The ZenWiFi Pro XT12 is worth the wait. And that's a good thing considering it has been a bit of a tease.
Asus initially and quietly unveiled this Tri-band mesh system in August 2021 with the ZenWiFi ET12; both were slated to be available in the US in early 2022.
In February 2022, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 arrived and proved in my testing to be quite formidable, especially for a wired home.
At the time, Asus said the XT12 would also be available "soon", only to reverse course a month later, informing me it no longer had plans to sell the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 in North America. Since then, the mesh has been available in Europe and Asia.
Earlier last month, a year after the announcement, Asus changed its mind again, and now you're reading my hands-on review. It's a happy-ending saga.
Here's the bottom line: If you've been holding your breath while chewing the nails of your crossed fingers for it, this dark and shiny set of Wi-Fi 6 broadcasters won't disappoint you.
At the $799.99 suggested price for a 2-pack -- $100 less than the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 -- the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 has everything to justify its cost, possibly more. If you live in a large home with Gigabit or faster broadband and are too lazy to run network cables -- yeah, you know who you are! -- get a pair today!
While the new hardware is also available as a 1-pack for $399.99, you should only consider that option if you intend to wirelessly expand Wi-Fi coverage later or if you have a UNII-4-supporting client (there's none at publication.) Otherwise, a standalone ZenWiFi Pro ET12 makes more sense.
Dong's note: I first published this post on January 22, 2022, as a new piece and last upgraded to an in-depth review on September 8 after thorough hands-on testing.
Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12: Non-compromising Tri-band hardware, first purpose-built UNII-4-enabled mesh
It has non-compromising Wi-Fi specs, supports top-tier 4x4 specs on all three bands, and is one of a few mesh routers with two Multi-Gig ports.
- The ZenWifi Pro XT12 is a 12 stream router: 4x4 (2.4GHz) + 4x4 (5GHz-1) + 4x4 (5GHz-2).
- ZenWiFi XT8 is an 8-stream router: 2x2 (2.4GHz) + 2x2 (5GHz-1) + 4x4 (5GHz-2).
The new Pro XT12 has non-compromising Wi-Fi specs -- 4x4 on each band, the highest for a traditional Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster.
Most importantly, like the case of the XT8 (via its latest firmware), the XT12 also supports the new and exciting UNII-4 portion of the 5GHz spectrum.
The support for UNII-4 might have been the reason the new mesh was delayed for the US market, but it sure is significant for a fully wireless system. Among other things, this previously unused portion of the spectrum allows for a free 160MHz channel to work as the backhaul on the router's 5GHz-2 band.
So in a ZenWiFi XT12 vs ZenWiFi XT8 real-world matchup, the former laterally encompasses the latter entirely in networking specs. Or does it?
Wi-Fi air space is regulated and varies from one region to another. Information on this website is generally based on US regulations and applicable to the United States.
The use of the UNII-4 portion, or even its definition, might not be the same or available in other parts of the world, but the concept of Wi-Fi bands and channels is applicable worldwide.
Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12 vs ZenWiFi XT8: Hardware specifications
Like the older cousin, the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 is available as a single router or a 2-pack. In the latter case, you use one as the primary router, and the other will work as a satellite in an AiMesh Wi-Fi system setup.
But the similarities end there.
The XT12 comes in a different shape, looking like a square tube instead of a mini toaster.
It's also much larger and heavier and comes with a bit of a designer's touch with a clear top that covers an ample fancy status light. And like the case of identically-looking ET12, the new design proved to be a conversation starter in my experience.
|ZenWiFi Pro XT12|
Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router
|ZenWiFi AX XT8|
Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router
|Mesh-Ready||Yes (2-pack)||Yes (2-pack)|
|Dedicated Backhaul Band||Yes (5GHZ-2)||Yes (5GHZ-2)|
|4.53 x 9.45 x 4.53 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)
|Weight||3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)||1.56 lbs (710 g)|
|5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs|| 4 x 4 AX |
Up to 4800 Mbps
|2 x 2 AX |
Up to 1200 Mbps
|5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs|| 4 x 4 AX|
Up to 4800 Mbps (20/40/80/160MHz)
|4 x 4 AX |
Up to 4800 Mbps
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs|| 4 x 4 AX|
Up to 1,148 Mbps
|2 x 2 Wi-Fi 6 up to 574 Mbps|
|5.9 GHz band Support|
(Firmware ver. 18.104.22.168.386_49873 or later)
|Mobile App||Asus Router||Asus Router|
|Web User Interface||Yes||Yes|
|AP Mode|| Yes |
(as a router or a mesh)
(as a router or a mesh)
|USB Port||None||1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1|
|Gigabit Port||2x LAN||3 x LAN|
|Multi-Gig Port||1x 2.5Gbps WAN|
1x 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN
|1x 2.5 Gbps WAN|
|Link Aggregation||Yes (WAN and LAN)||No|
|Processing Power||2.0GHz quad-core CPU, |
256 MB Flash, 1GB RAM
|1.5GHz quad-core CPU, |
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
|Release Date||August 2022||January 2020|
|Firmware Version |
|Power Adapter||AC 100-240V||AC 100-240V|
(over 24 hours)
|≈ 335 Wh|
(measured at the router unit)
|$799.99 (2-pack)||$450 (2-pack)|
$250 (single router)
The XT12 also comes with two 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig ports instead of just one. As a result, it can deliver faster-than-Gigabit speeds on both the WAN and LAN sides. Most importantly, it's another option for Multi-Gig wired backhaul without the help of a Multi-Gig switch -- you can daisy-chain the nodes.
