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Asus ZenWiFi XT9 (vs XT8): A Slightly Improved, Still Lacking, UNII-4-ready Variant

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With the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 around the corner, you might have missed another variant in this Tri-band AiMesh family, the ZenWiFi XT9.

First quietly unveiled back in May, the XT9, as the name suggests, is a step between the XT8 and the XT12. And its hardware specs show precisely that.

This post will fill you in on the currently known details of this upcoming mesh set. In a way, this is a piece on a ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8 matchup.

ZenWiFi XT9 BlackZenWiFi XT9 White
Like the case of the ZenWiFi XT8, the ZenWiFi XT9 also comes in Black and White versions.

ZenWiFi XT9: The XT8 with a slightly faster 5GHz-1 band

Physically, the XT9 looks the same as the XT8, taking the single-slot-toaster design. Each hardware unit is an up-standing box that resembles a toaster big enough to handle half a bagel at a time.

The new broadcaster is available in a 2-pack. Still, you likely can also get a single unit as a standalone router and add more units later to expand the coverage using Asus’s now popular AiMesh approach. It’s also available in black or white.

If you get a 2-pack, the hardware is pre-sync, which simplifies the setup process.

ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8: Hardware specifications

A ZenWiFi XT9 mesh router looks identical to an XT8 counterpart. There are no discernable visual differences between the two.

On the inside, the two have only a few minor differences. Specifically, the XT9’s first 5GHz band (5GHz-1) now supports the 160MHz channel width and has double the bandwidth. It also runs on a slightly more powerful CPU.

Both the XT9 and XT8 support UNII-4 to improve wireless backhauling.

5.9GHz Wi-Fi 6: What UNII-4 is and why it can be exciting

ModelZenWiFi XT9ZenWiFi XT8
Full NameASUS ZenWiFi XT9 Mesh RouterAsus ZenWiFi XT8 Mesh Router
Mesh-ReadyYes
(AiMesh)
Yes
(AiMesh)
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)
Weight1.63 lbs (740 g)1.56 lbs (710 g)
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs2 x 2 AX
Up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2 x 2 AX
Up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs
(channel width)
2×2 AX
Up to 2402Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
2×2 AX
Up to 1201Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
UNII-4 SupportYes
(at launch)
Yes
(via firmware updates)
Wi-Fi DesignationAX7800AX6600
Dedicated Backhaul BandYes (5GHz-2)Yes (5GHz-2)
Wired BackhaulYesYes
Backward Compatibility802.11ac/n/g/a/b802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Mobile AppAsus RouterAsus Router
Web User InterfaceYes (Full)Yes (Full)
AP ModeYes
(as a router or a mesh)
Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
USB Port1 x USB 3.2 Gen 11 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
Gigabit Port3 x LAN 3 x LAN
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN
Link AggregationYes
LAN-only
No
Dual-WANYesYes
Processing Power1.7GHz quad-core CPU,
256MB Flash, 512MB DDR4 RAM
1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256MB Flash, 512MB DDR3 RAM
Release DateSeptember 2022 (?)February 2020
Power AdapterAC Input: 110V~240V (50~60Hz)
DC Output : 12V 3A
AC Input: 110V~240V (50~60Hz)
DC Output : 19V 1.75A
US Price
(at launch)
$499.99$449.99
Hardware specifications: ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8.

In all, had Asus kept its original promise to give the XT8 a firmware update that enables its 5GHz-1 to support the 160MHz channel width, the XT9 would have had little reason to come into existence.

ZenWiFi XT9 FrontZenWiFi XT9 Black Ports
The front and back of a ZenWiFi XT9 mesh router

The familiar ZenWiFi experience

Other than the differences noted in the table above, the rest of the ZenWiFi XT9 is the same as the XT8. And that includes the familiar Asuswrt firmware with a comprehensive set of features and settings available to all ZenWiFi variants and Asus routers.

The new mesh is designed primarily for homes with sub-Gigabit broadband that need a fully wireless mesh system though it will also work well with wired backhauling. There’s hope it’ll be less buggy when used that way — the XT8 was initially buggy when you use a network cable to link the hardware units though it has improved a great deal via firmware updates on this front.

