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Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8) review

Asus brings Wi-Fi 6 performance to its ZenWiFi mesh routers

Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

It’s expensive, and not everyone will need the sheer speed of Wi-Fi 6, but the Asus ZenWifi AX mesh networking system provides top-of-the-range performance for streaming video, gaming and other online activities. The Asus app also impresses with a good set of advanced controls, security features, and content filtering for parents of young children.

For

  • Top-of-the-range Wi-Fi speeds
  • Good parental controls
  • Versatile app and security features

Against

  • Expensive
  • Fiddly set-up process
  • Currently no three-router option for larger homes

TechRadar Verdict

It’s expensive, and not everyone will need the sheer speed of Wi-Fi 6, but the Asus ZenWifi AX mesh networking system provides top-of-the-range performance for streaming video, gaming and other online activities. The Asus app also impresses with a good set of advanced controls, security features, and content filtering for parents of young children.

Pros

  • +

    Top-of-the-range Wi-Fi speeds

  • +

    Good parental controls

  • +

    Versatile app and security features

Cons

  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Fiddly set-up process

  • -

    Currently no three-router option for larger homes

One-minute review

The Asus ZenWifi AX (XT8) is quite possibly the best router the company has produced, and it's one of the best mesh router systems, and best Wi-Fi 6 routers, we've tested.

Coverage-wise, you've got either a single unit or a two-pack, depending on what your home is like. The two-piece mesh system that we review here covers a more extensive 5500sq.ft and costs a rather hefty AED 2,699. For smaller homes, a single pack with only one unit that covers 2750sq.ft will set you back AED 1,599. That's impressive coverage, but of course you have to take into account how many walls and obstacles are around your home that can reduce that Wi-Fi coverage.

It’s available in either black or white - but be careful not to confuse it with the less expensive Asus ZenWifi AC (CT8), which is virtually identical but, as the name suggests, still uses the older 802.11ac version of Wi-Fi.

The ZenWifi AX (XT8) can also be used with other specific Asus routers that support the company's AiMesh system to expand upon an existing WiFi network.

Design and features

Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

(Image credit: Future)
Specifications:

Wireless Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), tri-band 2.4GHz and 2x 5.0GHz
Processor: Quad-core Broadcomm BCM6755 @1.5GHz
Memory: 512MB
Storage: 256MB Flash
Beamforming: Implicit  and Explicit for 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Ports: 2.5Gb WAN, 3x Gigabit Ethernet; 1x USB 3.1
Dimensions (HxWxD): 161 x 160x 75mm

It’s expensive, even by the standards of new Wi-Fi 6 routers, but the Asus ZenWiFi AX earns its keep with an impressive combination of features and performance.

The two routers support tri-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) on the 2.4GHz and two 5.0GHz bands, with a total speed of 6600Mbps (6.6Gbps). That’s far beyond the speed of most current routers that use 802.11ac wi-fi, and even faster than many new Wi-Fi 6 routers as well. 

However, Wi-Fi 6 is still compatible with millions of devices that use 802.11ac Wi-Fi, so you shouldn’t have any problem using it with your existing computers and mobile devices.

There are hardly any home broadband services that come anywhere near the speeds supported by Wi-Fi 6, so Asus sets aside one of the 5.0GHz bands to be used as a ‘backhaul’ that provides a high-speed link between the two mesh routers, while still leaving the remaining 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands to transmit data to your computers and mobile devices.

To make the most of the router’s performance, each router also has a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port for high-speed Internet connections, along with three additional Gigabit Ethernet ports for devices that need a wired network connection, and a USB 3.1 port for sharing a USB storage device on your network.

Set-up and performance

Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

(Image credit: Future)
Benchmarks:

Ookla Speed Test (multi-band SSD)
Within 5ft, no obstructions: 570.0/75.0Mbps (download/upload)
Within 20ft, three partition walls: 498.0/67.0Mbps (download/upload)

20GB Steam 20GB download
Within 5ft, no obstructions: 29.7MB/s
Within 20ft, three partition walls: 19.6MB/s

The Asus Router app and set-up procedure aren’t quite as straightforward as we’ve seen from other mesh systems, but once you’ve got everything running the app does provide an impressive range of features.