So in all, the X12 has everything to promise much better performance than the previous model -- more in the performance section below.
But the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 does have one shortcoming compared to its older cousin: It has no USB port. And that can be a big downer for those looking to turn it into a mini NAS server.
Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12: Detail photos
The ZenWiFi Pro XT12 comes in a 2-pack or a single router. The hardware is virtually the same as the ET12.
You can only tell it apart from the Wi-Fi 6E when turning it -- the lighting shows the model name -- on or looking at its underside.
ZenWiFi Pro XT12: A familiar and robust Asus experience
Despite the non-compromising hardware and the support for the latest UNII-4 spectrum, the ZenWFi Pro XT12 is a typical experience for anyone who's used an Asus router before.
That's because, on the inside, it runs the robust Asuswrt open-source firmware that includes a comprehensive web-user interface and a well-designed mobile app.
Most importantly, as a mesh system, it's part of the flexible AiMesh ecosystem, meaning the hardware itself can work as a mesh (when you get a 2-pack), or you can use it with any AiMesh-enabled routers to build a system -- users have lots flexibly in terms of performance grades and Wi-Fi coverage.
If you haven't used an Asus router before, the extra content below will give you some highlights. Or you can close the box to skip it.
ZenWiFi Pro XT12: 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 XT12.
Universal setting restoration
I tried restoring backups from multiple routers and mesh systems to it, and that worked. Clearly, considering different hardware specs, you can only expect the common settings to be ported over. For example, if you import the backup file of a Dual-band router, such as the RT-AX86U, the third band of the XT12 will still have the default settings.
In any case, this optional feature can be a huge time saver -- 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.
Note, though, that it's always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.
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 (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.)
Standard setup process
Thanks to the web interface, all the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 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:
- Connect your router's WAN port to the Internet source, be it a modem, an existing gateway, or the Fiberoptic ONT. Turn it on.
- 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".
- 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.
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 the Dynamic DNS feature.
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 and Parental Controls
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.
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 on 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.
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.
"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 Aggregation, and wired backhaul
All Asus routers generally have a lot of flexibility in their port configurations which vary from one model to another.
On this front, the following are what you can do with a ZenWiFi Pro XT12 working in the router mode.
In other modes -- AiMesh satellite node, access point, repeater, etc. -- all ports work as LANs.
- The default 2.5Gbps WAN always works as the WAN port, there's no way to change this. Specifically, you can't use it as a second 2.5Gbps LAN port by making another port work as the WAN.
- In a 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 or 2Gbps.
- 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, client, and Instant Guard,) 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.
Asus routers and privacy
Before turning on some features, an Asus router shows a warning, as shown in the screenshot below.
The said features only work because a third-party scans the router's traffic. That's the nature of any protection -- a security detail will include somebody who watches over you -- there's no way around that.
So, these features inherently cause privacy risks. But they are turned off by default, and you can leave them that way to use an Asus router without sharing data with the vendor.
Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12: Excellent performance
I tested the Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12 for over a week as a standalone router and a wireless mesh set, and it didn't disappoint. It proved to be one of the fastest in either case.
It's worth noting that I didn't use the router's second 5GHz band (5GHz-2)'s UNII-4 portion as a single router for the official tests.
The reason was that I had no client to test it. By this review, there was no UNII-4-supported client on the market. Consequently, the 5.9GHz portion of this band is only applicable when you want to use the mesh system in a dedicated wireless backhaul. That's the case for all existing UNII-4-enabled broadcasters.
