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Picking the Best Asus AiMesh Router Combos: The Real-World Experience

In this post, you’ll find the answers to picking the best AiMesh router combination that fits a particular situation. When through, chances are you’ll be able to build yourself a flexible, feature-laden, privacy-friendly Wi-Fi solution that’s also well-performing and reliable.

See also  Best Home Mesh Brands in Brief: AiMesh, eero, Orbi, Velop, and More

Unlike most canned mesh systems — like the eero, Netgear Orbi, TP-Link Deco, or Linksys Velop — AiMesh can be a bit hard to set up and use. It can also be buggy, especially when you pick the wrong combo, which is why I wrote this piece.

But AiMesh also has the most to offer among all home mesh options. You’re opting for a somewhat adventurous, albeit exciting, Wi-Fi approach here. It’s worth it!

Since I have already written extensively on this subject, consider this post the supplement to my take on Asus’s AiMesh as a whole. I assumed you had read that post. If not, you should do that when having additional AiMesh-related questions.

Dong’s note: I first published this piece on February 28, 2021, and updated it on April 20 to add more relevant information.

AiMesh with GT AXE11000
My current AiMesh setup with the GT-AXE11000 as the primary router — not necessarily what you should get.
See also  AiMesh in 2021: Asus's Ongoing Effort to Excellent Wi-Fi Coverage

How to pick the best AiMesh Router Combos: The rules of thumb

Below is the list of existing Asus routers that can work as part of an AiMesh Wi-Fi system. It’s not complete and only includes broadcasters available in the U.S. market.

AiMesh hardware

The way it works, you use one router as the primary node, and the rest will work as a satellite node(s) to scale up the coverage. The primary router decides the features of your mesh.


Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) AiMesh broadcasters

Wi-Fi 6/E (802.11ax) AiMesh broadcasters


Technically, you can arbitrarily use a combo of any broadcasters above to create a mesh system, and it will work. It’s a matter of degrees. The point is don’t do that. Instead, follow these tips to make sure you get the best out of your hardware.

For the most part, though, picking AiMesh hardware is similar to that of any mesh system.

See also  Mesh Wi-Fi System Explained: How to Best Use Multiple Broadcasters

Wired backhaul is generally recommended, especially for Dual-band (or Wi-Fi 6E Tri-band) hardware

Like all home mesh systems, you should use the wired backhaul. That is when you use a network cable to connect the main router and a satellite unit.

In this case, you can use CAT5e (or higher-grade) network cables — Gigabit or faster wiring is a must. You can daisy-chain the hardware units or place (unmanaged) switch(es) in between them.

Generally, for now, you don’t have a viable option of using a Multi-Gig connection as the wired backhaul yet. For that, you’ll need a router with a Multi-Gig LAN port and a node with a Multi-Gig WAN port, and maybe a Multi-Gig switch.

But with network cabling, you can use almost any router combo without worrying about performance or reliability.

(“Almost” is the key here. There are some specific sets that you might want to avoid using wired backhauls — more below.)

That said, if you intend to mix hardware of different Wi-Fi grades or standards — dual-stream (2×2) vs. three-stream (3×3) vs. quad-stream (4×4), or Wi-Fi 5 vs. Wi-Fi 6 — then you should think about getting your home wired first.

But generally, if you use dual-band hardware or mix Wi-Fi grades, it’s best to use wired backhauls. And vice versa, if you have wired your home, there’s no need to use traditional tri-band hardware.

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

Tri-band hardware is generally recommended in a fully wireless setup

For the best-performing system, you should consider tri-band hardware. Specifically, you want to use broadcasters with an additional 5GHz band that works as the dedicated backhaul.

In most cases, using dual-band hardware works, too. However, you will get only 50 percent of the satellite (node) unit’s speed due to signal loss. So, if you don’t need the node’s top Wi-Fi speed, then dual-band hardware will do. The key is what type of performance you want.

Minimize mixing hardware

It’s always safest in terms of performance and reliability when you use the same routers across the entire system.

However, that’s not a must, and also not exactly economical. Sometimes, you want to mix a router with the best feature set with a more affordable node. Of course, in this case, you’ll get the Wi-Fi performance at each mesh unit according to their hardware specs.

Again, if you use wired backhaul, there’s not much concern here. But if you think of a wireless mesh, it’s best to use routers of the same Wi-Fi standard (Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6) and performance tiers for better reliability.

Specifically, if you use a 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 router as the primary node, the rest of the nodes should also be 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 hardware. The same goes for Wi-Fi 5 equipment.

Rules in mixing hardware

If you have broadcasters of different Wi-Fi standards and/or Wi-Fi performance tiers — often the case when you buy a new router and want to keep the old one as part of a mesh — then here is what you should do in this particular order when possible:

  1. Use wired backhaul. A mix of wired and wireless backhaul is still better than full wireless. In this case, the primary router unit should be wired to the first node, but you can also wire just the nodes together.
  2. Pick the best router for the primary node (this is the device that decides the features of your network):
    • It should be one of the highest Wi-Fi tiers, measured in the number of streams (4×4, 3×3, 2×2, etc.).
    • It’s the one with the most bands. So, pick the tri-band instead of the dual-band if you have both.
    • Use the latest router with the most feature. So pick the Wi-Fi 6 router if you also have Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters.
  3. Pick the right nodes (you generally have little or no control over the node’s feature or settings):
    • Wireless backhaul: Use nodes of the same Wi-Fi tier as the router, at least on the 5GHz (backhaul) band. If not, make sure the main router and the satellite node use the same Wi-Fi standards and tier. In most cases, this means you have to use them in the compatibility mode. Else, they can’t connect.
    • Wired backhaul: Use (dual-band) nodes with the performance (when working as a standalone router) of your choice.
  4. Expect some bugs: Since there are so many possible combos, mixing hardware arbitrarily likely will result in unexpected bugs. This is especially true when you use a fully wireless setup. Again, think about running network cables!
  5. AP mode (applicable only to a wired home): Consider using a node as a standard access point (AP). While this setup will not give you a real mesh system — you can’t control the AP’s Wi-Fi settings via the main router — it’ll give you excellent performance, reliability, and more control. Specifically:
    • You can take full control of the satellite hardware, including some extra features availabe in the AP mode (Wi-Fi settings, USB-related, lighting, and others).
    • If your primary router is a dual-band and the AiMesh satellite is a tri-band, you can then use the node’s 5GHz-2 band, which is not available in the AiMesh mode.
    • You can use a third-party router (or AP) or a non-AiMesh Asus router, such as the RT-AC3200.

With that out of the way, below are my experience with certain AiMesh routers and combos when used as a mesh.

Best AiMesh routers and combos: The battle-tested list

This part results from many hours — days, weeks, and months in most cases — of testing and real-world usage via dozens of AiMesh combos I’ve used (or had access to) since Asus first introduced this feature in early 2018.

Indeed, it consists of AiMesh routers and purposed-built systems, all after my extended first-hand experience from a couple of weeks to tens of months.

This list is sorted in the order of my experience, newest on top — the order is not meant to be the ranking. Go through them all, and you’ll find out which fits your needs and budget.

15. RP-AX56

Asus RP AX56 AX1800 Dual Band Wi Fi 6 Repeater Out of box
The Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater comes in a plug-in design.

The RP-AX56 is an extender (repeater) by design and can work with any router. But it works best as an AiMesh node in a wired (recommended) or wireless setup.

Note, though, that this is a modest piece of hardware. It features 2×2 80MHz Wi-Fi 6 and therefore caps at 1.2Gbps at best. Most importantly, it can’t handle DFS or 160MHz channels and won’t work with a router that uses these settings in a wireless setup.

That said, this is a node for those using an entry-level AiMesh router or a high-end one set up with wired backhaul or in the compatibility mode (wireless backhaul).

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable).
  • Recommended router:
    • Wireless: Dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 routers without the use of DFS or 160MHz channel width.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers. AP mode is available.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes, but without a system-wide Guest network. (Currently running the initial firmware.)
  • Routers I’ve tried: RT-AX82U, RT-AX3000, RT-AX89X.

Asus RP-AX56 AX1800 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Repeater

$99.99
8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Reliable and relatively fast Wi-Fi with good coverage
  • Can work as an Access Point, a Media Bridge, an Extender, or an AiMesh node (via wireless or wired backhaul)
  • Convenient design, excellent web interface

Cons

  • No 160MHz bandwidth, modest specs
  • No Guest network when working as an AiMesh node (for now)
  • The Initial firmware is a bit buggy
  • Bulky
See also  Asus RP-AX56 Review: A Solid and Versatile Budget Mesh-Ready Broadcaster

14. RT-AX68U

Asus RT AX68U 3
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The RT-AX68U is likely one of the most affordable AiMesh routers.

The RT-AX68U is a bit special. It’s the only 3×3 Wi-Fi 6 router on this list, and it’s also quite affordable. It’s a better version of the RT-AC68U that came out a couple of years ago.

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 router with a 3×3 5GHz band, namely itself.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with the initial firmware.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX68U, ZenWiFi Mini XD4 (wired backhaul).

Asus RT-AX68U AX2700 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$199.99
8.9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast performance, excellent range, reliable
  • Tons of helpful networking features and settings, including AiMesh 2.0
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Excellent NAS performance and features when hosting a storage device
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No Multi-Gig ports or 160MHz channel width suport
  • Not wall-mountable
See also  Asus RT-AX68U Review: An Entry-Level Wi-Fi 6 Router that Won't Disappoint

13. GT-AXE11000

Asus GT AXE11000 14
Best AiMesh Router Combos: Avoid using the GT-AXE11000 in a wireless AiMesh setup, even with two hardware units.

While this is a bit premature — Wi-Fi 6E is not even fully here yet — this latest router is an excellent host for a wired AiMesh system. In this case, keep in mind that even though the GT-AXE11000 has three bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz), you would consider it a “dual-band” router.

See also  Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi Explained: 2021's New Bandwidth Question

Notes on using AiMesh (if you can’t wait):

  • Backhaul: Wired only. Truth be told, you shouldn’t use this router at all, never mind as an AiMesh router until Wi-Fi 6E is fully ready. But if you can’t help it, use it as a standalone router or a WIRED mesh host. Don’t use it in a wireless backhaul, at least not before Wi-Fi 6E is certified — I’ll update its review and this post by then.
  • Recommended nodes: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers — since this is a wired setup.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with the initial firmware.
  • Nodes I’ve used: GT-AXE11000, RT-AX86U, RT-AX82U, RT-AX88U, RT-AC88U, RT-AC86U.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 Wi-Fi 6E Gaming Router

$549.99
8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Tri-band with Wi-Fi 6E support
  • Excellent 5GHz and 2.4GHz performance
  • Excellent set of game-related, online protection and monitoring features, full support for AiMesh 2.0
  • 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN port, Dual-WAN, and LAN/WAN Link Aggregations

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Wi-Fi 6E is not fully available
  • Only one 2.5Gbps port, no 10Gbps port
  • Bulky design, not wall-mountable, buggy firmware (at launch)
See also  Asus GT-AXE11000 Router Review: A Massive Wi-Fi Luxury, for Now

12. RT-AX86U

The Asus RT-AX86U is an Excellent Gaming Router
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX86U is an excellent AiMesh host

The Asus RT-AX86U is a safe choice to be an AiMesh host. It’s so far the best dual-band router on the market, after all.

