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Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Review: A Worthy Mesh for a Wired (or Airy) Home

In many ways, the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E Mesh System is an example of how the latest is not necessarily the greatest.

This new mesh set sure is not a replacement for the previous ZenWiFi XT8. The two have little in common, despite the same look and similar hardware specs.

Specifically, they don’t share the same type of “Tri-band” as I detailed in this matchup post. Considering Wi-Fi 6E is a totally different beast than Wi-Fi 6, you should think of the ET8 as a new type of “Dual-band” system.

As such, the new mesh makes the most sense if you use wired backhaul with it. But then, it won’t deliver the full potential of Wi-Fi 6E, at least at the satellite unit.

(If you want the new 6GHz band, the ET8 is best used as a single router, or go with the GT-AXE11000. But in any case, keep in mind that these are broadcasters with just a single Multi-Gig network port.)

On the other hand, if you’re thinking of going wireless backhaul, consider the XT8, the RT-AX92U, or any tri-band AiMesh set instead. Unless your house is a large open space — chances it’s not — the ET8 will be very slow.

In any case, and taking the ET8’s current cost of some $550 into account, I’d recommend waiting a while till Wi-Fi 6E is more readily available, or getting your home wired, before getting this set.

Dong’s note: Since I already posted a detailed post on the ET8 vs XT8 matchup and a primer on Asus routers’ common features as a whole, this review focuses mostly on the ET8’s performance and how to best use it.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E Mesh System includes two identical routers.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8's Rating

8 out of 10
Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System 1
Performance
8/10
Features
9.5/10
Ease of Use
8/10
Value
6.5/10

Pros

Reliable and extensive coverage with possible fast Wi-Fi performance in certain setups

Wi-Fi 6E ready, Multi-Gig WAN, and Dual-WAN support

Excellent as a standalone router

Tons of useful features and settings, flexible Wi-Fi customization

AiMesh 2.0 support

Competitive pricing

Cons

Comparatively slow performance in most use cases

Modest 5GHz band specs

Short 6GHz range

No Link Aggregation or Multi-Gig LAN port

Only four network ports on each hardware unit

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600: A new type of “dual-band” mesh hardware

The ZenWiFi ET8 is the second Wi-Fi 6E mesh set I’ve review, the first being the Linksys AXE8400, and it proved what had always been suspected of. This type of new “tri-band” hardware is basically the same as dual-band.

I detailed reasons in this post on dual-band vs tri-band, but the gist is that there’s just one band for each frequency — 2.4Ghz, 5GHz, and 6GHz — instead of an additional 5GHz band in the case of traditional tri-band.

As a result, the mesh can’t dedicate any of its band as the wireless backhaul — it’d not be able to serve clients on that band.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Web Interface
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600’s web interface. Note how the 6GHz band is shown as the dedicated backhaul, which is not the case.

Indeed, while the ET8 calls 6GHz as its default dedicated backhaul, in reality, this band never worked in my trial solely for the backhaul role — it was available to clients, too.

And that’d also be the case when any of its other two bands, 2.4GH and 5GHz, was used in this role. And yes, the system more likely uses one of these two as the backhaul since the range of the 6GHz band is just too short for the job.

And here’s the kicker: Whichever band filling the backhaul role will have just half of its bandwidth on the satellite unit due to signal loss. That’s just how it is with a mesh that has no additional band for this link.

The point is: Unless you use this mesh system in an ideal environment — one with lots of open space where you can place the two hardware units no more than 60 feet (18 m) away within the line of sight — the ET8 will be slow — more in the performance section below.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Wi Fi Settings
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 has flexible Wi-Fi settings where you can combine all three bands, just the 2.4GHz, and 5GHz bands, as a single network or use them as three separate SSIDs.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600: Hardware specifications (vs ZenWiFi XT8)

You will note in the table below that the ET8 is basically the XT8 without a 2nd 5GHz band, plus a 6GHz band.

Other than that, the two a essentially the same. And that goes for their look, the number of network ports, and processing power. In fact, you can’t tell the two apart at all, from their appearances.

That said, this is a 2-pack mesh system that includes two identical routers. Pick either as the main node, and you can use the other as the satellite that automatically extends the Wi-Fi network of the main router.

After that, per Asus’s AiMesh, you can add even more units, except you probably shouldn’t, for now, unless you have wired your home.

ModelET8XT8
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
(20/40/80MHz)
2×2 5GHz-1 AX
Up to 1200 Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2nd Band4×4 6GHz AXE 
Up to 4800 Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4×4 5GHz-2 AX 
Up to 4800 Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
3rd Band2×2 2.4GHz AX
up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2×2 2.4GHz AX
up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
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
Dual-WANYesYes
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 XT8

The best, though still far from perfect, use case with wired backhaul

Like the case of the XT8, or any AiMesh systems for that matter, you can use a network cable to link the two ET8 units.

