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ZenWiFi XD6 review (vs ZenWiFi XT8): An Excellent (Wired) Mesh Alternative

If you read my review of the ZenWiFi XT8, you’d note that I recommended it mainly for those living in a home with no network cables. If you have gotten your home wired, though, this Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 is an equally excellent alternative.

Sure, it’ll work in a wireless setup — and did quite well in my testing, as you’ll see below — but it’ll work best in a wired configuration. In fact, in this case, it’s a sizable upgrade to entry-level ZenWiFi XD4 thanks to the extra amount of ports and full support for Asus’s core feature set as well as AiMesh 2.0.

Since I have reviewed both the XT8 and the XD4, this brief review is more of a ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8 matchup where I’ll highlight the differences between these two.

The bottom line is: at the current cost of around $380 for a two-pack, the ZenWiFi XD6 is an excellent mesh system, especially for a wired home with a Gigabit-class or lower broadband connection. Get it!

Asus ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8
ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8: The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 (bottom) is a mini version of the ZenWi XT8. Despite being smaller, though, it actually uses a larger power adapter.

Asus ZenWiFi XD6's Rating

8.9 out of 10
The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual band Mesh WiFi 6 System 11
Performance
9/10
Features
9.5/10
Design and Setup
9/10
Value
8/10

Pros

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance

AiMesh 2.0 fully supported

Lots of network settings and useful features, including free real-time online protection for life

Compact design

Presynced hardware, 160Mhz support

Cons

No Multi-Gig or Link aggregation

No USB port

ZenWiFi XD6 (vs XT8): A smaller yet equally robust mesh solution

You can’t look at the ZenWiFi XD6 without think of the XT8 — that is if you have seen the latter. The two look the same despite the fact the XD6 is just about two-third of the physical size.

The XD6 also comes in a 2-pack of two identical routers. On the back, it has the same amount of ports as the XT8 but now without a USB port. Also, its WAN port is not a Multi-Gig — this is a pure Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 router.

ZenWiFi XD6 (vs XT8): Hardware specfications

On the inside, the XD6 and XT8 share almost the same processing power — the latest has a slightly faster CPU– but their differences in Wi-Fi specs are more significant.

Specifically, the XD6 is a dual-band router while the XT8 is a tri-band. So take the 2nd 5GHz band (5GHz-2) band out of the latter, and you kind of get the former, so to speak.

Asus ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8
Asus ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8: The XD6 (top) doesn’t have a Multi-Gig WAN or a USB port.

However, the lack of an additional band is not exactly a bad thing, as I talked about that in detail in this post on Dual-band vs Tri-band.

In this particular case, the XD6’s only 5GHz band is a top-tier 4×4 that supports the 160MHz channel width. On the other hand, while the XT8 has two 5GHz bands, by default, its front-haul band is of modest 2×2 specs.

ModelXD6XT8
Full NameZenWiFi XD6 RouterZenWiFi XT8 Router
Wi-Fi StandardDual-band AX5400Tri-band AX6600
Mesh-ReadyYes (2-pack)
AiMesh
Yes (2-pack)
AiMesh
Dedicated Backhaul BandNoneYes (5GHZ-2)
Wired BackhaulYes
(recommended)
Yes
(not recommended)
Dimensions5.08 x 4.96 x 2.32 in
(129.7 x 126.4 x 59.05 mm)
 6.35 x 6.29 x 2.95 in  
(161.5 x 160 x 75 mm)
Weight15.4 oz (436 g)1.56 lb (710 g)
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs
(Channel Widths)
4 x 4 AX: Up to 4800 Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
2 x 2 AX: Up to 1200 Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs
(Channel Widths)
None4 x 4 AX: Up to 4800 Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs
(Channel Widths)
2 x 2 AX: Up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2 x 2 AX: Up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
Backward Compatibility802.11ac/n/g/a/b802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Mobile AppAsus RouterAsus 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 Port3x LAN, 1x WAN3 x LAN
Multi-Gig PortNone1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN
Link AggregationNoNo
Dual-WANYesYes
Processing Power1.5 GHz tri-core CPU,
256MB Flash, 512MB RAM
1.5GHz quad-core CPU,
256MB Flash, 512MB RAM
Hardware specifications: ZenWiFi XD6 vs XT8

Pre-synced hardware, family Asus core feature set

Out of the box, the two XD6 units are pre-synced. As a result, you just set up either as the main router. After that, plug the other one into power at a good distance and you’ll note the AiMesh system is ready.

But even if yours didn’t work out that way, you could always add the 2nd unit, or more Asus AiMesh broadcasters to the mix via the normal process, as I detailed in this post on AiMesh.

ZenWiFi XD6 Mesh
Here’s the 2-pack ZenWiFi XD6 in an AiMesh setup. The 2nd unit is part of the mesh the moment you plug it in.

