The ZenWiFi AC (model CT8) is not the first canned Wi-Fi system from Asus, but in my opinion, it’s the first built with the popular AiMesh feature in mind. The mesh is part of Asus’s new ZenWiFi family, announced earlier this month at CES 2020, including a Wi-Fi 6 version, the ZenWiFi AX (XT8).
In all, the new mesh Wi-Fi system worked well in my testing as a standard setup or an add-on to an existing AiMesh router. If you have a home of 4000 ft² (372 m²) or so, this 2-pack sure will take care of it. But if you have a larger home, you can use this with more AiMesh router(s) to create a mesh that delivers even more extensive coverage.
No matter how you plan to use it, at less than $350, the ZenWiFi AC is worth the investment. Just make sure you’re comfortable with tweaking its settings. If you’ve been holding up on an AiMesh setup, this is the one to get.
Table of Contents
Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8: The next level of AiMesh support
I had the opportunity to test the ZenWiFi AC back when it was still in the beta state and witnessed Asus’s effort on improving it — especially the AiMesh aspect — from one firmware version to the next.
With the latest firmware, version 126.96.36.199.386_21281, it’s safe to say this is the first official AiMesh Wi-Fi system on the market.
At the core, though, the ZenWiFi CT8 is similar to most Asus routers. Also, it seems all ZenWiFi routers share the same settings, features, and setup process.
That said, the differences between this Wi-Fi 5 ZenWiFi AC and the Wi-Fi 6 ZenWiFi AX are only in their hardware specs and, therefore, the real-world throughputs and costs.
Familiar design and interface
The ZenWiFi AC comes with two identical routers. Each looks like a compact single-slot toaster standing 6.35-in (16.15 cm) tall and 6.29-in (16 cm) wide. The hardware is not wall-mountable. On the front, there’s one tiny color-changing status light. On the back, the unit has three gigabit LAN ports, one WAN port, and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port.
Like most Asus routers, the ZenWiFi AC supports Dual-WAN — you can turn one of its LAN ports, or the USB port, into a second WAN port. However, there’s no Link Aggregation. As a result, don’t expect to combine any two network ports to deliver an aggregated 2Gbps connection. By the way, when used as an AiMesh node, the router’s WAN port works as a LAN.
If you have used an Asus router before, you’ll find yourself right at home with the ZenWiFi. It has the same web interface, feature sets, and setup process.
Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8: Detail photos
Standard setup procedure, universal setting restoration
Pick one of the two hardware units to use as the router, and the other will work as a satellite unit (or node). And just like any mesh system, you perform the setup process and manage your network on the router unit; the node will automatically replicate relevant settings to deliver a single seamless Wi-Fi network.
By the way, the setup process is the same as that of all other Asus routers. It’s a standard one found in most routers with a web interface. At the gist of it, point a browser on a connected computer to the router’s default IP address (which is 192.168.50.1) or router.asus.com, and the rest is self-explanatory.
Alternatively, you can also use the Asus mobile app if you no longer have a real computer. I like the web interface, and it took me just about 15 minutes to get the ZenWiFi AC up and running, using the default settings.
Like most AiMesh-ready routers, the ZenWiFi supports universal restoration as an option. In case of an upgrade, you can restore it with the backup file of your old Asus router, and your network settings, for the most part, will remain the same. Note that it’s always better to set up the system from scratch to avoid setting conflicts.
An improved AiMesh feature
Out of the box, the two units of the ZenWiFi are pre-synced. As soon as you finish setting one up as a router, you’ll find the other already part of the system via AiMesh.
So, there’s no need to do a manual setup. The bond between the two is strong, too. You can do whatever you want with either of the two ZenWiFi units — like using each as a router of a different network. (Yes, you can buy a 2-pack and separate the hardware units as two standalone routers for different households). But as soon as you reset them to the default factory setting, one will automatically become part of an AiMesh system hosted by the other working in router mode.
You can also add routers of a different ZenWiFi pack, or any AiMesh router for that matter, to the ZenWiFi’s system. Or, conversely, you can use the ZenWiFi routers as nodes of an existing AiMesh system. In this case, the setup process is the same as when you add any other AiMesh router.
Finally, when working as a router, the ZenWiFi AC CT8 now has a new AiMesh section within its web interface that comprehensively manages the mesh. What’s also new, you now can still use the USB port even when the unit works as an AiMesh satellite node.
Specced for a robust mesh
The ZenWiFi AC’s hardware specs remind me of the original Orbi RBK50. Each of the hardware units is a particular tri-band AC3000 router.
Specifically, it has a 2×2 (400Mbps) 2.4GHz band, a 2×2 (886Mbps) 5GHz-1 band, and a 4×4 (1733Mbps) 5GHz-2 band. The 5GHz-2 band, being the fastest, works as the dedicated backhaul that links the routers. This design allows the system to have a strong signal connecting the hardware units with low or no signal loss.
Thanks to this reliable backhaul, users have the option of placing the hardware unit further away from each other without worrying too much about signal degradation. As a result, the ZenWiFi AC can deliver quite extensive coverage with just two hardware units.
And you can use wired backhaul with the system, too. In this case, you can configure the 5GHz-2 band as a separate network for end-users. It will not work as part of the primary Wi-Fi network in a SmartConnect setup.
ZenWiFi AC CT8: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||Asus ZenWiFi AC Router|
|Dedicated Backhaul Band||Yes (5GHZ-2)|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in |
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
|Weight||1.6 lb (730 g)|
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs||2 x 2 AC: Up to 867 Mbps (low band)|
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs||4 x 4 AC: Up to 1733 Mbps (high band)|
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 up to 400 Mbps|
|Channel Width Supported||20Mhz, 40MHz, 80MHz|
|Mobile App||Asus Router|
|Web User Interface||Yes (Full)|
|USB Port||1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1|
|Gigabit Port||3 x LAN, 1x WAN|
|Memory||Undisclosed CPU, |
128 MB Flash, 256 MB RAM
ZenWiFi AC CT8: Lots of features and settings
Like other Asus routers, the ZenWiFi comes with lots of settings and features.
There is a network map that shows you connected clients in real-time. Clicking on a client will allow you to view its information and perform a few actions on it. These include blocking it from the Internet, setting up a schedule for internet access, and binding its MAC address with a particular IP address.
There are many options to customize the Wi-Fi networks, the LAN settings, and the Internet connection. For security, the ZenWiFi features WPA2, but it’s just a matter of time before WPA3 is available via firmware updates.
There are quite a few notable features that allow you to do even more with the system.
Everything you want to do with the USB port
You can do all you can think of the ZenWiFi’s USB port.
When hosting an external drive, for example, you can now make the router work as a media streaming server, a server for local data sharing as well as syncing over the Internet. You can also turn on the support for Time Machine backup or make the router download large files independently.
Alternatively, you can also use the USB port to host a cellular modem or a printer. In reality, though, it’s not a good idea to use the ZenWiFi AC’s USB port for anything other than hosting a cellular dongle or a printer. That’s because the USB port has relatively modest performance when hosting a portable drive — more on this below.
AiProtection: Free and useful real-time online protection
Like other Asus routers, the ZenWiFi AC comes with the popular AiProtection feature that includes a Network Protection engine powered by TrendMicro and Parental Controls.
The Network Protection guards the network against online threats in real-time, and it’s free to use for the life of the system. I’ve used this feature for years in many Asus routers and found it helpful and practical.
The Parental Controls, on the other hand, is a bit rigid in my testing. It can shield specific clients from a few online categories (Adult, File Sharing, Social Networking, etc.) or control their internet access via a schedule. There’s no way to block a specific website, unfortunately.
Alexa and IFTTT support
The ZenWiFi AC has a smart home feature, which is the support for Alexa and IFTTT. With these, you can set up the router to respond to a voice command.
In all, supported Asus routers, including the CT8, can handle some 14 Alexa commands and about a dozen of IFTTT applets. They worked in my brief testing. I don’t think voice commands are a great idea for a router, though, since anyone can accidentally or deliberately mess things up.
Adaptive QoS and other useful features
Asus’s Adaptive QoS is one of the easiest to use. It enables users to prioritize the Internet traffic for their needs — gaming, Voice over IP, or other services.
There are also a host of other things you can do with the ZenWiFi AC. For example, the router unit can work either as a VPN server or a VPN client, and its Dynamic DNS feature is by far the best among home routers — it’s super easy to set up and includes a free SSL certificate. Combining the two means, it’s one of the best routers on the market for those wanting to build a VPN of their own.
Another thing I like about the ZenWiFi is a set of networking tools that includes a Wake-on-LAN function. Imagine you can remotely turn on your server after a power outage.
So in all, almost anything you’d want to do in terms of network customization, you’ll find it with the ZenWiFi CT8, as well as most Asus routers.
ZenWiFi AC CT8: Excellent performance
I tested the beta version of the ZenWiFi AC CT8 for more than a month and then the official hardware release for about a week and was quite happy with it.
Excellent Wi-Fi speeds and coverage
Remember that, even though it’s a tri-band system, from the Wi-Fi clients’ perspective, this is a dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 5 system with a top ceiling speed of 867 Mbps. And I tested in the default wireless setting, with the two hardware units using the 5GHz-2 band as the dedicated backhaul.
The CT8’s router unit did quite well, with a top speed of almost 570 Mbps at the close range. At 40 feet (12 m) away, it still registered at some 480 Mbps.
And the system was even more impressive at the satellite unit, likely thanks to the robust and dedicated backhaul band. Clients connected to the ZenWiFi AC working as an AiMesh node got an average speed of more than 510 Mbps at close range and some 420 Mbps at 40 feet away. These were among the fastest.
The ZenWiFi AC CT8 proved to be reliable, too — it passed my 3-day stress test with no disconnection, and the range was quite excellent. Again, the two units can handle some 4000 ft of residential space quite easily. But you can adjust the distance of the two hardware units to deliver more coverage at the expense of the node’s Wi-Fi speed.
Mediocre NAS performance
Considering the tons of things you can do with the ZenWiFi AC’s USB port, its network-attached storage performance was very disappointing.
When hosting the SanDisk Extreme portable SSD, via a Gigabit connection, the router registered the copy speeds of merely 17 MB/s and 27 MB/s for writing and reading, respectively. These were almost at the bottom of the charts and weren’t fast enough for a real network storage solution. It would be best if you got a NAS server instead.
ZenWiFi AC CT8: Some shortcomings
Other than the slow NAS performance mentioned above, the ZenWiFi AC has a few more flaws. For the most part, these are also the shortcomings of Asus routers in general.
Note, though, that over time chances are most, if not all, of these issues will be addressed via firmware updates.
Due to a large number of settings and features, the firmware can be buggy at times.
For example, when you want to, say, enable or disable the Wi-Fi setting from SmartConnect — where it combines the 2.4GHz band and 5GHz-1 band into a single network — you need to do that without changing the Wi-Fi network’s name. If you choose to do both at the same time, the name change won’t stick.
Also, the firmware update process itself is buggy. The system showed a new firmware notification, but when I checked, it said that all routers in the mesh had the latest firmware, even though that wasn’t true. So the only way to make sure you have the latest firmware is to check for that at Asus’s website manually.
It’s interesting to note that the Asus mobile app is much better at firmware management. In my trial, it detected new firmware correctly, and I could perform the update, for both the router and satellite units, via a few taps. But the app has limited access to other features and settings of the system.
