I frequently receive requests regarding which Wi-Fi 6 router or mesh system to get among similar solutions. Those along the lines of “This one vs. that one, which would you pick for yourself?”
It’s a kind of decision so subjective there’s no straightforward answer. (Plus, I have them all — I don’t need to choose!) That said, instead of answering these questions individually and risking repeating myself to death, I’ll put that all in this post.
It’s a good idea to follow the links here for the full reviews, but if you’re in a hurry, this post will nudge you toward one of those few you’ve had in mind.
I’ll update this post as I review more similar Wi-Fi 6 solutions, but one thing remains: No one router will give you everything!
Dong’s note: This is a frequently updated post.
- Asus RT-AX86U vs. RT-AX82U
- Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini vs. Netgear MK63 vs. TP-Link Deco X60
- TP-Link AX11000 vs. Asus GT-AX11000
- Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000
- Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200
- Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120
- Asus RT-AX3000 vs. Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link Archer AX50
- Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro
- Wi-Fi 6 Routers Compared: A note on performance testing
Asus RT-AX86U vs. RT-AX82U: The quick take on which to get
Asus calls both the RT-AX86U and RT-AX82U “gaming routers,” and indeed, both include a lot of features for gamers. However, neither is a true router for online gaming the way the GT-AX11000 is. Among other things none support the special VPN for gamers, called WTFast.
Both routers share the same 4×4 5 GHz Wi-Fi specs and can deliver top speeds thanks to the support for the venerable 160 MHz channel width.
Finally, the two share the same robust web interface with a ton of features and settings, including the support for AiMesh. Either will be a reliable standalone router that can host a Wi-Fi system when more routers jump in the mix.
Specs-wise, the RT-AX86U is a more powerful router. It has more processing power, higher Wi-Fi specs on the 2.4 GHz band, and a 2.5 Gbps LAN/WAN port. As a result, it’s generally faster, has slightly better range, and can work as a much better mini NAS server.
In short, I call the RT-AX86U the best dual-band router to date for a reason.
Design-wise, though, the RT-AX82U is a much cooler-looking router. It comes with a futuristic look and a front mood lighting that you can program to the max. For what it’s worth, it’s a much better conversation starter.
The RT-AX86U and RT-AX82U are both excellent routers. The choice between them depends mostly on your style.
If you want the best dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router to date, pick the RT-AX86U. But if you can live with sub-Gigabit connection speed and like to impress others, the RT-AX82U is right up your alley. And in this case, its slightly lower cost doesn’t hurt.
Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini vs. Netgear MK63 vs. TP-Link Deco X60: The quick take on which to get
These three are mid-tier mesh systems for the budget-minded.
They are not exactly affordable, but sure cost significantly less than the higher-end alternatives. All come with a 3-pack — you have more options in terms of hardware placement and possibly better coverage.
The three support wired backhaul, meaning you can use network cables to link the hardware units, which is a recommended setup, anyway.
There are a lot of differences between these three. First, the Asus and Netgear share almost the same specs and are more affordable than the TP-Link. But their hardware is a bit inferior.
While all three are dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 systems, the TP-Link has the support for the venerable 160 MHz channel width and, therefore, can theoretically deliver double the bandwidth compared to the two. (That proved to be not the case in my testing, though.) It also comes with three identical routers, each having enough network ports for a daisy-chain wired backhaul setup.
The ZenWiFi AX Mini and Netgear Nighthawk MK63 each include a router and two satellites that have two and one Gigabit network ports, respectively. As a result, it’s a bit harder to wired them all together.
In return, the ZenWiFi AX Mini comes with a lot more features and settings than the TP-Link. It also doesn’t require a login account with its vendor, while the Deco X60 does. The Netgear is somewhere in middle on this front.
You should only consider either of if you have a modest broadband connection or if you have gotten your home wired. A dual-band mesh will generally work, but the speed will be much lower than you’d expect from a Wi-Fi 6 system.
After that, it’s the question of privacy, features, performance, and ease of use.
The Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini is a better answer on the first three. The Netgear Nighthawk MK63 is the middle of the road. And if you’re looking to daisy-chance hardware unit via network cables, the TP-Link Deco X60 is the only choice.
TP-Link AX11000 vs. Asus GT-AX11000: The quick take on which to get
From the look and the name, you can guess that these two routers share a lot in common. And they indeed do.
Both are massive tri-band routers with top-notch hardware specs. The two share almost the same squarish physical size with eight removable antennas. Both have a robust web interface with a ton of useful features, including free-for-life online protection.
As for performance, both routers support the 160MHz channel bandwidth and delivered speedy Wi-Fi rates when working with both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5 clients. They also feature LAN Link Aggregation, where you can combine two ports into a 2Gbps connection.
And finally, both routers are marketed as high-end routers for gamers.
There are quite a few major differences between the two.
First and foremost, the Asus GT-AX11000 is a real gaming router with game-specific features. It also comes with a 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN port, in addition to its 1Gbps WAN port and four Gigabit LAN port.
What’s more, it has more features, including the support for support Dual-WAN, WAN Link Aggregation, and the ability to function as part of an AiMesh system.
The Archer AX11000, on the other hand, is not a gaming router. In fact, its gaming veneer might cause issues for gamers. It also doesn’t have a multi-gig LAN port, but only a 2.5Gbps WAN port. In return it has eight (instead of four) Gigabit LAN ports.
The lack of a multi-gig LAN port means in real-world performance, the TP-Link generally caps at 1Gbps. On the other hand, you can easily get faster-than-Gigabit Wi-Fi rates with the Asus.
Design-wise, the Archer AX11000 is nicer-looking with much better antenna design — you can quickly attach/detach its eight antennas with ease. On the other hand, it’s a pain to deal with the GT-AX11000’s.
But you can do a lot more with the Asus, including the ability to expand your network by adding more AiMesh routers. Most importantly, if you’re a gamer, definitely pick it over the TP-Link counterpart.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000: The quick take on which to get
Both the Alien Kit and Netgear Orbi RBK852 are Wi-Fi 6 mesh solutions that include a router and a mesh satellite. As a result, if you need no more than two hardware pieces to blanket your home, they are mostly the same.
Both are tri-band solutions, and neither supports 160MHz channels. For this reason, they cap at 1200 Mbps (and not 2400 Mbps) when working with currently available 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients.
The two systems share similar hardware costs, with the suggested retail price of around $700. In real-world usage, both deliver the same performance, at least for now, considering we only have 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients.
There are so many differences between these two.
The Orbi includes a router and a mesh satellite. After that, you can extend the system by adding more satellite units as you want. The router unit, however, can not work as a satellite unit.
The Alien’s satellite unit, called MeshPoint, is not available by itself and permanently synced to the router of the same kit. As a result, you can’t extend an Alien mesh system by adding more MeshPoint units. Instead, you’ll need more Alien routers, which can also work as mesh points.
The Orbi Wi-Fi 6 router includes a 2.5Gbps WAN port and the ability to combine it with another LAN port to deliver a 2Gbps WAN connection when working with a supported modem. The Alien is a pure Gigabit wired solution.
The Orbi features a full web interface and includes all basic and advanced network settings for those who want to customize their system. There’s also an optional Orbi mobile app for mobile users.
The Alien uses the mobile app primarily, therefore, has a limited amount of network settings and features. It has a simple one-page web interface where you can turn a few settings on or off.
Ultimately, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 has all the elements present in previous Orbi systems, including a paid online protection feature called Armor and a robust parental control feature via Circle by Disney. Both are currently not yet available, though, and you’ll have to wait till future firmware available later this year.
The Alien has just two notable features, including ad-blocking and Teleport VPN. It does have an internet restriction feature — or “Parental Controls,” as Ubiquiti calls it — which is a bit too simplistic.
