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Asus Wi-Fi Routers Explained: RT vs GT vs GS vs TUF, and What to Expect

If you (are about to) own one of many Asus Wi-Fi routers, popular among home Wi-Fi broadcasters on the market, you’d likely notice its model name.

Chance are it’s an RT-AXxxxx where the xxxx are a string of digits. But it can also start with “GT” or ends with the letter “U.”

If you ever wonder what all that means, this post is for you. I wrote it after testing dozens of Asus routers and with some inputs from Asus. The point is, Asus’s router naming convention can be confusing. Or is it?

Clearly, 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 6 machine.

Best Gaming Routers: Asus's Trio
Asus Wi-Fi routers: Here’s the gaming tri-band router trio. From top: The GT-AX11000, RT-AX92U, and GT-AXE11000.

Asus router’s naming convention explained

All Asus router models, such as the RTAC86U or the GTAX11000, come with this 3-part convention: A couple of leading letters, a dash (-), then a few more letters, and the ending. The actual values of those three might vary, but the form remains.

(This naming part applies to Asus standalone routers — all can be converted into a mesh member using AiMesh — and not purpose-built mesh hardware, i.e., the ZenWiFi series, which has a different naming pattern.)

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 major possibilities:

  1. 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).
  2. 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, desktop, laptop, motherboard, cases, mice, keyboard, 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:

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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 (so far, either “U” or “X”): 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 a 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.

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.

Asus RT AX82U Front
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The RT-AX82U is a gaming router with a fancy RGB light.

What you might not know, however, is that no matter what model you end up with, all Asus routers share a lot in common. And when it comes to gaming, there are multiple flavors to pick from.

Let’s dive in!

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 it belongs to. 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 recourses.

But yes, a few listed below are not (fully) available to certain broadcasters. In that case, I will list the exceptions according to my experience.

Also, note that just because a router can do many things doesn’t mean you should use them all simultaneously. This is especially true among USB-related apps.

Universal setting restoration

You can restore the backup settings of most Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers interchangeably.

(Exception: So far, this feature has worked on all routers I’ve tested except for the RT-AX89X and the Blue Cave. These two only accept backup files of their own models.)

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 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 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 for remote management, which is turned off by default, via Dynamic DNS.)

The interface allows access to a router’s tons of settings and features. 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.

Asus Router in Bridge Mode Step One
The first time you get to an Asus router’s web interface, a wizard will walk you through a few steps to get your network up and running.

However, here are the general steps:

  1. Connect your router’s WAN port to the Internet source, be it a modem, an existing gateway, or the Fiberoptic ONT. Turn it on.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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. I recommend the web user interface, however, 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. In fact, 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.

Asus Router App AiMesh
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The Router mobile app is an excellent tool to manage an Asus router.

The nicest 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 manages 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 certain 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.

AiProtection

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.

Asus GS-AX3000 AiProtection
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The AiProtection features can keep your network safe against certain threats.

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 is not a huge deal for me personally 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.)

Adaptive QoS

The Adaptive QoS is a common feature available in all Asus routers. This is by far one of the most easy-to-use QoS features among all home routers.

See also  QoS Explained and How to Get Better Voice and Video Calls over Wi-Fi
RT AX3000 Qos Customize
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The QoS feature.

“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

AiMesh is a major 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 is a major feature, I detailed it in this separate post.

See also  AiMesh in 2021: Asus's Ongoing Effort to Excellent Wi-Fi Coverage

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.
  • 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.
Before Image After Image
Asus's Traffic Analyzer feature is quite helpful.

Asus Wi-Fi routers: Gaming features

On top of the common feature set above, certain Asus routers also get gaming features.

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.

Popular Asus gaming routers and their specificities

Model/NameMulti-Gig
Port
Gaming Private NetworkGame First/ROG FirstVPN
Fusion
Game BoostGaming PortOpen NATMobile Game BoostGear AcceleratorGeForce NowAura RGB LED Lights
GT-AXE110001x 2.5Gbps
(LAN/WAN)
Outfox
GT-AX110001x 2.5Gbps
(LAN/WAN)
WTFast
GT-AC5300NoneWTFast
GS-AX5400None
GS-AX3000None
RT-AX88UNoneWTFast
RT-AX89X1x 10Gbps (LAN/WAN)
1x SFP+
(LAN/WAN)
RT-AC88UNoneWTFast
RT-AX86U 1x 2.5Gbps
(WAN)
RT-AX82UNone
RT-AX92UNoneWTFast
RT-AC86UNone
RT-AC68UNone
TUF-AX5400None
Asus gaming router matrix.

As you noted in the table, there are quite a few options in gaming features. There are common ones available to all entry-level gaming routers. That said, select high-end gaming routers will have some extras.

Asus’ tier-1 gaming features: The entry-level set

These are 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.
RT AX86U Game Features
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The game page of the Asus RT-AX86U‘s web interface.

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 make 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 appication-based automatic QoS function that detects and prioritizes Internet traffic for particular games, regarless 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.
Mobile Game Mode
Asus Wi-Fi routers: The Mobile Game Boost feature on the Asus Router app.

Clearly, the more gaming features a router supports, the better. But no router has all of the gaming-related features. That’s not to mention non-gaming factors, like Wi-Fi and wired networking specs, processing power, design, etc.

So, it’s always a matter of picking and choosing.

The takeaway

No matter which you end up with among Asus’s Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers, you’ll find the common 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 useful 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.

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