Finally, the CT8 is the only Asus router I’ve known that might update firmware automatically though not consistently so. The issue is there’s no setting to turn on or off the auto-update, so, at times, it just updates by itself. This issue can be a headache considering Asus has more than one released firmware that breaks more things than it fixes.
The thorny Guest network issue
The guest networking issue has been an issue of AiMesh from the get-go. Specifically, the Guest networks are only available at the router unit and not replicated to the nodes. In the case of the ZenWiFi AC, it’s supposed to be a bit different.
According to Asus, if your network consists entirely of ZenWiFi hardware, then the Guest network feature is available throughout. However, if you use a non-ZenWiFi AiMesh router, then the Guest network remains at the router.
In reality, though, no matter how I used it, even after multiple firmware updates, the Guest network remained at the router unit, similar to the case of other AiMesh setups. Asus has insisted that this feature will be fully functional in “the near future.”
False SMBv1 required warning for connected storage
The requirement for SMBv1 has been the problem with all Asus routers. The ZenWiFi AC, too, shows that it needs this dated protocol to work as a mini NAS server. That’s the original and ancient version of the popular Server Message Block protocol for the Windows network environment.
For security reasons, this version has been replaced by SMBv2, or newer versions, for more than a decade. Most importantly, nowadays, most modern operating systems disable SMBv1 by default.
In reality, the router worked fine with devices that used SMBv2 and newer.
Not enough instruction
While I love the ability to customize a network, the excessive amount of Wi-Fi and networking settings of the ZenWiFi can be daunting for home users. There are just too many of them.
And there are not enough instructions on how to configure specific settings. That’s especially true for band-steering (or SmartConnect rules), which help clients pick the best band (5GHz vs. 2.4GHz) to connect to at any given time. The only way to figure this out is via trial and error.
Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8's Rating
Significantly improved AiMesh feature
Fast performance, excellent Wi-Fi coverage
Tons of useful features and settings, including free network real-time online protection for life
Fast dedicated backhaul, wired backhaul supported
Helpful mobile app
The web user interface doesn't always work as intended (bugs)
Only 3 LAN ports per router
Not enough setting instructions
Guest networking still has issues
The combo of buggy firmware and auto-update
After working with so many AiMesh routers from Asus, I find the ZenWiFi AC CT8 is a breath of fresh air. The system manages to bring a new and improved way to manage Asus’s popular mesh feature.
Though it still falls short of being a perfect mesh — the current lack of support for a complete system-wide Guest networking is not acceptable — it’s a step closer. And Asus will continue to improve it via firmware updates, though that could mean it might break a thing or two along the way.
That said, in its current state, the ZenWiFi AC CT8 is an exciting mesh system for those who are willing to spend time and tinker with all the settings and features it has to offer.
(Wondering if the Wi-Fi 6 version will fare better? Check out the full review of the XT8 here.)
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262 thoughts on “Asus ZenWiFi AC Review: A True, and Improved, Wireless AiMesh System”
Dong, love the content. Super helpful! I have a pair of CT8’s fully wireless and working great. I would like to add one AIMesh node to extend my WiFi coverage to an outdoor area of my property to support a few 2.4ghz security cameras. Is there a specific router you would recommend for this purpose? It will also be wireless backhaul and will be located in my garage. I could purchase another pair of CT8’s but hoping something less expensive would work.
Your best bet is another CT8, Tod. Be careful with those 2.4GHz “smart” devices by the way — more here. For more on AiMesh check out this post (and others in the related series.)
Ok thanks, I was hoping there was a cheaper alternative but I appreciate your expertise!
Hi Dong. Really find your site helpful and informative. Thank you. I moved from an ageing Netgear router to an ASUS CD6 3 pack system based on your general viewpoints about ASUS routers. Very pleased with the results. The only thing I miss is a USB port. If I was to buy, say, one CT8, would I be able to use that within the CD6 system? If I used it as the main router instead of the CD6 router, what would happen about firmware updates for the CD6 satellites? Is such a combination possible?
Many thanks for any advice.
Yes, Ray (though I haven’t tried that particular combo). As for firmware updates, just like any other AiMesh combo, you can manage that within the interface of the main router, manually, via the Update button, or auto-update — more here.
Thank you Dong. That’s a really helpful reply and link.
What is the difference between the Uplink Type and the backhaul?
I’ve set the Backhaul at 5GHz-2, but the Uplink Type is automatically set at 2.4Ghz no matter what i do. maybe because of that the connection to the node is always weak even if i put it next to the main unit?
Yes and yes, Yal. Check out this post on mesh systems for more.
Thanks. I’ve read the Mesh article that you posted.
So uplink is Backhaul.
Than why although that i’ve set it on 5Ghz-2 in the Asus app, the uplink is fixed at 2.4Ghz?
Do you have Any idea how to solve it in the CT8?
Thank you so much.
No, you didn’t, Yal. The question was answered specifically in this part. You should read the post again, or any post here for that matter, in its entirety. Please no more questions until you’ve done that. 🙂
Thanks for the review, it gave me the confidence to buy a pair of CT-8s and they’ve been great.
I decided to add a third CT-8, however no matter what I try I only get a weak connection and the new node uses 2.4Ghz backhaul. I’ve tried them 1 metre apart, through to 10 metres.
I tried making the new CT-8 the router, but then both nodes had weak connections and used the 2.4 GHz backhaul.
They are all on the latest firmware.
Any advice you had would be great, thanks!
Try the Optimization button in the AiMesh section of the web interface, James.
Thanks for the fast reply Dong!
I have tried the optimisation tool, but it still remains yellow! Any other tips or tricks you could offer?
I’d just reset it and try again. But no, I’ve not tried a 3-pack with this one.
Thanks Dong, I’ll give that a go! Thanks for the advice
Thank you for your recommendation Dong. Unfortunately, running the cables is not an option in the flat that I just moved to. XT8 is awesome and it would have been a perfect fit, but it is a little on the pricy side for me, where I need to fork out about 300+ more. My price range is within the CT8 kind. The only wifi 6 tri-band mesh that I could find within that price range was the X68 in the platform I am purchasing it from. Have you had a chance to explore the X68 before ? Also if lets say if it comes down to just these 2, which would be a wiser choice to go with ?
If you cannot run in wall cables, what about running a cable just on top or under the base (skirting) board. If you have carpet, lift up the edge and go under. If you have tile/wood, go on top and paint the cable to match the board or wall. I’m with Dong on this one, either run the cable or wait, save and pony up for the XT8. Anything else is going to be a compromise and will give an inferior result. Good luck! 😊
Thank you for the recommendation. Mine is tiles, hence I think perhaps going under the carpet might be a better idea, or else having placeholders for the cables. I agree, thank you for the recommendation. I guess I will try running the wires, or else save up for the XT8 after a while more. Thank you for your advice Matt 🙂
I haven’t tried the Deco X68, Jay, but I’m pretty sure it’s like any other Deco, such as the X5700. I wouldn’t use it for privacy reasons alone. As for what to get, seriously I don’t know, you need to figure that out yourself. I can only point you in the right direction which I already did. 🙂
Apologies for the delayed response. I think I may have caused a bug where it led to the creation of another thread. Hence I didn’t receive the notification for this one. I do agree with you and after reading a few more articles, I second your thought as well. I guess I will try to run cables first and see, and if that does not work out, will go for the XT8. Yes indeed you have. Your articles are in fact detailed and thorough in my opinion which is why I prefer your reviews as opposed to others. Thank you for your advices Dong 🙂
Thank you for the resourceful writeup. I have read majority of your writeups on networking and routers, which have hugely been beneficial to me in the past couple of years. I appreciate your knowledge sharing with your personal setup and usage experience before you do the writeup for all of the products, and updating it along the way when you have updates on them as well. I am at a dilemma now and kindly request your expertise in making an informed decision for the mesh system I am going to be purchasing next.
I have decided to upgrade from a single router to a mesh system due to an upgrade in house. It is a 5 room flat. Due to the larger space, I am having a lot of issues with connectivity in my furthest room, from the hall, with my current router (old). I am looking to upgrade to a tri-band system since my house is not wired, and would be going ahead with a complete wireless setup. I am down to the choices of ASUS CT8 and TP-LINK DECO X68. Both are tri-band, but one is wifi 5 while the latter is wifi 6. I do not possess wifi 6 devices now, but eventually would be upgrading to wifi 6 capable devices such as my phone and laptop, most likely after around 1 year. All my devices(~10) inclusive of my TV connects to the 5GHZ band.
I am convinced that the CT8 is a really good mesh system with excellent performance for a wifi 5 system from your review. I also note that you so far don’t have a review for the X68. The X68 is fairly new, but since it does cover wifi 6 and has tri-band, I am at a crossroad on whether it can match up to the wifi 5 speeds and performance of the CT8. On the other hand, I am not sure if just the wifi 6 capability should be the reason why I should get the X68 over the CT8 as well. I also assume the network security and anti-virus features offered by CT8 is better than X68. The platform that I am getting it from has priced both at exactly the same price. From some other reviews available for the X68, it seems the speeds when compared for wifi 5 clients are maybe similar for both. So I am kind of confused on which is a better option for me to get since both has pros and cons in a balanced manner ?
Hence, could you kindly share your opinion on which do you feel would be a better option from this scenario and my home setup ? If you have any other views, I am open to hear them as well. Thank you in advance !
**Just to note, I have already tried the ASUS TUF AX3000 setup in my home, and the satellite node did not have a stable speed. It fluctuates at times and from the tests that I did, which includes downloading high volume files, steaming 4k, high gaming and others, it always does not seem to have a stable speed. I believe it is due to the signal loss due to the dual band system since I am using it in a wireless setup. My satellite node is what is more important to me since I do most of my work in that last (furthest) room.
Looks like you need to run network cables, Jay. More in this post about mesh in general. After that go with dual-band AiMesh routers. If you can’t run cables, a Tri-band like the XT8 is a must but, still, you’ll never get the performance you’d like.
Thank you for your recommendation Dong. Unfortunately, running the cables is not an option in the flat that I just moved to. XT8 is awesome and it would have been a perfect fit, but it is a little on the pricy side for me, where I need to fork out about 300+ more. My price range is within the CT8 kind. The only wifi 6 tri-band mesh that I could find within that price range was the X68 in the platform I am purchasing it from. Have you had a chance to explore the X68 before ? Also if lets say if it comes down to just these 2, which would be a wiser choice to go with ?
Thanks a lot for this review. After reading, I bought a set CT8’s. It all works fine, except ..
On my CT8 node, I’m not getting the full speed as I have on the router side. I’ve tried several devices, and it seems like only connecting to the 2.4 Ghz WiFi.
It’s all updated to latest firmware, in Dual Band Smart Connect mode and with an ethernet wired backhaul. With an internet subscription that gives a nice 900 Mbps wired / 570 Mbps WiFi on my router side. On the node side, I only get 98 Mbps WiFi.
Any idea’s what could be the problem?
Oh, and that lack of guest WiFi on the CT8 nodes is really stupid. Not worth buying the XT8’s that do support this however.
Separate the 2.4GHz as a different SSID, Patrick. That way you can make sure you’re using the 5GHz. But, yes, you can *never* expect the same speed on the satellite via wireless backhaul, and make sure you place the hardware correctly, too. More in this post on mesh systems.
I’ve been using the new Asus beta firmware for 2 weeks without issue. It adds some nice backhaul features and other options (better roaming / switchover). Give it a shot to see if it works as well for you as it has for me.
Thank you Stach! That beta firmware brings all the joy I’ve missed in the regular. Runs smooth on all 3 CT8’s.
