Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) Review: The First Complete AiMesh Set

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 6
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) includes three identical-looking hardware units.

The ZenWiFi AX Mini (model XD4) is Asus’s third purpose-built AiMesh Wi-Fi system, after the XT8 and CT8, and it turned out to be the most complete one in my testing.

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, 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

8.1

Performance

8.0/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Reliable performance
  • Improved AiMesh feature
  • Guest networking works throughout the system
  • Useful network settings and feature

Cons

  • 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
  • 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.

READ MORE:  Wi-Fi 6 in Layman's Terms: Speed, Range, and More

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

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 14
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX Mini (model XD4)’s retail box.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 15
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Out of the box, the three hardware units of the ZenWiFi AX Mini look identical. The router has a label on it for self-identification, though.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 8
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech That’s because from almost all angle all units of the ZenWiFi XD4 looks the same. Here’s the front side.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 9
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Here from the top. By the way, not how tiny the hardware unit is.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 3
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech You have to look at the underside to see how the ZenWiFi XD4’s router unit, model XD4R, has two Gigabit network ports.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 4
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Indeed one of the XD4R’s two ports works as a WAN/LAN port.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 10
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The node unit, model XD4N, has just one Gigabit LAN port.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 Mesh System 5
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech You can use this post to host a wired client or link to the router unit via wired backhaul.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini with Adapters
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Each hardware unit of the ZenWiFi AX Mini uses a quite large power adapter.

Non-pre-synced hardware

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 3.0.0.4.386.36914. The setup process didn’t prompt me of a new version, nor did the interface subsequently.

ZenWiFi AX Mini AiMesh Setup
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Out of the box, the ZeWiFi XD4 comes with a pre-release firmware (note the version number). Also, the system’s hardware units are not pre-synced and you’ll need to add the nodes to the router manually.

However, as a standard practice, I checked with Asus’s website anyway, found a more updated firmware, version 3.0.0.4.386.37429, 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.

ZenWiFi AX Minis Guest Network Setting
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX Mini has a new Guest networking section where you can choose to make the Guest network available to all AiMesh nodes or just at the router.

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 Hosting other AiMesh Router
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The XD4 can host any other AiMesh router as its node — the Lyra in this screenshot — but in this case, that node will not broadcast the Guest networks.

ZenWiFi AX Mini vs. ZenWiFi AX: 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 AiMesh Interface
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX Mini’s web interface is similar to that of other Asus routers.

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.

ZenWiFi AX Mini AiMesh Optimization
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Note the AiMesh Optimization feature.

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.

Neutered AiProtection

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.

AiProtection ZenWiFi AX Mini
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX Mini’s Network Protection section. Compared with that of the ZenWiFi AX (below) to see the difference.
AiProtection ZenWiFi AX
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The Network Protection section of the ZenWiFi AX.

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.

Parental Controls ZenWiFi AX Mini
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The Parental Controls of the ZenWiFi AX Mini is just a time-based Internet blocking function.

Parental Controls ZenWiFi AX
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Here’s the Parental Controls of the ZenWiFi AX, note the differences.

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.

QoS ZenWiFi AX Mini
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech It’s unclear what the ZenWiFi AX Mini’s QoS does.

QoS ZenWiFi AX
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The ZenWiFi AX has the traditional Adaptive QoS that has a lot more to offer.

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 3-day stress test with no disconnections and both of its main and Guest Wi-Fi networks proved to be reliable. I’ll keep using it for another week and will update if something happens during this time.

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.

ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4R Performance
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

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 cousion.

ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4N Mesh Performance
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

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, wired backhaul recommended

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.



Conclusion

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. Sure, it’ll work fine in a wireless setup, but in this case, make sure you don’t expect real Wi-Fi 6 speeds.

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17 thoughts on “Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) Review: The First Complete AiMesh Set”

  1. I am currently using an XD4 Mini in a three-floor, 3000 square-ft home using wired Gigabit Ethernet and unmanaged Gigabit switches with approximately 25 Wi-Fi 5 and 10 wired ethernet clients. After setting up and tweaking several important XD4 settings, my system has been completely stable with no client or remote node disconnects. With Verizon FIOS 400/400 Mbps internet service, I am now consistently getting 300 – 380 Mbps download speeds throughout my entire home. Overall, I am extremely happy with the XD4 system and believe that it offers excellent value ($300), stability, speed, and range for persons who have wired ethernet in their homes. Highly recommended!

