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Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Review (vs ZenWiFi ET8): A Solid Multi-Gig Wired Mesh

The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 — not to be confused with the XT12 — is the fourth Wi-Fi 6E mesh system I’ve tested, after the Linksys AXE8400, the ZenWiFi ET8, and the Netgear Orbi RBKE960 series.

And again, I wanted to love it as a fully wireless system but couldn’t due to the innate short range of the 6GHz band. By now, it’s clear that you generally can not count on this band as the wireless backhaul.

That said, if you intend to use the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 in a fully wireless configuration, this expensive system — $900 per its suggested retail price — is similar to the much cheaper ZenWiFi ET8.

You’ll find this review somewhat of a ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWiFi ET8 matchup, but to cut to the chase: Don’t get either if you intend to expand your Wi-Fi coverage wirelessly. You’d likely waste your hard-earned cash.

“Likely” because I wanted to tread lightly here. The new mesh might work out well without wires if you can place the hardware units close to each other or have a line of sight between them. However, even then, it’s not faster than many cheaper traditional Tri-band systems.

On the other hand, if you have wired your home, this 2-pack might just be the best investment yet. You’d get yourself a powerful Multi-Gigabit-Internet-ready system with a Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

And you can even combine it with the GT-AXE11000 to turn your mesh into a gaming Wi-Fi system. In this case, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s cool-looking hardware will also fit in nicely.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on January 23, 2022, as a new piece and updated it to a full review on February 28, 2022, after thorough hands-on testing.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 includes two identical Wi-Fi 6E routers.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: First purposed built AiMesh system with true Multi-Gig wired backhaul

Like previous ZenWiFi sets, the Pro E12 is a 2-pack that includes two identical mesh routers.

You can use each as a standalone router for a relatively large home or add the second one to form a system to extend the Wi-Fi coverage for a sprawling one, either wirelessly or via a network cable.

That’s generally how an AiMesh system works anyway.

Per Asus’s router naming convention, the number in the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 indicates the number of streams the router has.

Read this  Asus Wi-Fi Routers Explained: The Features and the Model Names

It’s worth noting, though, that having the same number of streams doesn’t mean the routers are of the same hardware specs. That depends on their bands and Wi-Fi standards.

But, specifically, here are the readouts of Asus’s Tri-band ZenWiFi routers:

  • This ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a 12 stream Wi-Fi 6E router: 4×4 (2.4GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz) + 4×4 (6GHz).
  • The ZenWiFi ET8 is an 8-stream Wi-Fi 6E router: 2×2 (2.4GHz) + (2×2 5GHz) + 4×4 (6GHz).
  • The ZenWiFi Pro XT12 is a 12 stream Wi-Fi 6 router: 4×4 (2.4GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz-1) + 4×4 (5GHz-2).
  • The ZenWiFi XT8 is an 8-stream Wi-Fi 6 router: 2×2 (2.4GHz) + (2×2 5GHz-1) + 4×4 (5GHz-2).

The new Pro ET12 has four streams on each band – currently the highest among Wi-Fi 6E. Consequently, it’s top-tier among this new type of Tri-band routers.

Nice design, two Multi-Gig ports, no USB

The ET12 comes with an all-new look. And for an Asus, it’s a beaut.

Each router looks like a large square tower topped with a transparent section. Through the clear plastic, you’ll note the eight internal antennas at the corners and sides in positions supposedly optimized for the coverage.

From top to almost bottom, one corner of the router is beveled to carry a little LED that bears the vendor’s name and the model of the router.

If that’s not obvious enough as an ID, the top of the router houses a big corona vision LED light with the word “Asus” in the middle — there’s no way you’d have to guess who made this router.

But I love the design. The lights are subtle and have a pleasant hue — the top one changes colors or flashes to indicate the status of the hardware. In any case, you can quickly turn them off via the Asus Router mobile app or the web interface — you can’t dim them.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 31
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Mesh router share the same new design as the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 with some cool lighting. The current color indicates things are fine and dandy.

On one side, the ET12 has four network ports. There are two Gigabit LAN ports, one 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig WAN port, and another 2.5Gbps LAN ports.

It’s the second Asus home router I’ve tested with two Multi-Gig ports. (The RT-AX89X has one SFP+ port.) And that’s great!

On the downside, considering the router’s large physical size, I wish it had more network ports — most routers have five ports. There’s no USB port, either, which will make fans of router-based mini NAS servers disappointed.

Everything you can expect from an Asus AiMesh router, with pre-synced harware

The new design aside, on the inside, the ZenWiFI Pro ET12, as a single router, is similar to all other Wi-Fi 6 routers from the company.

If you have used an Asus router before, I’d know what I mean. If not, check out this post where I lay out their common settings and features. Among those, the ET12 has all the core features — it’s not a gaming machine.

That said, the extra content below will give you some quick highlights. If you’re familiar with the Asus routers, you can skip it.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12: Sharing all Asus router core features

While this extra content was largely available in the general post on Asus Wi-Fi broadcasters, it contains specific information about the ZenWiFi Pro ET12.

Universal setting restoration

You can interchangeably restore most Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers’ backup settings, except for the RT-AX89X and Blue Cave. That’s the case with the ZenWiFi Pro ET12, too.

As a result, you won’t need to program the new router from scratch in an upgrade or replacement. Instead, most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will migrate from the old router to the new one.

This feature is a huge optional time saver if you have many settings, such as IP reservation and port-forwarding entries.

Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.

