Asus RT-AX86U AX5700 Wi-Fi Router Review. Asus rt ax86u

Asus RT-AX86U Pro AX5700 Wireless Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

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Asus RT-AX86U Pro AX5700 Wireless Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router

  • High-Efficiency Wi-Fi 6
  • Mobile Game Mode
  • Asus RangeBoost Plus
  • Asus Safe Browsing
  • Enhanced Security Anywhere
  • RT-AX86U Pro

Your Winning Choice for Mobile Gaming!

Enjoy the quickest, smoothest Wi-Fi gaming connections ever with the Asus RT-AX86U Pro dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 router. It offers ultrafast Wi-Fi speeds up to 5700 Mbps, and is packed with advanced technology, including Mobile Game Mode for a lag-free, low-latency mobile gaming experience.

Ultrapowerful Wi-Fi 6

RT-AX86U Pro brings you all the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), and works perfectly with all your existing Wi-Fi devices!

Boost Your Mobile Gaming

Reduce lag and latency for mobile gaming with just a tap on the Asus Router app.

Prioritize via Gaming Port

The dedicated gaming port on RT-AX86U Pro automatically prioritizes any wired device connected to it. No complex configuration is needed, just link your gaming PC or console to the special LAN port to give you a fast, stable connection that’s always at the head of the queue.

Prioritize via Gear Accelerator

Gear Accelerator allows you to prioritize devices wirelessly via RT-AX86U Pro online control panel. The simple interface allows you to prioritize devices to help boost their speed and prevent them fighting over bandwidth with other devices.

Eliminate Wi-Fi Congestion

Connect your devices to the 5 GHz Band and avoid the often-congested 2.4 GHz Band, while enjoying up to 5.6X quicker Wi-Fi speeds. Also, optional Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) unlocks up to 15 of the least-congested channels on the 5GHz Band to give you even more bandwidth for gaming.

Beyond Performance

RT-AX86U Pro is powered by a 2.0 GHz quad-core 64-bit CPU, giving it the performance to handle even the most demanding gaming network. It delivers maximum network throughput by 18% for lightning-fast, accelerating data transfers and optimizing your gaming experience.

Lightning-Fast 2 Gbps Internet

RT-AX86U Pro is made to break down all the barriers that can slow down your gaming. It supports up to a 2 Gbps internet connection, so you can unlock the full potential of high-speed networking for both wired and Wi-Fi connections.

Remove Network Bottlenecks

Adaptive QoS (Quality of Service) enables you to keep your network running smoothly by prioritizing network traffic. You can prioritize applications such as streaming video or web surfing, as well as gaming. It’s the perfect ally for delivering low-latency Wi-Fi anywhere in your home.

Whole-Home Gaming

Does your router leave you with Wi-Fi dead spots? RT-AX86U Pro supports Asus AiMesh, a unique mesh-networking technology that creates a whole-home network utilziing multiple Asus routers. With easy central control and seamless roaming, even non-experts can set it up with any AiMesh-capable routers you own. Say goodbye to Wi-Fi dead zones!

A Safer Browsing Experience

The internet can contain inappropriate content, intrusive ads or other dangers and safety risks. Asus Safe Browsing helps block undesirable content in one tap.- no extra apps required. Its lightweight DNS-based filtering won’t affect router performance. It can even filter explicit content from search engine results to protect your kids online.

Complete Security for Your Home Network

Alongside the latest WPA3 security protocol, the Asus RT-AX86U Pro also features AiProtection Pro powered by Trend Micro, with automatic, regularly updated security signatures to shield your devices and personal data from internet threats.

Parental Controls at Your Finger Tips

Gain insight into your kids’ online activity and customize settings for different age groups with RT-AX86U Pro’s robust parental controls. You can also flexibly schedule internet access with one click, or you can grant extra online time for your kids to reward their good behavior.

Make Free Wi-Fi Secure with Instant Guard

When you are away from home, the Asus Instant Guard mobile app gives you one-tap secure internet access via your RT-AX86U Pro router, thanks to its encrypted VPN tunneling technology. Our newly upgraded app even allows you to easily share this worry-free network connection with your family and friends through a URL link.