Notes on using AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41535.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX86U, RT-AX82U, RT-AX88U, RT-AX58U, RP-AX56 (wired and wireless backhaul), ZenWiFi XD4 (wired backhaul).

ASUS RT-AX86U AX5700 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

9

Performance

9.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast performance, excellent range, reliable
  • Tons of helpful networking features and settings
  • Useful settings for online gaming
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Multi-gig, WAN/LAN Link Aggregation support
  • Excellent NAS performance and features when hosting a storage device
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No support for WTFast Gamer VPN
  • Not wall-mountable
  • Gaming features turn Adaptive QoS off
  • The single Multi-gig port caps at 2.5 Gbps
See also  Asus RT-AX86U Review: Arguably the Best Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router to Date

11. RT-AX3000 / RT-AX58U

Asus RT AX3000 RT AX58U Routers Top
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX3000 and RT-AX58U makes an excellent AiMesh pair.

The RT-AX3000 is virtually the same as the RT-AX58U, and the pair makes an excellent AiMesh setup, especially if you use the wired backhaul.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (not recommended).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router with a 2×2 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier or lower.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX58U, RP-AX56 (wired and wireless), ZenWiFi XD4 (wired), RT-AC86U (wired).

ASUS RT-AX3000 Dual Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$179.99
8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • 160 MHz channel support
  • Fast and reliable performance
  • Ton of useful features with excellent AiMesh support
  • Full web interface and well-design mobile app
  • Compact design, wall-mountable

Cons

  • No multi-gig port or Link Aggregation
  • Modest hardware specs
  • Relatively short Wi-Fi range
  • The Parental Control feature could use some improvement
See also  Asus RT-AX3000 vs RT-AX58U Review: A Solid AiMesh Pair

10. RT-AX82U

Asus RT AX82U Front
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT-AX82U and its unique programmable front-facing Aura RGB lighting.

The Asus RT-AX82U is almost the same as the RT-AX86U above in terms of performance and features. The two share the same 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 band, which is strong enough to handle both backhaul and clients in most cases.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4 (wired backhaul), RT-AC86U.

Asus RT-AX82U AX5400 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

9.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Beautiful design with tons of helpful networking, game-related features and settings
  • Robust web UI, well-designed mobile app
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • No support for WTFast Gamer VPN
  • No multi-gig network port
  • Network storage performance (when hosting a portable drive) could use some improvement
  • Not wall-mountable
See also  Asus RT-AX82U Gaming Router Review: A Fancy Little Wi-Fi 6 Performer

9. RT-AX89X

Asus RT AX89X Hand
Best AiMesh Router Combos: That’s my hand on the Asus RT-AX89X Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Asus RT-AX89X is quite different since it’s the only Wi-Fi 6 router on this list that uses a Qualcomm chip. As a result, it doesn’t have the best support for AiMesh — it works best as a standalone router. But if you’re building a wired network, it can still work as an excellent host.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired only. I didn’t have a good experience using this router in a wireless AiMesh setup.
  • Recommended nodes: Any dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Partially with the latest firmware. No system-wide Guest network yet.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX88U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4, RT-AC86U.

ASUS RT-AX89X AX6000 Dual Band WiFi 6 Router

9

Performance

9.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent Wi-Fi performance
  • Uniquely cool design with two 10Gbps network ports
  • Eight Gigabit network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Super-fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive
  • Tons of useful features, including free-for-life real-time online protection, and AiMesh

Cons

  • A bit buggy at launch, relatively expensive
  • Smart Connect setting not available at launch
  • Tweaking required to deliver top Wi-Fi 6 speeds
  • Bulky physical size with internal fan
  • Web interface needs work
  • Not wall-mountable, no universal backup restoration
See also  Asus RT-AX89X Review: Most Wi-Fi Bases. Covered. And More!

8. RT-AX88U

Asus RT AX88U
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The RT-AX88U comes in a traditional design of a Wi-Fi router.

In many ways, the RT-AX88U is the Wi-Fi 6 version of the RT-AC88U, which is an excellent router. The two look almost identical and share many similar features, including the eight Gigabit LAN ports and the lack of a multi-gig port.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41700.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX88U, RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi XD4 (wired backhaul), RT-AC86U (wired), RT-AC88U (wired).

ASUS RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

$310.99
8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance
  • Tons of useful features
  • Eight network ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Universal setting backup and restoration
  • Fast network attached storage speed when coupled with an external drive.
  • Merlin firmware support

Cons

  • No multi-gig network port
  • Buggy firmware (at review)
See also  Asus RT-AX88U Review: An Excellent Incremental Wi-Fi 6 Upgrade

7. RT-AX92U

Asus RT AX92U 2 Pack
Best AiMesh Router Combos: A 2-pack Asus RT-AX92U makes an excellent wireless AiMesh.

A 2-pack Asus RT-AX92U makes an excellent AiMesh wireless mesh system. It also supported wired backhaul well. In many ways, it’s the mini version of the GT-AX11000 below.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired or wireless (tri-band routers only).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier, namely itself. 5GHz-band works as the dedicated backhaul.
    • Wired: Any Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band is available only at tri-band nodes.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41712.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX92U.

ASUS RT-AX92U AX6100 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router

$219.98
8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Compact design, tri-band specs
  • Good performance, large coverage
  • Excellent set of features, including online protection, WTFast VPN for gamers, and system-wide Guest network when working as a mesh
  • Link Aggregation and Dual-WAN support, wall-mountable
  • Comparatively affordable

Cons

  • Wi-Fi 6 available only on one of the 5GHz bands
  • No Multi-Gig port
See also  Asus RT-AX92U Review: A Cute and Effective Little Odd One Out of AiMesh

6. GT-AX11000

Asus AX11000 Top 1
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus GT-AX11000 is a massive Wi-Fi 6 router.

The GT-AX11000 is the full-size version of the RT-AX92U above. It’s an excellent full-feature AiMesh host.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired or wireless (tri-band routers only).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers of the same tier, namely itself or the RT-AX92U. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band works as the dedicated backhaul.
    • Wired: Any Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 (dual-band) routers. In this case, the 5GHz-2 band is available only at tri-band nodes.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41712.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AX92U, RT-AX88U, RT-AX86U, RT-AX58U, ZenWiFi AX XT8, ZenWiFi XD4 (wired back), Lyra (wired), RT-AC86U (wired), RT-AC88U (wired), Blue Cave (wired).

ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Gaming Router

8.3

Performance

8.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance with excellent range
  • Lots of useful features for home users
  • Unique and effective settings for online gaming
  • Multi-Gig network port, Dual-WAN, Link Aggregation
  • Mesh ready

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Bulky design, loose antennas, non-wall-mountable
  • Fewer LAN ports than previous model
  • Long boot-up time, buggy (at launch), fluctuating Wi-Fi throughputs
See also  Asus GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 Router Review: A Pro Gamer's Delight

5. ZenWiFi AX XT8

ZenWiFi XT8 Box
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The ZenWiFi AX XT8 includes two identical routers.

This is the first purpose-built tri-band Wi-Fi 6 AiMesh set. As such, it’s designed primarily to work as a standalone wireless system (no network cables or other hardware involved.)

As a result, while this set support wired backhaul well, using a network cable to connect the two might cause issues when new firmware is released or deliver worse performance. This has happened multiple times since its release.

Important note: Unless you have issues, don’t update to a new firmware immediately (especially if you use wired backhaul). Instead, wait for a subsequent version. When running into issues after an update, revert to the previous firmware version.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (with caution) or wireless (recommended).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Partially. No system-wide Guest network yet.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 2-pack set.

ASUS ZenWiFi AX Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System (XT8)

8.9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance and large coverage at a comparatively affordable cost
  • Improved and flexible AiMesh
  • Lots of network settings and useful features, including free real-time online protection for life
  • Full 4x4 dedicated backhaul band with optional wired backhaul support
  • Multi-gig WAN port with Dual-WAN and WAN link aggregation

Cons

  • No 160MHz 4x4 support for Wi-Fi 6 clients, in a dedicated wireless backhaul setup
  • No multi-gig LAN port or LAN link aggregation
  • Only four network ports on each hardware units
  • Firmware can be buggy
  • Storage performance (when hosting an external drive) could be better
See also  Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8 AX6600 Review: The Best Wireless AiMesh Set to Date

4. ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4

Asus XD4 Mesh
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The XD4 is the first complete AiMesh combo.

As the name suggests, the XD4 is the mini version of the XT8 above. It works best in the wired backhaul setup, either as a standalone system or the nodes of another dual-band router among those mentioned above.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommend) or wireless (OK with low performance).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes, with a system-wide Guest network, right out of the box.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 3-pack set.

Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) AiMesh Wi-Fi 6 System

8.1

Performance

8.0/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Reliable performance
  • Improved AiMesh feature
  • Guest networking works throughout the system
  • Useful network settings and feature

Cons

  • No dedicated backhaul band or 160MHz channel width support
  • No multi-gig port, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
  • Stripped-down, borderline useless QoS and Parental Control features
  • Limited number of network ports, switch needed for a complete wired backhaul setup
  • Non-pre-synced hardware, not wall-mountable
See also  Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4) Review: The First Complete AiMesh Set

3. ZenWiFi AC CT8

Asus ZenWiFi CT8
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The ZenWiFi CT8 mesh Wi-Fi system.

The CT8 is the Wi-Fi 5 version of the XT8 above. It should be used as a standalone mesh set by itself via the wireless backhaul. While it supports wired backhaul, using a network cable to link the hardware might cause firmware-related issues.

Speaking of firmware, certain sets (not mine) have been reported to automatically update their firmware, which can be a headache if the new firmware is buggy.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (with caution) or wireless (recommended).
  • Recommended nodes: Itself.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Partially. No system-wide Guest network yet.
  • Nodes I’ve used: 2-pack set

ASUS ZenWiFi AC CT8 Whole-Home Tri-Band Mesh System

8.3

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

7.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Significantly improved AiMesh feature
  • Fast performance, excellent Wi-Fi coverage
  • Tons of useful features and settings, including free network real-time online protection for life
  • Fast dedicated backhaul, wired backhaul supported
  • Helpful mobile app

Cons

  • Web user interface doesn't always work as intended (bugs)
  • Only 3 LAN ports per router
  • Not enough setting instructions
  • Guest networking still has issues
  • The combo of buggy firmware and auto-update
See also  Asus ZenWiFi AC Review: A True, and Improved, Wireless AiMesh System

2. RT-AC88U

Asus RT AC88U
Best AiMesh Router Combos: The Asus RT AC88U is an all-around great router.