Backhaul vs fronthaul

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel, at any given time.

The above principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards. The upcoming Wi-Fi 7 might work differently.

Generally, when you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters, like in the case of a mesh network, there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signal a mesh hub broadcasts outward for clients or its network ports for wired devices. It’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

On the other hand, backhaul, a.k.a backbone, is the link between one broadcasting hub and another, be it the main router, a switch, or another satellite hub.

This link works behind the scene to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular satellite hub.

The connection type, a Wi-Fi band or a network port, used for the backhaul is often referred to as the uplink. A Wi-Fi broadcaster might use one of its bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz) or a network port for the uplink.

Dual-WAN: Where the distinction between bandwidth vs speed is clear

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half of its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.

When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called the dedicated backhaul.

In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware — those with an additional 5GHz band — can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.

Generally, it’s best to use a network cable for backhauling — wired backhauling. And that’s an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a hub can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

The takeaway

Unlike the recently announced all-new ROG Rapture GT6, the ZenWiFi XT9, in more ways than one, is just a slightly improved version of the XT8. At the very least, it looks the same and leaves much to be desired, such as the lack of a 2nd Multi-Gig port or the 4×4 specs on the 5GHz-1 band.

Asus is currently tight-lipped on when the ZenWiFi XT9 will be available, and how much it will cost — we’ll likely find out soon. It’s safe to say the new mesh will be better than the XT8, but by a small margin. Let’s hope its pricing will reflect all that accordingly.

Update: Asus made the XT9 available in mid-October 2022 for $499.99 — that’s $50 more expensive than the XT8 at launch, or $130 more than its current street price. The pricing is reasonable, considering its slight added performance boost, and will likely go down starting with the upcoming holidays.

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40 thoughts on “Asus ZenWiFi XT9 (vs XT8): A Slightly Improved, Still Lacking, UNII-4-ready Variant”

  1. I purchased 2 XT8 after reading your review. Planning to get a XT9 as main router and keep the 2 XT8 as satellite. Will this cause any trouble with roaming and backhaul? XT9 has a slightly better processor and DDR4 RAM hence this combination.

    Reply
  2. Hi Dong,
    I am trying to decide between XT8 and XT9 ($100 difference). I understand that the main difference is support for 160mhz channel on 5ghz.
    If some clients don’t support 160mhz, will 160 be used at all? Can a 160mhz channel be used alongside other channels i.e. can 160mhz client use 160 channel when other clients cannot?
    This will help me to decide whether to spend $100 more for XT9.

    Reply
  3. Hello,

    First of all very good and comprehensive tests. Based on your input, I have bought a XT9 mesh system and I have the following issue: if the wifi clients are not in use ( those connected to the node) the node goes from the designated wifi backhaul connection 5GHz -2 to 2,4 GHz and I do not understand why. Is there a setting that that “tells” the node to stay permanently connected to the router despite not being in use?Thanks.

    Reply
      • thanks for the reply.however,i was unable to fully understand what exactly I need to set up as the only thing I was able to find related to managing the backhaul connection was related to desabling the DFS channels,but I do not have such option in the web based version for the backhaul connection.could it be affected also by the fact that near it I have a former router still active which I want to replace?I have tried also to set up manually the channel to 136 where the signal is strong instead of leaving it on manual.Any further advise is much appreciated.thanks

        Reply
        • I can’t help with reading comprehension, andrew, but I can tell you for sure that the information is there in the post — here it is again. Give it a serious read! Generally, that means starting from the beginning and strolling down without skipping around. No more questions until you’ve done that, please.