In the case of the ET12, it’s not a good idea if you load the backup files of very different routers, like a traditional Tri-band one, such as the GT-AX11000 or RT-AX92U. I’ve tried that, and it worked, but only after I did some tweaks.

Tip: After the migration, adjust applicable specific settings, such as the router model name, bands, etc., to make sure they match the new router and perform a deliberate backup and restore. This step will make the old setting “native” to the new router.

A robust web user interface

Asus is one of a few networking vendors that stays true to the web interface and doesn’t coerce users into a cloud-based web portal, which is excellent for those caring about privacy.

(All Asus routers allow remote management, which is turned off by default, via Dynamic DNS mentioned below.)

The interface allows access to a router’s tons of settings and features — some are listed below. Savvy networking enthusiasts will love that though it can be overwhelming for novice users.

Dynamic DNS

Dynamic DNS (DDNS) is a relatively common feature of all home routers. It’s excellent for those wanting to dial home remotely via other advanced features, including remote access or VPNs.

What sets Asus’s Dynamic DNS apart is that the networking vendor also includes an entirely free DDNS domain — you won’t need to get a third-party one. On top of that, this domain also comes included with an SSL certificate.

That said, if you need DDNS, Asus is by far the best option. (Read more about DDNS in this post.)

Read this  Dynamic DNS Explained and How to Set Up Yours Like a Pro

Standard setup process

Thanks to the web interface, all the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 share the same standard setup process as I detailed in this post on building a home network from scratch.

However, here are the general steps:

  1. Connect your router’s WAN port to the Internet source, be it a modem, an existing gateway, or the Fiberoptic ONT. Turn it on.
  2. Connect a computer to the router, either via a network cable to one of its LAN ports, or the default open Wi-Fi network, generally named “Asus xx”.
  3. Open a browser and navigate to the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.50.1 (or router.asus.com).

The rest is self-explanatory. The first time you get to the web interface, you’ll run into a wizard that walks you through a few steps.

(Alternatively, you can also use the Asus mobile app in step #3 if you use a phone or tablet instead of a computer. However, I recommend the web user interface even when you use a mobile device for the setup process.)

Helpful mobile app, no login account required

Again, the Asus mobile app works for both the setup process and ongoing management.

This app is common for all Asus routers and is quite comprehensive. It’s one of the best mobile apps for routers you can find on the market. But, still, it’s not as in-depth as the web interface.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Mobile App
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 shares the same useful Asus Router mobile app as the other Asus routers.

The best thing about it is that you can use it to manage the router remotely without a login account. Instead, just like the web interface, it operates the remote management via the router’s built-in support for Dynamic DNS feature that includes a free SSL certificate.

However, one thing to note is that using the app can inadvertently turn on or off specific settings that could cause the router to behave unexpectedly. In this case, you’ll have to reset the router and set it up from the beginning.

So, while this app is convenient and fun to use, it can cause issues if you mess around too much.

AiProtection

The AiProtection is a feature that adds so much value to an Asus router.

It includes a free-for-life real-time Network Protection powered by Trend Micro and a Parental Control engine.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 AiProtection
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has the complete set of Asus AiProtection

Network Protection is designed to keep the entire local network safe. In many ways, it’s somewhat like a strip-down version of an add-on firewall, like the Firewalla or the subscription-based Armor from Netgear.

Still, for a free product, it’s excellent. I’ve used it for years in multiple networks, and it has proven effective against many malicious websites and malware. Don’t expect it as total protection (there’s no such thing!), but just a helping hand, and you’ll love it.

On the other hand, the Parental Control portion has been a bit too rigid, in my opinion, and the way Asus defines categories for web-filtering is a bit vague. On top of that, you can’t use it to block a particular website. This simplistic approach is not a big deal for me since I don’t believe in Parental Controls anyway.

(While AiProtection is available in all Asus routers, some get a stripped-down version due to their limited processing power. The XDR, which is the router unit of the XD4 mesh set, is an example. Its Network Protection and Parental Controls are neutered.)

Adaptive QoS

The Adaptive QoS is a common feature available in all Asus routers and is one of the most easy-to-use QoS features among all home routers.

Read this  QoS Explained and How to Get Better Voice and Video Calls over Wi-Fi
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 QoS
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s QoS feature is similar to most other Asus routers.

“QoS” stands for the quality of service, and it enables users to prioritize Internet traffic to support different applications or services.

Asus’s Adaptive QoS requires minimum work from the user and is quite effective. It also includes Bandwidth Monitor, Web History, and an Internet Speed test if you want to know more about your resources and keep tabs on your network’s online activities.

Flexible port configuration: WAN vs LAN, Dual-WAN, Link Aggreation, and wired backhaul

Asus routers generally have a lot of flexibility in their port configurations.

On this front, the following are what you can do with a ZenWiFi Pro ET12 working in the router mode. (In other modes — AiMesh satellite node, access point, repeater, etc. — all ports work as LANs.)

  • As a standalone router, its default 2.5Gbps WAN always works as the WAN port, there’s no way to change this.
  • In Dual-WAN setup, you can use any other LAN port including its 2.5Gbps LAN as the secondary WAN.
  • In a WAN Link Aggregation, you must use both of its 2.5Gbps ports, to deliver a combined connection of up to 5Gbps.
  • The router supports LAN Link Aggregation. In this case, you can combine the two Gigabit LAN ports (LAN1 and LAN2) to deliver a 2Gbps connection. In a mesh setup, you can also do that on the satellite unit.
  • In a wired backhaul mesh setup, you can daisy-chain the hardware units (if you use more than one satellite node), but always use the 2.5Gbps WAN port to connect a satellite to the main router, the (Multi-Gig) switch, or another satellite (at the lower level.)