Teleport is quite excellent, both in ease of use and effectiveness, despite the fact it’s only available to mobile devices, and not a regular computer. The ad-blocking feature is somewhat hit or miss. Some ads can still get through, and you can’t customize it to allow ads on specific sites.
The Orbi has VPN, too, but it’s standard and therefore requires a bit of work to set that up.
The Orbi has a dedicated backhaul band — one of its two 5GHz bands — and therefore has almost no signal loss. It’s fast.
The Alien, on the other hand, doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul band. But it’s the only mesh I’ve known that allows users to pick which band to work as backhaul.
It’s hard to say which is better between these two. But if you want something fresh, fun, easy-to-use, the Alien kit is a better choice. It’s worth the risk.
On the other hand, if you want simple network customization, a brand name you can trust, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 is a more of a peace-of-mind decision.
Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200: The quick take on which to get
These two are the currently the top-notch tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market. They are massive network devices of different designs.
Both are tri-band routers capable of delivering 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 speeds on 160MHz channels (up to 4.8Gbps) in a single Wi-Fi connection. Since there are only 2×2 clients on the market, for now, they have the speeds up to 2.4Gbps, which is still crazy fast.
Both also have a 2.5Gbps network port and support Link Aggregation to deliver faster-than-Gigabit wired speeds. They also share the same number of Gigabit network ports, including one WAN and four LANs. The two delivered similar Wi-Fi coverage in my testing.
Finally, both routers have a full web user interface and a useful mobile app.
The RAX200 is one of the coolest routers you can get. It looks like hardware coming out from the StarWars universe. The Asus GT-AX1100, on the other hand, is quite ugly, being a square box, with loose detachable antennas.
But the GT-AX11000 has a ton of extras, including AiMesh, AiProtection, and game-specific features. It also includes in-depth Wi-Fi settings and useful networking tools, like Wake-on-LAN. The RAX200, on the other hand, has a standard feature set with modest Wi-Fi settings.
The RAX200 works well right out of the box. Wi-Fi 6 clients consistently connect to it at full speeds. The GT-AX11000 requires a bit of tweaking before it works well, likely due to buggy firmware. But Asus pushes out new firmware updates quite regularly.
Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120: The quick take on which to get
These two are dual-band 4×4 routers, capable of delivering up to 4.8Gbps in a single Wi-Fi 6 connection, or 2.4Gbps to existing 2×2 clients. They somewhat like the GT-AX11000 and RAX200 above, respectively, minus a 5GHz band.
The RT-AX88U has a standard design of a Wi-Fi router while the RAX120 is an awesome looking piece of hardware (it shares the same design as the RAX200).
Port-wise, the RAX120 has the usual one Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit LANs plus one 5Gbps LAN port — currently the fastest multi-gig port for a home router. The RT-AX88U has no multi-gig port at all, but it has eight LAN ports and one WAN port, all are Gigabit.
Similar to the pair above, the RT-AX88U has a lot of features but is a bit buggy. The RAX120 has a standard feature set, minimum Wi-Fi settings, but it works well right out of the box.
Get the Asus RT-AX88U if you want extra LAN ports and don’t mind tweaking the settings, and you don’t care about multi-gig wired speeds.
The Netgear RAX120 is a better fit for those wanting reliable performance out of the box, the support for multi-gig, or the fastest NAS performance when hosting an external storage device.
Asus RT-AX3000 vs. Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link Archer AX50: The quick take on which to get
These three routers are very similar in terms of specs. All are dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 router with the support for the venerable 160MHz channel width. They are the sweet-spot routers considering there are only 2×2 Wi-Fi clients on the market.
All of them also have a full web interface with a similar set of features and settings. Each also has a free app for mobile users. Hardware-wise, they have the usual 4 Gigabit LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, and one USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) port.
None has a multi-gig network port. But the RT-AX3000 has Dual-WAN while the Archer AX50 has LAN Link Aggregation. The Netgear RAX40 has neither.
In my testing, they all had similar Wi-Fi coverage, which is only suitable for a small home. So if you live in one, these routers will give you the best Wi-Fi 6 bang for your buck, costing less than $180 each.