This one is the Wi-Fi 5 version of the RT-AX88U above, and that’s the only difference between the two. In an AiMesh system, though, the RT-AC88U, when working as the main router, should host only Wi-Fi 5 nodes unless you use wired backhaul.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.41535.
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AC88U, Blue Cave, RT-AC86U.

Asus RT-AC88U Wi-Fi Router

9

Performance

9.0/10

Features

9.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi performance with excellent coverage
  • Tons of useful features including the ability to guard the network against online threats
  • Eight LAN ports with Dual-WAN and Link Aggregation
  • Excellent support for Asus's AiMesh
  • Merlin firmware support

Cons

  • Awkwardly placed USB 3.0 ports
  • Slow network storage speed when coupled with an external hard drive
See also  Asus RT-AC88U Revisited: A Fine Wi-Fi 5 Router that Ages like Wine

1. RT-AC86U

A Pair of Asus RT-AC86U Routers make one of the Best Wi-Fi 5 Mesh Systems
Best AiMesh Router Combos: A pair of RT-AC86U units will make a great Wi-Fi AiMesh system.

This router is the first that supports AiMesh. In other words, together with it, Asus released these mesh features, paving the way to scaleable home Wi-Fi.

Notes on AiMesh:

  • Backhaul: Wired (recommended) or wireless (acceptable when using same-tier routers).
  • Recommended nodes:
    • Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 routers with a 4×4 5GHz band.
    • Wired: Any Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 routers.
  • AiMesh 2.0 support: Yes (including system-wide Guest network) starting with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.40451
  • Nodes I’ve used: RT-AC86U, Blue Cave, Lyra Trio (wired).

Asus RT-AC86U

8.4

Performance

9.0/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Excellent performance both as a single router and as part of an AiMesh system
  • AiProtection security for the entire network
  • Plenty of useful features for home users as well as gamers
  • Can be restored with setting backup files of other Asus routers

Cons

  • No extra network ports like other high-end Asus routers
  • Not wall mountable
See also  Asus RT-AC86U Review: A Path to the AiMesh Wi-Fi Holy Grail

The takeaway

There you go. Pick a combo mentioned above (using the recommended backhaul), and I can almost guarantee you’ll get yourself an excellent mesh system.

Keep in mind that there might be other excellent combos I’ve not tested, and also, I haven’t used all the different scenarios of those mentioned here. The key is not to mess around too much when everything is working. Keep that in mind, especially when you choose to use the Asus mobile app.

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288 thoughts on “Picking the Best Asus AiMesh Router Combos: The Real-World Experience”

  1. Hi Dong,

    Thanks a lot for your helpful articles.
    I am going to use the AX92U-2 package at home as an AiMesh system. If that’s not enough, do I need a third AX92U as an additional node or can/should I use a different model as my primary router. Is it have to be three-band model like a nodes? What model do you recommend? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • You need another tri-band unit, Alexander, especially if you go full wireless. I mentioned that in detail in the first part of this post. Give it another read!

      Reply
  2. Hi Dong,
    I’m currently using a pair of ZenWifi XT8, as my apartment does not have Ethernet wired up.
    As I intend to move to a new (bigger) apartment, that will have Ethernet wired throughout, I’m considering buying the RT-AX89X as the main router, along with a 10G switch, to allow for a 2.5Gbps backhaul from the XT8s.
    Will that setup work? Will AiMesh be able to match the 160MHz 5GHz-2 band with the one of the main router, even with a manual configuration?
    I know that in a wired setup it’s better to just use dual-band routers, but given my existing investment, I’d rather continue using them.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • You need another tri-band router, there, Dror, either another XT8 or the GT-AX11000. If you use the RT-AX89X, you won’t be able to manage the XT8 satellites’ 5GHz2 band at all — this band will not be used. That’s UNLESS you use the XT8 nodes in the AP mode. Read the top part of this post again.

      Reply
  3. Hi Dong!

    Longtime reader; your articles have been incredibly helpful and pointed me toward the AX86U as my primary (and until now, only) router. However, I’m wanting to add a mesh node so I can get better signal for media devices. Here’s the issue:

    Internet comes in on second floor, modem, AX86U, switches, etc. I can’t run a wire to the first floor or else I wouldn’t need to attempt this. My plan was to have an RT-AX55 with a wireless backhaul act as a mesh node, and then I could wire my console and media PC to it. Essentially, it’s acting as a big wifi antenna for a couple of devices.
    I have updated firmware (Merlin on AX86U, stock Asus on AX55) to the latest versions. I can only add the AX55 as a mesh node IF I have it connected via ethernet cable. If it’s connected, devices can connect to it over wifi (on the 5ghz channel at least), but obviously this doesn’t help when I place it in its intended location. If I disconnect the cable, it’ll drop even though it is set to use 5G Wi-Fi first, with the AX86U as the preferred uplink. The app says it’s connected over 5ghz, but as soon as that cable is gone, it all goes away.

    Any ideas on settings that might cause this? Could it be a hardware failure of some sort and be worth trading for another AX55? I was hoping to avoid an AX56 since I don’t have a lot of power plugs available, and it’d be nicer to have two ethernet cables out so I don’t have to switch devices.

    Thank you, and keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • You need to change the 5GHz Wi-Fi setting of the 86U to match that of the 55, Dimc. Specially, you can’t use DFS or 160MHz channels. If that doesn’t fix it, change to Asuswrt firmware first.

      Reply
      • I did turn off the 160mhz channel on the AX86U. I also have it operating on Control Channel 161; I believe this is what the DFS refers to?
        AX86U is on Asuswrt-Merlin; I don’t think the AX55 has Merlin available for it, but I did upgrade both firmwares to the latest.

        Reply
        • More on DFS here, Dimc. And yes, you need to use 80MHz or narrower channel width for the 86U. Basically, the wireless mesh won’t work if the node can’t connect to the main router due to Wi-Fi incompatibility. This is why I recommend using nodes of the same 5GHz specs as mentioned in this post. Spend some time and try to understand instead of asking questions hoping you’ll get what you want without using compatible hardware :). Also, it’s impossible to know for sure if you use two different firmware.

          Reply
          • I ended up getting it connected as a Media Bridge router instead, which is honestly more what I wanted from the get-go, I just didn’t know that was an option.
            There isn’t a lot of data on the AX55 yet; I picked it for what appeared to be a bit more functionality over the AX1800/AX56. I did get my console connected and online, and will try messing with other devices soon.
            Thanks!

  4. Hi Dong, I had written to you last time on AiMesh in August and I have some interesting discoveries. But first , let me tell you on my network config. I have 2 ISP providing me Optical Fiber Broadband (they provide the Router too) and these 2 ISPs provide me 300 Mbps each. I have wired the whole house with Cat6 cabling. Now, I have connected the 2 ISP Routers into a CISCO Dual WAN Load Balancing Router for automatic failover. I have two RT-AX3000 (call it A and B) and I had one RT-AC86U (call it C) purchased earlier.
    I have connected RT-AX3000 (A) to another RT-AX3000 (B) and RT-AC86U (C)in Star topology. So, one Cat6 ethernet cable emanates from CISCO Lan port into one RT-AX3000 (A) WAN port. Another Ethernet cable from LAN of RT-AX3000 (A) is connected to a Switch far end and RT-AX3000 (B) and RT-AC86U (C) are connected to their WAN ports from that Switch. The “interesting” part is , The first RT-AX3000 is configured as an ACCESS POINT and I have made B and C as AiMesh Nodes to the AP. Also in Professional Settings, I have configure the Master AP to disconnect clients whose RSSI is less than -50 DBm and enabled OFDMA DL/UL + MU-MIMO. AP mode for Master Node (A) prevent Double NAT. This actually works BUT there are 2 odd shortcomings in it
    *****FIRST Observations. If you bind the clients to specific AiMesh nodes, when one node goes down , the clients do NOT automatically fall back on the other node even tough the node is in range. This is more prominent with IoT Switches e.g. Alexa Smart Plug. I have tons of them and they don’t automatically fall on the other node even though signal strength is above -60 db. If they are unbinded, then they work nicely but the AiMesh does not balance the load, either all of the 32 switches will fall on Node A or Node B and there is no equitable distribution. If you force them to bind, fail over is not seamless. BUT if A is in ROUTER mode, this issue is not there. Which means AiMesh is more attuned to work in router mode and not in AP mode.
    ******Second observation : if I speedtest my WiFI 6 mobile on Node B, I get a solid 300 Mbps both down and up, which is my ISP speed as well. But if I do the same on the Master AP A, the same will be 250 Mbps Download and 300 Mbps Upload. Even if I interchange the AX3000 models, the same thing happens. This intrigues me a lot.
    *******Third Observation : RAM consumption in AP mode is 60% and in Router Mode minus AiProtection is 65% and Router mode plus AiProtection is 75%.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the info and reviews, Im in the mist of getting the Asus RT-AX92U dual pack for a start, to cover the 450m square double storey house.
    initial plan was Modem Gateway Connect to one of the AX92U as a rounter on the upper floor and another AX92U as a Node, do you think its sufficient?
    Site note, i have 3 data Wallplug using Cat6 Cable, or its better for me to use the access point instead?

    Reply
  6. Hi Dong!

    Fully wireless setup (rental, so no wiring allowed) , 3 storey townhouse with 1Gig fibre modem on the first floor, where router also sits. My AX86U struggles with both garden and top floor signal provision.

    You seem to alternate between recommending XT8s and two AX92Us for wireless setups, which one has the edge for my setup? I’m also tempted to just add a AX82U that’s currently on sale, but signal loss will inevitably occur…

    Reply
      • Thanks, Dong. I’ve read most of your articles, so am realistic about Gig not being available without full eth wiring. My main desktop PC is next to the router, connected via CAT8 and the test on our article shows 890 down/940 up.

        As the 3 options are relatively close in terms of performance (I suspect a pack of 92Us will be the fastest?), the pricing is as follows:

        1. 86U + 82U = £320
        2. 2-pack 92U = £270
        3. 2-pack XT8 = £300

        With this in mind, which do you think offers best value for money here?

        Reply
          • Thanks, I managed to grab the last 82U from an eBay offer here for £110, which will be joining the existing 86U router. Since I got both for very good prices, even if I need to sell on, I’ll likely break even. Will go for XT8 if I feel the range/performance of these bad boys isn’t what I require.

            Sent over some Kofi for you, Dong. Cheers.