VPN Your Way

Enjoy secure and quick VPN access for streaming, gaming and other activities with the Asus RT-AX86U Pro router. Through both the Asus Router app and the web interface, you can easily set up and manage your VPN connections, including OpenVPN and WireGuard to meet more of your VPN scenarios.

Network Standard:IEEE 802.11aIEEE 802.11bIEEE 802.11gWiFi 4 (802.11n)Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)IPv4IPv6

Product Segment: AX5700 ultimate AX performance : 8614804MbpsAX technology: Yes

Data Rate:802.11a : up to 54 Mbps802.11b : up to 11 Mbps802.11g : up to 54 MbpsWiFi 4 (802.11n) : up to 450 MbpsWiFi 4 (802.11n) (1024QAM) : up to 750 MbpsWiFi 5 (802.11ac) (1024QAM) : up to 4333 MbpsWiFi 6 (802.11ax) (2.4GHz) : up to 861 MbpsWiFi 6 (802.11ax) (5GHz) : up to 4804 Mbps

Antenna::External antenna x 3Internal PCB antenna x 1

Transmit/Receive:2.4GHz 3x35GHz 4×4

Processor: 2.0GHz quad-core processorMemory: 256 MB Flash and 1 GB RAM

Boosts speed:OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access)Beamforming: standard-based and universal1024-QAM high data rate20/40/80/160 MHz bandwidth

Operating Frequency: 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz

Ports:RJ45 for 10/100/1000 BaseT for WAN x 1RJ45 for 10/100/1000 BaseT for LAN x 4Five (5) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports one (1)2.5G/1Gbps multi-Gig port (configurable) LAN: 4xGbE (2x port aggregation LAN) WAN: 1 GbE WAN/LAN: 2.5G/1Gbps multi-Gig port (configurable) Multi-Gig: Ability to aggregate two Gigabit LAN ports and two Gigabit WAN ports (configurable) concurrently.USB 3.2 Gen1 x1, 2.0 x1

Button: WPS Button, Reset Button, Power Switch, LED on/off Button

LED Indicator:Power x 12.4GHz x 15GHz x 12.5G Port x 1WAN x 1LAN x 4WPS x 1

Power Supply:19 V with max. 2.37 A current / 19.5 V with max. 2.31 A current or12 V with max.3 A current / 19.5 V with max. 2.31 A current

Package content:RT-AX86U Pro Wi-Fi routerRJ-45 cablePower adapterQuick Start GuideWarranty card

AiMesh:AiMeshPrimary AiMesh routerAiMesh node

Router APP: Asus Router APPGame: Game Boost / AccelerationAlexa: Support Alexa skill

AiProtection:AiProtection ProAiProtectionMalicious site blockingTwo-Way IPSInfected Device Prevention and Blocking

Parental Control:Parental ControlParental Control Customized Internet scheduleMaximum Parental Control profile : 64Maximum Parental Control content filter rule : 64

Traffic Control:Adaptive QoSBandwidth MonitorBandwidth limiterMaximum Bandwidth limiter rule : 32Traditional QoSMaximum Traditional QoS rule : 32Traffic MonitorReal-time traffic monitorWired Traffic MonitorWireless Traffic MonitorTraffic AnalyzerTraffic analysis period : Daily, Weekly, MonthlyWebsite history

asus, rt-ax86u, ax5700, wi-fi

Wireless:IPv6MU-MIMOWi-Fi Encryption : WPA3-Personal, WPA2-Personal, WPA-Personal, WPA-Enterprise. WPA2-Enterprise. WPS supportUTF-8 SSIDGuest NetworkMaximum Guest Network rule : 2.4GHz x3, 5GHz x3Guest Network Connection time limitGuest Network Encryption : Open system, WPA/WPA2/WPA3-Personal, WPSWPSWiFi MAC address filterMaximum MAC filters : 64Wireless schedulerAirtime fairnessRADIUS ClientUniversal beamformingExplicit beamforming

