If you (are about to) own one of many Asus Wi-Fi routers, this post is for you. It includes everything you’d need to know, from the model names to the feature set, including those of gaming routers.
I wrote it after testing dozens of Asus Wi-Fi solutions and with inputs from Asus. Among other things, it’ll help you pick the best Asus router for your need, or at least understand what you’ll get no matter what you end up having.
Users of non-Asus routers need not apply, but for the rest, among other things, you’ll be able to figure out what a router can or cannot do via its model name alone when through with this piece.
And that knowledge will come in handy, especially if you’re a gamer who’s on the market for that ideal Wi-Fi machine. With that, let’s start with what you’ll get from all and select Asus wireless solutions.
Dong’s note: I first published this piece on September 3, 2021, and last updated it on November 21 to add more relevant information.
Table of Contents
Asus Wi-Fi routers’ features: Core vs gaming
Most, if not all, Asus Wi-Fi 6 routers and their Wi-Fi 5 counterparts share what I call the core features, no matter what tier, Wi-Fi standard, or series. And that includes purpose-built mesh systems, such as the ZenWiFi series or the Lyra Trio.
Asus Wi-Fi routers’ core features
Below is the list of what you can expect. Generally, higher-end routers have better support for these features, of which some require extra resources.
A few of the items listed below are not (fully) available to certain broadcasters. In that case, I will point out the exceptions according to my experience.
Also, note that just because a router can do many things doesn’t mean you should use them simultaneously — especially among USB-related apps.
Universal setting restoration
You can interchangeably restore the backup settings of most Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers.
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 optional 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 “native” to the new router.
Exceptions: I generally test this feature on all Asus routers during the review process, and, so far, it didn’t work only in the case of the RT-AX89X and Blue Cave. These two won’t accept a backup file of any other model.
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 mentioned below.)
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 overwhelming for novice users.
Dynamic DNS (DDNS) is a relatively common feature of all home routers. It’s excellent for those wanting to dial home remotely via other advanced features, including remote access or VPNs.
What sets Asus’s Dynamic DNS apart is that the networking vendor also includes an entirely free DDNS domain — you won’t need to get a third-party one. On top of that, this domain also comes included with an SSL certificate.
That said, if you need DDNS, Asus is by far the best option. (Read more about DDNS in this post.)
Dynamic DNS: What it is and why it’s super useful
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 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, no login account required
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.
So, while this app is convenient and fun to use, it can cause issues if you mess around too much.
AiProtection and Parental Controls
The AiProtection is a feature that adds so much value to an Asus router. In some routers, this feature includes Parental Controls. In others, the latter has a section of its own.
But, among other things, AiProtection always includes Network Protection.
Free Network Protection
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.
Generic Parental Controls
On the other hand, the Parental Controls portion has been a bit too rigid, in my opinion. You can only filter the web via pre-determined categories 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 or keyword. This simplistic approach is not a huge deal, however, especially considering the fact there’s no tool that can provide effective Parental Controls other than a real parent, anyway.
(While AiProtection is available in all Asus routers, some 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.
Flexible port configuration: WAN vs LAN
Asus routers generally have a lot of flexibility in their port configurations. Following are what you can do with most of them when the hardware is working in router mode. (In other modes — AiMesh satellite node, access point, repeater, etc — all ports work as LANs.)
Routers with a Multi-Gig WAN port
- Single WAN
- If the router has no Multi-Gig LAN port: The default WAN always works as the WAN port, but when the USB port (when available) or a Gigabit LAN port is set as the primary WAN, the default WAN port can work as a Multi-Gig LAN
- If the router has one or more Multi-Gig ports: The default WAN port will always work as a WAN port.
- Dual-WAN: The default WAN port must work as one of the WAN ports (Primary or Secondary). Any other LAN port, or the USB port (when available), can work as the second WAN port.
Routers with a Gigabit WAN port
This includes those with a Multi-Gig LAN port)
- Single WAN: The default WAN, USB port (when available), or Multi-Gig LAN (when available) can work as the primary WAN port. The rest of the ports will work as LANs.
- Dual-WAN: The default WAN port remains and the USB (when available), or any of the LAN ports, including the Multi-Gig (when available) can work as the second WAN.
- WAN Link Aggregation (when supported): Default WAN port + another LAN port — the LAN4 in most cases.
- LAN Link Aggregation (when supported): LAN1 + LAN2 as long as neither is used for other applications, such as Game Port, Dual-WAN, or WAN LG.
Note that a particular router might deviate a bit from the list above, depending on the number of ports it has or its hardware specs.
Flexible VPN support
Almost all Asus routers feature a VPN section with supports for just standard VPN servers but also Instant Guard, a new feature added in mid-2021 for mobile users.