  7. Hi, thanks for the website and all the content you create. I see a lot about wired versus wireless backhand, and it is clear when using one *or* thr other. But what about the scenario where you have wired backhaul for all nodes except one that is in a tricky location? Will using dual-band everywhere be limited as soon as you spin up the node with wireless backhand? How would you handle this situation? Thanks again!

    Reply
      • Thanks for your reply. I have read that page (and many others on this site!) several times, and get the general idea. In my specific case, I have a RT-AX86U as my main router, and another RT-AX86U node with 1GB wired backhaul. There is another place I can put an additional node with wired backhaul, and then 40ft beyond that I would need one more node with wireless backhaul to that last wired node. So my question is which pair of nodes should I use for that last bit, and will it work as expected? I would think that I should use two tri-band nodes for those last two.

        Reply
        • Just get other dual-band nodes, Kyle. Tri-band nodes don’t help. If you read my posts you’d know why. But the gist is you cant’ make use of their 5GHz-2 band.

          Reply
  8. Hey there, thanks for this recommendations and the great article!
    As my main router/modem i use the DSL-AX82U. The thing is it is placed in the basement because there’s the DSL port. And it’s almost impossible to wire to the other floors so im trying to cover the whole house with wireless mesh even though there’s a reinforced concrete ceiling. As you wrote the AX82U has 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 band so im planning to get the XD4 as nodes not sure how many i’ll figure this out, or would recommend something else as nodes?
    Thanks in advance.
    Mario

    Reply
    • You need better hardware, Mario. Get a couple of RT-AX82U units. The XD4 will work but will be slow. In any case, how well things work depends on your home, concrete is always problematic.

      Reply
      • Thank you for the fast reply. I’m going to try the XD4s i ordered and if they don’t bring the desired results i will try to place 2-3 RT-AX82U on the other floors and setup a mesh like that, but they’re pretty bulky. Cool as a gaming router but not spread around the house. But all for good wifi connection i guess 🙂

        Reply
  9. Dong,

    Thanks for the breakdowns you provide for those that are new to AiMesh networking and these Asus routers’ abilities. This may be a rudimentary question, but may be helpful to many like me.

    When we create a wired backhaul with the hosting router (AXE-11000 as example) and node (RT-AX86U as example), do the LAN ports on the node still have the ability to provide data??

    Reply
  10. Hi Dong, As always thanks for the excellent info.

    One thing I think is missing from Asus range is a (tidy) ceiling device. We spoke before as I have an AX86U and a AC86U and due to circumstances (new FTTP) they now have to connect via wifi, and as you said in this article… it’s awful!

    Your advice was to wire and I’ve figured out a plan… external cabling. Going to run out of office (where fibre comes in) up wall, into loft and… it would be perfect to come into the hallway ceiling (its central in the house and open to both floors). I just don’t see a nice Asus router (to keep a AiMesh network) so have been looking at something like a Ubiquiti UniFi AP. Even coming a bit down wall in hallway to wall mount I think the Asus devices are not really designed for.

    It means I’ll lose AiMesh, single guest network, all devices on AP will appear as wired etc., but I guess there’s no option as far as Asus goes?

    btw, I’m in the UK so no nice empty wallspaces 🙁

    Reply
  11. Hi, what a great resource. I’m still struggling a bit, I’ve got a network which has evolved into an AiMesh with ac86u main router, ac68u as first node connected wirelessly (although I’m trying to work out a way to wire it)( and ac66u_b1 as node 2 hardwired to ac68u. I’ve still got a couple of dead spots and was looking at the xd4s to plug it… would they be good enough?

    Reply
    • They are good enough if you just want to extend the coverage, Steven. But you shouldn’t mix Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 wirelessly as I mentioned in the post.

      Reply
      • Thanks for that. Just wondering how you recommend moving from wifi 5 to 6, I assume you are suggesting a complete sell and refresh at the point I want to introduce 6?

        Reply
        • Yes, Steven, if you actually want to move to Wi-Fi 6 completely, then the XD4 will work. It’s best to have it completely wired, but you can mix wired and wireless. In that case, you should work the router to one of the nodes and not just the nodes. But the XD4 will work as a wireless system, too, just at slower performance as I mentioned in the review.

          Reply
  12. Hi Dong,

    This site is amazing!!! Thank you.

    I’m looking at either the AX88U or AX86U as a router and then use the 3x XD4’s as nodes using wired backhaul as I have Ethernet points littered around the house. Your Combos above suggests this should be fine.

    I’d like to have a few devices wired – noting XD4’s will take up 3 LAN and Xbox will take up the dedicated gamer (as I do game) so 4 LANs aren’t enough.

    Does it make more sense to get the AX86U and just grab an 8 port switch and run the XD4s from the switch?

    Or is the AX88U the better option (noting I may still need a switch) but at least the XD4’s can run straight from the router?

    Many thanks

    Reply
    • I’d go with the RT-AX86U and a switch, Dane, since you might need a switch anyway — you never have enough ports, trust me! Have fun!

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong! I’ve found this but haven’t read much on switches so will do some research but kinda feels this would be fine for what I’m after -> Netgear GS108 8 Port Gigabit Switch

        I think I was worried about issues with running the XD4’s off the switch as opposed to straight from the router but feels like this should just work (famous last words).

        Reply
  13. Hi and thank you. If price is not a consideration, but in ranked order 1) stability, 2) speed (as long as I can get over 500mbps 20 feet from the nearest node), 3) range, are, I wanted to gut check the best combo based on reading your article. (I also really like the Asus ability to dedicate an SSID to 2.4 as I have many smart home devices that don’t play well with auto-sensing dual band.) I will have a wired backhaul and have a large house on 3 levels. I am replacing a Cisco Meraki wired mesh system with a router and 4 nodes (one of the nodes is based at the router so equivalent of router + 3 nodes).

    I started out focused on the Zenwifi ET8 or XT8. I don’t have any 6e devices yet so it was mostly about future proofing – I suspect by the time I upgrade my laptop in a year it will be 6e capable. But I’ve read many reports of instability issues (dropping device connections briefly, firmware issues even on the most recent versions, etc.). From your summaries, it sounds like if I am going wired backhaul I am probably better off with the AX86U as my main router? Is there any reason I should instead get the AX89X or the AXE11000 as my main router for this setup and set of prioritizes, noting stability is more important than speed overall? (Gaming features won’t matter to me.)

    On the best wired node combo, would you recommend the AX92U or the XD4? Or, with price not being a major consideration, would an XD8 make a better node? In three of the four locations the look of the node is not important. In the fourth location, it would be ideal if it looks more like the XD’s without the black color and visible antenna of the other units. So another possibility is 2 x AX92U nodes and one XD8 (or the XD4N if there’s a way to buy a single unit)?

    Reply
    • You can’t count on Wi-Fi with fixed numbers like 500Mbps at 20 feet, Jason. That depends on a lot of things, including your devices. That said, I can’t answer your questions. Check out this post on picking a mesh and figure things out yourself. But since you have a wired place, I can say for sure that you have a lot of good options.

      Reply
  14. Hi Dong,

    I picked up an AX86u per your recommendation and am looking for a wired aimesh node primarily to connect a PS5 to across the house but also to ensure great WiFi signal throughout. Would you go with another AX86u or something cheaper?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Good call, Stephen. You can go with any dual-band AiMesh broadcasters, the RT-AX82U, RT-AX68U, RP-AX56, XD4, etc. Since you have wired backhauls, you can expect to performance out of the nodes (in the reviews, that’s the number of the router unit.) Have fun! 🙂

      Reply
  15. So I just moved from a home where I had only the RT-AC5300 in the basement and worked fine 2 flights up. My new home is one level and a loft, which is where the RT-AC5300 is located. I’m having some connectivity issues on the main floor and I’m thinking of getting either another RT-AC5300 or a GT-AX11000 (using the later as the primary router). Note that due to the house construction, wireless between the two is the only option. Would performance lag on devices connecting to the older router? Would it be better to get a second RT-AC5300 instead? I’d like the newest features and fastest bandwidth (I stream 4K and use the internet a lot), but I also need reliability. Any advice is appreciated!

    Reply
      • Hi! Thanks a lot for the in-depth reviews.

        I currently have an ASUS RT-AC5300 and it worked well in my previous home. I moved to a new home in a different country with a lot of thick walls and four levels, and the RT-AC5300 is no longer sufficient. I therefore need to expand my network.

        Can I use the ASUS AX6600 (XT8) 2-pack AIMesh system with the RT-AC5300?

        I’m thinking of using the XT8 as the primary router since it seems to be the more powerful and more future proofed (WiFi 6 etc) of the two, and I plan to add the RT-AC5300 as a mesh node since they’re both tri-band routers with AIMesh capability.

        What would you advise in this scenario?

        Reply
        • I mentioned that in the post, Jack. But mixing Wi-Fi standards is not a good idea unless you use network cable to connect the hardware.

          Reply
  16. Hello Dong,
    Do you have any experience with Asus’s RT-AX55U and RT-AX56U? I’m looking at building an Aimesh system with RT-AX86U as the main route and I don’t want to spend too much with the other route. It seems these two are very alike and relatively cheap. Do you think this is a good idea?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • RT-AX55 is the feature stripped version of the RT-AX56U. They feature the same connectivity features.

      I use them as nodes from an RT-AX82U main router and the two floors from my 2900 SQ ft home are getting excellent wifi signal.

      Reply
  17. Hi Dong, had been reading your reviews on mesh systems and also this specific article on AiMesh. Would like to seek your advice below. Currently I have a WiFi-5 RT-AC88U Asus router, but am planning to move to a mesh system. My 3 options are –
    1) purchase a CT8 ZenWiFi AC3000 Mesh kit, and set up AiMesh with my current ASUS router.
    2) Purchase a XD4 ZenWiFi AX Mini and set up AiMesh with my current ASUS router.
    3) Or I move directly to Netgear Orbi RBK353 (not utilizing my current WiFi5 router).
    Currently I have my house wired, so I am definitely looking at wireless backhaul.
    Would appreciate your expert advice which is the best option for me (in terms of performance). Thanks.

    Reply
      • Thanks for the quick reply, Dong. I will definitely look at the routers you recommend. On a separate track, would the Netgear RBK353 on wired backhaul gives a better performance/speed compared to AiMesh system?

        Reply
          • Hi Dong, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve managed to successfully setup AiMesh with my AC-RT88U as my primary router, and 2 x Blue Cave as my nodes, all using wired backhaul. It works like a charm! My question now is that I do have a RP-AC55, and I am thinking of connecting it (wired as well) to one of my Blue Cave node. Do you foresee any problems with this configuration? Would it have adverse effect on the performance of my AiMesh network? TIA!

          • No and no, Chin. Go ahead with the AP! I’ve not used it nor have I many other Asus broadcasters, but I think the setup is fine.

  18. Hi,

    I have the following asus products and hope to use them to maximize the wifi coverage of my 2 storey apartment.

