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ASUS ZenWiFi ET8 vs ZenWiFi XT8 Preview: Same Hardware with a Twist

Late last month, Asus quietly released the ASUS ZenWiFi ET8 Whole-Home Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E 2-pack mesh system. It looks like you’ll be able to get your hands on it later this month for $530.

On the face of it, that’s a good deal, considering the GT-AXE1000 costs more for a single unit, and other existing Wi-Fi 6E options are much more expensive.

So the question is, do you want to get this new mesh right away? Well, you’ll figure that out when you’re through with this post. That is if you have already read my take on the ZenWiFi XT8.

ZenWiFi ET8
The ZenWiFi ET8 AX6600 Wi-Fi 6E mesh system includes two identical routers. Or maybe this is the picture of the ZenWiFi XT8? You can’t tell!

ASUS ZenWiFi ET8: The XT8 with a twist

If you mistake the new ZenWiFi ET8 for the ZenWiFi XT8, I don’t blame you. There’s just that little E that separates the two.

Indeed, the two look the same. And this has been a common approach to Wi-Fi 6E hardware across the industry.

For example, the Linksys MXE8400 shares the same design as the MX10. The Netgear RAXE500 is more than looking identical to RAX200. This represents the fact Wi-Fi 6E is just an extension of Wi-Fi 6.

So, there’s a lot more to the similarities between the ET8 and the XT8 beyond their appearances. Let’s check out the specs.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 vs ZenWiFi XT8: Hardware specifications and similarities

The table below shows the specs of a single ZenWiFi ET8 vs a ZenWiFi XT8. In each case, you can use one unit as a standalone router or two as a 2-pack mesh. And then you can add more units if need be.

That’s how Asus’s AiMesh works anyway.

Wi-Fi bandwidthTri-band AXE6600Tri-band AX6600
Mesh-ReadyYes (2-pack)Yes (2-pack)
Dedicated Backhaul Band2nd Band (6GHz)2nd Band (5GHz-2)
Wired BackhaulYesYes
Dimensions (WxDxH)6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
Weight1.56 lb (716 g)1.56 lb (716 g)
1st Band 2×2 5GHz AX
Up to 1200 Mbps
2×2 5GHz-1 AX
Up to 1200 Mbps
2nd Band4×4 6GHz AXE 
Up to 4800 Mbps
4×4 5GHz-2 AX 
Up to 4800 Mbps
3rd Band2×2 2.4GHz AX
up to 574 Mbps
2×2 2.4GHz AX
up to 574 Mbps
Backward Compatibility802.11ac/n/g/a/b802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Data Rates
(up to)
802.11a: 54Mbps
802.11b: 11Mbps
802.11g: 54Mbps
Wi-Fi 4: 300Mbps
Wi-Fi 5: 867Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 (2.4GHz):574Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 (5GHz): 1201Mbps
Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz): 4804Mbps
802.11a: 54Mbps
802.11b: 11Mbps
802.11g: 54Mbps
Wi-Fi 4: 300Mbps
Wi-Fi 5: 867Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 (2.4GHz): 574Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 (5GHz-1): 1201Mbps
Wi-Fi 6 (5GHz-2): 4804Mbps
Mobile AppAsus RouterAsus Router
Web User InterfaceYes Yes 
AP ModeYesYes
USB Port1 x USB 3.2 Gen 11 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
Gigabit Port3 x LAN3 x LAN
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN
Link AggregationNoNo
Processing Power1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
Release DateJuly 2021January 2020
Retail Price
(at launch)
$530 (2-pack)
TBD (single router)
$450 (2-pack)
$250 (single router)
Hardware specifications: Asus ZenWiFi ET8 vs ZenWiFi XT8

As you have noted, take the XT8 and replace its high-end 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 band (5GHz-2) with a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6E band (6GHz), and you’ll get the ET8. Their remaining low-end (2×2) 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands are the same.

And the two have the same bandwidth, too — both have 6600Mbps combined theoretical speed of all bands. On top of that, they share the same processing power, web interface, mobile app, a ton of network settings, and an excellent feature set.

(You can read more about those in my review of the XT8.)

See also  Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8 AX6600 Review: The Best Wireless AiMesh Set to Date

The ET8 is also available as a 2-pack initially — there’ll be the option for a single router soon.

In a mesh setup, Asus said the new ET8 would use the 6GHz band as the backhaul by default. (The XT8 uses the 5GHz-2).