Most mesh systems start by using an Ethernet cable to connect the first mesh router to your existing broadband router, and you then place the other mesh routers further away in other rooms around your home. And, somewhat unusually, both routers initially have to be plugged in and set up together in the same room - preferably sitting within three metres of each other. 

The Asus app then uses a Bluetooth connection on your iOS or Android mobile device to set up your new mesh network. And, unlike many routers and mesh systems, we were pleased to see that it starts off straight away by asking if you want to create a single network that combines the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands, or create two separate networks with different names and passwords. Once that’s done you can unplug the second ZenWifi router and move it into another room to complete your new network.

Again, though, the app doesn’t help you here, leaving you to flick through the printed manual to find that information. It also has a tendency to throw jargon around, such as ‘dynamic DNS’, without explaining what it means, so Asus could do a bit more to clarify the set-up process for people who aren’t too familiar with mesh technology.

Thankfully, though, the Asus app is more straightforward once you’ve got your new mesh networking up and running, and includes a good set of parental controls and other features. You can create profiles for family members under the age of 18, which are linked to the devices they use. These profiles allow you to create a schedule for Internet access, as well as using content filters to block unsuitable adult material, gambling or messaging apps for younger children.

There’s also a simple option for ‘QoS’ - quality of service - that allows you to prioritise bandwidth for specific services, such as streaming video or gaming, and even a bandwidth ‘limiter’ that can restrict the bandwidth used by individual devices.

The app also includes Asus’ AiProtection features, which keep an eye out for malicious websites, malware, and other outside attempts to hack into your home network. Many routers and mesh systems charge additional subscription fees for security features and parental controls such as these, so it’s good to see Asus providing these features without any additional charge. Advanced users are able to use a web interface as well, but most of the tools can be used within the app itself.

We weren’t disappointed by the performance of the ZenWifi AX either. It’s not cheap, of course, but it pushed our 500Mbps Internet connection all the way - even squeezing it up to 570Mbps at one point. And, crucially, it was able to maintain that speed even in other parts of our home, which often struggles to get a good wi-fi signal. Downloads from Steam hit 29.7MB/s for devices in the same room as the first ZenWifi, and barely flickered as we moved away from it, with download speeds holding steady at 19.6MB/s.

Asus ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

You really need fast Wi-Fi
With tri-band Wi-Fi 6, the ZenWiFi AX is able to create a high-speed ‘backhaul’ that connects the two mesh routers, while still providing 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz bands for high-speed video streaming, music, and gaming.

You have weak Wi-Fi in some rooms
Mesh networking systems aren’t just about speed - they’re also designed to eliminate ‘deadspots’ in rooms or other locations that normally struggle to get a good wi-fi signal. The ZenWiFi AX is expensive, but it really impressed us with its ability to maintain fast wi-fi even in the most remote corners of our office.

You’ve got kids
Some routers and mesh systems provide only basic features in their apps, and then try to charge you an extra monthly subscription for additional parental controls and other advanced features. However, the Asus Router app has good parental controls and security features that don’t require a subscription fee.

Don’t buy it if…

You’re on a budget
The ZenWiFi AX is a top-of-the-range Wi-Fi mesh system that runs far faster than most home broadband services. There are plenty of less expensive mesh systems that can still handle streaming video and gaming with no trouble at all.

You live in a palace
Most mesh systems are available with either two or three routers in order to accommodate homes of different sizes. Somewhat oddly, the expensive ZenWiFi AX is only available with two routers that cover up to 5500 sq.ft, with no three-router option for even larger homes.

You don’t like jargon
The Asus Router app is full of useful features and parental controls. However, its set-up process is a little long-winded and it tends to throw quite a bit of jargon around, so it could be a bit daunting for newcomers to mesh technology.