Other useful features

Other than the above, you can also expect the following from all Asus routers:

  • Networking tools: Wake on LAN, Ping, Netstat, and Smart Connect Rule can come in handy for advanced users.
  • Auto-reboot: You can set your router to restart by itself on a schedule.
  • Traffic Analyzer: A set of tools and statistics for those wanting to find out what’s happening in the network.
  • The standard set of network settings and features: These include IP reservation, Port-forwarding, VPN server, and some Alexa Skills.
  • Frequent firmware update: Asus pushes out firmware updates regularly to fix issues and improve its routers’ performance and function. You can choose to update manually or turn on auto-update.

By the way, like previous ZenWiFi sets, the 2-pack Pro ET12 is pre-synced. As a result, all you have to do is set up one as a standalone router. After that, plug the other into power at a reasonable distance, or connect the satellite’s WAN port to the router a network cable, and your mesh is ready.

AiMesh Backhaul Connection Priority via the ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 allows picking which band or port to work as its backhaul.

AiMesh 2.0 fully supported

And as a mesh router, the Pro ET12 has all features and settings of a device that support AiMesh 2.0. I detailed that in this post on AiMesh.

If you’re new or have questions, again, hit the button below for the highlights.

Read this  AiMesh Overview: Asus's Years-long Effort to Better Wi-Fi Coverage
ZenWiFi Pro ET12: All you can expect from an Asus AiMesh system
  • Flexible backhaul: Starting with AiMesh 2.0 — available with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.xxx later — an AiMesh system has flexible backhaul support. Specifically:
    • Dedicated wireless backhaul: When you use traditional tri-band routers, like RT-AX92U, or GT-AX11000, one of its 5Ghz bands, the 5GHz-2, will work as the dedicated backhaul band by default — this band works solely as the wireless link between the router and satellite — not applicable when you mix Tri-band and Dual-band hardware or use wired backhaul.
    • User-selectable backhaul: You can manually set any band (6GHz, 5GHz, or 2.4GHz) or network ports as backhaul priority. When left at Auto (default), the system will use the fastest band, for the distance between the main router and a particular satellite, as the backhaul. Auto also prioritizes wired backhaul (when available).
    • Wired backhaul: Generally, the WAN port of the satellite unit must be used for backhaul. However, with a router that has a Multi-Gig LAN port (such as RT-AX86U or RT-AX89X), the high-speed port of the satellite node can be used for a Multi-Gig wired backhaul.
    • Mixed backhaul: Generally, it’s best to use wired backhaul consistently throughout the system — you can daisy-chain the units. However, AiMesh does allow for mixing wired and wireless backhaul.
  • Daisychain, third-party switch supported: For wired backhaul, you can daisy-chain the main router and nodes or use switches between the hardware units. For best performance, make sure you use Gigabit (or faster) unmanaged switches.
  • Auto-sensing network ports: On the router unit, the WAN port functions in its designated role — it needs to connect to an Internet source. After that, the rest of the network ports in the mesh system, including the WAN ports on the satellite units (nodes), work as LANs. That’s generally true in either a wired- or a wireless-backhaul setup.
  • Up to 10 hardware units: Asus says realistically, a system shouldn’t have more than seven units, though you can use up to 10, including the router. And I’ve indeed tried that many units in a wired backhaul setup with success. In a wireless configuration, though, I’d recommend no more than three hardware units, especially with dual-band hardware.
  • No vendor account required: Just like any Asus router, no login account with Asus is necessary to use AiMesh, even when using the Asus Router mobile app. For remote access, Asus uses Dynamic DNS. So, AiMesh is less of a privacy risk (if at all) compared with other systems.
  • Access point (AP) mode: As a system, an AiMesh setup can work in the access point mode — not to be confused with an individual router’s AP mode. In other words, you can use manage a few AiMesh hardware that works solely as Wi-Fi broadcasters on top of an existing (third-party) router. Among other things, it helps avoid the use of double NAT.

Other than the lack of a USB port, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has all AiMesh 2.0 has to offer — including the support for a systemwide Guest Wi-Fi network. On top of that, thanks to the two Multi-Gig ports, it’s the latest option in the list of Multi-Gig wired backhaul combos.

Asus routers and privacy

Upon turning on some features on an Asus router, you will run into this scary warning:

“By using AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS/Game boost, Web history, you agree to the Trend Micro End User License Agreement. Please note that your information will be collected by Trend Micro through AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS, and web history.”

Asus Privacy Message
That ominous privacy warning

If you read the entire EULA, you’d understand what it entails. But since nobody wants to read that boring, yet important, document, and some might not appreciate its wording, let me put this in simple terms:

These features only work because their provider scans the router’s traffic. That’s like if you want to be protected in real life, you will need to have somebody, like a bodyguard, to watch over you. In networking, protection requires extra connections — there’s no way around that.

I won’t pretend I know what TrendMicro or Asus does with the information it might have access to — I don’t — but I’d be more worried about how and what Facebook, Google, or Amazon would do with my data, which is being collected the moment I turn a device on.

But yes, using these features will inherently cause privacy risks. The good news is that they are turned off by default, and you’re never coerced into turning them on.

So, use them or not use them, it’s your call. Just remember, you can’t have them both ways.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWiFi ET8: A new breed of “Dual-band” mesh routers

Similar to the case of the ET8, the new ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a Tri-band router. However, it doesn’t have an additional 5GHz band as found in a traditional Tri-band router.