Could someone please reshare the beta ZenWiFi CT8 firmware?
The link from the original post (https://www.asuswebstorage.com/navigate/a/#/s/BA6E66D7E5F14FEDB43B582697880651Y) is dead.
Any idea how to configure it to make it fully wirelessly in Tri-band smart connect mode so it become a single SSID for setup 1 main + 1 second node for CT8?
I am on the latest firmware but once add in second node it auto become dual band smart connection (2.4GHz + 5GHz) wireless SSID 1, the second dedicated wireless 5GHz band is another standalone wireless SSID 2.
Inside the setting for second node is already on Ethernet backhaul, but the current firmware still state wireless was
reserve for backhaul.
You can’t combine the 5GHz-2 with the 5GHz and 2.4GHz as a single network, Winter.
If I am using a this CT8, could I add an ASUS ZenWiFi AX6600 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (XT8) to the CT8 to act as another node? The CT8 is getting hard to find now. I realize that it wouldn’t run at Wifi 6 speeds, but I need to get better basement coverage.
Check out this post, Jeff. https://dongknows.com/best-aimesh-routers-and-combos/
Thanks – that was a good read. I get the sense that mixing hardware is not a good idea – especially AX and AC hardware. So I have one more question, could the ASUS AC2200 Alexa TriBand Voice Router be added? I found one of these available at a much more reasonable cost than additional CT8 hardware. It is still tri band, and AC. I am just trying to get better coverage in my son’s bedroom which is in our basement. The main router and satellite are upstairs.
Update: Just found your writeup on the Lyra Voice, but you described it as a dual band router. Is this a typo? Everything I have seen on this device seems to show that it is a tri-band.
It was a news piece, Jeff. The info I got was from Asus at the time.
I didn’t test the Voice, Jeff. Don’t think it’s a good choice. Check out this post: https://dongknows.com/best-aimesh-routers-and-combos/
OK – thanks for the feedback.
“router’s default IP address (which is 192.168.50.1)”
Thank you for including this vital piece of information in your review. I was starting to pull my hair out after trying all the usual (but not appropriate in this case) default IP addresses suggested at generic “what is the default user name and password” websites.
Why ASUS are incapable of stating this on their web page for the product is incomprehensible unless they assume that consumers are too stupid to understand what it means and prefer you to go searching for their irrelevant Windoze “discovery” aplication which is of no use other than for Windoze users.
It is glad to see you posted a lot of info about the Asus router. Here is the case which quite confused me since I setup the Asus router in our small office.
I have x1 AC86u, x1 AC68u (new) and x3 zenwif CT8. In the beginning (Scenario A), I setup AC 86u as the main router, the other x3 CT8 as nodes (by wifi connection) for depts. The bandwidth monitor, web history etc works fine in AC86u. However, the nodes are easily get disconnected after few days ( the RSSI of those nodes are around mid-60 something), sometimes it needs to reboot the main router or hard reset on the nodes to get it back. I also put the AC68u in a meeting Rm as nodes. It looks fine when I connect it with a notebook and a mobile. If I connect with more devices: x2 more notebooks. Some notebooks will show “no internet connection” and cannot access to internet. When I look in the web interface, it can be seen that the notebook is connected well to that AC68u, it is kind of strange. Once I power off the AC68u, the devices back to normal when connect to other nodes.
After I review your post and you recommend that the Tri band (CT8) should setup as the main router, dual band as nodes. So I switch AC86u as nodes with x1 CT8 as main router and other no change (Scenario B). After I setup, the nodes connection are fine and not disconnected for a week. However, I find out that the bandwidth monitor did not detect the device traffic. E.g when I run the speed test from a device, the upload and download bandwidth under adaptive QoS section show there is traffic but when I click that device name to see the detail, it just shows “traffic not detected”. Also, the web history did not show device names, it just shows the nodes MAC address. When I explorer more, I find out that only the devices which connect to the main router will show the traffic and the web history record. But this is not the case when I use AC86u as the main router.
Scenario B also has the similar issue as Scenario A in AC86u/68u: when more devices connect to it, some devices cannot access to internet. Lately I just find out that it seems happen only in 2.4Ghz connection. I have checked with ASUS technical support, they provided the beta FW to apply into AC86u but seems doesn’t help.
When I take the new 68u connect to my home AC 68u (main) and a 66u B1 nodes, it works fine with every devices (2.4 and 5ghz) and the guest devices could go through different nodes (it will stuck @ the main router if mix with Zenwifi in office). Current FW of zenwifi: 188.8.131.52.386.23003, AC86u: 184.108.40.206.386.42709
Thanks for reading of my long posting. So I just wonder such mixing with different model: AC86u, 68u and Zenwifi CT8 is a good idea? But both are supporting Aimesh, it supposes working of each other. It seems Scenario B would be better for stable connection between nodes at least but the bandwidth monitor is the issue. Both scenarios have problem if mix with AC86u/68u. Could you suggest any solution?
Check out this post on AiMesh combos, Michael.
You note “Small Office” in you post, but are not specific. The CT8’s are rated for 5500 sq ft for a pair and you have 3. I set up a pair of these in a roughly 40 x 20 shop (800 sq), only one was needed to max the 100Mbps connection from anywhere.
I would suggest you try to use only the 3 CT8’s you have. try the wireless back haul first and move the nodes around. Disable the Band Steering and use separate 2.4 and 5G SSIDs. If you are using the QoS, I assume you have VOIP phones. If your WAN connection is a symmetrical 200 Mbps or better, I will postulate you do not need QoS (lots of bandwidth) and can try turning it off. While on different hardware, I run 8 VOIP users with no QoS on 150 Mbps symmetrical connection with no issues.
Regarding your firmware’s:
1 – It was not until I upgraded the CT8’s to Version 220.127.116.11.386.23003, RESET THEM TO FACTORY and then manually reconfigured them did they perform well, indeed very well, on both bands. Using the old config was definitely problematic. See my post below. Confirm all are on the same firmware and reset to factory.
2 – It appears there is now (today) an new Version 18.104.22.168.386.42643 (Standard) for the RT-AC86u. I would steer away from ANY beta in a production environment.
3 – You do not indicate what firmware version you are on for the RT-AC68u, but the latest production release is Version 22.214.171.124.386.41634. Unfortunately it’s missing the latest security patches, but I still do not suggest using the newer beta.
4 – Reset to factory after upgrading firmware, do not reuse an old config (I know, PIA).
Our small office is around 4-5k sq ft and it is like a “U” shape area. The Svr Rm is at the middle of the office, x1 CT8 is sit in the Svr Rm, and the x2 CT8 is located at the other end . There is another dept which is opposite to the Svr Rm, the AC86u is located there.
I would give a try for just leave only the CT8 with wireless backhaul or as Dong suggests: a weird connection between main router and the first node. However, it will be difficult to move that CT8 out of Svr Rm with the LAN cable may pass through ceiling as well since the dept which near the Svr rm may not connect well if I just leave the CT8 in the Svr rm. I will figure it out.
This wifi is not running with the high speed internet as it is only a spare line for users just surfing, messenger, zoom conference etc with their mobile. So we don’t have the VOIP phone as well. Also, 2.4 and 5ghz are separated with different SSID too.
For the firmware: all CT8 are with the same FW and have reset to factory in couple times before. The beta FW to AC86u which is the ASUS support provided to me and they suggest me to apply into it. The FW for AC68u is 126.96.36.199.386.41634 . But I just leave it alone now as it has the same issue as 86u.
By the way, just double confirm that to reset factory for CT8: 1) power off the machine 2) press and hold WPS button then power on the machine 3) once the power light is off, then release WPS 4) power on again
I will reset it again and manually input the config once I test the above methods.
I suggest you find an Android mobile device and install WiFi Analyzer (test tool). Start with only the main unit in the server room powered on and use WiFi Analyzer to first find the best channel. Then use the tool to measure the RSSI\-db at various locations. I think the default for the router is -70 (Wireless=> Professional => Roaming Assistant). This is the weakest signal before it will look to move to another node. I will suggest that you run some speed tests at this location and move closer to the router until you get acceptable performance. Consider this a reasonable spot to locate a mesh node. If you are half or more down one side of the “U” then you probably have it covered.
I do not have the CT8’s, they are deployed, but I think I reset these via the Admin section in the GUI (See Manual section 4.6.4, page 87). I do not recall using the WPS button. I think there is a Reset button on the bottom. Hold it for about 20 seconds and IIRC after about 2-3 minutes you will see a screen that asks you to enter your ASUS creds (which should be admin\admin at this point). Google reset Asus router.
Thanks Dong. I will read it first.
Hello – I have a two story 2000 sq ft home, I currently have a nighthawk RAX80 setup on the first floor. I had a network extender near the back of the hours that I unplugged because it was degrading the overall network performance. The upstairs (where both home offices are) still have sluggish wifi performance, although I’m getting an RSSI of -45 to -52 dBm in these rooms which doesn’t seem terrible.
I’m planning to upgrade to the CT8 and have one router downstairs and another upstairs. Does this seem like a viable option? From the comments here, looks like some folks have set these up in separate floors with good results.
Thank you for this review and the answers to all comments, greatly appreciated.
The XT8 will likely work out well, Dan. Just make sure the two units are not too far away from each other, but not too close either. More here.
I have the CT8 on the latest firmware. Looking at https://www.asus.com/uk/support/FAQ/1012132/
Looks like I should be able to get to smart connect rules? I can only turn smart connect on and off.
Anyone else have the same problem?
You should see the rules in the Network Tools section of the menu, David.
I havent got the Smart Connect Rule tab under network tools.
Then I guess it’s no longer available. It doesn’t do much, anyway. If you need to make sure a device connects to a particular band, separate the two as two SSIDs.
I am configuring a set of CT8’s at my home for another location. They came with FW 188.8.131.52.386_21573 which had poor 2.4G performance (along with the inability to set DNS servers and disable UPNP). I upgraded the 8+ month old FW to the current 21/02 V 184.108.40.206.386_23003.
2.4G is still poor. The GUI indicates a signal of 144\48, but the rx is fluctuating wildly and mirrors the low download speeds (typical 5-15) and good upload speeds (full connection). Wi-Fi Analyzer confirms an appropriate channel selection and the strongest signal among all the APs surveyed. I expect a 30+ number down. Moving data is 1-2 Mbps. 5 G is pushing the bounds of my connection, not problems, but I need to cater to old devices.
I have the device set up with separate bands for 2.4 and 5.0. It’s not clear if I were to set this up as a single SSID if 5G devices would run at 5G in the presence of 2.4G or if all gets sent to the 2.4G band?
I plan to default the device and try again, but looking for a recommendation on where to start.
That’s how the 2.4GHz band is. Don’t bother trying different things. Smart Connect is only a matter of convenience, it will not affect the performance. If you want to make sure a device will use one band other the other, then don’t use Smart Connect.
I purchased and setup the mesh system. It automatically updated to the newest firmware and I feel I’m getting a less reliable experience (dropped connections, etc.). I tried downgrading the firmware, but it keeps updating the firmware back to the most recent.
Is there a way to “properly” downgrade the firmware, and prevent future auto-updates?
This happens quite often with this set, Ray, the first major update tends to mess things up. You can reset the hardware and set it up from scratch. Or you can download the previous version and flash the hardware with it, start with the node. The detailed steps are in this post. (Just use the XT8’s stock firmware)
Thanks Dong. The question is, will it automatically upgrade the firmware again?