    2 x Asus Zenwifi AX mini
    2 x Asus Zenwifi AX XT8
    1 x Asus AX3000 router

    My modem is in master bedroom in level 2. Bedroom 1 (at level 2) and living room (at level 1) has wired back haul but guest bedroom (at level 1) does not have wired back haul.

    1. What setup do you recommend for maximum coverage in bedroom 1 (with PC and wireless device use), living room (with router NAS and desktop media center) and guest bedroom?

    2. Is it useful to create a media bridge in the living room?

    Reply
    • To add, my living room has other devices such as PS4, tv set top box and Nintendo switch which all requires internet connection.

      Reply
        • Dong, I have already read this before. However I’m not sure if I’m overkilling it with so many nodes given this setup. 🙁

          Here’s what I thought it will work but need your expert advice. Much appreciated.

          Level 2
          Master bedroom = Modem – > AX XT8 (main router)
          Bedroom 1 = wired -> AX mini (AP)

          Level 1
          Living room = wired -> AX 3000 (AP) -> NAS + media center + TV + PS4

          Guest bedroom = wireless -> AX XT8 (AP)

          Reply
    • I gave no idea how your home is, Jayden. Telling me the number of rooms etc. doesn’t change that. Read this post again and any related one (linked) and you figure things out.

      Reply
  19. Hi Dong,
    I have an ax11000 and 2 AX92U in an aimesh with the GT being the main router and the other 2 being nodes. This setup worked perfectly fine at my previous house but is giving me some troubles in my new apartment (additional walls between the main router and the nodes). So I was wondering if acquiring a new AX11000 that acts as a node and connects to the main router and then have the nodes connect to it can work and will improve the network. My setup needs to be fully wireless since I don’t have a chance to have wired backhauls.
    Let me know your thoughts on this.
    Regards,
    Agustin

    Reply
  20. Dong,

    Have a GT-AX11000 with four (4) RT-AX92U routers as satellites, all with wired backhaul (big house + garage, 50+ devices accessing the system). Was working fine at first, but have been getting the dreaded “no internet connection” on multiple iOS devices and wifi network has been collapsing with regularity (including 3x in the last 24 hours and 10x over the last 10 days).

    Its possible two of the nodes are too close (the others are in dead spots), but I’m tearing my hair out trying to figure out what is wrong. I’ve turned off the dedicated backhaul on the 5-2 band and hidden the 5-1 band, so everything should be running on Wifi6. Smart connect is turned off. Firmware is up to date.

    I have a serious gamer in the house (wired), so we have gigabit fiber and I need QoS. Plus with the large number of devices I need a router than can handle all the traffic, I’m struggling to find a better fit for my needs (XT8, Orbi, Eero, Google, etc.). I’m willing to invest in a new system, but your reviews would suggest I’ve got the right setup (on paper), but the reliability has become just awful.

    Any thoughts or suggestions? Do I just need to get dual band satellites?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • You overdid it, Tom. I’ve mentioned that folks should use dual-band with wired backhaul many times, and I recommend the RT-AX92U with the GT-AX11000 in a wireless setup specifically. Anyhow, for your case, it would be best if you got the RT-AX86U as the main router and a bunch of dual-band satellites (the RT-AX86U works, too), as mentioned in this post.

      But for your case right now, I’d recommend:

      1. Separate the bands of the system into different networks (SSIDs), so, for example, “5GHz-1”, “5GHz-2,” and “2.4GHz.”
      2. Make sure the AiMesh uses the wired as the backhaul (and not wireless)
      3. Keep most of the Wi-Fi settings as default
      4. Make sure you run the latest firmware on all hardware units.
      5. Don’t mess around too much — don’t use the app, just the web interface. If you have used the app, reset the entire system and set it up again. Often, folks mess around with the app too much and don’t know what settings are turned on, etc. Keep in mind that in routers, the best is really the enemy of the good. It’s something you want to set up right and then leave it alone.

      That should fix most of the issues. If not, check out the settings mentioned in this post for more.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong! I actually bought the hardware to upgrade an older system and then found your blog… should have done more research on the front end!

        I’ll reset the router and only use the web app. I also noticed today that two of the satellites had defaulted to “auto” on backhaul… wondering if that’s part of the issue.

        Thanks again!

        Reply
  21. Greetings,

    I have read [and re-read] your article several times and also searched it for ‘ZenWiFi’ and ‘xt8’ but I don’t see the info I seek. I have my single XT8 connected to my Arris modem in my rear upstairs office and I need better wifi coverage downstairs and extending outdoors a short way for some planned security cameras. The notes for the XT8 show itself as the only reccomended node. If I only have 200 Mpbs service is there a lower cost alternative to the XT8 for my situation?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • I hope you have read this post, too, Randy. If not, try it. But the gist is yes; you can use any AiMesh broadcaster as a node. It’s a matter of how well it works. I personally only recommend another XT8 unit.

      Reply
  22. Hi Dong, I really enjoy reading your articles. I am planning to set up a mesh wifi via wired backhaul. Would you prefer 2 asus ax86u or netgear rbk852? Which pair could provide a faster speed and better coverage?

    Thanks so much.

    Reply
  23. I have the RT-AC5300 as my main router, very happy with it. Tried to create (wireless) aimesh with a Lyra Trio set, but the result was very disappointing. Probably because the AC5300 uses tri-band, and Lyra Trio only dual-band?
    Now I’m considering to (wirelessly) hook up a RT-AX92U Duo Pack, since those also use tri-band. However, the standard for the RT-AX92U Duo Pack is Wi-Fi 6, while the RT-AC5300 is Wi-Fi 5. Do you think that can cause problems?

    Reply
    • Read the top portion of the post again, Mark — seriously. Mixing Wi-Fi standards is not ideal, but you can solve all that if you have wired backhauls.

      Reply
  24. Hi Doug, you are a star with this sort of advice so wondering if you can help (a UK’er) with my AiMesh setup…

    Currently I’ve got a RT-AX86U as my main node (hallway, nice and central) with a RT-AC86U upstairs – backhaul is via homeplugs (gigabit) – no option of being able to cable in this house 🙁 (both nodes running merlin)

    Recently the house finally got FTTP (500mbps) but the ONT box had to go into my study which meant moving the AX in there causing wifi issues downstairs.

    I’m thinking of getting another node (hallway) but think homeplugs just aren’t going to make the best backhaul so thinking using wireless for the backhaul (study to hallway is ~ 15feet).

    and there I am, toying with another (expensive) AX or maybe a AC, just can’t decide…

    Reply
  25. Hi bro, I am deciding between 2 models XT8 and AX92U.
    1: Better Wave Through Walls?
    2: Wider coverage?
    3: More stable mesh?
    4: Which model is produced newer?
    Please advise me a better model in all aspects

    Reply
  26. Thank you for the article.

    I am looking at getting the Asus ZenWifi XT8 as the main system for our house. I am wondering if I can use my current AC2900 86U as part of the system? It will be placed in the Shop about 50-60 feet from the house. Will this hurt the house speed? I know speed would suffer in the shop vs just getting another XT8 but I am fine with it as long as it doesn’t hurt the house internet and is usable.

    Thank you

    Reply
  27. Hello!
    I was wondering 2 things, would love if you could explain like I’m 5 in this case.

    1. Can I mix 2 XT8 with 3 XD4 ? I can’t purchase as many XT8 since its expensive, and I was wondering if its possible to mix those.
    2. I saw there’s a new model out – ET8, so same question as above just with ET8 and XD4

    thank you

    Reply
      • Hi
        Thank you for taking your time to answer me that.
        However, I did read this post, and the Aimesh compatibility post.
        It’s rather cryptic.
        You write that it should be the same kind of throughoutput(2×2 for 2×2)
        I get that, and I get that xd4 is different from xt8/et8
        And I still wonder if it could work in a rather good way.

        Reply
        • Read it again from the beginning and in its entiety, Idan, please. Don’t just look for what you want. But if you want a short answer, then no, you shouldn’t mix them. That might work but it’s a matter of degrees.

          Reply
  28. Hello dong,

    I come from indonesia. In here we can not find all the asus router model. I want to build wifi 6 aimesh in my house. There is 3 place connected with cat 5e cable. I was use tenda router before. The available wifi 6 model in here are ax11000, ax82u, tuf-ax3000, rt-ax56u

    Is that good mixing ax11000 with 2 rt-ax55u?
    I will used wired backhaul.

    Reply
  29. Dong,

    Thank you for all the hard work and thought. Using your info I quickly narrowed my choices to Asus (AiMesh) and Synology and then decided to go for Wifi6 at a 20% premium. After much thought, I ended up choosing an RT-AX68U and 2 RT-AX3000 for my large-ish house.

    Writing to see if you can suggest to Asus that they make a version of the RT-AX56 (the forthcoming small device) with POE (and then allow for wall mounting).

    Thank you.

    Dan

    Reply
  30. I would encourage others who have benefited enough from this post to have made it down to these comments to buy Dong a coffee (or beer) through his Kofi donation link. It’s rare to have a blog poster not only write fairly in depth reviews (rather than those fake referral link review sites) as well as be active in the comment thread. Support what you value if you can.

    Maybe it will even encourage Dong to ditch those annoying video and other ads that make it almost impossible to write a comment on a mobile phone.

    Reply
    • Good luck with that, Luke! If everyone actually did what you suggested, there’d be no need for ads at all. 🙂

      By the way, you can comment just fine (with the ads) on a mobile phone. This reply is an example.

      Reply
  31. I recently bought the XT8s for my own house but also bought the XD4 for my mom’s house. I don’t think she’ll need all 3 devices for her house so I wanted to know if I could use the spare satellite node to use with my XT8s for a wireless node so I can get one ethernet port for one of my rooms I can’t run wires to. I need an ethernet port for my work IP phone and laptop.

    Reply
  32. Thanks Dong.

    I currently run an RT-AC88U but am looking to upgrade to the RT-AX88U when I can.

    As an interim step, can you see any issues in running the RT-AX55 with the current RT-AC88U? Still with wired backhaul.

    Mark.

    Reply
    • Not ideal. You might have some issues with handoff, and Wi-Fi configurations, but other than that, things should work. Use Auto for your Wi-Fi setting. Read this post again and the linked one mentioned at the top if you have more questions on AiMesh.

      Reply
  33. Hi Dong.

    Can you see any issues with adding an RTAX55 AX1800 (wired backhaul) to an existing Rt-AX88U AX6000?

    Cheers
    Mark.

    Reply
  34. Hi Dong,

    Thanks so much for your detailed guides. I’m considering using a mix of wired and wireless backhaul. Do you have any recommendations of which units to mix and match in this situation?

    1200 sq ft home; ISP demarc is in the front left corner. Max requirement for signal reliability is in the home office at the back right corner of the home, about as far as it could be from the ISP demarc. 🙁

    Long story short, I want to move the office to the garage, and while I can run my own cabling in the house, I can’t DIY a Cat6 run to the garage. (It’s an independent structure in the yard so I’d have to pay a pro to do the trenching/shielding/grounding.)