WAN:Internet connection Type : PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP, Automatic IP, Static IPDual WANWAN Aggregation3G/4G LTE dongleAndroid tetheringPort forwardingMaximum port forwarding rule : 64Port triggeringMaximum port triggering rule : 32DMZDDNSNAT Passthrough : PPTP Pass-Through, L2TP Pass-Through, IPSec Pass-Through, RTSP Pass-Through, H.323 Pass-Through, PPPoE relayLet’s EncryptSafe browsingDNS-over-TLS

LAN:DHCP ServerIPTVLAN Link AggregationManually assign IP addressMaximum manually assign IP address rule : 64

VPN:Instant GuardVPN Client L2TPVPN Client OVPNVPN Client PPTPVPN Client WireGuardVPN Server IPSecVPN Server OVPNVPN Server PPTPVPN Server WireGuardVPN Fusion

USB application:File System : HFS, NTFS, vFAT, ext2, ext3, ext43G/4G LTE dongleHDD hibernationSafely Remove diskAiCloudDownload masterAiDiskMedia ServerTime MachineSamba ServerFTP ServerShared Folder privileges

Administration:Operating mode : Wireless router mode,Access point mode,Media bridge mode,Repeater mode,AiMesh node modeOperating system : ASUSWRTFree OS upgradeFirewallMaximum Firewall keyword filter : 64Maximum Firewall network service filter : 32Maximum Firewall URL filter : 64SSHWake on LAN (WOL)Configuration backup and restoreDiagnosis toolsFeedback systemSystem logNew Device Connect NotificationLogin CaptchaConnection DiagnosisSecurity ScanAuto Firmware Update

Introduction Pricing, Availability, and Specifications

With the RT-AX82U in the books, it’s time to switch gears to the next platform on our list, which just so happens to be yet another mainstream Wi-Fi 6 platform from Asus. This time in the lab, we have the RT-AX86U, an AX5700 class solution that has a few tricks up its sleeve.

The AX86U is yet another Broadcom based platform, this time using the more popular BCM4908. This SoC is built from the ground up for high-performance multi-gig routers and gateways and is currently one of the most deployed solutions for Wi-Fi 6. The BCM4908 is a quad-core 1.8GHz solution, Asus has paired it with 1GB of DDR3 and 512MB of flash.

The Broadcom 4908 handles a large portion of the workload for the AX86U, including the 2×2 2.4GHz radio, four-port gigabit switch, and WAN. Asus has chosen the BCM43684 Radio to handle the 5GHz Band with a 4×4:4 interface and the BCM84880 to control the 2.5Gbe port. Two USB 3.0 ports are also included in this model.

Pricing and Availability

The RT-AX86U is currently available at several online retailers, including Newegg, Amazon, and Asus Store. MSRP is coming in at 249.99 with a two-year warranty.

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

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Router Details

Asus RT-AX86U Wireless Router

Packaging offers a look at the router on the right, marketing to the left with its AX5700 class and features listed below, including the 2.5Gbps port.

Included with the router, we have the power adapter and ethernet cables and the quick start guide in several languages.

The RT-AX86U is a vertical platform offering branding and room for air to escape through a plastic mesh exterior.

We have a series of LEDs for each LAN port, internet, and power along the bottom.

The back panel is a bit busy with power and USB coming from the left to the 2.5Gbe and WAN port in the middle and gigabit LAN rounding on the right side.

Last, we have an image of the PCB. The first offers a look at the BCM4908 on the right side with two DRAM packages from Nanya; to the left, we have the BCM43684 and BCM84880.

Management GUI Details

Management GUI

For AiMesh platform solutions, this is the typical setup routine. From this first menu, you can start setup with default options or changing the router “mode” by choosing advanced settings.

The dashboard is once again that AiMesh platform we have seen on many solutions in the past. This offers a client list down below and system status for both Wi-Fi and hardware to the right.

Moving into the client list, we can see all devices connected to the router, the radio they are connected to, and the current data rate.