If it does, then resetting and doing all that will have been for nothing. What dollars your thoughts?
It shouldn’t unless you mess with the mobile app, Ray. Generally, playing with the mobile app can cause issues since it’s can be unclear what you’re doing to the system.
Also, am I using this “Merlin” in the process you mentioned?
No, the steps are the same, but you use stock firmware, Ray, not a Merlin firmware.
You mentioned using XT8’s stock firmware, but that’s a Wifi 6 router and the ASUS CT8 is not. Would it be compatible?
That must have been a typo. Get the firmware for your hardware, whichever that is.
So I proceeded as you suggested updating the node first. One thing I also did was disconnect from the internet first prior to starting. After updating the node, I updated the router.
One thing you mentioned was probably the culprit for the auto updates, that is the ASUS Router app (I have iOS on my iPhone). After I downgraded while I had the app, the downgrade would not stick and it would auto update. So the second time, I deleted the app from my iPhone and then used my laptop to perform the downgrade (disconnect the Ethernet first), downgrade the node, then downgrade the router.
Re-connected the Ethernet to the router and seems it’s staying on the older firmware now. Thanks for the suggestion!
Spoke too soon….the node updated the firmware again! 🙁
Well, I give up. I downgraded both router and node to the stock firmware.
As soon as internet is connected to the router, it updates BOTH. I’m on the most current firmware: Current Version : 220.127.116.11.386_23003-g3593bbe
You must have enabled the auto-update setting somehow, Ray. But you can always reset the mesh then set it up from scratch. That will likely fix the issue you had, too.
There is no setting for auto update, and I also did not set it up to do so.
It just does it on its own when it receives an internet connection!
Yes, I’m aware that there’s no option for auto-update on the interface, Ray. However, if you mess around with the mobile app, you might inadvertently turn that on. I’ve been using a set since the review and an XT8 and keeping them at any firmware version. Hang in there, the next firmware will fix the issues you have. 🙂
If you reset everything (with the most recent firmware update installed), wouldn’t the reset just start with the existing recent firmware? It’s not as if the reset will also reset the firmware?
Resetting won’t change your firmware version, Ray. It just removes all the customization. In my XP, the issue you run into is likely caused by the combo of the new firmware + current settings.
So I deleted the app from my phone. Then I disconnected the router from the Ethernet and downgraded both the router and node’s firmware. Then I went into my laptop and logged into the settings and factory restored the set. I reset up the Wifi mesh and both the router and node was using the downgraded firmware I set. I reconnected the router to get internet service.
After checking an hour later, the node had updated the firmware, while the router was still on the lower firmware. I checked again, 3 hours later, now both the router and node have automatically been updated to latest firmware.
I spent too much time on this and it’s so annoying. I might just order another set from BestBuy and return the old set since in my experience, the firmware just auto updates itself no matter what!
Sorry for the frustration, Ray. Maybe Asus can give you the definitive answer to this. I don’t run all of the mesh systems I’ve tested at all times just for testing purposes, as you can imagine.
So I ordered a second set of the ASUS CT8. I turned off the first set.
Then I setup the new mesh network. It was originally under firmware 18.104.22.168.386_215xx. Guess what? It automatically updated the firmware to 22.214.171.124.386_23003 on its own. I don’t even have the mobile app installed.
Thankfully my pair did not automatically update this time, but they did the previous time. I’m still holding off on the upgrade as I may try the 386 beta which promises better AP selection and transfer, and is now available for us as well (if you’re not risk averse). 🙂
Do you use the phone app?
A lot of people say the firmware updates automatically. Maybe yours will happen eventually?
Since a couple of updates ago my 3 Nodes auto update.
There is no option to turn this off in the gui I could find.
Log a support ticket with asus to confirm?
I don’t think you can do anything to prevent the auto updates (which is crap in my opinion).
I deleted the phone app and setup the system on my laptop. It updated on its own 🙁
Just noticed new firmware being available. Just clicked update for all 3 of my nodes.
I now keep losing connectivity with the router (via the app) and the Web gui times out after logging on.
Tried rebooting a couple of times.
Wifi/Internet is OK. Just the gui/app seems broken.
Logged a ticket with support. Had to factory reset all nodes. All OK now.
Your review convinced me to buy a pair of AC8 and I’m quite satisfied and thanful for your good advice. There is , however, a mistery I don’t understand. Some devices (a Smart TV and Google Chrome Audio) that are on a static position very close to the primary node have now switched to the second node that is farther away and have a much weaker signal. How comes? And how can I “convince” them to connect to the stronger node? Does the AiMesh actually play an active role in switching devices from one node to another or is it the decision of the devices alone?
Thank you and all the best!
I wouldn’t worry about it, Danijel. The switch only happens when necessary. They are probably pretty close to both hardware units.
Thanks for you quick reply!
Those two devices are about 2m away from the first node, but 10m and 1 floor away from the other so the difference in signal strength is significant. However, at the moment, both are back to the fist node without my intervention. As if the AiMesh would experiment and learn. If there is any AI in the system(?) this might even explain it… or I’m watching too much SF 🙂
Anyway, does the Mesh do any switching or is it only the devices?
Again, the switch takes place when necessary, Danijel. I’d rather just use the system than spend time watching what it does. Also, what you see is not always necessarily what you get. If you want to manually switch one device from one broadcaster to another, just restart it (or its Wi-Fi).
I couldn’t agree more. Let’s leave it to do its work, which it does very well! It’s just that I’m always trying to understand how things work.
I have a pair of CT8, impressed with them.
I would like to add a router that has hardware acceleration for VPN. So I could get decent speeds when running a VPN client.
What aimesh router would you recommend?
There’s no such thing as “hardware acceleration for VPN”, David. For more on VPN, check out this post.
https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/hardware-acceleration-is-here-for-routers-using-openvpn/ i found this article. I would like to have the option to run openvpn on the router. I read that certain cpu/chipsets have hardware acceleration , the above like mentions RT-AC86U. But goes on to say stock firmware doesnt support it (only merlin does). The article is 2018, just curious if you could recommend something that supported AImesh (which i could replace one of my CT8s with and plug in a new router could do a better job of the openvpn!
1. Check out this post on VPN, you definitely should read it.
2. Select Asus routers do support Open VPN when running stock firmware. But Merlin firmware (on these routers) includes more advanced options, it’s just a matter of degrees.
3. I don’t like the term “hardware-accelerated VPN”. It’s pure marketing. It’s just that some router has a chip (partially) dedicated to VPN, some don’t. But generally, you can’t expect a home router to be good at everything and VPN is more of a business feature.
I set up a pair of AI Mesh at the church. The main router GT-AC2900 at the church office and wireless backhaul with RT-AC86U in the church meeting room (wire between 2 routers is not possible). Both rooms are the same floor with 15-20 meters away. The internet speed is 400 Mbps.
In the meeting room, the computer and camera for live Facebook is wired connect to RT-AC86U. There is no issue with internet browsing but there is some freeze periodically during the live streaming (we ask the member not to connect to the church Wifi during the preaching).
If I upgrade to ZenWifi CT-8, would it help the bandwidth to be better as there are 3 bands? Will it worth changing (I can sell GT-AC2900 and RT-AC86U to get Zenwifi CT-8 with no extra cost)?
I’m just wondering if the internal antenna of CT-8 is as good as 3 external antenna of GT-AC2900 or RT-AC86U. Will the 3 bands is worth upgrade.
The issue is likely about bandwidth management, Wichai. I’d first use the RT-AC86U as the main router, though this is optional, after that set up the main router’s QoS up properly. Of course, make sure you update both to the latest firmware.
Thank you for your recommendation about the QoS. I will give it a try when next visiting to church. Meanwhile, if I can replace the set of GT-AC2900+RT-AC96U with ZenWifi CT8 at no cost, is it worth to replace?
The above scenario is setting with wireless backhaul.
With wireless backhaul, the CT8, or any tri-band system is better, Wichai.
Hi Dong, love your write-ups and the wide audience you speak to. I have a RT-AC3100 with AirPort APs on a wired backhaul. Plan is to replace the APs with a CT8 pair and have one as the router with the other and RT-AC3100 as the nodes. Because of the wired connection, the plan put some machines on one of the 5Mhz bands with a distinct and hidden SSID since they’re in close proximity to where the CT8s will live. Ultimately I’m trying to take advantage of the CT8 tri band to setup the additional hidden SSID.
Would it be a step back in network performance to setup the CT8 as the router instead of the AC3100? Is there another setup you’d recommend that can offer the triband setup in aimesh and hopefully put the AC3100 to use?
No, get a pair of the Blue Cave or RT-AC68/86U, Bryan. The CT8 is not good (not ideal) for wired backhaul. Sure, you can use it (the CT8) via wired backhaul and it will likely work (and you’ll have a separate 5Ghz network), however, a firmware update might mesh things up because the mesh was designed for homes that are not wired. And when that happens (and it has happened) it can be very frustrating. I speak from experience.
Dong, thx for the quick reply and shared experience from mixing and matching AiMesh configs. Was prob getting too creative just to get the extra 5Ghz network.
You mentioned that mesh isn’t designed for homes that aren’t wired – are you suggesting that I setup the 68/86u or Blue Cave units as APs instead of wired nodes via AiMesh?
Check out this post, Bryan. Take your time and really read it.
I bought the CT8 set with 2 units because i read multiple positive reviews about it. My experience so far is not all positive, stability and firmware being an issue.
I now read that this is not a preferred option to use with wired backhaul, but that is exactly why I bought this set.
Being not all happy with this, is there a different mesh system that DOES work well with wired backhaul, have stable firmware and dito connections?
Clearly, so far, you didn’t *read* my review on the CT8 or any post on this website at all, Robin. But if you think will change that, you can start with this post. https://dongknows.com/mesh-wi-fi-system-explained/. Again, if you don’t *read*, nobody can help you. 🙂
I do *read* Dong, I also did *read* your very positive review on the CT8, and also this : Wired backhaul: The only way to get the best performing mesh
The best way to implement a mesh is by using network cables to link the hubs together in a wired backhaul setup. In this case, you’ll always have the best possible Wi-Fi speeds throughout.
Because of that, and because of the thick walls in my house that will not allow a lot of signal coming through, I was looking for a mesh system with good specs. So the speeds are good when closeby one of the CT8 units, but the signal does not appear to be very stable, connections on my iphone 11 pro have been dropping frequently and I also am a bit dissapointed in the firmware updates Asus has been releasing, especially the one that killed the wired backhaul. After that, there have been a couple of times one of the units just did not accept any connections, and needed a restart.
I mean read the entire thing, Robin. 🙂 Yes, I did say wired backhaul is the way to go but I also said that in that case, a dual-band system is better. Generally, a tri-band system is tuned for the wireless setup, the vendor expects you to NOT use wired backhaul. So yes, you are right about Asus’s firmware hiccups. The CT8 should work fine now via wired backhaul, however. Maybe the connection issue is something else. Check out this post on the matter, it might help. But for your home, a dual-band system (that supports wired backhaul) is the way to go.
Follow up question here. Since I have the AC1900 router, would I see any benefit of getting the XT8 to use with this router in AI Mesh as opposed to the XD4 or CT8? All will be wired backhaul. Trying to figure out if the XT8 is worth the extra money in my setup. Thank you!
Of the 3, I’d pick the CT8 in your case, Jerry. But ideally, you should get an AC router, like the Blue Cave or the RT-AC86U.