    After initially setting up the three nodes wirelessly (creating separate 2.4 and 5 GHz SSIDs) and upgrading to the latest firmware (using the Asus Router App), I factory restored all three nodes using the reset button and then setup again using the Asus web interface. I then moved the two remote XD4N nodes and connected up using Ethernet. Initially, I was seeing random disconnects of the remote nodes and some clients. In order to eliminate disconnects, I changed two important XD4 settings using the Asus web interface. First, in Wireless, Band = 5GHZ, I set Control Channel from Auto to 157. There appears to be a bug in the XD4 firmware or hardware which is causing the nodes to switch to an unstable/noisy channel which reduces over stability and may be causing disconnects. Second, in AIMesh, highlight an individual XD4N remote node and then select Management and change Connection Priority from Auto to Ethernet or Wired. Follow this same procedure for the second XD4N remote node. This ensures that the two remote nodes stay connected to the XD4R node using wired backhaul and not wireless backhaul. Before this change, the remote nodes were randomly switching from wired to wireless backhaul and causing disconnects. Again, this appears to be another bug in the Asus firmware. With these two important changes, my system has been stable and working superbly for 7+ days!

    Reply
  2. Try bypassing your switch by connecting an Ethernet cable from your XD4R LAN port directly to a computer. If that works, then you have a problem with your switch.

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong,
    We just purchased the mini. Wireless is great but we are unable to get the hardwire to work. We are using a Netgear modem with has one port, so we send that to the mini and are using the Netgear ProSAFE that has five ports off the mini for the hardwired lines. We have not been able to get the hardwired lines to work. We also tried the ProSAFE connected to the modem and that did not work either. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • A couple things, Jeff.

      1. Make sure you use an *unmanaged* switch. If you have a managed switch, you’ll need to configure that switch first.
      2. Here’s the simple diagram for wired backhaul: Modem -> (WAN port) XD4R (LAN Port) -> (switch, or not) -> XD4N.
      3. When a switch is used, connect other wired devices to the switch.

      That should work.

      Reply
  4. I posted but don’t see my comment, so sorry if this is a dual post. I initially purchased the XT8 but it didn’t give the coverage I needed. I have a decent size house but not overly large. The issue is I have old plaster walls. So I purchased the ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) in the hopes that with the extra node I could match or better my current Nest Wifi set up. So my quesiton Dong, what if I use the both XT8’s, one router, one node and then use two of the XD4’s as the nodes what would your thoughts on that be? I get good coverage now with three Nest routers (not nodes) but want more speed and better coverage.

    Reply
    • My answer is below. Your post might need to be approved before it appears. Else, as you can imagine, you’ll see tons of spams.

      Reply
  5. Hello Dong,

    thank you for your work, it’s great!

    I bought the ZenWiFi AX XT8 and although my house is by no means large, I have old plaster walls so I need more than just the two Router and node. So I purchased the ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) in hopes of having more coverage but sounds like that isn’t really the case. I still have the XT8, so should I use that as my Router, and node and then use the XD4 as my nodes? What are your thoughts on that? I would probably only need to use two of the XD4 as nodes. Currently I’m using NEST wifi however, I’m using all routers and no nodes. It’s doing a pretty decent job but need better coverage and speed.

    Regards,
    Jeff

    Reply
  6. Your reviews are INCREDIBLE, and I have learned so much through your site the last two months.

    I just bought the tri-band version a week ago and was about to install it when I saw this review. I mainly care about dropping connections/roaming and extensive wireless coverage through the house because my floor plan is weird (no need for high speed use, just tons of devices).

    $150 less for a 3rd unit seems wonderful. One question: will a the lack of a wireless backhaul affect older iot devices or things like Sonos in anyway? It sounds like it will just reduce speeds by half if connected to a satellite, and if that’s the only difference, I’m game. Thank you again!

    Reply
  7. I have this setup for almost a week now with the nodes wired backhaul to my switch. Getting router speeds as you mentioned at three locations. Briefly tried wireless and it was not good. It does what my single nighthawk r7000 didn’t do well for me. Better coverage and speed, but nothing beyond like a high end system. On the fence if I should keep them or risk it and try something else that could or couldn’t be better.

    Reply
  8. Guest mode working at the nodes is welcome news. I hope my Lyra Trio will get it soon. $300 for 1 router and 2 nodes doesnt sound like a good deal. $300 should get 3 routers, at least I feel Im getting my money’s worth even I cant use it. 🙂

    Reply

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