AiProtection is a built-in suite of security software to help you shore up the setting of your router, so there are no security risks. Also, AiProtection offers Parental controls per device with time scheduling and app filters.

The Adaptive QoS screen offers insight per device, showing bandwidth used along with the ability to prioritize with QoS.

The “Game” menu offers control for boosting your mobile and PC/Console gaming experience by configuring port forwarding options or prioritizing PC, Consoles and Mobile devices to the router.

Open NAT offers yet another way to make your gaming experience better by installing game profiles that include the appropriate ports for forwarding.

USB application is one of the many features that set Asus routers apart from nearly all other platforms. Here we have support for storage with AiDisk and Samba, turn your printer into a network capable unit with printer server, or add a second WAN option with a 3G/4G dongle!

Adding to the AiDisk options is AiCloud that allows you to access your data on the go with Cloud Disk.

Last, we have the many options for configuring the Wi-Fi, including Smart connect that moves devices to the appropriate Band automatically.

Test System Setup Benchmark Throughput Tests

Tyler’s Test System Specifications

  • Motherboard: Asus Crosshair VIII Formula X570(buy from Amazon)
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600(buy from Amazon)
  • RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB 2x8GB DDR4 3600(buy from Amazon)
  • Cooler: Corsair Hydro H60(buy from Amazon)
  • Case: Corsair Carbide 275R(buy from Amazon)
  • OS Storage: Corsair MP600 1TB(buy from Amazon)
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM850x(buy from Amazon)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10(buy from Amazon)
asus, rt-ax86u, ax5700, wi-fi

We perform all tests in a real-world environment. You may get better range and throughput results in a spacious facility with few internal walls or outdoors. Our tests provide a benchmark for estimating the range and throughput of wireless networking devices in an indoor setting with some obstacles.

Wired Throughput

After the AX82U, I went through and cleaned up the charts. This allows us to see where each router sits a little easier. With the AX86U, we see wired LAN performance at 951Mbps, pretty standard for gigabit connections. Wireless to wireless comes in at 430.6Mbps.

Wireless Throughput

In our 2.4GHz testing, the AX86U was the quickest we have seen to date with 20MHz channels just under 200Mbps. Opting for 40MHz instead brought performance up to 348Mbps about 40Mbps shy of the MX5, our current leader.

5GHz Wi-Fi showed reliable 80MHz performance a touch over 800Mbps while moving to 160MHz channels brought us up to 1325Mbps, about 70Mbps shy of the current leader; AX89X.

Mobile Throughput / Range

Setting up our iPhone 11 Pro for mobile throughput testing, we see the AX86U bring in a touch under 130Mbps with 2.4GHz.

5GHz performance was top 5 in our charts, the AX86U bringing in 650Mbps at 30Ft.

Benchmarks. Storage Performance Final Thoughts

Storage Performance

Testing the USB storage capabilities, we deployed a portable SSD and mapped it as a drive on our test system. The AX86U came away with pretty solid results, 156 MB/s read, and 150 MB/s write.

Final Thoughts

With both the AX82U and AX86U now in the books, Asus has put together a rather lovely mainstream lineup of solutions. That said, I do believe we have one or two more models to look at in the future to round out their portfolio.

As for the AX86U, Asus has a fantastic mid-range platform using trusted components in the BCM4908 adding in a gig of DRAM to handle the extra performance you will get from the 2.5Gbe LAN/WAN port something I don’t believe I have seen yet on a sub 300 platform.

Performance in both wired and wireless was quite good, reaching 951 Mbps for LAN while wireless saw 348Mbps for 2.4GHz and 1325Mbps in 5GHz. Storage performance was somewhat surprising as well for the AX86U; at 150/150, this router can easily handle basic NAS functionality and offers the ability with AiCloud to be a personal Cloud device only by adding a portable HDD or SSD.

Pricing is equally incredible for the AX86U, so much that I had to check multiple retailers to make sure it wasn’t a fluke but yes the 249.99 MSRP is real, and you are getting a full 4×4 5GHz radio AX5700 class solution, legit USB storage performance and 2.5Gbe WAN/ LAN allowing you the ability to upgrade your network to multi-gig just by adding a capable switch.