Do you mean I need another AC router to go with mine as opposed to using the mesh systems with my router? Why is that better? Should I use those mesh systems by themselves? For the same money I could get 2 AC routers to add to mine. Is that what you are suggesting? Thank you!
Yes, Jerry. It’s generally not a great idea to mix Wi-Fi standards. And if you have a lot of AC and N clients, AC routers work better, too. More here.
Maybe I am confused, but I thought the CT8 was an AC router. Is it not? All things being equal, would 2 of the 86u be better than 2 of the CT8? Getting more confused the deeper I dig
*Read* the AiMesh post I linked in my previous answer, Jerry. Stop digging for what you want. Read the post!
I’ve read the article twice. What am I missing? Is it that my AC 1900 is low end and I should get a better rated 86U? My original question asked about combining the CT8 with my AC1900? You said I’m better off with the 86U. You said it’s not good to mix standards, but I believe the CT8 is AC as well so why is it not a good combination? I apologize if I am missing something. I appreciate the help!
CT8 is a tri-band. Not ideal for wired backhaul.
Thank you! I missed that. I appreciate your help.
Is the CT8 better or worse for a wired backhaul than the XD4? I plan to use either with my ASUS AC 1900 router if possible. They are the same price point so wondering how to differentiate them. I know the XD4 is dual band, but that doesn’t matter since I have a wired backhaul (I think). I appreciate your thoughts.
After reading your article, I bought CT8 in August. I’m happy with the product. I was debating for ZenWifi Ax version, but in HK it was too expensive (like US $500). Anyway, my question is for if I upgrade to WIfi 6 router, can I just buy one of Asus Wifi 6 router and mesh with ZenWifi AC?
Yes, you can, but that’s not ideal, Elliott. More here. If the CT8 is working fine, there’s no real need to upgrade anyway. Enjoy it for a few years.
Hi Dong, thanks for this! I have a question:
My internet speeds are pretty slow, considering my modem and router (D-Link DIR-880L) are on the opposite side of where I work/game. Would this be good enough, considering my connection is pretty poor (I’m at 1-2 bands)? If so, what would I need to do? Just place it anywhere and it would do the trick? I’m not too computer savvy, but I was looking for exactly something that could improve my connection and was wondering if this would be the solution, or if I would need range extenders instead.
Thanks in advance
Yes, this one will improve that big-time, Alan. More on how to set up a mesh system here.
Hi Dong Ngo ,
Great article , after reading this I was convinced to get a pair of CT8s . However seems like the system is now doing auto-updates which in my experience is never good news. To cut a long story short – they worked perfectly out of the box for a few hours – then auto updated to 126.96.36.199.386_22245 and now the node is getting awful reception where it was perfectly fine before the update – it’s now using 2.4g to backhaul defeating the purpose of the dedicated backhaul line , in fact my computer sitting next to the node is connected via 5g to the hub perfectly fine and just ignoring the node next to it!
I managed after a lot of effort to work out how to downgrade the firmware with the firmware restoration software and reinstall everything , however its just autoupdated again over night!! Not sure if you or anyone else is having issues with the latest software , its really frustrating as out of the box for a short while at least it was working so well!!
Yeap, auto-update is always a double-edged sword. That wasn’t the case during my testing, check the interface to see if there’s a way to disable that.
Great review at just the right depth, Thank you!
Can you update this please with the status:
Wired back haul
I am also unclear from your article on USB as a NAS if this is something that can be fixed in firmware (ie update) or if this is an uncorrectable HW issue.
Same for XT please.
Wired backhaul works now with the latest firmware, Ranger. Still no Guest Wi-Fi. The NAS performance is just how it is, unfortunately.
I currently have ax86u router, which covers the whole house nicely but we get a very weak signal on our back patio and the garden. I have just recently bought this router but i am thinking of either: keeping the current router and getting an additional outdoor access point from tp-link; or returning the router and getting zenwifi, and putting the second unit next to the patio window to increase the signal.
Which option would you recommend out of both? and if it is the zenwifi, which one would be better for 350mbps cable connection – ac or ax version?
If you have wired your home, go with the AP, Umair. If not, get the ZenWiFi. For that internet speed, the CT8 is fine.
Hi Dong, have you by any chance checked the power consumption of the units?
No, Maciej. I don’t test that since routers generally use little power.
Hi Dong… I was considering to replace my old router to either this or 2 sets of RT-AX58U for the Aimesh… Which do you reckon would be a better setup. Thanks
This one for a wireless setup, Sunny. If you have wired your home with cables, then get the RT-AX58U, or the ZenWiFi AX Mini.
Hi Dong, thanks for the super quick reply. Yup, the rooms are wired…Let me check up on the ZenWiFi AX Mini… My initial comparison was between CT8 and 2 sets of RT-AX58U… 🙂
Hi, just purchased the XT8 for myself, and very happy with the performance with multiple video calls, e-learning, etc…. The only problem we seem to be having is our play-fi wireless speakers dropping off and back on a bit randomly, but I think that’s more of a problem with play-fi not updating their own drivers.
Working to help my parents upgrade their system too, and I believe the XT8 is a bit of an overkill situation for them and hard to find right now. Would you recommend the CT8 or the AX Mini. Is the wireless backhaul worth the slight upcharge? Is three nodes really better than two?
They have a fairly large house with a few scattered plaster walls to make connecting more interesting. Right now their coverage is dismal using the Uverse combo box. Their heavy use case is mostly HD/4k on a few smart TV’s and one dedicated home office with video calling (or two when family visits). I am motivated to fix this since our daughter may occasionally e-learn from their house, but probably not motivated enough to lose a weekend running an Ethernet backhaul through their walls.
The CT8 will deliver similar coverage as the XT8, Kyle, it’s just a bit slower and not Wi-Fi 6-ready. You can start with a 2-pack and add more if need be later.
A new firmware version was released yesterday, 188.8.131.52.386.22245, and to my surprise was automatically installed last night (I would not have enabled that). The good news is that the Ethernet Backhaul is working again and all seems well so far, just Very surprised that it auto-updated last night. I’ll be curious to hear others experiences as well?
Also, I can’t find a setting for auto-firmware update, is there a way to turn it off???
That’s new, Stach. Asus must have enabled auto-update somehow.
I’m not impressed by automatic firmware upgrades that can’t be turned off. Especially since ASUS firmware is notoriously buggy, as evidenced by the July firmware fiasco that killed the Ethernet backhaul (and more). I really hope that they make the auto firmware upgrades an option.
I hear you, Stach. Me, neither.
The update has caused multiple random reboots for my system. I couldn’t even get to the GUI using the web browser to backup my configuration and revert to a previous firmware.
Try resetting the system and setting it up from scratch, Dino.
I was coming off an eero pro and looking to upgrade. I’ll tell you that this solution and my normal love of Asus is what pushed me in this direction. Wired backhaul to basement for the dual node I felt would work in my favor. I know about the firmware issues, but man…it’s ruined the experience. 184.108.40.206.386.25224 is what I started on and it was just building in nightly reboots and fixing everything. Then I got the 220.127.116.11.386.25509 and all was so much better. No random disconnects. No need for reboots. Everything got better. Then came 18.104.22.168.386.25524 and that all broke again. I’m going back to my eero and will wait to see if they release another update, but continually redoing my config is not what I had wanted. Very disappointing.
You mentioned that WPA3 will come with future firmware updates. Do you know if it is available now? Also, does this support DFS channels?
Yes, it’s been there for a while, Rahul. Note that you can’t use it, for now, if you put another AiMesh router in the mix, though.
Big fan and appreciate your great information. I currently have an RT-AC88U (your favorite and mine!) and an RT-AC66U as a 2nd node. I am still having some issues with everyone at home (5) Multiple Zoom Calls, Streaming Movies, XBOX, etc. I have 400 Mbps speed from Spectrum. Would there be any improvement to replace this set up with a pair of CT 8’s? I currently don’t have wired backhaul but could try to find a way to get wires around the house as it sounds like that would be best. But without that what do you think?
If you run wires, the current hardware should work much better, Jim, especially if you put Merlin firmware on them. The CT8 is great if you use a wireless setup.
Hi Dong, Quick Follow up. I was able to get the 2nd node wired (AC-66U) from the Main Router (AC-88U) and the system reflects that. Are there any additional change to settings that have to be made or good to go?
Charter’s Spectrum internet service typically has a notoriously weak, slow, bad upload speed. Charter advertises the heck out of their 400 Mbps download speed, but that’s only half of the equation and if you are doing multiple zoom calls, where you are sending lots of data, then you will probably saturate the 4-10 Mbps upload speed of Charter. If possible, try to find a better ISP with a much better upload speed.
Thank you…just confirming what I thought…and I was thinking that the AI Protection is a nice thing to have.
I know that the newer routers must have greater range than my old Apple, but for peace of mind I think I will go with the CT8 two-piece solution. I really do want to take advantage of my DirecTV on-demand, and a unit downstairs should work better in that regard.
Thanks again : )
Dong…Great site…genius work for those of us not nearly as technical as you.
I have an old Apple AirPort Extreme (the flat one). It has been bullet-proof, but in my 4,000 sq. foot, 2-story house its range could be better (my DirecTV DVR can’t see it). In these days of Zoom, steaming content, etc. I’d like something with more range and faster. We are unable to hard-wire a back haul.
Even though we are paying for 50MBs (about as good as it gets in our remote location) we are lucky to get 20, enough to watch streaming video but we still get the spinning wheel. I think my Apple isn’t passing through all of the speed, what little there is.
I had my heart set on the Asus XT8 AI Mesh for future proofing and because my wife and I both have the newest iPhones. We are in a valley and can only make calls via the iPhone wifi calling and with a small booster from Verizon that is hooked up to the Apple router.
But after reading the comments, it seems that the XT8 may not be ready for prime-time.
Security and privacy are very important to me, and I like the software that comes with the Asus that appears to be the same on both the XT8 and CT8.
Because we’re not power users and don’t have great speed to start with, are be better off with the CT8? Is it more reliable firmware-wise?
The price difference is not a big deal as I keep electronics until they die : ) I just want a bullet-proof solution that is secure and set-and-forget.
PS…the Amplifi HD is interesting but looks too simple and there appears to be no real security.
Security is not something you can see, Matt, in the sense that just because a device gives you a lot of options on this front doesn’t mean it’s more (or less) secure than those that don’t. Generally, though, I’d care more about privacy than security. For your home, if the Airport Extreme (kinda) worked out, almost any single new router will, so the ZenWiFi AC set will definitely do. And for your situation, you don’t need a Wi-Fi 6 solution.
Through in ordering glitch I ended up with two of the two packs. I have one on side of main floor and on on the other side of same. Would it be worthwhile to install the other two one upstairs and one in the basement ?
Only you can find out, Kamyar. If all i’s good right now then no, but if there’re still areas with no or low coverage then you can try the 2nd pack.
The latest firmware 22238 was pulled back by Asus, did you guys notice? Yesterday I had problems with the system, satellite was losing wired connection. The system is still, after more than 2 months, unstable. Hope Asus come up with a firmware that actually works and get rid of the out of memory issues that plagues us…
Hi Dong, I appreciate your in-depth reviews. The ASUS ZenWifi CT8 seems like the right system for my house and 200Mbps internet connection (with possible upgrade to 400 in the future). The only thing that gives me pause is your comment about buggy firmware. Are the bugs the kind that will cause intermittent loss of network service, or are they mostly (or completely) related to the web interface and configuration? Thanks!