          Reply
  4. Hi Dong,
    Thanks for all your knowledgeable and informative articles. They are very useful.
    I have 800mbs connection and 2000sqft 2floored house. I have XT9 2 pack. It gives me around 900mbps all around the house when the client is connected to the nearest node. But I observed that clients don’t steer from node to node when they move around and so the speed goes down to 300mbps at the farthest location, defeating the purpose of the mesh network. (My Pixel 7 pro is connected to the main node for the last 2 days and never connected to another node even when I was standing next to it.)
    So I started thinking will it be better to use single/standalone XT12 or ET12 instead? Will they, especially XT12, give me better speed at the farthest location than XT9? What would you recommend?
    Price point is similar
    XT9 2pack: $440, XT12 1pack: $400, ET12 1pack: $480
    Note: Before XT9 I had RBK752 and the steering issue was less obvious at the farthest location but I never got speed beyond 600mbps even next to the main node.

    Reply
    • A single XT12 or ET12 won’t be better in coverage than a 2-pack XT9, Ketan. As for your issue:

      1. 300Mpbs is plenty fast, why do you need more on your phone? What’s the point of having faster speeds there? There’s nothing you can do with more bandwidth on it. More about testing in the post and generally it’s better and makes more sense to *use* the connection than to test it. As long as it’s fast enough for your needs, you should move on. Getting obsessed with speedtest numbers is a waste of time.
      2. Check out this post on how to configure roaming assistance.

      Reply
      • Looks like there is an issue with XT9 firmware roaming assistance. I enabled it and set it to -70bdBm.
        I checked the Asus app, it shows that my phone connection is at -78dBm. But it does not steer to connect to another node. Any clue?

        Reply
  5. I am enjoying reading all the comments about XT8 vx XT9. I am especially interested about the parental controls. The XT9 says “parental controls customized internet schedule.” Is this just a time schedule option?

    Reply
  6. Asus Website indicates the USB port has been upgraded to 3.2 on the XT9 but you are showing that both XT8 and XT9 have 3.2.

    Can you please confirm that XT8 already had USB 3.2?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Hello Dong,

    Do you think the XT9 ($500 2/pack on Amazon) is worth the extra cost over the XT8 ($370 2/pack at Best Buy)?

    We recently moved into a larger (3500 sf) house with 2 stories plus finished basement (wi-fi used in all three floors of the house), so I’m looking to replace an old Asus TM-AC1900 router with a new mesh system. I’m planning to start with a 2 piece mesh system and see how that works, but expecting I may need to add a third device (one for each floor of the house).

    Our internet service plan is 900 Mbps.

    We have two kids, so some gaming and lots of streaming. Both my wife and I work from home. There is streaming on a couple of TVs, as well as other common household devices connected to wi-fi.

    Our current router doesn’t work too bad in our new home, but definitely a few dead spots, and sometimes notice lower speeds, such as streaming on the TV upstairs. Are we going to see a big difference from the extra speed of the XT9 compared to the XT8? Is the WPA3 security on the XT9 worth the upgrade from WPA2 security on the XT8? There will not be any wired connections between the router devices, so relying on the 3rd band for backhaul.

    Obviously saving some money is important and why I’m asking, but also want to somewhat “future proof” the system if I will be spending the money.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • It’s your call, Tim, but considering your Internet speed, I’d say you’ll see little difference between the two if at all. More in this post. The XT8 supports WPA3 which is just a matter of firmware and you shouldn’t use it exclusively anyway since not all clients support it. More in this post.

      Reply
  8. Anyone actually has this model, could you report if it has the repeater operating mode? Asus’ website says no, but I found quite a few inconsistencies between the specs Asus’ website reports and what’s available in my XT8.

    Reply
    • It’s AiMesh hardware so naturally that’s a repeater mode, Tanay, when wired backhauling is not used.

      This one is likely the same as the XT8 save for the hardware specs as mentioned.

      Reply
      • At home I’ll use it as AiMesh, so no worries about mesh capability. I was meaning the pure repeater mode to extend the range of non-Asus routers.
        I rely on that mode when I live at my summer condo, where I don’t have my own broadband, but relay my brother’s network (who lives next door) to my flat.
        Looking at the specs of XT8 and XT9 on Asus’ webpage, repeater mode is listed in XT8, but not in XT9. This seems strange, and I wanted to see if that’s a typo or maybe repeater mode wasn’t available at release but added with a recent firmware.