    Will AiMesh systems tolerate a mix of wired and wireless backhaul? Could I have a reliable network connection from the garage to the ISP modem with something like this?

    RT-AC86U in front room AC-CT8 in rear room AC-CT8 in garage

    Thanks for your guidance!

    Reply
    • sorry, I guess I used escape characters, here’s the setup I’m imagining:

      1. ISP modem and RT-AC86U in front room
      – wired backhaul via attic –
      2. AC-CT8 in rear room
      – wireless backhaul across the yard –
      3. AC-CT8 in garage

      Reply
      • Hi Dan,

        0. You need to read the top part of this post again and this post on AiMesh. They will answer ALL of your questions including the one you put here.
        1. You should use another CT8 here, or just skip this hardware unit.
        2. That works — you can link it directly to the modem via the attic cable if you choose to skip a router at this location.
        3. That works, how well, though, depending on your actual place.

        Reply
    • If you intend to use the garage for your office, running cable is a must. You don’t necessarily have to drill through the wall, just run a longer cable around.

      Reply
  35. Hi Dong
    I intend to replace my ISP provided 4G router with an Asus 4G-AC53U in order to create a mesh network in my home of 270m2 on 2 levels. 2 questions, perhaps you can help with.

    -Am I able to configure this router with a Subscribed VPN?
    -Can I use this to create a mesh and if so what is best for my house. There is no way I can cable the house due to its construction.

    Many thanks
    Peter

    Reply
      • Hi Dong

        VPN is required to access TV and services which are restricted to my home country (UK) as I am living in France.

        Cheers

        Reply
          • Hi Dong

            So I need, positionally on the Network, two Ethernet ports about 21metres and a floor apart. The top floor is 139m2 and the bottom 109m2 for the foreseeable future I am reliant on a 4G box with fluctuating speed. The construction of the house doesn’t lend itself to easy cabling and so am looking at a totally wireless setup. Can I get away with a 2 tri band ASUS router setup positioned so far from one another or do I need a third? If 3, then the 3rd router will be at the end of the line, rather than the primary router being positioned centrally. Failing that what is you opinion of using the ASUS ZenWifi CD6 as I can get a 5 pack and place them around the house.

  36. Thank you for the thorough write-up on the aimesh option for wifi. There’s a mind boggling number of permutations here. I’m starting from scratch in 1350 sqft house in which the cable comes in from a far corner of the home behind a lathe and plaster closet where the AV will be located.

    I have wired cat6 to a central location in the middle of the house, and ideally would like the WiFi broadcast happening from there for WiFi while having wired LAN connections in both locations. I worry having two broadcasts from the main area and the node so close, thinking that devices might jump between them. I recall when I had Google Wi-Fi mesh It seemed that my phone or devices would sometimes quickly lose and gain connection, and I attributed that to jumping between nodes.

    That long backstory just to ask if it would be possible in this set up to turn the broadcast off for the main router and just use a wired backhaul WiFi 6 tri band node for the broadcast? If so, do you have recommendations here? I probably won’t be getting gigabit anytime soon, but would like a super solid constant Wi-Fi connection that could handle 400 megabytes per second. I’ve considered the orbeez because it has several land connections, but this article got me thinking that an AI mesh setup might be more reliable?

    Reply
    • Yes, you can totally do that but the how depends on what hardware you use, Luke. But why do that? Why not just place the first and only broadcaster where you want to put the 2nd one? In any case, you can make the first unit a non-Wi-Fi router (disable its radios in the Professional tab of its Wi-Fi setting page) and use the 2nd one in the access point mode.

      Reply
      • I want to have wired ethernet connections in both locations, which is why I mentioned disabling the broadcasting of the first location, which is where the cable coax comes into the house and therefore where the modem must be located.

        The 2nd location only has a single ethernet cable, so it must be fed from the 1st location where I want wired connections as well. Does that make sense? I do not see a way to achieve this other than having a router in the main location (broadcast off, or a wired only router) and a router in the 2nd location where the broadcast will need to be.

        I was not sure if buying a wireless or wired network router for the 1st location made any difference. It just seems that wireless routers with broadcast turned off is a much more plentiful option in the market, while wired only routers sound like more of a corporate type device.

        If you have suggestions for devices for either of these locations, I would welcome them. I’m not opposed to spending money if it makes my network, which includes several smart home devices, solid and reliable. I’m tired of it being so glitchy.

        Reply
  37. Thanks for the wealth and caliber of information on your site.

    Recently connected Google 1gb fiber so a desire to upgrade router. 3000 sf, looong single level home with current sketchy wifi at extreme ends. Largest load is streaming to various TVs & laptops. No gaming. Many legacy 2.4 Sonos devices, etc.

    My thoughts are to stay on the lower end of the food chain (not bleeding edge) and get a pair of same model Asus AC dual band routers and wire those. Thoughts on a pair of Asus RT-AC68U or pair of RT-AC86U or? Main objective is reliability and coverage. Thank you!

    Reply
    • A pair of either of the two or a mix of them will work out well via a wired backhaul, Scott. Go for it! You can even consider used or refurbished hardware if you’re on a budget.

      Reply
  38. Hi Dong. Thanks to your advice I have a great AI Mesh system that is wired backhauled now – the AC88U with an AC66U node. I need to expand to a 2nd node which will also be wired and was going to add another AC66U. Will this work or do you suggest another model? Thanks – Jim

    Reply
  39. Hi Dong,

    I’m currently using Asus RT-AC5300. I would like to get a router node and would use it as wireless backhaul. May I know what model should I get? Thank you

    Reply
    • Another AiMesh ready tri-band Wi-Fi 5 broadcaster, Hugo. But almost any Wi-Fi 5 one of the same Wi-Fi tier will work.

      Reply
  40. Hi – after having some issues and lack of features on the ORBI RBR850, i have just ordered the AX86U as my primary router. I am hoping the wifi will be strong enough and i will not need a mesh as I am wired up to the study and the living room.

    If however i need a mesh in the future…budget beeing key here, can i just opt for the AX56U, sticking with Dual Band? Or maybe the AX92U – i know its a tri band but like the compact size.

    Reply
  41. Our ZenWiFi AX Mini XD4 mesh works quite well at home, but I can pick up a cheap used Blue Cave and wondered if the system work work as well if I used the Blue Cave as the main router and the XD4’s as nodes. I’m asking because I’d like more LAN ports at the main router location and the Blue Cave has more features in general.

    Reply
      • Hi Dong, will the XD4 system support 5 or 6 broadcasters and if so would you use all XD4’s or some other asus router and XD4 nodes?

        Reply
      • Hey Dong,im currently using triband ax11000 as main router and both dual band tuf ax3000 and ax55 as node in wireless setup.is it better if i change to 2 ax92u and ditch the dual band node since it will combine all triband setup for dedicated backhaul?if triband router which is ax11000 as main router and dual band router as nodes it still counting as completed dedicated backup?and lastly if i combine with 2 ax92u does the only 5ghz-2 band will become wifi 5?or both 5ghz band become wifi 5?

        Reply
        • Yes, Reyz, as I mentioned in the post, using all tri-band hardware is always recommended in a wireless setup. Take another read at the top part of the post! Also, check out the review of the RT-AX92U for more.

          Reply
    • I’m looking at the asus XD4, but not sure if I can run a seamless mesh AND still support security cameras which only work on 2.4GHz?

      Reply
  42. Hi Dong – amazing website, the detail and coverage is off the charts !!! I have been looking at WiFi6 for some time (have a 3500sq ft home but with some big blank spots due to thick walls and metal girders) and the Asus ZenWiFi XT8 looks pretty spot on. The question I have is whether it is better to add (say) a RT-AX92U or RT-AX89X router as the host and then 3 Xt8 devices, or just stick with Xt8 throughout? I have wired backhaul to 3 of the 4 locations and it seems from your reviews that is the best option, which makes sense. Just want to make sure I buy the hardware that can support this set up, but not sure it is worth it or necessary to buy a dedicated standalone router. At the same time I think you have mentioned with AIMesh, all of these routers can operate as both primary and satellites, so not sure which to go for – Asus market the ZenWiFi as a package, but is that just marketing, as all the AIMesh devices work and you can add as many as you like? Or for example the AX89X has 8 antennae, or is the AX92U better as it has Tri-band? Thanks again for the awesome information and reviews !!

    Reply
    • You need to get another tri-band broadcaster, Andrew. But it’s a matter of degrees, read the post again in it’s entirety, you’ll find out.

      Reply
      • Thanks not sure I understand you reply, as both the RT-AX92U and the ZenWiFi XT8 are tri-band and both support wired backhaul? I guess reading again and your reviews individually and the specs, seems the RT-AX92U has slightly higher spec / configuration ability and you have suggested better to not mix hardware. Also with AIMesh 2.0 out, appears Asus have addressed the ease of use of wired backhaul so making the faster 5Ghz band available (I think you updated a post on this – thanks!). So would appear a mesh system with only 3 to 4 RT-AX92U devices, with wired backhaul is probably superior to the ZenWifi TX8 only set up? Thanks

        Reply
        • The RT-AX89X you mentioned is a dual-band, Andrew. As I said, if you actually read the post, you would have found the answer. Paying a bit of attention helps, too. 🙂

          Reply
          • Thanks Dong – I mentioned as an option – either/or. I did read your article end to end a few times, along with others and all are very informative. But if you had actually read my questions and follow up perhaps you could have answered them? Your attention would certainly be very much appreciated.🙂

          • I did read our questions, Andrew. But I can’t answer that type of specificities. There are always different degrees so there’s no definitive answer to your questions.

    • I’m in a similar situation, cat 5e wiring (up to 20m apart multi-level house with concrete floors) in house with single and double brick walls and steel door frames, but one area 15-20m away from main house with no cat 5e. Have read many of the posts here, with superb range of information, but still confused about how it all applies to my situation and conflicting information on using wiring for backhaul, but not in a mesh ASUS set up. Also no mention of integration of wifi security cameras using only 2.4GHz band, and potential complication with a meshed 2.4/5GHz system. Really interested in seamlessly connectivity going from one area to another with no line of sight.

      Reply
      • It’s a matter of degrees and expectations, Rudi. I can say right away that no setup will fulfill what you have imagined since a connection depends on both the broadcaster and the receiver, and it seems you’re putting it all on the former. Just follow my suggestions in the post (and the related ones), you’ll be able to figure the best way to go. It’s not easy since it depends on your place — there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Whoever tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about. 🙂

        Reply
        • Thanks Dong. Totally agree it’s not easy. I found a real gem in one of your posts: to place a node where the signal just drops one bar. So walked around and mapped out where this occurs. Currently have 2 access points on cat5e/1Gb switches and 2.4/5Gb and the hassle of manually selecting between four wifi signals depending on where I’m located. So I’ve been reading your great articles to see what I can best do with a mesh wifi with wired backhaul. Moved one of the access points to different cat5e wall outlet locations to find better coverage overlap. Looks like I need 4 or 5 wifi access points to get full coverage. My internet service is less than 100 Mbps, which is ample for speed. So the question is what hardware is best suited. Not sure about mesh vs access point solutions if both are wired backhaul. Would love your ideas here where signal coverage and latency is more important than speed.