It varies depending on the version, Ken. The latest version, for example, works great if you use wireless setup, but it will not work if you use wired backhaul. So if you don’t have wired backhaul right now, go for it. A future version will fix the wired backhaul issue, I assume.
Thanks for the advice about backhaul. I’m currently using two Airport Extremes connected by Powerline (no ethernet wiring in the house). It was working ok but I figured out that the 5GHz radio on the 2nd AE died, leaving great speed near the main router and lousy speed in the back room where we spend a lot of time. Wifi6 seems like overkill at this point so CT8 seems like a good way to get coverage everywhere and take advantage of my internet speed.
Sure, Ken. Anything is better than the Aiport Extreme anyway.
Hi Dong – long time no speak. So you helped me a couple of months ago by recommending an Asus AiMesh setup for my home. I purchased 3x RT-AC1900P routers, I use one as the main router and the other two connect as nodes via wired backhaul. I have a 600Mbps connection from Comcast, and at first I was seeing 500+Mbps over WiFi when close to the node. Now I’m getting about 250Mbps consistently, and cannot seem to get close to 500Mbps. It’s not causing me issues, and my connection is rock solid, but it is annoying that performance has dropped off. I do have QoS turned on. Are there any settings I should look at or anything you recommend to see if I can correct this? Would it help to reset all routers to factory specs, and install Merlin? I’d welcome your advice. Thanks!
Assuming Comcast delivers, and you tested the connection properly, try turning off QoS, Matt. Considering your speed, you might not need it anyway (unless you do a lot of file downloading.) Also, Merlin is a good option. It’s generally more stable.
The new software broke the 5GHz-1 connection at the satelite node too, and my phone was not able to connect to the 5GHz-1 SSID after update.
I had to revert back to the previous one.
I just had the same issue and using Ethernet backhaul; the AI Mesh nodes are just not being recognised anymore after upgrading to 22.214.171.124.386_22238. Reset/Reboot didn’t help.
I updated the firmware to see if it helps with out of memory issues and had to manually reset the satellite to get it to work again. I’m also using wired backhaul, and it’s working OK. Since the upgrade on friday I haven’t need to reboot because of out of memory issues. Hope this will be the one to fix it for good…
I am using an Asus RT AC68U as a main router. The router is located at the second floor of my house. The wifi signal at the ground floor is quite weak as I plan to get a mesh wifi or an single router as an node at the ground floor. I’m considering an Asus RTAX88U setup as an main router and AC68U as an node or getting an AC-CT8 Aimesh system. Which combination will give a better performance/stability? Please advice.
Check out this post, Andy. https://dongknows.com/how-to-pick-the-best-wi-fi-router-for-your-home/
I had to revert to the previous firmware to get back the ethernet backhaul
You’re right, Dnio! This is quite annoying. I think they probably didn’t test the new firmware with a wired backhaul setup.
thanks Dong! So Wired backhaul is still working for you? This is strange since I couldn’t get it to connect even if I choose ethernet as priority as backhaul 🙁
Actually, you’re right! I did another upgrade just now and it had an issue, apparently, the version I did yesterday wasn’t the latest. I’ll update this answer once I find out a solution.
Hi Dong! Have you upgraded to the latest firmware which came out July 2 Version 126.96.36.199.386.22238? Did you notice if the ethernet backhaul got broken? I count connect my node now using ethernet
Yes Dino, and no. I use wired backhaul, though.
Today, while looking after out of memory errors in log, I was surprised to find that a new firmware version was available. Without a second thought, I pressed the update button, being sure that the update is preformed on both devices, the router and the node. Not so…
So now, I have the router on 188.8.131.52.386_22238 and the node nowhere to be found, maybe on the old version…
The version on the router is not to be found on ASUS support site.
Now what? Any ideas how can I update the node also?
regards, Jonathan, very confused…
You might want to restart both manually, Jon. Also, the node’s firmware version is at the place where you perform the upgrade for the router, you’ll see the list of nodes there with their firmware info, and the Upload button to manually update them.
I just received mine and everything work fine. So now I tried to connect my Xiaomi Hub and my Logitech Harmony hub and both are not connecting. They are not able to finish the connecting process. I tried on another netgear WiFi (2,4) and both are ok…. have you an idea ?
You might need to change the Wi-Fi setting to support legacy device, or update your clients’ firmware, Yann. More on that here. https://dongknows.com/how-to-fix-wi-fi-dropping-and-disconnection-issues/
It’s happening the same here: lots of out of memory messages on system log, clients disconnect, only a reboot heals the system. My mesh is also wired. First time it happened I noticed that the Asus Router app on android turned on Apps analysis (under Adaptive QoS, Bandwidth Monitor) and I thought it was this setting. Turned it off, and after a couple of days it’s happening again. Same firmware version, I’m wondering if a downgrade will help, since the last version dealt with memory hungry stuff…
I understand. It would be nice to indicate somewhere that review has been updated too.
OK, but how it is possible that on PC your review states: “No Guest networking throughout when working with non-ZenWiFi AiMesh routers” and in text: “No Guest network in a mixed setup” (so one could expect it working with dual set)
While mobile version states “No Guest networking throughout” and inside of review: “In reality, though, no matter how I used it, the Guest network always remained at the router unit, similar to the case of other AiMesh setups.”
That incoherence in review versions led me to unwanted purchase.
My apologies, Huminio. It was my lousy attempt to update the review after having used it for a while longer and with subsequent firmware. I’ll check to make sure the wording is consistent with the message. Guest Network will eventually be there, it’s just a matter of time according to Asus
Hi, I just purchased CT8 twin pack based on your review.
Unfortunately there is no Guest networking throughout in this setup. I updated set with newest firmware but there is no joy.
Did you actually test Guest networking on the Node?
You’re correct, Huminio. Guest Network has been hit or miss via firmware update. Asus’s been working on it.
Hi. Your website is very helpful and informative and has given me great insight. Looking at buying a mesh system and ZenWiFi looks to be a contender. I would probably go for the twin pack ZenWiFi AC routers and an extra ZenWiFi AC (node) router because my house is an irregular size and shape. Would it be possible to use the extra node as both an access point and a switch? Could I run an ethernet cable between the main router and the extra node to provide both wired backhaul and a wired connection for the switch? Would I be able plug in my Mac into the switch? It currently runs on a powerline adapters, but speeds are unsatisfactory. If that doesn’t work, any ideas as to the ideal set up. Hope that is clear. Thanks
Yes and yes, Bluejay. You can find out more about AiMesh in this post.
It works for me on XT8. I assume it depends on ISP. They setup HLS for me, but also worked before HLS was setup.
I have 2xCT8, I have been wondering if its possible somehow to configure the lan ports of the node router?
Reason I ask is that I have a tvbox who needs iptv-settings for it to work and its positioned right next to my node router.
I get it to work if I connect the tvbox to my main router after I do the IPTV settings on that one, but I dont think there is a way to do the same settings on the node router?
No, Bob, unfortunately. I feel you.
From your statement in the article,
“This is partly because there are not enough instructions on how to configure certain settings. That’s especially true for band-steering (or SmartConnect rules), which help clients pick that best band (5GHz vs. 2.4GHz) to connect to at any given time. The only way to figure this out is via trial and error.”
I interpret it that your ZenWiFi AC (CT8) system is able to access the Smart Connect Rules to be configured but I don’t see the Smart Connect Rules in mine, even with the latest firmware. Maybe your unit is different.
Thanks for the help!
Got it. Looks like it’s no longer there. Very interesting. Asus might have removed it with a later firmware version, maybe to make things simple for users.
Really good review Dong. Need some quick advice, if I have a RT-AX56U in a upstairs office (where the internet connection comes in) and I set up the 2 x CT8 nodes in the downstairs part of the house for WiFi coverage. Would I loose any functionality having the RT-AX56U as the main unit? Thanks.
That’s not recommended. Use a (third) CT8 there (and the AX56U as a node.)
Yes, I can activate it under Wireless but I cannot find the Settings link to configure it.
That’s what Smart Connect is supposed to be, Weng. I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to do. Maby check with the user manual?
Thank you for the detailed article.
I recently bought the ASUS Zenwifi AC router which has the software 184.108.40.206.386_21573.
I want to enable the Smart Connect feature but I do not see the settings under Network Tools.
I reflashed the firmware to the latest one on the website, 220.127.116.11.386.21291, as advised by ASUS but still face the same issue.
Are you able to see the Smart Connect settings in your version?
Yes, Weng. Smart Connect works on this router from the get-go. It’s not under Network Tools, but the Wireless -> General area.
Thanks! Will I be able to later add wifi 6 satellite(s) to the same mesh?
Hi Dong. Based on the performance numbers above – it seems that RT-AC86U is better than this “ZenWiFi AC”. If I to choose what to buy for NEW mesh setup – what would you recommend? 2 of RT-AC86U (~$380) or ZenWiFi AC ($330)?
I have 1G fios and cables on all floors. Also, considering, to add wifi6 (3rd one) in the future
Better only when you use a single device (or a few devices), Alexei. If you have multiple devices, the CT8 has more bandwidth — it’s tri-band. I’d recommend the CT8 in your case. Also read this post.
I am on the last firmware 18.104.22.168.386_21291, yet very disappointed with the reliability… Out of memory errors occurs daily (from the system log…), router become unreachable and clients disconnecting. Partially solved by scheduled daily night reboot. Far from a ideal solution. QoS switched off, didn’t help either.
My old RT-AC68U was like a rock, with a very similar configuration months between reboots.
It’s seems that ASUS didn’t finish the firmware before releasing to public, out of memory errors are a pretty big deal…
Also despite having a wired backhaul, not having the option to add the Wireless – 5GHz-2 to the same SSID Smart Connect is not a very smart choice from ASUS.
I’m starting to wonder if I chose wise. The RT-AX92U 2 Pack is similar price to CT8 (Newegg) and WiFi6.
Thanks for sharing, Jon. It’s quite strange. I actually set mine up again more than a week ago, and it’s been running no problem at all since, with QoS turned on as well as a bunch of other customization. There must be something about this model that makes it work well for some and quite terrible for others… I’ve been talking to Asus about this, so the company is aware. Hopefully, they can figure this out.
I bought this AC-CT8 router on 6-Sep-20, from day 1 until now (19-Oct-20), I have nonstop connectivity issues, router become unreachable and clients disconnecting.
When I did the ping test (google) & speed test simultaneously, I can see the response time jumps from 6ms up to 3500 ms and connection timeout errors in between. After a week of use, I even took this router to the Asus service centre and they replaced another new pair. The same problem even repeats with the new pair. Looks the issue is not isolated case, it is repeating in multiple devices, it could be due to poor quality HW/FW
Before enabling the QOS, Air protection, router memory used was around 56%. Immediately after enabled the air protection, memory used jumps to 86% and sometimes I saw around 96%. I tried to revert by turn off the QOS, Air protection, unfortunately, memory used is not reducing, it’s still around 86% . Before this router, I used Asus RT-AC88U & I didn’t have any connectivity issues with QOS, Air protection on.
I am using latest FW Version : 22.214.171.124.386_22245-g1b51b7c,
Below is the snapshot of the log, within 2 mins time, two times “out of memory error”. I purposely did a speed test during this time.