And in my 2-pack wireless mesh trial, I did use this portion which worked as intended. The backhaul speed, however, was the same as when I used a DFS 160MHz channel -- where I live, the issues with radar signals have been seldom.
But for the official mesh satellite test scores below, I also used the 5GHz-2 with a non-UNII-4 channel so that my test clients could work with it -- the band was no longer dedicated to backhauling. And the numbers on the charts showed the expected signal loss.
As for coverage, the XT12 was excellent, on par with the ET12 or the GT-AXE16000. If you have a home of 2500 ft2 (232 m2) or so, place a single unit in the middle, and it likely can cover that all. That said, a 2-pack can double that. But Wi-Fi coverage depends on the layout of a home, so your mileage will vary.
The XT12 passed my 3-day stress test with no disconnection. It proved to be reliable. I'm now using it in a wired backhauling setup and will report if I encounter any issues later.
A bit of extra on wired backhaul
(This portion is an update added on September 13, 2022)
The ZenWiFi Pro XT12 system worked well with wired backhauling, where I connected the satellite's 2.5Gbps WAN port to the router's 2.5Gbps LAN port. At one point, I used a second set -- four hardware units total -- and they all played nice together.
The setup also supported the Ethernet Backhaul Mode well. In this case, I could use all the bands freely by grouping them together via Smart Connect or separating them as different SSIDs.
It's worth noting, though, that I couldn't use an XT12 as a satellite for the GT-AXE16000 or the ET12. This might have just been some firmware issues that will likely be resolved via updates. (There's no practical reason for these combos anyway.)
Fast Internet speed, a bit buggy Dual-WAN
In my trial, the ZenWiFi Pro XT12's 2.5Gbps WAN port could deliver close to 2.5Gbps of broadband speed with a 10Gbps Fiber-optic connection.
But to experience the high speed, you'd have to use its other 2.5Gbps LAN port. That's because Wi-Fi clients generally cap at Gig+, which was the case in my trial.
I generally got between 300Mbps to 1.4Gbps out of the said broadband on my 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 or 6E clients when walking around the house -- the expected rates after signal degradations and overhead.
What is Gig+
Gig+, or Gig Plus, conveys a speed grade faster than 1Gbps but slower than 2Gbps. So, it's 1.5Gbps, give or take, and it's not fast enough to be qualified as Multi-Gig or multi-Gigabit.
Gig+ generally applies to the sustained speeds of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E -- via a 2x2 at 160MHz connection which has the 2400Mbps theoretical ceiling speed -- or Internet speed and is not used to describe wired network connections.
It's worth noting that you should manually restart the router unit after connecting it to faster-than-Gigabit broadband. Otherwise, the router's WAN port might be stuck at 1Gbps. That happened in my case when I moved from a Gigabit Cable connection to a 10Gbps Fiber-optic in a single-WAN setup.
And I tested the XT12' in a Dual-WAN setup, too, and it worked as expected, albeit a bit buggy. Specifically, I couldn't turn this feature off (to move back to single-WAN) when I used its default 2.5Gbps WAN port for the Secondary WAN connection.
Turned out, all I had to do is make this port the Primary WAN first, which was the default. But it was a bit frustrating -- I just wanted to quickly move on to different tests.
Overall, I was happy with my 2-pack ZenWiFi Pro XT12's performance as a standalone router as well as its intended wireless mesh set. The hardware seemed mature and overall predictable -- no crazy unpleasant surprises.
Asus ZenWiFi Pro XT12's Rating
Excellent Wi-Fi performance and coverage, UNII-4 support
Dual Multi-Gig ports with multi-Gigabit wired backhaul, flexible port configurations
Tons of useful features and settings, flexible Wi-Fi customization
AiMesh 2.0 full support, helpful mobile app, no login account required
Cool design with pretty lighting
No 5Gbps or 10Gbps Multi-Gig, bulky, no USB, only four network ports
Buggy Dual-WAN, not wall-mountable
In terms of Wi-Fi performance and features, the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 is everything you'd wish the previous, the ZenWiFi XT8, had. On top of that, with an additional 2.5Gbps port, it now has the powerful Mult-Gig backhaul feature.
That said, if you're looking for a non-compromising Wi-Fi 6 system that will deliver the best possible Wi-Fi 6 performance in a completely wireless- or wired-backhauling setup, the ZenWFi Pro XT12 is an excellent buy at $799 for a 2-pack or $399 a single unit.
This new hardware will last you well into the time when Wi-Fi 7 is available, and the use of the 6Ghz band is more meaningful than it is today. But if you want to enjoy 6GHz today and have a wired home (or one that only needs a single router), consider the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 instead.