And that worked in my case and proved to be the recommended setup. However, it’s still far from perfect since the ET8 has no Multi-Gig LAN port when working as a router.

As a result, you will not have a Multi-Gig backhaul connection — clients connected to its satellite node will still cap at 1Gbps and not see the benefit of the 6GHz band.

But that’s also the case when you use an ET8 as a standalone router — its only 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port is the WAN port. So unless you have Gig+ or faster Internet, chances are you’ll never experience the full benefits of the new 6GHz band anyway.

(During the testing, I actually tried the ET8 as satellite nodes of an AiMesh system hosted by the GT-AXE11000 working as the main router. With a 10Gbps Switch in between, the Multi-Gig backhauls were possible, but the system wasn’t as stable as I’d like at the time.)

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600: Detail photos

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
Out of the box, the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 includes two standard power adapters and a network cable.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
The system includes two identical routers. Here are their front and back.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8’s hardware from the top. They look the same as the ZenWiFi XT8, by the way.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
A close-up of an Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 router’s network port. Its only Multi-Gig port is the 2.5Gbps WAN.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600’s retail box.

The familiar core feature set and standard setup process

The ZenWiFi ET8 shares the same core features as the rest of Asus routers. To avoid repeating myself, I detailed all that in this primer post on Asus routers.

In short, if you’ve worked with an Asus router before, you’ll find the ET8 right at home.


Extra: ZenWiFi ET8 and AiMesh hardware mixing

What’s worth adding here is that the ET8 fully supports AiMesh 2.0. That means apart from being able to work with other AiMehs routers to form a mesh. And when using as a 2-pack or with AiMesh 2.0-ready routers, among other things, you can also expect the following out of it:

  • System-wide Guest network: You can make the Wi-Fi Guest network available at both the main router and satellite unit.
  • Auto-firmware update for both router and satellite nodes. This is a toggle that you can turn on or off.
  • You have control over the satellite node’s hardware, including its USB applications, Wi-Fi bands, LED status light, and more.

However, note that you don’t want to use the ET8 as a satellite note of any router that doesn’t have a 6GHz band. That’s because, in this case, even if you use wired backhaul, there’s no way to make use of the 6GHz band on the ET8 satellite node.

In other words, for now, you should use an ET8 as a satellite of another AiMesh Wi-Fi 6E router, namely another ET8 unit or the GT-AXE11000. If you want to pair the ET8 with any other router, use it in the AP mode instead.

ZenWiFi XT8 AiMesh Node
Here’s the ZenWiFi XT8 paired with an RT-AX89X as an AiMesh node. While the Multi-Gig wired backhaul works, there’s no way to make use of the 6GHz band.

Thanks to AiMesh 2.0, the ET8 feels more flexible right out of the box than the XT8 at its launch. Indeed, its Wi-Fi settings alone were versatile.

You can use SmartConnect with all three bands or just the 2.4GHz and 5GHz, or you can name each band as a separate network (SSID). In any case, the system will work just fine.

On top of that, by default, the ET8 will automatically pick the best backhaul link, be it wired, 5GHz, 6GHz, or even 2.4GHz. However, you can manually choose which one you prefer among the first three, and it will be used first when applicable.

(You have no option to pick the 2.4GHz as backhaul manually, but the mesh will automatically use this band as backhaul if you place the units too far away from each other. Hint: Don’t do that!)

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AiMesh
You can manually pick the Asus ZenWiFi ET8’s backhaul between the 6GHz band (default), the 5GHz band, and wired backhaul.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600’s performance: Reliable, and fast, too, in certain cases

I tested the ZenWiFi ET8 for a week before publishing this review and was generally happy with its coverage and reliability. However, its throughput speeds left much to be desired.

Indeed, the mesh didn’t give me any connection issues during my trial. And the 2-pack could blanket over 4000 ft² (372 m²) of a residential environment. Wi-Fi coverage is always tricky, and your mileage will vary.

An excellent single broadcaster

But the ET8’s coverage has a lot of effect on its performance. This is a mesh system with some serious caveats. In fact, its hardware works better when used as two standalone routers.

For now, the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 is available as a 2-pack, but my take is soon, you’ll be able to find it as a single unit. (Or you can get a 2-pack and use them for two small separate homes.)

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Router Performance charts

As a standalone router, a single ET8 unit worked well in my trial. It was fast for a broadcaster without a Multi-Gig LAN port. (According to how I do my testing, its Wi-Fi performance will always cap at 1Gbps.)

And 1Gbps being maxed out was about what I got from both the 6GHz and 5GHz bands with sustained speeds ranging from more than 500Mbps to over 920Mbps within 40 feet (12m) radius.