        Reply
        • Got it. I haven’t tested it yet but I can almost bet that it will have that role. But we’ll have to wait and see, it’s not available yet.

          Reply
          • Thanks.

            Here are the differences Asus’ website lists between XT8 and XT9: https://imgur.com/zJneyNv

            To your knowledge, is this list accurate for XT8? I’m pretty sure XT8 has features such as auto firmware updates and real-time traffic monitoring. But seeing all these differences, I almost think if XT9 runs a different software stack that has some extra features but may have repeater functionality trimmed. Any comments?

          • It’s not accurate for the XT8 with the latest firmware. I guess the specs were published at different times with different firmware versions. In any case, you should ask Asus to make sure or wait till the XT9 is available. There’s no point in speculating.

    • Thanks for the typo report, Adam. Next time you can just highlight the text and hit the red buton that jumps out on top of the page.

      And come on, I think you’re stronger than that! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. Hi Dong,

    Just wanted to ask your opinion on the Asus XT8 2 pack.
    I currently have my house wired for 10Gb network and my ISP is providing 3GBs fibre internet service to my home so my wired speed is at least 1GB, 2.5 GB or 10GB to select wired devices. I am using ISP provided router which is wifi 6 capable (but not 6E) to deliver wifi throughout the house. I have also 6 Plume pods throughout different locations in my house and coverage is OK and speed is OK as well.These pods are wifi 6 standard capable but not 6E. Wifi speeds are very respectable already, in my opinion, and vary between 250Mbs throughout the house and 650Mbs close to the ISP router in the basement. Even outside on the backyard and driveway , wifi speeds still are above 200Mbs. So while I am not complaining, I was wondering if I could achieve higher wifi speeds with Asus XT 2 pack that I got for a very attractive price. I would love to get to 1Gbs or above for wifi speeds throughout my house . Is that achievable in my environment with Asus XT 2 pack or with some other solution perhaps? . My wired speeds are good already so just wifi improvements that I am after πŸ™‚

    What would be realistic wifi speeds that I could achieve with Asus XT 2 -pack and how would you recommend I set this up please?

    Thanks,
    Marek G

    However, here is my question, if I wanted to improve

    Reply
    • You will get faster speeds with the XT8, Marek, mostly because your current hardware is REALLY bad. It’s impossible to predict realistic speeds — that depends on many factors. For your case with Multi-Gigabit broadband, though, I’d recommend going wired backhaul, and if so, the XT8 is not a good fit (though it works.) More in this post.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong for a quick reply. Much appreciated. I am curious to know why you are saying that my “current hardware is REALLy bad” πŸ™‚ Is it because I am using ISP provided modem/router combo ?

        I will read the post that you suggested but one quick question I have about wired back haul is this – since I have my whole house wired and each Ethernet jack throughout my house is connected to a port on QNAP 10GBs/2.5GBs Managed Switch and then my ISP router/modem is connected to that QNAP switch via 10GB cable. Could I then connect one Asus XT unit to the router/modem via one of the many Ethernet jacks throughout the house or do I need to connect it directly to ISP router/modem ? I would prefer not to connect XT in the basement directly to the ISP router/modem as I don’t really need better wifi speeds in the basement where the modem is but just on first and second level of my house. So I was hoping that I could install one XT unit on each level.

        Thanks,
        Marek

        Reply
        • Those “pods” are the worst. They are slow and designed to spy on your network. Please read the previously linked posts and related ones to learn more. Use the site’s search — here’s the post on how to install a router! Generally, don’t go for cheap, you’d get what you pay for and in this case, chances are you don’t even know the true cost. Make sure you read and respect the comment rules before asking any more questions. πŸ™‚

          Reply
  10. Interesting, … but both underwhelming and disappointing as this model pretty much seals the fate of the 160 MHz channel bandwidth capability never coming to the XT8’s 5GHz-1 band.

    And I would also think a more appropriate name for this model would be “XT8 plus” or some similar, since “XT9” would mean 9 max. total MIMO data streams under the Asus naming convention. Whereas the XT9 still has only 8 streams max. with two of them just at a slightly higher data rate than the XT8.

    Reply

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