Asus RT-AX86U Wi-Fi 6 Gaming Router Review

Asus has been a provider of network gear and especially routers for quite a while. Today I’m taking a closer look at one of their newest devices, the RT-AX86U. It is an AX5700 router that utilises the latest wireless technologies. The router doesn’t just support the latest in Wi-Fi, it also comes with 2.5Gbps wired networking, AiMesh support, and WPA3 encryption.

The RT-AX86U Router Hardware and Connection Options

Most people won’t really think about the base hardware of a router, but it is as important as the connection options and it has to be able to handle the bandwidth of the ports and connections available. The Asus RT-AX86U is built with a 1.8 GHz quad-core CPU and it has 1GB DDR3 memory together with 256MB flash for the operating system. That should be plenty despite the impressive bandwidth options of the RT-AX86U.

As the name suggests, the router supports the latest Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax. This new generation of Wi-Fi allows the router to handle up to 4805 Mbps on the 5GHz Band and 861 Mbps on the 2.4GHz Band.

While the wireless options surely are the highlight of this router, it isn’t limited to them. It also comes with some seriously great wired options. As a base, there is a 1Gbps WAN port which is quite normal; but not always enough for enthusiasts. What if you got two 1Gbps internet connections that you want to bundle into one connection? No problem! The RT-AX86U can aggregate two ports to allow up to 2Gbps throughput. On top of that, it also comes with a 2.5Gbps port which makes it easy to get those 2Gbps to a single system that doesn’t have two ports to link. Besides the WAN port and the 2.5Gbps LAN port, there are four more standard 1Gbps RJ45 ports.

Besides the LAN options, the router also comes with two USB 3.2 Gen.1 5Gbps ports (USB 3.0) for sharing portable drives or printers over the network.

The Operating System and Features

The operating system behind Asus routers hasn’t changed much in appearance, making it easy for people familiar with the brand to get started and going in a jiff. But the functionality has changed a lot over the years and it’s better than ever before. One of the latest additions to the system is the AiMesh system which allows you to use multiple devices in a mesh setup. Not only does this allow you to use the old model you upgraded from as an extension point, it generally allows you to built better coverage in large homes.

Gamers can take advantage of the Game Boost and acceleration features while Smart-home users will like the Alexa skill support. There’s no default IFTTT support though, if you were hoping for that.

Naturally, you also get all the other things you require, from AiProtection over parental control to traffic control as well as VPN client and server functionality.

The Router’s Design

Asus routers always come with a great design, not just a square box on feet. This RT-AX86U comes with a little more simplistic design than some others we’ve seen in the past, but it is still a great looking device. The front has an aggressive look with the top mesh and red stripe at the bottom. The sides both feature buttons, but they go flush with the rest of the design. That way you only notice them when you need them and it gives the unit an overall sleek design.

The Asus RT-AX86U Is a Wi-Fi 6 Router That Doesn’t Sacrifice Looks for Power

Wi-Fi 6 has accelerated its creep into mainstream wireless networking, urged along by the similarly accelerating spread of gigabit internet. Until the last few months or so, purchasing a Wi-Fi 6 device has largely been a decision more about future-proofing and less about immediate gain. That’s quickly changing, however, with all manner of wireless device manufacturers releasing products boasting about blazing this and blistering that, and it’s finally time to take a serious look at 802.11ax routers.

The Asus RT-AX88U was an early entrant in the field, and the company now has several follow-ups, including our best gaming router runner-up: the RT-AX86U. There, I gave it credit for being extremely fast and for its restrained physical design. However, I took issue with Asus’s UI decisions. In the end, I concluded that I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good gaming experience. Now I’m taking an even deeper dive to find out: Is this router worth it for just any old person and not just gamers presumably reading this in a hoodie with some kind of RGB lighting and heat vents? I think so, and you should, too.