          Reply
        • Thanks Dong – one more question on this real life topic: there’s not much info on the net about range of wifi signal from different node options (brand, model etc)….do you know how much range variation there is between different brands/models for larger multi-level homes with solid brick walls and concrete floors? Does anyone test this, beyond speed tests at 3-5 feet vs 20-30 feet line-of-sight?

          Reply
        • Totally agree. It’s a curly one. What are your thoughts on progressive development. Start with say a 2 or 3 mesh and grow from three? With a Ethernet backbone. Happy to not use the old access points. From all your posts looks like the zenwifi minis should do the trick, but what do I use as the prime node(s). May be CT8 x 2 Plus a number of minis. Is that a reasonable approach?

          Reply
  43. Hi Dong,
    Thanks for addressing this issue. Great work!
    I have a RT-AX88U and I am planing to buy a node router.
    I will use wired backhaul. Shall I buy a AX86U or a AX68U?
    And which one shall I use as main router? Or what else do you recommend?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Yes, any either can be the main router, Basar. Check out their review for more in terms of port and features. You can also use a cheaper model, like the RP-AX56, as a node.

      Reply
  44. Hey Dong, thanks for all these great reviews. I’m in Canada so the prices are high. I can buy either 1 XT8, a pair of CT8’s or a set of 3 XD4’s. Which would you recommend? So far I’ve gotten away with the generic rental Wi-Fi 5 router from my ISP so any choice would be a huge improvement. My home also isn’t wired, but I get full internet speeds all over 120D/20U. My main concern is with WFH during the pandemic my wireless device count has grown and my current router isn’t able to handle them all. Thanks!

    Reply
  45. Hi Dong,

    I have a RT-AX82U as a main router. Would the RT-AX56U be a good fit for a wired access point? Or is there a cheaper option that would work well?

    Best regards

    Reply
  46. Hi Don
    Thanks for the great info – want to purchase an ASYS mesh system for my home – main floor modem entry at the front corner of the house – basement network cable – 3rd floor would need to be wireless. Best suggestion as we have a large home with dead spots out to far opposite corner of the house
    Thanks for the help
    Dave

    Reply
  47. Hey Dong,
    Great site and info here. Need some advise, I have a standalone rt-ax3000 and thinking of getting another higher end asus wifi6 router to improve the wifi coverage, stability and speed. I was looking at the rt-ax88u but it’s expensive and wanted to get your view on this first. Setup will be AI-Mesh with wireless backhaul.

    What do you recommend please.

    Thanks.

    B

    Reply
    • You’re on the right post, Birendra. I wrote this exactly for folks like you. Read it! Yours is the same as the RT-AX58U, btw. 🙂

      Reply
  48. Hi Dong,
    Many thanks for your great user guide. I am now using a RT-AC86U as the main router and a RT-AC68U as a node via a wired backhaul. I am planning to upgrade to RT-AX86U as the main router and use the RT-AC86U as a node. Will I still get Wifi 6 signal from RT-AX86U or will I only get Wifi 5 signal from both the main router and the node?

    Reply
    • That depends, Harrison. Yes if you use wired backhaul, and kinda no if you use wireless. I mean the AX will broadcast Wi-Fi 6 but it’ll be in a compatible mode which is the same as Wi-Fi 5.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your reply, Dong. Does “compatible mode” means the AX will broadcast Wifi 6 signal but the speed will be in wifi 5 standard as AX is meshed with AC, even via a wired backhaul?

        Reply
        • Something like that, Harrison. The compatible mode has nothing to do with backhaul nor not, but you must use it if you use wireless backhaul with a different Wi-Fi standard. It’s radio frequencies so things are not clear cut as you might think. I’d recommend reading the post and other related ones, you’ll get a better idea of how things work. You should start with this post.

          Reply
    • I literally have access to about a dozen networks (home and business) running AiMesh with different hardware pieces, some for years. AiMesh is far from perfect, but it sure works, Tim.

      Reply
  49. Dong
    Very helpful website, thank you. I currently trying to set up a property wide network. I have a main house, detached guest house (50 feet away), and an outbuilding (200feet away). I currently have a rt ac3100 which actually covers a wide area but is intermittent and not powerful enough for the far end of the property. The guesthouse and outbuilding are connected to the main house with CAT 6 cable. Two questions:
    1) what equipment do you recommend to get seamless WiFi throughout my buildings and property? If I move the 3100 to the outbuilding what equipment would I need?
    2) is it best to set up an AI mesh or use AP? Is there a difference?

    Reply
  50. Here is my situation: ISP modem/router is on basement (1GB) and house is wired. I am thinking of getting wifi6 ASUS routers to take full advantage of AiMesh. I would like to get a router in each floor to make sure it is fast: basement (low usage), main floor (very high usage), second (high usage). But I am worry that using 3 routers will do more harm than good (interference). I have not seen good info on the area coverage of the routers … I like the AX86U but that might be overkill.

    What do you think? Any recommendations?

    Reply
  51. Hi Dong, I appreciate your writings. I am using a Powerline Adapter to add coverage in a distant part of the basement. Which would be better as an Access Point, the Asus AX86U or the AX88U? As far as I can tell the latter has more streams (and costs more), but the former is newer. Thank you!

    Reply
  52. hey dong, great analysis and write up. i just moved into a new home and purchased the ax11000 to use with my previous ac-88u. im currently using the ax11000 as the host with the ac-88u as an aimesh node. i do have an s21ultra so wifi6 is great to have. i have the ax11000 in the basement, the ac-88u on the main floor in my wife’s office, and im looking for a 3rd router to put on the 3rd floor. what do you recommend?

    Reply
  53. Dong, thank you for the informative reviews. I have an AiMesh comprising an RT-68U router and RP-AC55 repeater, the latter in my garage with my RainMachine. For ppl like me who work from home, my company requires that IoT devices like the RainMachine connect to a guest network. I’ve set up a guest network, and connected the IoT devices in my house to it. But the signal from the router is weak in the garage, and the RP-AC55 doesn’t repeat the guest network, nor does it support client binding, which I’d also like to use. Its firmware is current (3.0.0.4.384.83394) but apparently not as functional as the router’s (3.0.0.4.386.41634). I’ve written to ASUS support to request that they update the RP-AC55 firmware. I’d appreciate it if you would use whatever influence you have with ASUS to encourage them in this direction.

    Reply
    • Most repeaters don’t support client binding due to the use of virtual MACs, Randy. More in this post — you’ll find it in the Extender part. As for supporting the Guest network, I’ve been pushing that for years, however, chances are only Wi-Fi 6 hardware will get it now.

      Reply
  54. Dong, with a setup of 3 RT-AX92U in a star mesh, AP mode, and about 75-80 devices, the main RT-AX92U seems not to be able to cope with the load and keeps dropping 2.4GHZ connections, what do you think is happening there: bug, bad HW, or just too much for the CPU of the AX92U?

    Reply
  55. Hi Dong,
    Really appreciate your excellent site.
    Based on your recommendations, I purchased an ASUS RT-AX86U and 3 Asus ZEN WiFi AX Mini units. I understand from your articles that the AI-Mesh works best with all three of the WiFi AX units hard-wired to the backbone. However in my house I am only able to hard-wire two of the three.

    Am I better off just using the two wired units? Or including the third, un-wired unit?

    I have not been able to find a reliable way of measuring strength and throughput to see which setup is best. Do you have a suggestion for a reliable way to test?

    Thank you. Matthew

    Reply
    • I’d go with the wired units first to see if that’s enough, Matt. Chances you only need the router and two satellites. In that case, adding the last unit doesn’t make things better. More on that in this post about mesh in general. But if it turns out you need all three units, then adding a wireless one is fine, too. Just don’t expect the top performance out of that unit.

      Reply
  56. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for all the information provided on this site. Very useful and educational.

    I recently bought a pair of ZenWIfi XT8 for my two story house. I have Xfinity Gigabit service and I only get about 500-600Mbps when connected to the main XT8 router. From the node mostly 400-500 if the signal strength is good. I have a Mac mini which is bit far from the node and typically get 2.4Ghz even though it supports AX. Was wondering if I should get additional GT-AX11000 as main router and move one of the XT8 near the Mac mini to take care of the situation? Since I bought the XT8 recently, I still have time to decide / return and get other combination that might help me with Gigabit internet speeds.

    Can you recommend something for me?

    Appreciate your help.

    Vikram

    Reply
      • Dong,

        I separated the the bands and tried to force connect the Mac mini to 5G and the speed test is great, I get about 450Mb down. However, I notice that it keeps dropping and try to connect back to 2.4G network – not sure why its doing this. I removed the 2.4G from the config and it got disconnected from 5G network, I tried reconnecting but for some reason it keeps saying invalid password – although I verified I was typing the right password. After several tries it finally connected. Thought that was strange, any idea whats going on ? connection to 5G doesn’t seem to be reliable.

        The signal strength seems ok , got full bars.

        Thanks
        Vikram

        Reply
  57. Hi Dong
    This is a really interesting read, as I wasn’t aware its not quite as simple as pairing any node with any primary.
    I already have an AC86U which acts just as an access point (I have a Draytek 2862 non-wifi unit to act as my main router, DHCP server, and VDSL modem) and want to add a second access point in a mesh, with wired backhaul. Our use-case is mainly web browsing, emails etc including video streaming and some remote teleworking. Most of the higher-bandwidth use is done on desktop PCs via wired ethernet.
    You’re suggesting another AC86U would be a good match (which is great as I like mine), although I’m wondering whether to buy an AX58U instead to use as the primary and use my current AC86U as a node so I have better future-proofing. Do these two play nicely together ?
    Alternatively, as the current AC86U only acts as an access point to my Draytek router, is there a cheaper access-point-only unit that would work well with the AC86U acting as the primary ?

    Reply
  58. Hey Dong, I just happened to find 1 x CT8 and 1 x XT8 in my marketplace community at real discounts. Wondering if, by any chance, these 2 would be compatible together via the wireless backhaul that they both have? Albeit with one being a WiFi5 and another being a WiFi6. What would we tend to expect of the performance?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  59. Dear Mr Dong,
    This is the the first time I have asked you a question or anyone else about this topic. Thank you so much for your expert advice. I have roughly a 1000sf mobile home. 14’x70′. With sheetrock walls. From reading your reviews I was thinking about the Asus RT-AX86U. I need very fast speeds (wifi 6)all the way to the other end of the house(my bedroom). I have bad knees and prefer not to go under the house. If one RT-AX86U is not enough? Will I get half the speed if I use two of these in IMESH when using wireless only? If I absolutely need to connect them with cable is there something you would recommend over this setup? Thank you so much for helping people like me who are on the extreme end of novice. You are a blessing!