On top of that, many routers can also work as a VPN client and support VPN Fusion which allows for assigning a certain connected client to a particular VPN connection.
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 for those wanting to find out what’s happening in the network.
- 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 even make the router handle PC-less downloading and use the router’s USB ports to host printers or select USB cellular modems.
- The standard set of network settings and features: These include IP reservation, Port-forwarding, so on and so far, and even some Alexa Skills.
- Frequent firmware update: Asus pushes out firmware updates regularly to fix issues and improve its routers’ performance and function. You can choose to update manually or turn on auto-update.
Asus Wi-Fi routers: Gaming features
On top of the standard feature set above, certain Asus routers also have extra features geared towards online gaming.
The table below shows the specific gaming flavors each supporting router has — non-gaming routers are not included. I’ll explain what each flavor means below the table.
Asus gaming routers’ quick specs
The regularly-updated table below includes all current gaming routers from Asus, at least those I’ve reviewed, and aims to show what you’ll get from a particular router.
As you will note, there are quite a few options, and no router has everything.
|Gaming Private Network||Game First/ROG First||VPN|
|Game Boost||Gaming Port||Open NAT||Mobile Game Boost||Gear Accelerator||GeForce Now||Aura RGB LED Lights|
Generally, there are two tiers in Asus gaming routers.
The first are those with common features available in all Asus gaming routers. The second tier includes higher-end routers with all that the first tier has and then more.
Asus’ tier-1 gaming features: The entry-level set
These game-related features are the bare minimum to qualify an Asus router as a “gaming router,” including:
- Open NAT: This feature helps quickly create game-related port forwarding entries via a few steps.
- Mobile Game Boost: The ability to tune the router’s gaming settings via a single tap on the Asus mobile app.
- Gear Accelerator: An client-based automatic QoS function that detects and prioritizes Internet traffic for particular game hardware — consoles or PCs.
Asus’s tier 2 gaming features: The high-end extras
These are additional features that are collectively available in select high-end Asus routers:
- Gaming private network: A built-in support for a game-oriented VPN network, including WTFast (one free client that makes the entire local network part of the VPN) and Outfox (90-day trial).
- Game First / ROG First: An integration network tool designed for ASUS ROG products for network optimization. To use this feature, you need to use a ROG computer with a ROG router.
- Game Boost: An application-based automatic QoS function that detects and prioritizes Internet traffic for particular games, regardless of the game hardware.
- VPN Fusion: A VPN client that allows a mix of VPN and non-VPN connections within a single network. VPN Fusion makes sure VPN is used only for those needed, without affecting game consoles.
- Game Port: A dedicated network port on the router automatically prioritizes any wired device connected to it.
- GeForce Now: The built support for NVIDIA GeForce NOW.
- Aura RGB LED Lights: This is just bling, a fancy lighting feature that can change color to make the hardware look cool.
The more gaming features a router supports, the better. But, again, no one router has them all. That’s not to mention other factors, like Wi-Fi and wired networking specs, processing power, design, etc. So, it’s always a matter of picking and choosing.
Speaking of which, the naming convention below will help.
Asus routers and privacy
Upon turning on some features on an Asus router, you will run into this scary warning:
“By using AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS/Game boost, Web history, you agree to the Trend Micro End User License Agreement. Please note that your information will be collected by Trend Micro through AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS, and web history.”
If you read the entire EULA, you’d understand what it entails. But since nobody wants to read that boring, yet important, document, and some might not appreciate its wording, let me put this in simple terms:
These features only work because their provider scans the router’s traffic. That’s like if you want to be protected in real life, you will need to have somebody, like a bodyguard, to watch over you. In networking, protection requires extra connections — there’s no way around that.
I won’t pretend I know what TrendMicro or Asus does with the information it might have access to — I don’t know — but (personally) I’d be more worried about how and what Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, or Google (in that order) does with my data, which is collected the moment I turn a particular device on.
But yes, using these features will inherently cause privacy risks. The good news is that they are turned off by default, and you’re never coerced into turning them on.
So, use them or not use them, it’s your call. Just remember, you can’t have them both ways. Generally, privacy and security are a matter of degree.
Asus’s naming convention explained
Since then, the networking vendor has also released a new family of modern purpose-built mesh systems called ZenWiFi with a different naming convention from their standalone routers.
Let’s start with ZenWiFi.
Asus’s naming convention for ZenWiFi mesh
As you have noticed, their model names include two letters and a number. Here are what they mean.
- The first letter indicates the Wi-Fi standard:
- The second letter indicates the number of Wi-Fi bands:
- T means Tri-band. This is for a system where each hardware unit has three Wi-Fi bands.
