So, the third time seems to be the charm, and that’s the good news. The bad is, this mesh system is also the first dual-band out of the three, with subdued hardware specs. As a result, it’s underwhelming in both power and features, making its current Best Buy-exclusive price of $300 a bit less attractive.
Here’s the deal: If you don’t need super-fast Wi-Fi, or you have wired your home with network cables and has a small switch, the ZenWiFi AX Mini is an excellent choice, much better than the similarly specced and more expensive TP-Link Deco X60.
But if you’re looking for the same level of features and performance as that of the previous ZenWiFi solutions, the XD4 will probably disappoint you.
Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) AiMesh Wi-Fi 6 System
- Reliable performance
- Improved AiMesh feature
- Guest networking works throughout the system
- Useful network settings and feature
- No dedicated backhaul band or 160MHz channel width support
- No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
- Stripped-down, borderline useless QoS and Parental Control features
- Limited number of network ports, switch needed for a complete wired backhaul setup
- Non-pre-synced hardware, not wall-mountable
Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini: First traditional AiMesh system
Out of the box, the ZenWiFi XD4 includes three identical-looking hardware units (you’ll likely be able to find a 2-pack at some point). However, they are not all the same.
Different router and satellite hardware
Indeed, the ZenWiFi AX Mini is the first AiMesh system that includes two types of hardware: router and satellite (or node). In other AiMesh systems, the hardware units are the same in the sense that they are all routers.
But the hardware units of the XD4 still look identical, and Asus calls them all “AX1800 Dual Band WiFi Router”. The only way you can tell the two apart is to flip them up.
On the underside, the router unit (model XD4R) has two Gigabit network ports. One is a WAN/LAN port, and the other is a LAN port. The node (model XD4N) has just one LAN port. You can use this port to host a wired device or the backhaul link to the router.
As all AiMesh routers, the XD4R can work either as the primary router or a node of another AiMesh system. The XD4N unit, however, can only work as a satellite. It can’t work as a router since it has no WAN port.
Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4’s hardware specifications
The ZenWiFi XD4 is a dual-band system that doesn’t support the 160 MHz channel width, which is required to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 performance.
As a result, the way Wi-Fi 6 works, its ceiling speeds on the 5 GHz band caps at 1200 Mbps when working with a 2×2 client.
Like most entry-level Wi-Fi 6 router, the XD4 has no multi-gig port. It’s also one of a few Asus routers that doesn’t have the support for Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation. There’s no USB port, either.
Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4’s detail photos
Setting up the ZenWi-Fi AX Mini is like that of any AiMesh system. First, you set up the router unit just like yo do any router with a web interface. (Alternatively, you can use the Asus Router mobile app for the job, but I always prefer the interface.)
This step is easy and took me less than ten minutes. The XD4R, like most Asus router, can even take the backup file from another Asus router, making it very convenient in an upgrade. Then came a bit of an unpleasant surprise.
Since both the ZenWiFi AX and ZenWiFi AC have their hardware — each includes two identical routers — pre-synced, I was expecting the same with the ZenWiFi XD4. It only makes sense considering its satellites are not routers.
Well, that wasn’t the case. I had to add the two nodes to the router manually to form a mesh. It wasn’t a huge deal — the AiMesh setup process was straight forward — but it did cost me another 10 minutes or so. And then, there was even more.
A bit of firmware update hiccup
Out of the box, the XD4 uses firmware version 22.214.171.124.386.36914. The setup process didn’t prompt me of a new version, nor did the interface subsequently.
However, as a standard practice, I checked with Asus’s website anyway, found a more updated firmware, version 126.96.36.199.386.37429, and decided to do a manual update. It’s interesting, though, according to the Asus’s site, this version is actually the initial firmware release.
The update went through no problem, but afterward, I noted that the mesh nodes were no longer part of the system, even though the process didn’t cause the router unit to reset. Long story short, I ended up having to reset the nodes and add them back again.
In other words, the firmware update seemed to break the mesh. The fact Asus shipped the XD4 with a pre-release version might have been the culprit. But we need to wait till a new firmware is available to find out for sure.
So in all, it took me almost an hour to troubleshoot and get the ZenWiFi AX Mini up and running, much longer than the previous sets. The good news is that was the only hiccup I had during the testing.
First AiMesh system with real Guest networking
Yes! I’m happy to report that the ZenWiFi AX Mini is the first AiMesh I’ve tested that has a fully functional Guest network feature.
Specifically, it comes with two additional (optionally) isolated networks (one for each band), and you can make them propagate throughput the mesh system.
In all previous AiMesh sets I’ve tested, including the ZenWiFi AX/AC, the Guest network is only available at the router unit. Hopefully, this means Asus will soon release firmware to make the Guest network available in all other systems, something the company has been promising its users for a long time.
Until then, the true support for Guest networking means the ZenWiFi AX Mini is the first complete AiMesh system to date.
Notes on Guest networking
ZenWiFi AX Mini can work with other AiMesh routers, but in this case, for now, its Guest networking is no longer works as intended. Specifically:
- Adding another AiMesh router as an anode in an XD4 system, and this node will not broadcast the Guest networks.
- Using the XD4 hardware as nodes hosted by another AiMesh router and the Guest networks will remain at the router unit.
ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) vs. ZenWiFi AX (XT8): Similar yet very different feature set
For the most part, the ZenWiFi AX Mini shares the same web interface and feature set as that of other ZenWiFi systems, as well as most Asus routers.
Unfortunately, though, while the XD4 does have a couple of things unique for itself, most of the common features are now stripped-down compared with previous models.
ZenWiFi AX Mini’s core features
Following is the list of what you can expect from the XD4. For comparison, when applicable, I also added the screenshots of the equivalents in the XT8.
Universal setting restoration
Again, like most Asus routers released in the past couple of years, the ZenWiFi AX XD4R router unit can take the backup setting files from other Asus routers.
As a result, if you want to upgrade an older router to this mesh system, just back up that router’s settings to a file, then restore it to the XD4R. Most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will remain the same with the new router.
Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.
A robust full web interface with better AiMesh section
The ZenWiFi XD4R uses the same interface as that of other Asus router. It has lots of settings and is responsive.
What’s most interesting is the fact the ZenWiFi AX Mini’s AiMesh section now has a new “Optimization” function. Supposedly, it automatically optimizes the links between the router unit and the nodes. Going forward, Asus might add this to existing AiMesh routers.
Helpful mobile app
Since the interface can be overwhelming for novice users, there’s also an optional Asus Router mobile app for setup and on-going management.
The app is a well-designed with a good level of access to the router. You can also turn on the Dynamic DNS-based remote access without having to have an account with Asus.
AiProtection includes a free-for-life real-time Network Protection powered by Trend Micro and Parental Controls. Unfortunately, on the XD4, both are now seriously stripped-down compared to that of the XT8.
For example, the Network Protection lacks the Two-Way Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) section which protects the network from spams, DDoS, and other types of attacks. And the Parent Control is really just a time-based Internet access blocks.
Useless QoS feature
The ZenWiFi AX Mini has a QoS section that’s both poor and non-functioning. In fact, other than turning it on or off, I had have no idea what it did. It’s a far cry from that of the ZenWiFi AX.
So in all, the ZenWiFi AX Mini has the least in terms of features compared to other Asus Wi-Fi 6 solutions. But it sure has enough for you to customize a network to a certain extent. Standard stuff like Dynamic DNS, Port forwarding, VPN server/client, Network tools, etc. are all there.
ZenWiFi AX Mini: Reliable performance
I tested the ZenWiFi AX Mini for more than a week, and part from the hiccup with firmware update mentioned above, I had no other issues with it.
The system passed my 10-day real-world test with no disconnections and both of its main and Guest Wi-Fi networks proved to be reliable.
Comparatively excellent throughput speeds
As for the throughput numbers, I didn’t expect a lot considering the XD4’s modest Wi-Fi specs and lack of a dedicated backhaul, but they turned out out to be pretty impressive.
As a single router, the ZenWiFi XD4R did well with my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, which could connect to it at 1.2 Gbps for the most part.
At a close range, I got the sustained copy speed of some 830 Mbps. And at 40 feet (12 m) away, the connection averaged more than 640 Mbps. These sure were better than the TP-Link Deco X60, as well as a few dual-band routers.
In Wi-Fi 5 tests, my 4×4 client scored some 676 Mbps at close range and almost 550 Mbps father out. Amazingly those were better than the ZenWiFi AX’s.
But the ZenWiFi AX Mini is a system, for this reason, the performance of the node (satellite) unit is very important. And as a system sans dedicated backhaul, it was clearly behind its older cousin.
Specifically, the XD4N indeed suffered from signal loss, registering the sustained speed of 390 Mbps and 309 Mbps at close and long ranges, respectively, when working with a 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client.
My 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 client did slightly worse at 324 Mbps and 286 Mbps for close and long distances, respectively. Overall, though, the XD4N was markedly faster than the TP-Link Deco X60, and slightly outdid other dual-band satellites, including the Asus RT-AX3000.
Decent range, switch needed for wired backhaul
As a single router, the XD4R had about the same range as the RT-AX3000 in my testing. And that was quite impressive considering it’s much smaller. So as a single unit it can handle a small home of around 1500 ft² (140 m²) to 1800 ft² (167 m²).
With all three units, all well-placed, you can expect to cover around 4000 ft² (372 m²). But of course, your mileage will vary depending on your home.
One thing is for sure, though, if you choose to use the ZenWiFi AX Mini via wired backhaul, this system will work out quite excellently. I tried that out briefly and was able to get the same data rates out of the satellite units as those of the router units.
By the way, it’s important to note that you will need a switch if you want to use both of the nodes in a wired backhaul. That’s because since each hardware unit has just one LAN port, you can’t daisy-chain them.
The Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) is the most subdued AiMesh system to date, yet it managed to be the most complete one by delivering all functions one might expect from a mesh of is type.
In a way, the system offers a taste of what you might be able to expect in existing AiMesh systems via future firmware updates.
In all, if you have wired your home with network cables and don’t have a lot of wired devices, this is an excellent mesh system to get. Or you can also use it as the node(s) for another more powerful, feature-rich dual-band AiMesh router, such as the RT-AX8xU.
Again, the XD4, by itself, will work fine in a wireless setup, but in this case, don’t expect real Wi-Fi 6 speeds and top Asus features out of it.