On the 2.4GHz band, which is unpredictable across all routers I’ve tested, the ET8 did quite well, too, with the sustained supped as fast as 300Mbps.

Different mesh performances depending on the backhaul

As a mesh system, the 2-pack ET8 can be impressive or mediocre, depending on how you use it.

Again, the mesh performed well in an open space where you can use the new 6GHz band as the backhaul — a rare commodity in most homes.

In this case, the satellite unit delivers excellent sustained speed, even to a 6GHz client — the backhaul band was fast enough to compensate for signal loss, the final real-world speeds were still among the best.

ZenWiFi ET8 Mesh Wi Fi Speed

In case you find the chart above overwhelming, the tables below show the sustained speeds of just the satellite unit in different scenarios.

 40-foot Range
(Mbps)
10-foot Range
(Mbps)
2×2 Wi-Fi 6E Client (6GHz)
(Backhaul Band)
413.0773.9
2×2 Wi-Fi 6 Client (5GHz)556.0751.0
3×3 Wi-Fi 5 Client (5GHz)502.4574.8
2×2 Wi-Fi 6 Client (2.4GHz)136.0264.8
As the backhaul band, the 6GHz suffered from signal loss when hosting the Wi-Fi 6E test client. The mesh had a very short backhaul link range in this case. Most homes can’t count on using the 6GHz as the backhaul.
ZenWiFi ET8 6GHz Connection
The Asus ZenWiFi ET8’s 6GHz band worked well in my testing with fast sustained speeds as long as the test client was at a relatively close distance or within line of sight.
 40-foot Range
(Mbps)
10-foot Range
(Mbps)
2×2 Wi-Fi 6E Client (6GHz)471.2503.4
2×2 Wi-Fi 6 Client (5GHz)
(Backhaul Band)
247.9318.2
3×3 Wi-Fi 5 Client (5GHz)220.2286.2
2×2 Wi-Fi 6 Client (2.4GHz)135.1268.2
As the backhaul band, the 5GHz suffered from signal loss when hosting the 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 test client. The mesh had a similar backhaul link range compared to the XT8 in this case.

Unfortunately, the 6GHz’s range was indeed short in my testing, and the moment I placed the satellite behind a wall, the system automatically switched to the 5GHz band.

(When I placed it father way, even the 2.4Ghz band was automatically used for this role and the whole network slowed down to a crawl.)

In this case, keep in mind that this 5GHz band caps at just 1200Mbps of negotiated speed (2×2 at 80MHz), meaning the backhaul has just half the bandwidth of the XT8 — it’s slow.

On top of that, due to signal loss, 5GHz clients will get no more than 600Mbps out of the satellite. As a result, the sustained speeds were modest, no matter what clients I used.

Realistically, using the 5GHz band as backhaul is likely the most common scenario of the ET8. For this reason, chances are you’ll find the XT8, which has an additional 5GHz band as the dedicated backhaul, much faster.

I also tested the ET8 via a wired backhaul by using a network cable to connect its WAN port to a LAN port of the router unit. In this case, the satellite unit’s performance numbers were similar to those of the router unit.

Decent network-attached storage performance

Equipped with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (5Gbps) port, like all Asus routers, each ZenWiFi ET8 can host a portable to deliver a host of USB-related features.

I tested it with a WD My Passport SSD, and they delivered decent sustained copy speeds.

ZenWiFi ET8 NAS Speed

Specifically, via a wired Gigabit connection, it averaged 64MB/s for writing and 110MB/s for reading, fast enough for casual network storage needs.

Conclusion

Despite the support for Wi-Fi 6E, the new Asus ZenWiFi ET8 AXE6600 is not the fastest mesh system I’ve seen, nor is it one with the best coverage. Most importantly, it proves that the 6GHz band is not great for backhaul in a wireless mesh system.

That doesn’t mean this is a bad Wi-Fi system. In fact, it’ll work out great if you have an airy home or don’t mind running a network cable. And in any case, it’ll work out, just not as fast as you might expect, considering its cost and Wi-Fi 6E support.

That said, I’d still recommend the ZenWiFi XT8 (as a fully wireless solution) or a set of dual-band AiMesh broadcasters (for a wired backhaul mesh). The ZenWiFi ET8 has enough to be worth the consideration in certain situations, but it’s not a must-have.

In all, Wi-Fi 6E is still new — there aren’t many clients on the market. So, it doesn’t hurt to wait a while before upgrading, even if your house is ready for it.

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16 thoughts on “Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Review: A Worthy Mesh for a Wired (or Airy) Home”

  1. Dong,

    Hi. Got the ET8 and like it so far. I have had it for 3 months and was waiting for Windows 11 to use it on my new laptop (Samsung Pro Box 360) which has AX210 – Wifi 6E capable – but it just doesn’t find the Wifi 6E SSID. Not using smart connect – can see the 2.4 and 5 – but no 6E. Anything I can do to get it to show up?