Asus RT-AX86U


One of Asus’s latest Wi-Fi 6 routers.


It’s reasonably attractive for a traditional router, plenty of settings, and great mesh networking function.

asus, rt-ax86u, ax5700, wi-fi


The Alexa Skills can be dumb, and the UI for configuring the router is a mess.

As far as the design of the Asus RT-AX86U goes, there isn’t much to say, and frankly, that’s a good thing. It’s neither a slab nor a monolith, neither an ancient alien artefact nor an air freshener chic pod (though it can be a Gundam, apparently). It’s black, it stands upright, and it has three stabby, removable, adjustable antennas jutting from the top. It has four outgoing gigabit ethernet ports — one of which is an auto-prioritising gaming port — in the back, a gigabit WAN, and a 2.5-gigabit LAN/WAN port for those lucky enough to be able to make use of it. Two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports give you a fast NAS if you’ve got a hard drive lying around.

Getting it set up is a quick process, refreshingly letting me choose up front whether to separate the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Knowing that I would need to reconfigure some real dumb Smart devices, I opted for separation, and my network was up and running in about five minutes.

But it should be noted there are two ways to handle setup and management. One is via a lovely mobile app, and the other is via the browser, and I hate the browser-based UI of Asus routers. It’s just a weird, unfocused, confusing mess. If you’re the type of person who wants deep, granular control of your home network, but don’t want to shell out for expensive enterprise-grade hardware, you could do a lot worse than Asus, but prepare to hunt for the settings you need to adjust. Trudging through the settings reveals menus and submenus that stretch out seemingly to infinity, with an intimidating depth that would have most people regarding it with narrowed eyes and a feigned understanding, muttering, “Yes, I see,” as they slowly mouse up to click the X button on that tab.

The intro screen has a basic network topology map which gives you a diagram of what all is connected, and a section where you can split out your 2.4 and 5 GHz bands or update your network SSID and password. After that, you get the shiny feature-y stuff, the majority of which, like the specific data-type prioritising Adaptive QoS, Traffic Analysis, and various media modes and security, is powered by Trend Micro.

Together they offer a host of security features in the AiProtection section, promising to block malicious sites, protect you from Distributed Denial of Service attacks, and network vulnerability attacks like Heartbleed, while also monitoring outgoing traffic for suspicious packets from virus-infected devices. Each tab under this section gives you reports of suspicious network behaviour, with downloadable logs for your review. In testing at, the router blocked all but two of 10 sites, with Safari catching the last two. It seemed to work well, though the experience is barebones, and unlike the rest of the settings for the router, there are no opportunities for customisation, just toggles for each of the three categories of protection. But using this, or a few other key features powered by Trend Micro, will bring you eventually to this EULA notice:

It seems that in order to have access to Trend Micro’s features, you must agree to give them access to all kinds of data, which may include your emails or your web browsing history. It’s spooky stuff, as usual, but thankfully all fairly easy to opt in or out of, as well — so long as you can bear the ensuing message about the valuable capabilities you’ll lose out on. So, it’s not quite the deal with Ursula the Sea Witch I initially worried it was, and, in the end, the details in the EULA are perhaps not unexpected for security software like this. I reached out to both Asus and Trend Micro for their input on what sort of data they collect and how exactly it’s used, and we’ll update here when we get a response.

Deeper in the menus, you will find a surprisingly pleasant Open NAT section with pre-configured port reservations for specific games and consoles, and NAS options that include support for Apple’s Time Machine backup software. Most people will go wall-eyed looking at options past these, but it’s worth noting that if you want to use features like OFDMA and MU-MIMO, beamforming, and, I don’t know, the actual Wi-Fi 6 standard, you’ll want to push on into the advanced settings — just don’t expect to understand much of what you are presented with here, unless you have studied networking down to a very specific level. That said, if you have time and sufficient grit, you can sift through it and find some truly powerful options.