As a result, there’s no band to use as a dedicated backhaul in a wireless configuration — the hardware needs all the bands to support all clients of different Wi-Fi standards.

Both systems, by default, use the 6GHz band as the (non-dedicated) backhaul. When that works, this band suffers from signal loss and delivers just half the speed on the front end, at best. That’s the case with all Wi-Fi bands working as a non-dedicated backhaul.

And that doesn’t work most of the time since the 6GHz band’s range is short with little wall penetration. When you place the hardware units far from each other or with a wall in between, the systems likely automatically switch to the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band for backhauling resulting in even slower performance.

I explained this wireless backhaul dilemma in detail via the review of the ET8 and the Wi-Fi 6E explainer piece. But the gist is: get your home wired! Don’t use either of the two, or any Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E hardware for that matter, in a fully wireless environment.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Wired Backhaul
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 makes an excellent mesh system with a Multi-Gig backhaul in a wired home. You can’t do that with a 2-pack ET8 out of the box.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWi-Fi ET8: Hardware specifications

ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Mesh Router
ZenWiFi ET8
Mesh Router
ModelET12ET8
Mesh-ReadyYes (2-pack)Yes (2-pack)
Pre-Synced HardwareYesYes
Dedicated Backhaul
(default)
No
(6GHz as default)
No
(6GHz as default)
Wired BackhaulYesYes
Multi-Gig Wired BackhaulYesOnly as satellites
Dimensions 
(WxDxH)
4.53 x 4.53 x 9.45 in
(11.5 x 24.1 x 11.5 cm)
6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
Weight3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)1.56 lb (716 g)
Wi-Fi DesignationTri-band AXE11000Tri-band AXE6600
1st Band
(2.4GHz)
4 x 4 AX 
Up to 1,148Mbps

(20/40MHz)
2ร—2 AX
up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2nd Band
(5GHz)
4 x 4 AX 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
2ร—2 AX
Up to 1200 Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
3rd Band6GHz
4ร—4 AXE 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
6GHz
4ร—4 AXE 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Backward Compatibility802.11ac/n/g/a/b802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Mobile AppAsus Router Asus Router
Web User InterfaceYesYes
AP ModeYes
(as a router or a mesh)
Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
USB PortNone1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
Gigabit Port2x LAN3 x LAN
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5Gbps WAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
1x 2.5 Gbps WAN
Link AggregationYes
(WAN and LAN)
No
Dual-WANYesYes
Processing Power2.0GHz quad-core CPU
256 MB Flash, 1GB RAM
1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
Firmware Version
(at review)
3.0.0.4.386_476363.0.0.4.386_43981
Power Consumption
(router unit, per 24 hours)
301.3 WhNot tested
Release DateFebruary 2022July 2021
US Retail Price
(at launch)
899.99 (2-pack)$530 (2-pack)
Hardware specifications: ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWi-Fi ET8

As you can see on the table, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is in many ways an upgrade to the ET8, but only with a wired backhaul.

When set up as fully wireless using the 6GHz band as backhaul, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 will be similar to the much cheaper ET8 due to the backhaul band’s signal loss — more in the performance section below.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: Detail photos

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s retail box

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Out of the box, the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 includes two identical routers.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Each router is a relatively huge square tower.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
On top, the routers have a clear section revealing the antennas on the inside.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 29
Thanks to its lighting, the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 looks quite cool at night.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Each Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 comes with four network ports on one of its sides, including two 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig ports.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Other sides of the router have ventilation openings.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 from the top — note the antennas.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Here’s the underside of an Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 router. The hardware is not wall-mountable.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Asus’s Wi-Fi 6E mesh hardware: The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 next to the ZenWiFi ET8
Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 21
Here’s another picture of the pair. Note how the ET12, though much larger, has no USB port.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 25

The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is currently the most powerful Wi-Fi 6E hardware.


Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: Exciting performance with caveats

I’ve been testing (and using) the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 for almost a month and, for the most part, am happy with it. I’ll continue to use it and will update this review if I run into anything worth mentioning.

For the testing, I used the hardware both as a standalone router and a mesh system, and, in the latter case, both with wireless and wired configurations.

For a wireless mesh, it’s important to note that the scores in the charts here are those of the best-case scenario, per the way I do my standard testing. Specifically:

  • I used the 6GHz band or 5GHz band as the backhaul.
  • The satellite node was 40 feet (13 m) away from the main router, within a line of sight.

With that, let’s check out some specifics.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 as a standalone router: All around excellent

As a standalone router, the ZenWiFI Pro ET12 did exceptionally well. The router delivered excellent coverage, rivaling that of the GT-AX6000.

It’s hard to put the coverage in a concrete number — it varies depending on the environment — but if you have a house of fewer than 3000 ft2 (279 m2), place it in the middle, and chances are one of its bands will reach every corner.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Router Performance
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s performance as a single router
I used a 4×4 AC (Wi-Fi 5) client for the close-range tests and a 3×3 AC client for the long-range tests.

And the performance was excellent, too, as you can see on the charts. Thanks to the 2.5Gbps LAN port, the Asus ET12 proved to be one of the fastest Wi-Fi routers to date.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 as a mesh satellite: Excellent with wired backhaul

I tested the Asus ET12 as a mesh in all possible ways using the 6GHz (default), 5GHz band, and its 2.5Gbps connection as the backhaul. And as expected, the mesh performed at its best when I used a Multi-Gig wired connection to link the two units.

I manually pick either the 6GHz or 5GHz for the testing in a wireless setup. In either case, the backhaul band is not dedicated, meaning it also worked as the fronthaul to host clients.