    Thanks,

    Chad

    Reply
  2. I upgraded from the XT8 to the ET8 as the nodes in my AI Mesh setup, as I’d already upgraded my router from the AX11000 to the AXE11000.

    Since I’m in a wireless backhaul I thought it made sense if all 3 devices had the 6ghz 3rd band instead of just the router. But while the nodes say they have excellent connection, overall performance has been a major drop off and I now regularly have to turn WiFi off and back on my (and more importantly my family’s) devices as the WiFi just seems to randomly stop working. That never happened with the XT8 nodes.

    My question is this. Since I’m in a wireless backhaul, when I revert back to the XT8 nodes, am I ok to stick with the AXE11000 router, or should I also revert back to my AX11000 as my router?

    If I keep the AXE, am I not inherently reducing the speeds on my 5ghz band, since the AXE can’t use the 6ghz band to communicate with the 2 nodes?

    Reply
    • You should use neither the GT-AXE11000 nor the ET8 in a wireless mesh set up, Anthony. Read the review of BOTH for more. What you did was totally what I would NOT do so I can’t answer your questions. Also please do read the post before posting a comment. Thanks.

      Reply
  3. Quick question around the Dual WAN feature that is available in the XT8s, but I don’t see it on the ET8 reviews, or even on ASUS’s own website. Can you confirm if the ET8 has Dual WAN? The absence of that feature could tip me towards the XT8 since I have two connections that I’m load balancing on a separate router at the moment. I want to reduce the number of hops on my network to reduce latency, plus upgrade my old eero WiFi 5 network.

    Reply
  4. I ended up buying the ET8 for my 3-story townhome, replacing the old RT-AC66R that barely reached the bottom floor. I’m using wired backhaul (through the house’s existing cable runs) to connect the satellite and despite the 1Gbps ceiling, performance is much improved with all computing and smart devices on every floor.

    I realize compared to the XT8, this pack is just “meh” but compared to a lone AC router, it’s stellar. I’m sure in a year’s time ASUS will release additional AiMesh 2.0 compatible 6E routers (with 2.5Gbps ports to allow higher wired backhauls), so both of these ET8 units can be used as satellites and release greater 6GHz potential. Plus I’m future-proofed for the next 5 years as more 6E client devices make their way to market.

    Thanks for your review!

    Reply
  5. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for the very informative info. I’m moving into a house that has three floors, about 2500 sq ft, I’m in the market for a mesh wifi 6e system. Have you tested the Linksys AXE8400 and if so how does that compare to the Asus ET8?

    Thanks,
    Mo

    Reply
  6. I ended up getting this device because nothing else works well in my home. I’ve tried several standalone as well as mesh systems and nothing is reliable. I have a 4500 sq ft home but it’s upstairs and downstairs. I live in Fl so downstairs is concrete while upstairs is “wood”. So far so good with this device. I have one downstairs in my office (main) and then the other in my family room (node), also downstairs but within 60 feet and the node connects at 6G. My question is, beyond just speed testing what’s on the node, how can I/do I speed test the node itself? Is there a way to do this? Also I have enabled security on the 6Ghz band. Initially when set up on its own, it set up as open enhanced but I was a bit worried that someone might try to worm their way in. So I’m curious as to how much bandwidth I may have cut by doing that. Right now I’m happy with my speed tests from devices connected to the node so I’m not really complaining. Thanks.

    Reply
    • You can connect two devices to the node and copy data between them to see how fast the speed is, Tyraelos — here’s how I do the testing, by the way. But that’s kind of pointless since most of the time; you need to pull data from the main router, which includes the Internet itself. You should turn on the password. Enhanced Open is basically the same as open — more here — meaning anyone with a 6GHz client can connect to your networks.

      Reply
      • Thanks for that info. I am now seeing what you are in your previous reviews. Because the unit is getting a solid -50 dBm over 5G vs. -60 to -66 dBM over 6G it is “preferring” the 5G overhaul which then essentially cuts my 600+ Mbps on my 5G clients to ~200-300 Mbps when the node is in 5G uplink mode vs. 6G uplink. This is unacceptable since I can get at least 500+ on 5G with a single router on most devices in my home. I’m really hoping that Asus makes a “force 6G” option into the settings but I can’t depend on that hope.

        Now my options are: return the ET8, spend the extra $130 I paid for it on sending a wire to the other side of my home (professionally) and getting the XT8 (or another 6Ghz Mesh), moving these into LoS somehow, hopefully allowing it to stay on 6G fulltime, keeping the ET8 and wiring anyway, making Wifi 6E moot in my case seeing as how my entire reason for waiting for it was thinking it would do much better than Wifi 6 as a backhaul or waiting for better firmware. Decisions, Decisions.

        Reply

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