Specifically, the networking vendor states on its website:

“The new 6 GHz band is reserved exclusively for WiFi 6E devices, so there’s no interference from other legacy devices. This makes it ideal for use as a stable backhaul connection.”

But users can also have the option to use the wired backhaul configuration — opting for a network cable to connect the hardware. They can also choose to use its low-end 5GHz band as the wireless backhaul.

And that brings us to the differences between this new mesh and its older XT8 cousin.

ASUS ZenWiFi ET8 vs ZenwiFi: The differnces

Since you can use the ET8 and the XT8 either as a single router or as an AiMesh system, let’s take a look at both cases based on their Wi-Fi specs.

(We’re talking mostly about the 5GHz and 6Ghz bands from now on since the 2.4GHz band doesn’t have any impact on the choice between the two hardware options.)

As a single router

This is where you use a single router unit of the mesh the way you do any standalone router. If you get a 2-pack, you can split the units for two households.

  • The ET8:
    • It can support both Wi-Fi 6 (5GHz) and Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz) clients at the same time.
    • A Wi-Fi 6 client (currently 2×2) get 1200Mbps at most.
    • A Wi-Fi 6E (currently 2×2) gets 2400Mbps at most.
    • 6GHz clients generally get better connection speeds but they need to be closer to the router than 5GHz counterparts.
  • The XT8:
    • It can only support Wi-Fi 6 clients, it doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6E client at all.
    • Two Wi-Fi 6 (5GHz) devices (currently 2×2) will get up to 2400 Mbps (5GHz-2) and up to 1200Mbps (5GHz-1).
    • All 5GHz clients get the same range.

In short, as a single broadcaster, the ET8 has broader support for clients — it supports all three bands. On the other hand, the XT8 has more bandwidth for 5GHz clients but none for 6GHz ones.

As a mesh system

This is where you use the tri-band ZenWiFis as their intended purpose, namely, 2-pack canned mesh systems.

To understand how the ET8 will work as a mesh, you first need to understand Wi-Fi 6E. The gist of it is that is this new 6GHz band has better speed but a shorter range. Keep that in mind.

See also  Wi-Fi 6E Explained: Better Wireless Connections at the Expense of Range

Also, it’s worth noting that you can use the ET8 and the XT8 hardware together in an AiMesh system. However, consider this only if you can use the wired backhaul. Otherwise, per the rules of picking AiMesh hardware, there’s no scenario where they will work well together.

In any case, either of the two can work in a fully wireless or wired backhaul configuration.

In a wired backhaul setup

This is where you use a cable to connect the node (satellite) unit’s WAN port to a LAN port of the router unit.

In this case, both the ET8 and XT8 will work similarly to when you use them as a single router above — all of their Wi-Fi bands are for the front-haul — with one exception: Their satellite nodes will cap at 1Gbps, which is the wired backhaul speed. That’s because neither supports Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

Also, again, the ET8 will have better client support — it will work with all bands while the XT8 will not support the 6GHz band but can handle more 5GHz clients simultaneously.

In a wireless backhaul setup

This is where you use the mesh systems as their intended use by placing the router and the satellite at a distance from each other with no wire connecting them.

In this case, if both systems use their top-tier band (6GHz of the ET8 and 5GHz-2 of the XT8) as the dedicated backhaul band (default setting), then:

  • Ideally, per my real-world experience, you can place the hardware of the XT8 up to 75 feet or even farther away if there’s no wall in between. But in any case, they will get a slower real-world backhaul speed which likely caps at 2400Mbps. Faster speed is possible, but then you might have stability due to the use of DFS channels.
  • Ideally, my estimate is you can not place the hardware of the ET8 father than 60 feet away within line of sight, or shorter if there’s a wall in between. But negotiated backhaul speed can easily get as fast as 4800Mbps. Within a viable range, this backhaul is stable since it doesn’t use DFS channels at all.
  • If you place the hardware of the ET8 too far away from each other, it might end up using the 2.4GHz band for the backhaul — not a good idea.
  • In any case, the speed at the satellite nodes of both systems will still cap at 1200Mbps — their low-end 5GHz band.
  • You can open up the backhaul band to clients — it’s no longer dedicated, resulting in slower backhaul speed but this is what you should do anyway.