That said, whichever band works as backhaul would have significantly lower performance compared to when it’s not — for the official scores, I used a single client at a time.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Satellite Performance
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s performance when working as a satellite node
5GHz is the backhaul band by default.
<6BH>: 6GHz band as backhaul (when applicable.)
<WBH>: Multi-Gig (2.5Gbps) wired backhaul (when available.)

I also tested the mesh in the Auto setting for its backhaul and the standard setup — again, the satellite is 40 feet away from the main router within a line of sight. In this case, the 6GHz band always worked as the backhaul. And it worked well.

However, in real-world anecdotal tests, as I moved the satellite father or behind a wall, the mesh now mostly used the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band as the backhaul. And it switched between these two somewhat randomly, causing the performance to fluctuate a great deal.

In any case, when there was a wall in between the two, I never could use the 6GHz as backhaul. This band’s range was just too short, and most importantly, it just didn’t penetrate walls well, if at all.

The good news is, no matter what setup, be it a standalone router, wireless, or wired mesh, the ZenWiFi Pro E12 proved reliable. During my week-long testing, I had no issue with disconnections, both locally and in Internet access.

A bit of advice: Don’t force the mesh to use the 6GHz band as a backhaul in a wireless scenario. That might not work. Generally, it’s best to leave the backhaul settings at Auto.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12's Rating

8.1 out of 10
Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Performance
8.5/10
Features
9/10
Ease of Use
8/10
Value
7/10

Pros

Wi-Fi 6E-ready, extensive Wi-Fi coverage with top performance in specific setups with possible fast Wi-Fi performance in certain setups

Dual Multi-Gig pots with Multi-Gig wired backhaul, flexible port configurations

Excellent performance and coverage as a standalone router

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

AiMesh 2.0 full support, helpful mobile app, no login account required

Cool design

Cons

Bulky, no USB, only four network ports

Fluctuating performance as a fully wireless mesh due to the lack of a dedicated backhaul band

Short 6GHz range

Expensive, not wall-mountable

The recap

The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a new Tri-band router — all of its bands are needed to host 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, and 6GHz clients.

As a result, it’ll work very well if you use just one unit as a standalone router. When using two or more units in a mesh system, though, you can’t expect any of the bands to work as a dedicated backhaul.

That said, keep these three mesh scenarios in mind:

  1. It’s ideal to use a wired backhaul. In this case, the 2.5Gbps ports will give you the best performance consistently on all bands.
  2. Use the 6GHz band as backhaul. In this case, the mesh will cap at 2400Mbps, or 50% the speed of the backhaul band due to signal loss. This case is good when:
    • You can place the routers no father than 60 feet away within a line of sight.
    • You have mostly 5GHz clients.
  3. Use the 5GHz band as backhaul. In this case the mesh will cap likely at 1200Mbps, or 50% the speed of the backhaul band at 80MHz — due to the use of DSF, you can’t always count on the 160MHz channel width. This case applies when:
    • You have a wall or two between the hardware units.
    • You have mostly 6GHz clients.

The takeaway is this: If you use the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 in a wireless setup, there’s no way to get the best performance out of it. Whichever band that works as the backhaul will lose at least 50% of its efficiency, and that’s the speed cap of all clients connected to the satellite.

Read this  Wi-Fi 6E Explained (vs Wi-Fi 6): The Highs and Lows of the New 6GHz Band

Like all Wi-Fi 6E mesh systems, you might hear the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 advertised with the 6GHz performance and 5GHz (or even 2.4GHz) range. That combo doesn’t exist.

Asus AiMesh GT AXE11000 and ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Here’s a Multi-Gig wired backhaul Wi-Fi 6E AiMesh system with a GT-AXE11000 and two ZenWiFi Pro ET12.

Conclusion

At the current hefty price tag of $899.99, the new ZenWiFi Pro ET12, as a 2-pack mesh, can be a bit of a disappointment or an excellent buy, depending on if you have gotten your house wired.

In the latter case, which is the only case in which I’d recommend this mesh, you’ll get yourself one of the best Wi-Fi systems that will last you years in the future.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fully wireless setup, check out the ZenWiFi XT8, or maybe the ZenWiFi Pro XT12, which I haven’t tested yet, instead.

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68 thoughts on “Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Review (vs ZenWiFi ET8): A Solid Multi-Gig Wired Mesh”

  1. I was about ready to kick myself for jumping the gun on purchasing the ET8 so soon before the ET12 pack was released, but with the bulky footprint and no USB I don’t feel too bad.

    If Asus released a 1-pack of the ET12, I’m wondering if this scenario is possible (in a wired environment): Setup a single ET12 unit as the primary router, use the 2.5G LAN for the rest of the house (via 2.5G switch). Because the WAN ports on the ET8s are 2.5G, I could plug both of those in different rooms and employ wired AiMesh that maintains the 2.5G speed as wireless APs.

    Getting tired of waiting for Asus to upgrade their RT-AX88U to a 6E model so this alternative would be a decent solution if that worked.

    Reply
  2. I have my ET12 in ethernet backhaul mode and Tri-Band smart connect enabled. The primary node is broadcasting the SSID as expected over 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz. The secondary node (AP) shows dedicated 2.5gbps backhaul (wired) but it appears to only be broadcasting my SSID over 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Anyone have thoughts on why that may be?

    I can see the difference when I select AiMesh > Topology > Network. The difference is listed when I select the primary vs secondary node on the list. The secondary node shows a completely different SSID for 6GHz (ASUS_00_6G_Guest5) but Guest Wi-Fi is not enabled for 6GHz nor is it actually broadcasting that (confirmed with a 6E device).