As a rule, though, if you want a wireless setup, pick a broadcaster of the same 5GHz tier. But it’s best to use other dual-band routers with wired backhaul.

On top of that, the XD6, as a standalone route or a mesh, has the full support for Asus’s core feature set, as well as AiMesh 2.0.

Consequently, you can expect to get the same Wi-Fi settings, features, and tools as most other Asus Wi-Fi 6 routers. And in a mesh setup, the Guest networks (up to three for each band) will work throughout the mesh.

For the first-time readers: Asus’s standard feature set

The XD6 has no USB port, so it has no USB-related features. Other than that, it has everything you’ll find in most Asus routers, including:

Universal setting restoration

You can restore the backup settings of most of the Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 onto the XD6, including those with an AiMesh setup.

I tried that of the few previous dual-band routers — RT-AX86U, GS-AX5400, RT-AX82U, and so on — and they all worked.

(Note: You can’t do that if you use the backup files of the RT-AX89X or the Blue Cave.)

That said, if you want to upgrade from an existing Asus router, the XD4 will make it an easy job.

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.)

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

ZenWiFi XD6 Wi Fi Settings
Like most Asus routers, the ZenWiFi XD6 has a ton of Wi-Fi customization.

Standard setup process

Thanks to the web interface, all Asus router has the standard setup process as I detailed in this post on building a home network from scratch.

If you have worked with an Asus router before, you’ll feel right at home when it comes to setting up the XD6.

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.

Again, if you get a 2-pack, the XD6’s hardware is pre-synced. Once you’ve set up the router unit, you’ll find the other is already part of the mesh when you plug it in.

(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 and doesn’t require a login accout

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 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.

The point is is this, while this app is convenient and fun to use, it can be dangerous for those who like messing around too much.

AiProtection

The AiProtection is one of 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 XD6 AiProtection
The ZenWiFi XD6 has the helpful AiProtection feature.

Unlike the XD4, which has entered AiProtection, the XD6 shares the same level of this feature as the XT8 or any other high-end Asus router.

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

Like the case of all Asus routers, the Parental Control portion is a bit too simplistic, rigid, and lacking. The way Asus defines categories for web-filtering is vague. On top of that, you can’t use it to block a particular website.

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.

See also  QoS Explained and How to Get Better Voice and Video Calls over Wi-Fi
ZenWiFi XD6 Qos
The interface of ZenWiFi XD6’s QoS feature.

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

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.
  • Traffic Analyzer: A set of tools and statistics in case you want to find out what’s been going on in the network in a set amount of time, and in real-time.
  • The usual set of network settings and features: These include Dynamic DNS, IP reservation, Port-forwarding, VPN server, and some Alexa Skills.
  • Frequent firmware update: Asus pushes out firmware updates on a regular basis to, for the most part, fix issues and improve its routers’ performance and function.
ZenWiFi XD6 Tools
Wake on LAN is an excellent tool in case you need to remotely turn on a network device.

By the way, I tested the XD6 with the latest firmware. Its initial firmware was a bit buggy, which is why I waited until now to publish the review. The mesh was first released earlier this year.

ZenWiFi XD6: Detail photos

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band mesh system includes two identical routers.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual band Mesh WiFi System
Each XD6 router is a dual-band AX5400 broadcaster.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
The 2-pack Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 from the top.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
On the side, each router has ventilation grills.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
The underside of a ZenWiFi XD6 router.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
Each Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band router comes with one WAN port and for LAN port, all Gigabit.

The Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band Mesh WiFi System
The 2-pack Asus ZenWiFi XD6 AX5400 Dual-band mesh system’s retail box.

ZenWiFi XD6: Excellent performance

I tested the XD6 as a single router and as a 2-pack wireless mesh system, and it did very well in terms of sustained throughput speeds, as you can see in the performance charts.

The wireless mesh also passed my week-long stress test with no issue at all. I used it as our primary home system, and everyone was happy during the trial.

ZenWiFi XD6 Router Performance
Note: Different Wi-Fi 5 clients in use: 4×4 in close-range tests and 3×3 in long-range tests.

Again, the system works best when you use a network cable to link the hardware. In this case, you can expect the performance of the satellite unit to be the same as that of the router unit. But even in a wireless setup, the XD6 satellite did well, even against some tri-band counterparts.

ZenWiFi XD6 Satellite Performance

Despite the smaller footprint, the XD8 had an excellent range in my testing, about the same as the XT8.

Wi-Fi coverage is always tricky to figure out precisely since it depends on the environment, but you can count 2-pack XD6 to cover some 4000 ft² (372 m²) when placed strategically.

Conclusion

The ZenWiFi XD6 is an excellent dual-band mesh system. It’ll work well in a wireless setup if you don’t need to get the best performance out of it. And if you have gotten your home wired — as you should — it’ll be even better.