There are some differences between these routers.
Design-wise, the Netgear RAX40 is better looking, but it’s also the bulkiest. The TP-Link AX50 and the Asus RT-AX3000 are a lot more compact, with the latter being the smallest and lightest, but also a bit boring coming in the traditional router design.
The Asus delivered the best performance among the three in my testing and is the one with the most feature. It’s also the most expensive.
The Asus as an excellent QoS engine — especially for those working from home — but its Parental Control feature could use some improvement. The other two’s QoS features are a bit hard to configure. The Netgear has no Parent Control while that of the TP-Link is the most effective.
These are very similar routers. But if you want the most features, especially if you want an effective QoS and the best performance, the Asus RT-AX3000 is the best choice.
Between the other two, it’s a matter of whether you like Netgear or TP-Link.
Even though there are little differences between the Netgear Nighthawk RAX40 and the TP-Link Archer AX50 in my testing, in real-world usage, you might not notice the difference between the two at all.
Finally, the TP-Link’s lower price, as well as its excellent Parental Control feature, can be a bonus.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro: The quick take on which to get
Both the AmpliFi Alien and the SURFboard mAX Pro are tri-band 4×4 mesh-ready routers. They share similar cylindrical designs and are super easy to use via mobile apps. Both deliver near-identical performances in my testing.
Both are available as single routers, or you can get multiple routers to form a mesh system. Neither has a full web user interface — the mobile app is the only way to use them.
The Alien is a much cooler looking router with a high-end touchscreen and a bright ring of a status light at its bottom. It has some unique features, including the TelePort VPN for mobile devices and the ability to block online ads. There’s also a simple one-page web user interface where you can turn on a few settings.
Apart from using multiple routers, there’s also an Alien Kit that includes a router and an Alien MeshPoint. For more on the Alien Kit, check out its full review here.
On the downside, the Alien is an unconventional tri-band router with one Wi-Fi 6 2.4GHz band, one Wi-Fi 5 5GHz band, and one Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band. As a result, in a mesh setup, it doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul band. What’s more, it doesn’t support 160MHz channels, either.
The SURFboard mAX Pro is a traditional tri-band router with a dedicated 5GHz band when working in a mesh. It also supports 160MHz channels. The downside is it has no features and almost no network settings to customize.
As a single router, you should pick the Ubiquiti Amplifi Alien over the Arris SURboard mAX Pro. It’s more fun to use, more reliable, and has some unique and valuable features for home users. You’ll even probably love it.
For the same token, the mAX Pro has nothing on Alien. That’s especially true since, in my testing, it didn’t work in the 160MHz when serving clients, either.
As a mesh system, the Alien offers more hardware choices. Its mesh point is slightly slower due to the lack of a dedicated backhaul band, but overall, it’s a better choice than the mAX Pro.
Wi-Fi 6 Routers Compared: A note on performance testing
I tested all Wi-Fi 6 routers using a few 2×2 clients since there are no faster clients on the market. As a result, you’ll find the performance of all Wi-Fi 6 routers to be quite similar since the speed of their network port (predominantly Gigabit) is the bottleneck.
What makes the most significant difference between them is the support for the 160MHz channels. With the support for these channels, a Wi-Fi 6 router can deliver up to 2.4Gbps of negotiated speed; without, you’ll get 1.2Gbps at most.
Note that for Wi-Fi 5 tests, I use a 4×4 client (1733Mbps) for the close-range tests and a 3×3 client (1300Mbps) for the long-range. The reason is there is no 4×4 Wi-Fi 5 adapter for laptops, and I can’t move my desktop around.
On the 2.4GHz, I only use Wi-Fi 6 client for the tests. Generally, on this band, there’s little or no difference between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 clients.
The result always fluctuates a great deal and is much lower than the ceiling speeds. That’s just how it is on this band. The numbers on the charts did come from my rigorous testing, but, still, you should use them only for reference.