- D means Dual-band — each hardware unit has two Wi-Fi bands.
- The last digit indicates the number of Wi-Fi streams each broadcaster has.
With that, we can now read each model name easily.
For example, the ZenWiFi ET8 is a tri-band Wi-Fi 6E system where each broadcaster is a Wi-Fi 6E tri-band system with each hardware unit having eight streams, including a 4×4 6GHz band, a 2×2 5GHz band, and a 2×2 2.4GHz band.
Asus’s naming convention for standalone Wi-Fi routers
On the standalone router front, Asus has a lot more variations. But all models come with this 3-part convention:
A couple of leading letters, a dash (-), a few more letters, and the ending. The actual values of those three might vary, but the form remains. Here are some examples: RT–AC86U or the GT–AX11000.
Let’s do a bit of dissecting to see what these three parts mean.
1. The leading letters before the dash (-)
There are generally two significant possibilities:
- Most Asus routers’ model numbers start with “RT” (which is short for “router”). An RT router can be a regular router or a gaming router but there’s no way to tell which is which just from the model name. Examples: RT-AX3000 (regular) or RT-AC88U (gaming).
- Some routers’ models start with “GT” or “GS” or “TUF”. In this case, they are always gaming routers. Specifically:
- GT is for a router that’s part of Asus’s Republic of Gamers (ROG) product line. This is the premium gaming family that includes more than just Wi-Fi routers. ROG products all come with a cool logo and a fancy programmable color-changing Aura RGB light. Examples: GT-AX11000, GT-AC2900.
- GS is for a ROG STRIX: This is a sub-set gaming series that gear towards the budget-minded, though it’s not “cheap”. ROG STRIX also includes more than just Wi-Fi routers and features the Aura RGB light. Examples: GS-AX3000, GS-AX5400.
- TUF or “The Ultimate Force” is for Asus’s new TUF Gaming: Similar to ROG, this series also includes gaming gear (routers, desktops, laptops, motherboards, cases, mice, keyboards, and headsets) designed to look tough and can take some beating — they are durable. Example: TUF-AX5400.
(My take is “RT” is the traditional hardware and the rest are just variants with some extra touches in design and software. So the GS-AX3000, for example, is, for the most part, the RT-AX3000 in cool disguise.)
2. The letters following the dash (-)
These indicate a router Wi-Fi standard. Specifically:
- N: It’s a Wi-Fi 4 router — N is short for 802.11n. Example: RT-N66U.
- AC: It’s a Wi-Fi 5 router (802.11ac). Example: RT-AC86U.
- AX: It’s a Wi-Fi 6 router (802.11ax). Example: RT-AX86U.
- AXE: It’s a Wi-Fi 6e router. Example: GT-AXE11000.
3. The ending
The ending of an Asus router model name also includes two main possibilities:
- A string of numbers: This trend becomes more frequently used with Wi-Fi 6. In this case, this number indicates the total Wi-Fi bandwidth of the router itself. So the RT-AX3000 is a Wi-Fi 6 router that has a total bandwidth (of both bands) of 3000Mbps.
- Two numbers and a letter (“U”, “X”, “S” etc.): This is the original naming convention of Asus dating back to Wi-Fi 4. In this case, the number — often 5x, 6x, 6x, and 8x — means the grade of the router, the higher the better. Here’s the meaning of the letter:
- U: This is a USB-enabled router. So the RT-AX88U is a higher-end Wi-Fi 6 router than the RT-AX68U. Both have a built-in USB port.
- X: This is an extra special router. There’s only one so far, which is the RT-AX89X that’s the first from Asus that comes with two flexible 10Gbps network ports.
- S: This is a stripped-down variant of the U router. For example, the RT-AX86S is the lesser version of the RT-AX86U with inferior processing power and no Multi-Gig port.
There you go. Now put two and two (more like 1, 2, and 3 in this case) together, and you can figure out what each model name means.
For example, the RT-AX68U is an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 router, and the GS-AX3000 is also an entry-level but now a gaming router. The GT-AXE11000 is a top-tier Wi-Fi 6E ROG gaming router, which is why it’s so expensive.
No matter which you end up with among Asus’s Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers, you’ll find the standard feature set, which itself is enough for most homes.
A gaming router with extras won’t hurt — you can always ignore the extra features if you don’t need them. By the way, some features, like VPN Fusion, are also helpful for non-gaming applications.
But if you do want them, be aware of different levels and the fact that there’s no Asus router with everything. On top of that, there’s only so much a (gaming) router can do.
Ultimately it’s your skill and the quality of your broadband connection that matter.