See also  How to Get your Home Wired with Network Cables (Almost) Like a Pro

In this case, the fact each hardware unit has multiple network ports means when you need more than two units, you can daisy chain them, which saves you from having to get a switch, like the case of the XD4. And it’s always nice to be able to plug a few wired devices into your network immediately.

The lack of a USB port and the support for Multi-Gig sure is a bit of a downer. But if Gigabit is all you need, which is the case for most of us, this is an excellent buy. Get it!

Looking for more matchups in Wi-Fi solutions? Check them all out here.

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19 thoughts on “ZenWiFi XD6 review (vs ZenWiFi XT8): An Excellent (Wired) Mesh Alternative”

  1. Hi Dong,

    Amazing page you have here. You’re so thorough and you make this stuff understandable to a novice.

    I want to upgrade my router to a mesh system. I have Cat6 wired in most places and plan to purchase the Asus Zen XD6 per your recommendations and rationale. My question is, I can get the XT8 for nearly the same price. I have a NAS that hosts my plex media server. I don’t have fiber internet and my top speed from my service provider is 200mbs. I don’t think I will ever have fiber internet. My NAS is capable of 2.5 GBE (2 ports). Should I consider the XT8 over the XD6 given the similar pricing and the 2.5Ge or do I really need a mesh router with link aggregation to improve my NAS since my ISP speed is 1g?

    Thanks!!!

    Joe

    Reply
  2. Hello Dong, thanks again for the hard work reviewing these routers. I have been thinking about upgrading my old router to a new mesh system to get more coverage in the house + backyard. Since my house has wired ethernet (Cat 5e) I was considering the TP Link deco x5700 (with wired back haul) since this tops the performance charts, and beats the XD6 in performance. The TP Link x5700 is on sale at Costco for $299, $80 cheaper than the new XD6. Do you think the new XD6 is worth the $80 more in my case?

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong. I am really considering the XD6 system for my home. I have(will have) wired capability and 3 floors to cover in a larger home. So I am thinking a node on each floor for coverage. To explain a little more, my in-laws live in the basement. My question is should/can I buy an additional node for the 3rd floor? Or are there any other recommendations/setups for the Ai mesh? I really would like to have some signal out in the backyard as well, so great wifi signal strength is a must. I do have 1G service from AT&T.

    Reply
    • I’d start with a 2-pack and see how that goes, Jamie. You can always scale up with more dual-band at a latter time. Check out my posts on AiMesh for more.

      Reply
      • Indeed Wi-Fi coverage would be most important for me. Any reason why the XD6 would be better for this? I would have expected the AX82U to be preferred though with its 4 large antennae.

        I couldn’t find a direct comparison of their mesh performance, but saw in one of your posts that the AX88U performed a bit better than the XT8 as a satellite… So I expected the AX82U would similarly be preferable to the XD6.
        https://dongknows.com/asus-rt-ax3000-rt-ax58u-review/

        Reply
        • Yes, Matt. Chances are, the RT-AX82U is slightly better in terms of coverage in a wireless mesh setup. However, if you have wired your place, the difference is very minimum, if at all.

          Reply
  4. While the XD6 is a nice addition to the Asus product line, the real “missing link” would be an upgrade to the XT8 that makes all of the LAN ports 2.5 gb instead of just the WAN port. Assuming you have a wired mesh interconnect, if they did that, then all of the XT8 nodes that are operating as mesh extensions could use their WAN port to connect to the base router XT8-replacement at 2.5 gb, and you could also connect a relatively reasonably priced 2.5 gb LAN switch to one of the ports and start upgrading wired ethernet nodes to 2.5 gb as well. This would be a significant and reasonably priced upgrade path to a 2.5 gb home network given the leap to full 10 gb is still somewhat pricey. Also, given that many ISPs are now offering Internet backhauls at speed above 1 gbps (Comcasts 1gb offering is really provisioned at about 1.4 gbps at the cable modem and will probably inch higher in the future) you would enable user nodes to really take advantage of greater than gb speeds. If anyone at Asus is reading this stream (I assume some of them are), then try and get that product to market asap!

    Reply
  5. Hi Dong.

    TokyoJerry here again. Regard your last point on matchups, I checked your listings to see if I had something similar to mine, but didn’t find any.

    Current setup:
    RT-AX86U (Dual-band)
    RT-AX92U (Tri-band)

    I use these with AX92 being the router and AX86, the satellite in AiMesh. I’m considering to go with 2 same units of one or the other thinking two (2) Tri-band units is better than a mix match. I’d have the extra 5Ghz band for wireless backhaul. Currently the AX 86 and AX92 are wired with 1Gb. But then, the AX92 does have multigig. Thoughts? Thanks.

    Reply

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