    Reply
        • Hi Dong,

          I looked at your articles they are very thorough but for me 6GHz is completely missing from the AiMesh Node, the enable radio 6GHz option is not there but it works on the primary router. Wish I could provide you a screen shot, I opened up a support ticket with Asus just in case I am missing something. It’s the two pack of ET12s.

          Reply
        • Update, if I disable Tri-Band smart connect both nodes broadcast 6GHz if I enable Tri-Band only the primary does. Both ways are configured to broadcast the same SSID…

          Reply
  3. Thanks for the great info. I have setup the ET12 and it is working great! I do not have any 6ghz clients, so I have turned off the 6ghz radio in professional settings for the time being. I am curious about the โ€œ802.11ax / WiFi 6 Modeโ€ in the 5ghz and 2.4ghz settings in the professional tab. If I am not using the 6 ghz radio, is this a setting that I should disable?Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for your great reviews and excellent informative posts, Dong! I’ve been reading your posts with great interest for some time now and have picked up lots of useful information.

    I’m currently running a set of AX88Us on Merlin firmware in router + AP modes for SOHO. My wired backhaul is already multi-gig capable, using a Netgear switch that supports speeds up to 10 Gbe. ISP connection is currently 1Gb.
    Haven’t used AIMesh so far, because I prefer to have control of each node’s channels to reduce interference between themselves and neighbours’ equipment.

    If I were to upgrade my routers to a multi-gig wired setup, could I run both units from a pair of ET12s in AP mode and combine them with, say, a GT-AX6000 in router mode? I realise the combo wouldn’t play nice in AIMesh, but I don’t need 6GHz support at the router location (nice-to-have at AP locations though!) and prefer manual control over channel numbers.

    Am I overcomplicating my setup? I know there’s no real future proofing a network.

    Reply
    • The answer is yes you can and yes, you’re also overcomplicating your setup. I’d just go with the ET12 in the AP mode as a mesh on top of another router — more here. I’ve been doing that using a RT-AX89X with my own 10Gbps broadband.

      Reply
  5. I have a 2500 sq ft- 2 story house. Current setup is 1 Gigabit broadband that comes into far side of house on 2nd floor. I currently have an rt-ac88u as the main router in that location. I also have another rt-ac88u in a wired mesh setup that is located in a central open area of first floor. I am looking to upgrade and am considering 1 gt-ax6000 and 1 rt-ax86u, 2 gt-ax6000 or or an ET12 (2). I have no wifi 6 devices at this time but would like to have multi gig wired mesh. I would also like to have multi gig wan in the event I were to get multi gig broadband in the future. Cost would be approx $650, $800, and $900 respecively. Cost is not my primary concern, I want get a nice upgrade to my setup and get some decent future proofing. What would be your recommendation? Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    • Any of the combos will work, Jasson. But it makes little sense to get the 2nd option. With the first two, make sure you don’t upgrade the GT-AX6000 to the recently release firmware (wait for the next one.) I’ve been using the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 and it’s been great.

      Reply
  6. Hi there
    Slightly confused re non-wired dedicated backhaul in your review?
    Looking at other reviews and the Asus website it clearly states the XT12 has a dedicated 5ghz dedicated wireless channel but in your review you state the opposite? I currently have an XT8 system and it works well using the dedicated channel? Please can you confirm why your review differs from other reviews and the Asus website please so I can understand?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Make sure you read and pay attention, Stephen — follow the related links, too, if you’re confused. And I have no comment about what you’ve seen elsewhere. That’s between you and them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
      • Thank you for your quick reply to my question on the dedicated 5ghz dedicated channel BUT I am still confused as to what you are saying – your article stated it does not have one but the Asus website states it does WHO is correct please? Appreciate you taking the time on this to provide a clear an open reply. Thanks

        Reply
        • I think you’re mistaking the model number, Stephen. This one is the ET12. In any case, pay some attention as you read, you’ll find out why this one doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul band.

          Reply
  7. Just picked up one of these based on this review…and am going to have to return it same-day. As of 3/7/2022 with latest firmware, the ET12 doesn’t fully work in AP mode.

    My situation is that I’ve got a set of static public IPs and a home that is wired with CAT6A. I’ve got ATT’s new 5GBit Internet, business class, and wanted a 2.5GBE wires backhaul. I intended to use the ET12 in an AiMesh Bridge config with its included second node and a RT-AX86u as a third.

    The issue is that as soon as I set the main router up in AiMesh/AP mode, it loses its web interface and is unreachable by either wireless (wireless Internet connectivity works) or wired clients, or the Asus Device Discovery Tool when connected to the main ET12 Pro. Internet access from wireless and wired works fine, so it’s working as a single bridge, but it’s completely unmanageable at that point.

    This same configuration works without a hitch on my RT-AX86u, which I was, again, planning on using as a node on AiMesh.

    So, long story short, while this router may be great running NAT, there’s no ability to add any nodes via AiMesh (or even log into it) after configuring it with a static IP on the WAN side. Asus Tech Support was of no help, telling me to repeatedly go to “192.168…” when I clearly articulated that I’m using routable, non-NATted IPs with a static on the WAN side of the router, as I’m using the ET12 Pro as a wireless bridge.

