto-update firmware by themselves.)
It’s worth noting that the RT-AX89X doesn’t have everything you can collectively find in Asus routers. Most notably missing is the unique VPN, called WTFast, that keeps local game consoles in a virtual network with extremely low latency. It’s also a dual-band, and not a tri-band, router.
Update: Subsequent firmware adds some gaming features to the RT-AX89X via a new Game section. So, you’ll find the router quite great for games. However, Asus doesn’t designate it as a gaming router.
Some minor issues
The RT-AX89X is not from perfect, and I did note issues that you should keep in mind.
The first is the internal cooling fan. Fans generally translate into tricky maintenance. It’s a moving part that might fail at some point, and when it does, you might have heat-related issues. The way the router is, it seems quite challenging to open it up to replace the fan.
This fan ran constantly my testing even when the router had no loads. It was quiet, though. I could only hear it when I put my head near the router, even in a room with no ambient noise.
To be fair, many other routers I’ve reviewed recently have a fan. The Ubiquiti Dream Machine is an example. But the RT-AX89X is the first of which the fan runs almost all the time.
Tweaking needed for top Wi-Fi speeds
By default, the RTA-AX89X worked quite well in my testing. However, I needed to tweak its settings quite a bit to get things to work the way I wanted.
For example, right out of the bat, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients only connected at 1.2Gbps (instead of 2.4Gbps). As it turned out, I needed to disable the Extended NSS setting — you can find this setting in the Professional tab of the Wireless section — to get my client connected at full speeds.
By the way, enabling extended NSS enables the RT-AX89X to have better compatibility when working with specific devices. But it’ll work in 80MHz channel bandwidth, which cuts down the speed for most Wi-Fi 6 clients in half.
Interface needs work
At publication, the router doesn’t have the Smart Connect mode — you need to name its two bands as with two separate SSIDs manually. Asus told me that Smart Connect was actually in effect when the two bands shared the same SSID and password and that in “weeks” it would release a new firmware that includes an explicit Smart Connect option.
Another thing is the router didn’t require clients to use the ancient SMBv1 protocol to work with this NAS function (when hosting an external drive). But the interface still shows that you need to turn that on for the sharing to work.
So, the RT-AX89X feels a bit like a beta or release candidate instead of a final product. However, in my experience, that’s the case of all Asus’s Wi-Fi 6 routers. There are just so many settings and features that it seems the company can’t keep tabs on all. But the networking vendor indeed regularly pushes out new firmware to fix bugs and improve its products.
Asus RT-AX89X: Excellent performance
I tested the RT-AX89X using a couple of 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients and a few Wi-Fi 5 clients and was quite happy with the router.
In Wi-Fi 6 tests, I was able to get the client connected to it at 2.4 Gbps, which translated into the sustained speed of some 1435 Mbps at close range, the fastest I’ve seen. When I move the client to 40 feet (12 m) away, it still registered more than 1150 Mbps, also the fastest.
The router also did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients. At a distance of fewer than 10 feet (3 m), my 4×4 device was able to connect at 1.7Gbps and had a sustained speed of almost 1025 Mbps, quite impressive. At a distance away, my 3×3 laptop now registered nearly 700 Mbps.
I tested the 2.4Ghz band only for reference since its performance varies a great deal where I am (and possible where you are, too). The RT-AX89X averaged some 180 Mbps and 120 Mbps for close and long ranges, respectively. That was far slower than the 1300 Mbps in its specs but fast enough for most online applications.
Since I had only one RT-AX89X unit, I couldn’t test its AiMesh using a 10Gbps wired backhaul. However, I tried AiMesh out with other routers, and it worked well, just like any other AiMesh routers.
An overall positive Wi-Fi experience
I tested the RT-AX89X for some three weeks, and over time it grew on me. At the default setting, you won’t get the fastest Wi-Fi speed out of it, but it was still quite excellent. If you take time to tweak its settings, you’ll get even more.
The router passed my 3-day stress test with no disconnection. Its range was about the same as the of the RT-AX88U. Generally, if you have a house of 2000 ft² (186m²) or smaller, the RT-AX88X can handle it with fast Wi-Fi all around, when placed in the middle.
By the way, in my trial, even in extended and heavy loads, the RT-AX89X remained cool. So its internal fan did its job. I also tried out the two 10Gbps ports in LAN mode and was able to get a sustained copy speed of some 850 MB/s. That wasn’t a true 10Gbps speed — my test server likely played a role — but quite close.
Finally, the RT-AX89X worked fine with its antennas placed in any positions. But I did note that it had a shorter range when I collapsed them all on the router’s top. So, opening them all up is the way to go.
Super-fast though uneven NAS performance
The RT-AX89X, when hosting a portable drive, delivered the fastest speed I’ve experienced via a wired 10Gbps but only in reading. Indeed, I tested it with the Crucial X8 and got the sustained read copy speed of almost 380 megabytes per second.
In writing, however, the router was noticeably slower than reading, registering a bit shy of 150 MB/s — still super-fast but not the fastest. The Netgear RAX120, which has a 5Gbps network port, got almost 190 MB/s in this test.
When tested via a regular Gigabit connection, it delivered around 110 MB/s both ways, similar to other high-end routers.
In all, for a router-based network-attached storage server, the RT-AX89X is quite potent. Get it a decent external USB storage device, and you’ll have yourself a viable NAS solution.
Most Wi-Fi routers are similar, take my word for it! Once in a long while, there comes along one that strikes a wow, and the Asus RT-AX89X is that one. Get it and you won’t be disappointed.