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: Normal free:4140kB min:4096kB low:5120kB high:6144kB active_anon:29652kB inactive_anon:2724kB active_file:148kB inactive_file:228kB unevictable:0kB isolated(anon):0kB isolated(file):0kB present:260096kB managed:251332kB mlocked:0kB dirty:0kB writeback:0kB mapped:1352kB shmem:2812kB slab_reclaimable:1680kB slab_unreclaimable:100540kB kernel_stack:1112kB pagetables:1104kB unstable:0kB bounce:0kB free_cma:0kB writeback_tmp:0kB pages_scanned:2368 all_unreclaimable? yes
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: lowmem_reserve: 0 0 0
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: Normal: 107*4kB (UM) 1*8kB (U) 1*16kB (R) 1*32kB (R) 0*64kB 1*128kB (R) 0*256kB 1*512kB (R) 1*1024kB (R) 1*2048kB (R) 0*4096kB = 4196kB
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 878 total pagecache pages
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 65536 pages of RAM
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 1360 free pages
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 2735 reserved pages
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 7034 slab pages
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 1215 pages shared
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: 0 pages swap cached
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: Out of memory: Kill process 18800 (tdts_rule_agent) score 41 or sacrifice child
Oct 19 21:10:12 kernel: Killed process 18800 (tdts_rule_agent) total-vm:12180kB, anon-rss:9516kB, file-rss:1064kB
Oct 19 21:10:14 BWDPI: fun bitmap = 50b
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Mem-info:
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Normal per-cpu:
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: CPU 0: hi: 90, btch: 15 usd: 16
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: CPU 1: hi: 90, btch: 15 usd: 26
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: CPU 2: hi: 90, btch: 15 usd: 18
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: CPU 3: hi: 90, btch: 15 usd: 26
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: active_anon:7068 inactive_anon:680 isolated_anon:0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: active_file:85 inactive_file:152 isolated_file:0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: unevictable:0 dirty:0 writeback:0 unstable:0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: free:1040 slab_reclaimable:433 slab_unreclaimable:25115
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: mapped:308 shmem:703 pagetables:291 bounce:0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: free_cma:0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Normal free:4160kB min:4096kB low:5120kB high:6144kB active_anon:28272kB inactive_anon:2720kB active_file:340kB inactive_file:608kB unevictable:0kB isolated(anon):0kB isolated(file):0kB present:260096kB managed:251332kB mlocked:0kB dirty:0kB writeback:0kB mapped:1232kB shmem:2812kB slab_reclaimable:1732kB slab_unreclaimable:100460kB kernel_stack:1184kB pagetables:1164kB unstable:0kB bounce:0kB free_cma:0kB writeback_tmp:0kB pages_scanned:19200 all_unreclaimable? yes
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: lowmem_reserve: 0 0 0
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Normal: 94*4kB (UE) 49*8kB (UER) 1*16kB (R) 0*32kB 1*64kB (R) 1*128kB (R) 0*256kB 0*512kB 1*1024kB (R) 1*2048kB (R) 0*4096kB = 4048kB
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 963 total pagecache pages
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 65536 pages of RAM
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 1416 free pages
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 2735 reserved pages
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 7133 slab pages
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 776 pages shared
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: 0 pages swap cached
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Out of memory: Kill process 21672 (tdts_rule_agent) score 35 or sacrifice child
Oct 19 21:11:38 kernel: Killed process 21672 (tdts_rule_agent) total-vm:12180kB, anon-rss:8196kB, file-rss:1024kB
Any recommendation to overcome this issue? I am tired of using this router. The only appearance of this router is good, performance-wise, extremely bad. Personally, I don’t recommend anyone to buy this router, until Asus fix the out of memory issues.
I don’t know what to tell you, K. Maybe try an older firmware version?
Has anyone else ran into the issue where the internet keeps dropping (every few minutes), it started happening today on the latest firmware on the ct8? I was thinking of downgrading firmware, not sure if i just apply the same firmware file to the router then later do the aimesh secondary unit.
So version on my ct8 (126.96.36.199.386_21527) is newer than what is on the asus download site?
I saw that. The one i have seems newer…
I did google and found the firmware seems to be older than the one i have.
Mine says it is on 188.8.131.52.386_21527
Interesting. But yes, the version I said earlier was that of the XT8, my mistake.
It’s actually xxx.21291 for the CT8.
Available on Asus website
What is the latest firmware available for the CT8? Mine is stating 184.108.40.206.386_21527 i cannot find any mention of this on the firmware download page.
It’s xxx.25224 version, David. Google the router’s name + “firmware”. You can download it from Asus’s site and do a manual update.
Great review! I bought the 2 pack because of this 🙂
One question though : I created a wired backhaul setup with the Asus AC68U (oldie) in the closet near the front door functioning as router (Where there are many steel pipes and systems for water, gas, etc that seem to block the signal, that why i needed a wired backhaul). With 2 mesh nodes one in the living room and one on the second floor. They seem to cover the house quite nicely, but I can only seem to tweak the setup of the AC68 router, and not the seperate nodes. The router also does not support MU-MIMO, is the router being a limiting factor in this setup, and should I get another one that DOES support all of the AiMesh features in order to be able to use it properly, or is there a different way to adjust the setup of the nodes seperately?
Thank you for your great site, really helpfull!
You shouldn’t be able to tweak the setup of any nodes at all, Robin. So it seems you set up the AC68 in AP mode. If that’s working out, though, don’t worry about it. Also, MU-MIMO only matters when you have lots of clients connecting to that particular router.
Thanks, Pretty sure its showing as gigabit, i did however only put in one of the lan ports not the wan port, ill try that next. I see it actually as 5ghz2 on a separate ssid, i was under the impression it could work under the single ssid as triband though, and i assumed by not being triband im losing throughput, maybe not. Worst case i guess i could just use that ssid for 5ghz dedicated devices, less ideal without roaming though
One thing i’ve run into with the ct8, not sure if its affecting speeds, is that i’m using wired backhaul on the second ap, but in the system its now set to dual band with wifi backhaul (latest firmwares). Only the mobile app seems to give an option to turn wireless backhaul off, and when you toggle it, it doesnt let you apply, so it never sticks and goes to triband anymore. I think its a bug?
Secondarily, when i was using the 5ghz option instead of triband, i did get my s8 to connect on 5ghz even at medium range, but if you leave it on dual or triband, the phone will end up on 2.4ghz quite often, which is only about 30 mbps at that range. I see no way to tell it to prefer 5ghz for devices, the 5ghz option is gone because wireless backhaul is enabled (the mesh unit does say wired ethernet backhaul, so not sure why this is the case)
1. Make sure the cables connecting the two units are working properly (and Gigabit or faster).
2. Use the WAN port on the node to connect to the main router.
3. Change the 5GHz-2 to work as a separate network, it will work only for 5GHz devices and you can connect your phone (or whatever) to that SSID. More on that in this post — check out the Tri-band section.
Thanks for the reply this is excellent, i guess the ax200 i bought for the laptop is wifi6 in fact. My biggest issue is testing via a cell phone, nothing seems to match up with file transfer tests i do on the pc. I’d probably need to do some sort of android file transfer over the network if i want to know how fast the phone (s8) really is performing. Seems an s8 next to the laptop, the s8 might report 170 mbps while the file transfer on the laptop wifi5 is around 600mbps (unsure which wifi the s8 has)
Phones mostly use Wi-Fi to access the internet and their Wi-Fi adapters are likely tuned to work in the most energy-efficient mode. In other words, don’t use a phone to test Wi-Fi.
First thanks for excellent reviews.
I am using my ISP mesh right now. It works partially. I have nodes connected directly to ISP modem/router in a “star network”. It works partially. I need to restart router and nodes few times a week, as nodes goes into loop.
Second, I can not switch off 2.4GHz on my current mesh. Clients are connecting to 2.4GHz despite located couple of meters away from node. As a result transfer is slower vs. 5Ghz and I am not benefiting from my 500/100 Mbit internet.
I am hoping to avoid these issues with XT8.
I would benefit from ethernet backhaul, as I have multi-storey flat. I have only one UTP cable in each room, where XT8 would be standing. For that reason I can only connect each node directly to my ISP router/modem. Would such (star network) wiring allow ethernet backhaul?
Is it possible to switch off 2.4GHz on XT8?
Do you have any alternative suggestion for a mesh system, given my specifics?
1. Yes, you can turn off either of the bands on an Asus router (it’s in the Professional tab). Or you can name them as two separate networks.
2. Wired backhaul is always the best. Make sure your UTP can handle 1Gbps or faster, though. With wired backhaul, there’s no need to use a star topology. You can place the hardware units however you want. More on that here.
3. If you have to keep the ISP-provided router/gateway, you might want to read this post, too.
Hey there, good article. Curious in the graphs showing speed, what mechanism did you use to speedtest.
I’ve initially set up my ct8 though maybe the wifi needs tweaked on the router. I’m seeing 350mbps on speakeasy on wifi 5 client ax200 card with 400 though for the connection). My s8 galaxy speedtest shows 160 (this is all within 10 feet), meanwhile on a laptop with ax200 wifi 5 client i’m getting On the wifi 5 client if i do a file transfer i hit 70 MB/sec for a single large file, so roughly 560 mbps, and old school qcheck shows 235 mbps, but it may be limited in some way.
Here’s how I do Wi-Fi speed tests.
Here’s how I do Wi-Fi speed tests. As for your result, it can be a lot of things, you might want to check out this post.
Am awaiting a response from ASUS support. But I have now got usable VPN. Turning off QoS fixed it for me
Have found the same. Have tried different VPN providers (chosen local servers). It is unusable, ping time outs, web sites timing out. I have logged a ticket with ASUS support (they want me to factory reset and send system logs over.
I checked the cpu on the CT8, and all cores were just ticking over too.
Hey Dong, quick question. How would an XT8 system interact with this CT8 system? Are there cons to intermingling AX and AC mesh nodes?
I have 4xCT8 to cover my home and am very happy with them. Usually the 3 nodes are connected directly to the main box via WiFi but sometimes the nodes Daisy chain. I’m not really able to move the nodes as I use them for wired devices so is there any way of forcing each node to connect directly to the main box rather than through another node as the internet speed suffers when they go Daisy chained.
Unfortunately I don’t have the option of easily using wired backhaul so have to rely on WiFi.
Hope you can help?
There’s no way to force that, Ian, other than placing the nodes around the main router.
Hello, for starters I am not tech savvy. but thanks to your reviews I am learning little by little. anyway, I have an old Asus RT-AC88U that worked really well for us but the range is horrible so when the zen wifi ax6600 came out I took a chance because of its advertised coverage of 5500 square feet. my house has two floors and its only 2700 square feet. with that said my ISP frontier gives me 200/200 but since I change to zen wifi my speed has been inconsistent and kids are complaining that there is a constant lag in their video games. I never had this issue when I only have the RT-AC88U. why is that? is my zen wifi system I bought faulty or is there a setting I need to do to correct this issue? thank you in advance
That RT-AC88U is my most favorite router, Oscar.
As for your kids’ issue, that’s because a wireless mesh is NEVER good for gaming. Signals jump from the main router to the node and then to the game console. The extra bridge creates lags. To fix this you can use a network cable to connect the two units or connect the game console to the node using a network cable.
You can also try out the QoS setting to optimize the system for gaming to see if that helps.
Thank you for the reply, Dong! Makes sense. Would you suggest me not use AIMesh for real-time communication even though I need to be far from the primary router or is AIMesh the better alternative until I find a hardwired option?