If you choose to use the low-end 5GHz band as the backhaul, then:

  • Both system’s satellite units will cap at 1200Mbps on paper (much lower in the real world).
  • The ET8 will not have a dedicated wireless backhaul. That’s because it needs to support the 5GHz band at the satellite which does not have another 5GHz band. As a result, its backhaul will be 600Mbps at best.
  • The ET8 might end up using its 2.4GHz band for backhaul. Not a good idea.

In short, in a fully wireless setup, the ET8 will likely prove to be complicated, and there’s no scenario where it will outdo the XT8, which is a more straightforward solution, in satellite performance.

However, if you have an open house or a small one, chances are it will deliver a more reliable Wi-Fi network than the XT8 since it doesn’t use DFS channels at all.

Which should you get?

I’m planning on reviewing the ZenWiFi ET8, so check back in a while for its real-world performance and analysis. However, considering its similarities and differences against the XT8, you should consider the ET8 (over the XT8) only if:

  1. You have (a lot of) Wi-Fi 6 clients. Currently, there’s only the Samsung S21 Ultra and the Intel AX210 that you can use to upgrade your Windows computer. (Note, though that, for now, you’ll need this special driver to open up the 6GHz band. Else this chip wil work like a regular Wi-Fi 6 adapter.)
  2. You don’t need top bandwidth for existing 5GHz clients.
  3. You only need a single router, or you have already gotten your home wired for a mesh setup.

Other than that, you can expect the ZenWiFi ET8 to be the same as the XT8. Whether the few differences above make it worth the extra cost, it’s your call.

In any case, you can pre-order it now and (hopefully) get it before the month is out. My take is the new mesh will be widely available by mid-August.

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13 thoughts on “ASUS ZenWiFi ET8 vs ZenWiFi XT8 Preview: Same Hardware with a Twist”

  1. The fact that the WAN occupies the 2.5G is still really annoying for me. I would rather have my WAN on regular 1G to free up 2.5G for my NAS. Any way around this annoyance? Putting NAS on the satellite’s 2.5G is not an option for me as I need it close to the router. Thanks!

    • You can totally do that on the router unit, Andy. Just go to the Dual-WAN section and change the primary WAN to the LAN port. Now the 2.5Gbps WAN will work as a LAN.

      • Hi Dong, does this apply to XT8? I only see WAN or USB as options in Dual-WAN section. Once I enable Dual-Wan, then I can select LAN1 as primary, but it still forces WAN to be secondary. I get “WAN port should be selected in Dual WAN” error if I try to assign LAN1 & USB to free up WAN.

        • You’re right, Andy. I take it back. Doh! It seems the function to change a LAN into the new WAN and make the old WAN a LAN is no longer available. This applies to other routers, too. I remember vaguely being able to do this a while back.

  2. I understand that the ET8 is not a great router for 5GHz, is it due to using less antennas for the 5GHz frequency (as they are getting used bi 6GHz)?

  3. I’m a little confused about the 6GHz dedicated backhaul thing. Assume the two units are using 6GHz as dedicated backhaul, does it mean I won’t be able to connect any future 6GHz devices to the network since there’s no 6GHz for fronthaul?

    • Yes, if the band is used as a dedicated backhaul, Peter. But you can make it a non-dedicated backhaul as mentioned in the post.

      • I understand that part, but the whole purpose of using dedicated 6GHz backhaul is for better stability/performance. To me, it’ll make more sense to have a 4th 6GHz band that is dedicated for backhaul, and open up the 3rd 6GHz band for fronthaul. But I guess the cost will go crazy for a quad-band mesh system.

  4. Looking forward to your full review as I plan on buying this ET8 set, but first I need a proper 8-port 6E router to complement the mesh system. Really hoping ASUS upgrades their AX88U to 6E sometime soon.

    Why 8-port? My 3-story townhome is lined with ethernet, so all six capable rooms can be connected, while also making use of the ET8’s wired backhaul leaving 6GHz bands freed up for future devices. I’m OK with the 1Gbps limitation using this method since only smart home and mobile devices will be using it. At least they’ll work everywhere! I’m currently suffering with a non-AiMesh RT-AC66R (rev A1) served from the top floor, causing wireless devices to be spotty at best on the ground floor and outside.

    Yah I could upgrade now to an AiMesh router like the AX88U or similar but at this point I’d rather just jump to the front of the line with 6E. I can be patient a while longer.


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