    Just wanted to share this with folks. If Asus can’t get this resolved, Dong – Do you suggest I just try one of Asus’s 6E Gaming Routers? I was hoping to have better-than 1GBE speeds over wireless, and this looked like the ticket….very disappointed.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing the experience, Bear. But it works in the AP mode. From what you said, it seemed you didn’t configure it properly or lost patience a bit too pronto :). But the big question is, I don’t see why you’d need to use it in the AP mode. You should use it in the default router mode and use the AT&T box in the bridge mode — the ET12 can handle static IP just fine. More in this post.

      Reply
  8. Hi Dong, if starting from scratch to build a multi-gig wired backhaul solution for three stories, what hardware would you recommend for a second satellite to complement the Pro ET12?

    Reply
    • The ET12 comes in a 2-pack, Rob. If that’s not enough, you can get another unit or another 2-pack. For the former, if you have sub-Gigabit broadband, you can use the GT-AXE11000 as the main router, as I mentioned in this review.

      Reply
  9. Hi,
    2 simple questions and I hope not to offend anyone with them and yes, I read through the review, which is the most comprehensive and useful one I ever read ๐Ÿ™‚
    – is the power input multi-voltage?
    – having 2 1Gb incoming lines and by having them seperately linked to 2 routers (Asus RT-AC88U) with cat6 cables., would I be ok to go for the ET12 model and use link aggregation and ethernet backhaul?

    Many Thanks…

    Reply
    • Valid questions, G.

      1. The power input is 110V to 240V. So far, of all the devices I’ve tested, there was just one that doesn’t support this range which is the Netgear GS110EMX Switch and I called that out. So if it’s not mentioned, then it’s 110V-240V.
      2. That’s not Link Aggregation. That’s Dual-WAN. And yes, you can use Dual-WAN with this router, as mentioned here.

      Reply
      • Many thanks for that quick response, it helped me to know that I can buy from US.
        Regarding ET12 use, I apologize to not have stated my question clearly enough:
        My current config is with 2 lines linked to 2 routers.

        My question is if it is a feasible solution to use 2 ET12 as mesh, 1 with with use of dual Dual-Wan with WAN aggregation for 2 incoming lines and LAN Link Aggregation (load balance) and using Ethernet backhaul to the 2nd ET12.

        Many thanks for your help and patience ๐Ÿ™‚

        G H W

        Reply
        • I haven’t tried that but it’s very awkward as you can imagine. Instead, on the router unit, you can use the 2.5Gbps WAN and another 1Gbps LAN port for the Dual-WAN and use the 2.5Gbps LAN as backhaul. After that connect the 2nd unit’s WAN port to the 2.5Gbps LAN port of the router unit. I mentioned that in this part of the review.

          Reply
          • Many thanks for your kind help. I am pleasantly surprised how fast and detailed your assistance is.
            Your proposed solution is absolutely correct and logical.. and I didnโ€™t think of itโ€ฆ glad that you did..

  10. Hi Dong, I recently found your reviews and really appreciate the information and suggestions. I have the ET12 have been using for for about a week or so. All is working good for the most part except the 6ghz band. I’ve played around with the smart connect rule( wifi steering options) and the roaming assistant setting in the professional tab and it is still very rare that my google 6 pro ever connects to the 6ghz band. Sometimes if I turn off my wifi and then turn it back on, it will connect, however on some occasions, even if I’m right next to the router I get a max of about 60mbps when it should be blazing fast. Thats my only issue, not sure if its the router or my phone. Any advice you have on that would be much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Also wanted to add, I am using wired backhaul with the 2.5g WAN and LAN, and backhaul priority is set to Auto.

      Thanks!

      Reply
    • That’s because the band has a very short range, Shawn. As you walk around, the phone would use the 5GHz, and it finds no reason to switch to the 6GHz when you get close to the broadcaster. It happens to me, too. The best way to deal with this is to use that band as a separate SSID. In other words, don’t use Smart Connect. Most importantly, don’t worry too much about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  11. Excellent review, thanks Dong! I’m sticking with my XD6 for now since my house is pre-wired with cat-5e cables and I don’t plan on using multi-gig Internet. I may completely skip the WiFi 6E generation based on your reviews.

    Reply
      • First, thank you Peter for asking the question on the XD6. I too have used it for a while happily based on Dong’s recommendations.

        My curiosity, is similar. With the ET12 and someday the XT12 coming out would it be best to upgrade to one of those or also hold till WiFi 7?

        For me:

        – Wired house via CAT6 and 2.5GB switches used for backbone, etc.
        – A glorious Synology DS920+ used heavily for media streaming ๐Ÿ˜‰
        – Gig Internet
        – Yet no 6e technology

        Curious to your thoughts, and thanks for all of your great articles and insight.

        Reply
  12. Great review, as always! Dong, does the 5Ghz band support the new 5.9Ghz spectrum released by the FCC to allow for a non-DFS 160Ghz channel?

    Reply
    • No, Mario. You’ll need to wait for the GT-AX11000 Pro for that. And you might need new clients, too. I’m still waiting on the info and will write a post on this topic at a later time.

      Reply
  13. For wired backhaul, does it need to be through a switch, or can you do a straight point-to-point? My house is currently wired with a 1Gb switch. Should I upgrade the switch and backhaul through it, or can I patch from the satellite direct to the router?

    Love the write-ups, thanks!

    Reply
      • Thanks for the reply. Let me clarify my question a bit.

        I 100% plan to use a multi-gig wired backhaul. My question is whether or not that must go through a Multi-Gig switch, or could I patch the 2.5G LAN port on the base unit (in my basement) directly to the 2.5G LAN port on the satellite unit (in my office) and achieve the same results?

        Thanks again!