Until I can figure out a wired solution (not sure if my ISP can help me get a hardwire running to the top floor), if I did want to try the ZenWifi CT8 as part of AIMesh, does the order I detailed matter? I would have one of the ZenWifi CT8’s as the primary router then use the rest as nodes. I was thinking the following – ZenWifi CT8 (Primary) / AC68U (2nd) / AC86U (3rd) / other ZenWifi CT8 (4th).
I’d suggest that you run a cable from the router to the node or connect your computer with video conferencing to the node using a network cable (if that’s possible). If your office is too far away from the main router, the signals might be too week to be useful for anything at all. That AiMesh order is fine, but keep in mind how tri-band works. More on that in the part about tri-band in this post. Good luck, Rich! 🙂
Hi Dong, Thank you for all you do. I live in a 3-story home and presently have Asus routers (all wireless and no option of wires backhaul). My AC86U is my primary and my AC68U is my node. I must work from home on the third flow and both routers have to remain on the first floor to keep the 68U within a reasonable distance to the 86U.
I have noticed performance issues on the third floor, including video conferencing lag even though my internet speeds avg between 250-300 mbps and low latency (even when I do speed tests from the top floor). I’ve turned on QoS and prioritized WFH and that hasn’t helped. Toggled Dual-Ban Smart Connect on and off, still the same issues.
If I were to purchase the ZenWiFi AC CT8 could that solve my issues since I’d be able to spread the nodes and get one much closer to my third floor office? Also, if I were to do this what order would you recommend? I was thinking the following – ZenWifi CT8 (Primary) / AC68U (2nd node) / AC86U (3rd node) / other ZenWifi CT8 (4th node closest to my third floor office).
The quick answer is no, Rich. Generally for real-time communication to work well, the device need to have a direct connection to a wired broadcaster. If the signals have to hope a couple of times, lag is inevitable. More on that here. That said, a tri-band system might improve situation but it’s not a sure thing.
I am really enjoying your articles and have been reading them since moving to an AIMESH system. My main router is an rt-ac86u with two rt-ac68us as nodes. None of them are backhauled and I don’t really have the ability to backhaul them. With everyone home during our sequester our internet is not performing well. I think this is because the units aren’t backhauled. I am looking at the ZEN WIFI AC because it is tri band. My question is would this be overkill? Should I just look at another rt-ac86u and place all the units closer? (our house is two stories, 2200 sf). If I did get the ZEN WIFI AC how would the dual band routers I currently have work with the triband ZEN in AIMMESH?
Thank you for your time. I am sorry if this is such a noob question.
It was not a noob question, James.
Note that your Internet speed itself might be the reason why things are not going well. More on that here.
But in any case, the ZenWiFi AC will definitely help. You can still use the existing routers if you wish in the same network. The dual-band routers will just work the way they do right now (with signal loss). You’ll need to first setup the ZenWiFi and reset the existing dual-band routers and ad them to the mesh one by one.
Thanks for the reply Dong… Of the options you mentioned, which will give me the best coverage and stability? I’ve heard the Lyra units are hit or miss. I also looked at the CT8. Sounds like, in general, you prefer the Asus options over Synology or Ubiquiti. Do you think WiFi 6 is worth it right now, or better to wait a couple of years?
Sure, Matt. Yes, the Lyra Trio (not Lyra) can be a bit of work, you’ll probably have to upgrade its firmware multiple rounds, but it’ll work well via a wired backhaul. CT8 is great, too, but it’s a tri-band and you don’t really need it. Also, it’s actually slower than the Trio in terms of Wi-Fi specs (2×2 vs. 3×3). You don’t need Wi-Fi 6 now but it doesn’t hurt to get it either.
Hi Dong, thanks for providing all the information and unbiased reviews on this site. It is extremely helpful. Unfortunately, after reading and reading, I just get more confused. I have a fairly large two story home (about 3500 sf). Right now I’m using the V1 Google Wifi, with the router located towards the back of the house upstairs (connected to my modem), and then two wired backhaul satellites located downstairs at the very front of the house (in my office) and the very back of the house (in master bedroom). I have a 600Mbps internet connection, but right now, even it I am right on top of the wifi router, I get around 150Mbps max. I would like to improve that. One thing that is frustrating is that the Google Wifi system doesn’t let me choose which devices connect to 5GHz vs which connect to 2.4GHz. I also don’t think the range on the Google units is that great. I have several wifi devices in the house – Lutron, Thermostats, 4 laptops, 2 cellphones, an iPad, a Kindle, Sonos music system, 4 Rokus, etc. As far as I know, none of them us using WiFi 6. What system would you recommend for me? I’d like something with good range and bulletproof reliability/performance. Please let me know your thoughts. I have considered the Synology RT2600 plus two wired AP’s, as well as Ubiquiti and Asus systems. I had an Asus router many years ago, and it was superb – by far the best I have ever owned.
Sure, Matt. Glad you are here. And thanks. 🙂
Almost any system would be better than the Google Wifi. Since you have wired backhaul, you can use any dual-band Wi-Fi 5 system and use the network cable to connect the hardware units. I’d recommend the Asus Lyra Trio (it’s a bit of work) or a couple of units of the Asus RT-AC86U or 68U, or Blue Cave, you can mix them up. A set of Linksys Velop dual-band works too. You can also go with a Wi-Fi 6 system. It doesn’t hurt to have a tri-band system but for your house, that’s not necessary.
Hi, can you mix and match Zenwifi AC8 and later add Zenwifi AX8 nodes? Buying Ac8 system now and upgrading to AX8 later when wifi6 becomes more mainstream and using the AC8 system as additional satellites?
Yes, Yann. You can mix it with any AiMesh router infact.
Dong, if setting a brand new mesh network with ethernet backhaul, would you recommend this or the synology RT2600AC + MR2200 AC setup? Retail price to me is pretty similar, I’m leaning towards the synology solution as I only have positive experiences with my syngology NAS and their customer support.
Either will do. So go ahead with the Synology, Michael. I hear you on the positive experiences.
Thank you for your review. We are in australia and our nbn -national broadband network here is only up to 100Mbps. It believe it’s fibre to node and then to the premise. The ISP provider provide a VDSL modem/router. I am thinking of upgrade my routers which have been 3 years old. I’m thinking of the ASUS zenwifi CT or maybe AX92U. But after read ur review, it appears AX92U is dodge. I live in a double storey house of about 200sqm each floor. Would you recommend a router/s? I got CAT5 cables from the modem to each floor. So either wired or wireless could be an option. Thanks a lot.
Get a couple of Asus AiMesh Wi-Fi 5 routers and use them in a wired backhaul mesh setup, Jackson. The RT-AC86U or Blue Cave will do. Also, consider the ZenWiFi CT8.
Nice review ! I was wondering if the AC adaptors are universal 110-220V as usual with ASUS routers. Can you confirm? An US to EU prong adapter will be enough to make it work over the pond?
Yes, Jon. They are all 100v to 240v.
Thanks Dong, I ended up finding a deal on the CT8 and I much prefer their appearance. Since I have wired backhaul and all three have Tri-bands, will this cause any issues? I have a lot of smart devices and other tech(about 30 devices) and the dual 5GHz seems to help, but I’m not sure how it will work with the mesh routers.
Hi Dong, great reviews! I have just purchased CT8 Zen and think i need another router to add to the mesh. I have 100mbs internet and a multilevel old stone house. On the groundfloor is the ISP connection and i have ethernet connection to another ground floor room 20 metres away. I want to put another ASUS router upstairs as a node but it will be wireless connection. I was thinking Blue Cave but i know its only dual band. The groundfloor wired backroom needs to be a CT8 node for visual impact as i dont want to see antennas. What would you recommend adding and where? Should i put in a new hub and use the CT8s as nodes (1 wired, 1 wireless) or 2 x CT8 on groundfloor wired and a new node upstairs? Your thoughts?
It’s a bit tough. Tony. You definitely want a tri-band router there. Maybe get the RT-AC5300 and use it as the node.
Sorry typo, meant a *wired backhaul*. A second question I have is that my isp router has a coaxial in. The coax coming into the house is split and runs into the modem and router, do you see this being a problem to work around/replace?
With wired backhaul, Matthew, you go with dual-band routers. Get the RT-AX86U and/or Blue Cave. They will work out great. You just need to keep the Coaxial modem (it’s a cable modem) and connect it to your Asus router. You can forget about the IPS’s router. But if for some reason you must keep the IPS’s router then use a double NAT setup. More on that here.
Since I have essentially the same question, I thought I would reply here. I have an isp router that won’t cover my home. I have 300 mbps internet and was looking to add mesh routers. Would you recommend 2 86U or Blue Cave routers over a pair of CT8 with wireless backstop? I’m in Canada and the CT8 is backordered. 2 Blue cave will be a hair cheaper and 2 86U will be a hair more expensive.
For a wireless setup (no wired backhaul), you should go with the CT8, or XT8, Matthew.
Hi Dong, I’ve been noticing a performance drop for OpenVPN connections using ZenWifi. It’s almost unusable. Even though everything is pretty much the same as my AC86U + AC66U_B1 setup. I would’ve thought the ZenWifi would outperform the AC86U since it’s quad core rather than dual. Anyways, curious to know if you might have encountered a similar issue.
Hi Dong, I have the RT-AC5300 and gigabit ethernet. I’m wanting to increase my coverage on the far ends of my house and I was also wanting to see if I can get better speeds since I haven’t seen speeds over 500 Mbps. I would used wired backhaul for my setup and want to know which router combination would give me the best speeds in combo with my current router. I’m leaning toward getting the Zenwifi AC as nodes, but was wondering if a different combo might increase my speeds?
The CT8 will work well. but since you have wired backhaul, you can also go with the RT-AC86U or Blue Cave.
Hey Dong, thanks for the write up. Looks like a nice system. I was wondering what you thought of two of these compared to a ROG GT-AC5300 x2. I didn’t see one in the benchmarks. The 5300’s have beefier specs, and I wonder how these two systems would compare, especially in awkward tri-level house setups, where the 5300 have antennae that can be positioned. I’d love your perspective on it. Thanks!
Strictly from Wi-Fi performance point of view, I think the ZenWiFi is better, Zack. I reviewed the GT-AC5300 before I started Dong Knows Tech. AiMesh wasn’t available then. The ZenWiFi, on the other hand, was built around this feature.
Thanks for the response, Dong.
Strangely enough, I still can’t find the page where I can configure my smart connect rules. Oh well, back to waiting for firmware updates.
Hey Dong, another great review with a helpful list of shortcomings.
I noticed in one of your screenshots that you set up your AX88 as a node in your AiMesh, any particular reason why? I thought with combination dual/tri-band components in a mesh, there was no real advantage to routers with tri-band. Also, curious to know, if you had set up the AX88 as the router, what happens to the 5Ghz-2 channel from each ZenWifi node? And how you managed to configure your Smart Connect rules – I have not been able to find the Smart Connect Rule page (it’s supposed to be either next to the Smart Connect toggle in the Wireless page or in the Network Tools section, right?).
Thanks, Adrian. It was just part of my testing. I wanted to add different AiMesh routers to the mix to see if that worked. And yes, it’s not a good idea to combine tri-band and dual-band routers in a wireless AiMesh setup. You can read more about that here. To get to the SmartConnect rules, you can click on the link next to the setting, or you can click on Network Tools (on the menu) and choose SmartConnect Rule. As for how to actually change the settings of the rules, that depends on the router and, honestly, it’s quite tough for figure out with Asus’s interface.
We want the XT8 review!! Backhaul perf! 🙂
Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