    Reply
    • Your home is relatively small, Heath, so a single router will likely do. (But still, that depends on the number of walls, etc., this post will help you figure things out.) As for speed, that takes two. Your clients need to support Wi-Fi 6, too. But as a router, the RT-AX86U is an excellent choice.

      By the way, as long as you have exhausted your search on this site, you can ask as many questions as you like. 🙂

      Reply
      • Mr Dong,
        Thank you so much for your reply. I failed to mention that I have windstream kinetic 200Mbs service. I am trying my best to find a modem only for gbond vdsl2 and I finished the internet and have nothing to show for it. I want to use the rt-ax86u but I can’t find a separate modem ONLY(not my T3200 gateway) to go with it… Windstream don’t want to give me this information. The techncian that set it up told me to plug in the wireless router into the gateway. I don’t want want their gateway. I don’t want to rent it. I want my own modem and the rt-ax86u. Are there any suggestions you know of? Thank you so much for your time and knowledge.

        Reply
  60. Hi Dong,

    Your site is awesome and a lot of great knowledge is here. I wish I’d found it earlier!

    Some months back, I purchased an RT-AX89X on the recommendation of my ISP for use with 10Gbps fiber. I have been pretty happy with it overall, but our ONT (and thus, the router) is in our walk-out basement. The office and gaming devices are mostly in the basement as well. This all works great, but upstairs we get fairly frequent short, but irritating wi-fi dropouts on some devices.

    So I need to add at least one node and set up a mesh. You have said that the RT-AX89X doesn’t work well for this without a wired backhaul. I do intend to run a connection from downstairs to upstairs, but don’t know when I’ll find the time to do it. I think it makes sense to keep the 89X as the primary router, because of the dual 10Gig ports, but I’m not sure what to do for the node(s) setup in the meantime.

    Obviously the ideal solution would be to get the wire run sooner rather than later, but until then, I’m hoping to figure out something that will at least improve on the situation.

    Keep up your awesome work! Your site is truly a great resource.

    Reply
    • I’m in the same situation, Ash, and using the same router for the Multi-Gig ports. You can run a short cable to move the router out in the open, though, at least temporarily. And thanks for the ko-fies. Appreciate the gesture.

      Reply
      • I know that you can’t speak to my specific situation, but the only aimesh router with even one 10 Gig port that I’ve found is the RT-AX89X. I’d love to find another one that has a single 10-Gig port for the backhaul, but as far as I’ve been able to find there isn’t one. At least I don’t think I saw any other 10 Gig capable Asus options in your multi-gig router list.

        I fully admit that it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll be able to come close to saturating that type of connection any time soon, but my ISP is a nonprofit and the price is less than some pay for 1-2Gbps, so I figured I might as well. 🙂

        I’m leaning toward picking up a little bit less expensive, but still multi-gig capable, router to put upstairs for now so that clients connecting to it aren’t limited to a total of 1 Gig. Any thoughts on what might serve best in that capacity?

        I could get a second 10 Gig capable router from another manufacturer and use it as an AP, but I think the convenience of a mesh is probably a better option.

        Reply
        • For this type of application, Ash, you might want to use an enterprise router. But for the cost, what you’re doing is fine. 🙂

          Reply
        • You could also pick up an ax-86u or XT8 for a node since they have a 2.5gig port for WAN, thus giving you multi gig for backhaul!

          Reply
  61. Can’t thank you enough for providing all this info. I want to set-up a mesh network as follows and would really appreciate your opinion.

    Context: Large old House with thick walls internally and externally (600+ sq m).
    Wired ethernet cables throughout. Ethernet wires start in basement. Internet comes into the basement to a location surrounded by thick walls….and not possible to change this.

    Want to set-up a future-proofed wired mesh network, good for streaming with as little connection drop as possible (gaming not necessary). Because of the huge thick walls, I need to create 5 separate zones. The current internet speed is not great (< 100) but hopefully greater in the future.

    Was thinking of the ZenWifi AX mini XD4 wired backhaul, two sets of three. Would that work and what would the set-up be?
    Or would it be better to just set-up 5 separate access points?

    Thank you for any advice and thank you again for all your articles.

    Reply
  62. Hi Dong,
    Amazing site. Thanks for your efforts. I’ve spent several hours reading your articles and have decided I want to go with an Asus (privacy, features, quality) wifi6 router and/or 2 node Aimesh system.

    I’m looking to upgrade a budget netgear dual band ac1200 r6220 router requiring frequent resets and terrible range to significantly improve the range, Improve network performance and take advantage of my wifi 6 devices and am stuck on wether triband is the way to go (house not wired) or whether sub 200 MB internet makes having a dedicated wireless backhaul channel irrelevant and a dual band ax wireless mesh is good enough.

    I’m not opposed to spending a bit more for unused specs, leaving “room to grow”, but I don’t want to throw money away for zero benefit. Any advice or alternate ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    I’ve been looking at the zenwifi ax or maybe 2x RT-AX3000’s or ?

    Current setup/use:
    I have a personal cloud wired to router that I access frequently with photo and video editing, some other client to client data transfers, video conferencing frequently, streaming to multiple devices (some 4k), 6-10 smart devices and growing, multiple iphones, iPads etc., some occasional online gaming. I’m currently at about 20 connections but expect this to increase. I do see significant slowing the more devices we have connected.

    It’s a very small house ( ~1200 sq ft 1 1/2 story) but it’s old (plaster walls) and the modem needs to stay in a bad location at very front of house. This means bad connectivity to the back of the house and none outside in the yard/patio.

    Reply
  63. Hey Dong,

    I’m hoping you can help me with a replacement for my Orbi RBR50 with two wired RBS and one wireless RBS in my 9K sq ft house. The Orbi does an adequate job of covering my house, but I don’t like Orbi’s slow clumsy, difficult to manage Static IP Addresses software, nor its unreliability.

    I have a Control4 Smart Home with 67 devices and have Cat 5 & 6 run all over the house, but not in the garage where I need WiFi for the Sprinkler System and Garage Door Openers. I was thinking of four ASUS ZenWiFi XT8 AX6600, but this appears to be an overkill since I have wire in all but the garage. I have 200Mbps Internet Service and want a dependable, speedy wifi system with forward looking compatibility. What would be your recommendation?

    Reply
  64. Dong,

    This is unbelievable work you’ve written and organized. I’m an old school “IT/Computer build/troubleshoot/tweak/etc” that grew up as a 10yr old running a BBS on my 2400 Baud modem (upgraded to 14.4 in time).. Through highschool I was running 56K and used to bond two phone lines/modems for ~112Kbps (Yeah I was getting 11+ KB/s on my music downloads lol). This was late 90’s, and soon I acquired Charter Broadband… the old Sharkfin modem and I want to say it was ~1.5Mbps cable coax connection in early 2000’s.

    Anyhow point is,.. I appreciate text based, written word, kind of Internet 1.X. It’s a lot of work.. you’ve tested and written comprehensive reviews and guides of all of these Routers, explored combinations etc – Then linked them all for those seeking some direction in AIMesh and potential combinations and info.

    Question:

    I have a GPON Fiber connection (1,000/1,000) running to an Asus RT-AC88U Router. This is the only router I have running for a 3,000 square foot , 2 story home. The AC88U runs the network wired/wireless and is located on 2nd floor on one end of home. (Yes I realize this isn’t the ‘optimal’ location but it’s where the primary office/computer server room/and subsequent location of where I ran multiple Coax cables, and now Cat 6 dedicated lines from the ONT in Garage downstairs.

    As expected the downstairs, other end of home doesn’t get exceptional Wireless speeds. I primarily want to enable improved Wireless sustained speeds/reliability of connectivity but have reasonable expectations. Just enough speeds to support some mobile phones, ipad, and very importantly — Roku (Streaming) at a 4K bitrate sustained/reliable. So let’s call this 20Mbps or greater TRUE speed to the Roku device wirelessly.

    Right now it varies and might sustain a weak connection of ‘speed test results internally’ of 10 Mbps give or take.

    So my question is :

    1) What is your best recommendation for this scenario to AIMesh with my RT-AC88U wirelessly across the house to place in that furthest/downstairs bedroom? Should I just grab an AC68U? Another AC88U or? I don’t want to blow money on a 400-500$ router just to attempt to bump wireless speeds with a ‘wireless backhaul’ on a dual channel setup. Something cheaper but willing to spend what is best to achieve ~50Mbps or so to wireless devices at furthest point from AC88U on a Gigabit WAN fiber connection.

    I researched Power of ethernet, wifi extenders, etc.. basically the conclusion I came to was none of it was reliable and trying to run hundreds of feet of Ethernet cable to establish a wired connection was the only possible solution.. even though I only need 5% of my connection speed (40-50Mbps) in this location. I have to specify that some devices will get 800Mbps connections that will drop to 5Mbps connections at the drop of a hat in this end of the house.

    You get the idea – If you so happen to read this – I appreciate your response and again .. thank you for your obvious hard work on your website here.

    Take care,

    Jared

    Reply
  65. UPDATE: Right after posting my comment I actually just got the dedicated backhaul to connect at 160 MHz by selecting channel 100 and 160 MHz in the 5GHz-2 band, so it does work! Also, I ment to type that I get 1200 Mbps on my gig speed connection thanks to the GT-AX11000’s awesome WAN aggregation! Thanks again for your writings, no response to my comments needed.

    Reply
  66. After reading your well-written, informative articles, I bought two GT-AX11000 routers with the desire to set up an AiMesh network using 160MHz 5G as the wireless backhaul in my home. I can get 160 MHz 5G speeds when my laptop connects directly to the main unit, and it is absolutely wonderful, especially with the port aggregation that bumps my gig speed connection up to 12000 Mbps. But whenever I connect to the AX11000 that’s set as the mesh node I lose half my speed becuase the dedicated backhaul never seems to be at anything other than 80 MHz. I am located inside the US and not right near an airport so I should be able to access 160 MHz on the higher channels used in the dedicated backhaul. Are you aware if it is possible to set the dedicated wireless backhaul to the 160 Mhz frequency between two of these? Because without it, I am better off only connecting to the main unit even if it is further away than the mesh node since the main router is the only thing that seems to allow a 160 MHz connection. I feel like this makes the mesh node worthless since it is slower even when it is closer to me than the main router. Do you know of anyone who is able to set the dedicated wireless backhaul of two GT-AX11000 units to 160 MHz, even occassionally?

    Reply