        Reply
          • Respectfully, if this is in the review that I read 2+ times, then I donโ€™t see it.

            Even so, it appears you either donโ€™t understand the question or donโ€™t know the answer. Responding โ€œread the reviewโ€ is a terrible way to handle that.

    • You’re right. I felt I needed to make that clear since folks tend to think otherwise after having been fed with commercials and hype. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  14. I’m upgrading my system from wifi 5 and really like the asus features. I am trying to decide between wifi 6 vs 6e router. Mainly looking at going cheaper with a xt8 mesh system vs going all out and moving to the pro et12. I don’t currently have ethernet run but could probably do this myself if needed. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
      • Thanks but I want the XT12, just wanted to let people know they are starting to be available. I see Amazon has a place holder now too!

        Reply
        • I received my last week and started to configure as the primary router with the ISP using IPoE… only achieved 100Mb up/down vs. the 950/950 up/down on a 1Gb service. Now I have to determine of the investment is worth the hassles. Also, the software still appears to be buggy… not always able to reset the devices to factory on a first attempt.

          Reply
          • Bugs are common in Asus routers, especially those cutting-edge ones, Jeff. I generally wait for a least one firmware update before testing them… But, in your case, you might have had a Fast Ethernet device somewhere. Make sure you check on that.

  15. The dimensions seems a bit off- possibly switched around? Based on the specs in your table, the height on the ET12 is shorter than the ET8.

    Reply
  16. Hi Dong! Long time fan. I’ve been closely following ET12 info for many months and it’s no surprise that you’d be first to really talk about it now that it’s near release. I sell AT&T Fiber so it’s really exciting to see 2Gb/s and 5Gb/s speeds available in my neighborhood as the ET12 rolls out. I personally plan to take a 1 meter, 22AWG, Cat8.1, 50-micron gold plated S/FTP patch cable out of our BGW-320 Gateway’s 10Gb/s port and use a 15m variant for the wired backhaul, then speed test with an S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max. Then possibly run some fun link aggregation hardwire desktop experiments. Too bad the ET12 doesn’t have 10Gb/s support like the new Netgear Orbi but, for the price, that system is a joke compared to the ET12 especially since you can only hardwire backhaul 2 of 3 satellites at multi-gig out of the box (unless you can link aggregate 2 10/100/1000 ports for the 3rd?). If the ET12 had 10Gb/s on each satellite instead of 2.5Gb/s then Asus would have had its silver bullet against any competitor.

    As for the lacking USB port, I only use my current Asus router’s USB port for USB fans under my router since i naturally use a real NAS. However, the beast cooling system on this ET12 leads me to believe that cooling fans won’t be necessary anymore.

    WiFi 7 will be overrated anyway since mainstream SFP28 or better is yearsss away anyway so this is the beast to buy! Signed, sealed, delivered.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, Jim. I think your setup will work out great, assuming the ET12 pans out well. Love your overkill wiring plan. Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    • Do you plan to set up the BGW320 in IP Passthrough mode or will you turn both Asus ET12 nodes as AP? I’d be curious about your particular setup. ATT’s just finished digging in my area but service is not yet available for the 1G service.

      Reply
      • I don’t speak for Jim, Tristan, but you should use the gateway in the bridge mode (IP Passthrough that is). Otherwise, there’s no point in getting such expensive mesh hardware — go with a few APs instead. More in this post.

        Reply
  17. I currently have a mesh system set up with wired back haul in a 1 story 3500sq ft home using 2 of the ASUS AX6100s. I need to get a router for my sonโ€™s home single story 2000sq ft and was going to take 1 of my AX6100s to use there. What would you recommend as a replacement for the 1 AX6100 in my primary home that I could add to my home mesh now that there are more 6Es coming out? Figuring I can future proof my home. I plan on doing this in late spring. Thanks

    Reply
      • Thank you for the quick reply. You are correct in that it can be futile to try and future proof with technology advancing so quickly. Figure if I need to upgrade then get whatever is available to tide me over until the next new thing. My kids do love my hand me downs!

        Reply
        • Sure, Stephan. I hear you. For your case, though, just stay with Wi-Fi 6 and move to Wi-Fi 7. The timing is good.

          Reply
    • If you want a future-proof device, wait for WiFi 7 (if you can), as it isn’t very far away (a year and a half from now) and will in theory be much faster than Wifi 5&6.
      Wifi 5&6 are already taking ethernet connections to the limit, so I can’t really think what WiFi 8 could bring to the table other than better coverage.

      Reply
  18. Which one would you recommend: Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 or Netgear Orbi RBKE963. I am actually planning to buy ET12 (when available) but after reading this post, I’m not sure if ET12 is better than RBKE963. Could you please do a review of ET12 vs RBKE963?
    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • ET12 is only great if you have a wired backhaul, Andy, in performance. But the Netgear is terrible in features and is a money trap. Read its review for more.

      Reply
  19. Personally… I’m not sure what’s to be unhappy about losing the USB port.
    If you want a mini-NAS, just buy a cheap NAS.

    It’s not as if someone with $900 cash laying around for routers has problems spending $120 for a cheap Synology DS120j (which will be tons better than the router’s mini-NAS).

    Reply
    • I’d agree on the NAS front, Heffeque. But the USB port on an Asus router can do a lot more than host hosting a storage device.

      Reply
      • Other than printing, which is also not used anymore (can’t think of any modern printer that doesn’t have ethernet and/or Wi-Fi). What else does ASUS’s USB do that a NAS can’t do better? I’m genuinely interested.

        Reply

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