Now, for all the shade I throw at the browser interface, Asus actually does a pretty decent job with their mobile app. Appearance-wise, it’s far from the tidy design of most of Asus’s competitors; the app looks the way we might have imagined the UI of the future would in the early aughts or late ‘90s — all sci-fi space controls floating against a star field, complete with animations that are just there to look neat. While very silly, it’s a breath of fresh air after using the web interface, with more of the stuff you would want quick access to right there on the home screen, like Adaptive QoS mode switching, letting you quickly switch priority to games, video conferencing software, media streaming, and more.

While not quite as robust as the browser UI, the mobile app is far more user-friendly, even if it isn’t perfect. I greatly appreciated seeing signal noise shown for individual devices — also an option in the browser — which helps a lot when placing them for the best signal, which is especially important for things like Smart speakers, which can be made or broken by your choices regarding network topology.

Looking at the feature list, it’s not unusual to wonder why in the hell you would want to command your router with Alexa. But, in the interest of being thorough, I grabbed my long-banished Echo Dot to test, and I did find some genuinely useful bits here — temporarily activating your guest network, for example, or pausing Wi-Fi. Perhaps the most useful of the bunch is the ability to change Adaptive QoS modes without going into the app.

The main shortcoming of Alexa Skills remains: Every command must be prefaced with “Alexa, ask my router…”, followed by a prescribed set of phrases you must memorise (or look up every time, defeating the purpose). The pricier RT-AX88U gives you a small selection of more natural-sounding phrases like, “Alexa, pause my Wi-Fi.” I tried anyway; not only did it not work, but Alexa pretended not to know who I was.

The rest of my Smart home experience on this router, initial difficulties aside, was a good one — lightbulbs flicked on and off, routines ran, and my chosen Smart assistant didn’t hesitate to respond to my requests.

The RT-AX86U is powered by a 1.8 GHz quad-core CPU with 1 GB of RAM and 256 MB Flash memory. Theoretically, it can transmit up to 4804 Mbps on the 5 GHz Band, or up to 861 Mbps on the 2.4, but you’ll never see those speeds, nor should you expect them. It has four antennas — one of which is an internal, printed circuit board antenna, and works all the way up to the 160 MHz Band, which is a key component of Wi-Fi 6, and necessary to reach the fastest speeds the router is capable of. It has a long list of other terms that describe how powerful it is.

As I’ve noted previously, the RT-AX86U is great for gaming. I wanted to take it further, so I decided to stress test the router, streaming music at the highest quality available on multiple devices, watching a 4K nature documentary on Apple TV, which is known for its high-bitrate streaming, conducting a video call with a friend, and playing CS:GO on official servers. This is a realistic scenario in my home, and the RT-AX86U aced it — I saw no sign of buffering or stuttering anywhere, my friend reported clear audio and smooth video, and in-game ping seemed unaffected. In raw numbers, I had to move into my back yard to get anything slower than the max I’m getting from my ISP, finding that I had good, usable internet even at the farthest reaches of my yard, which is about a fifth of an acre.

I tested file transfers with a 734 MB copy of Ernest Saves Christmas — a typical use case for network storage — and found the transfers to be very fast, with the limiting factor seemingly the actual read/write capability of the router. Transfer speeds reached as high as 465.79 Mbps, but averaged between 310 and 350 Mbps, and hardly budged at any distance. Write speeds were about half that.

After determining that the RT-AX86U was gross overkill for my needs, I thought I would look at Asus’s AiMesh, which lets you use multiple Asus routers to create a mesh network. Self-healing and pretty straightforward to set up, an AiMesh network can definitely get you that kind of blanketed internet plants crave.

I tested the mesh capabilities with the addition of an RT-AX82U, and for some reason, setting this up ended up actually being the only way I could finally get my “Smart” bathroom light switch to join my new network. I came to this experience with the breezy setup of Eero already in mind and found it similarly easy with Asus. Network performance was as expected, with devices generally connecting to the node closest to them or, at least, with the lowest amount of signal noise, and no real noticeable changeover time. Basically, mesh networking is a revelation to anyone who hasn’t used it, and that much is true here, as well.

In the end, the Asus RT-AX86U is a great router, with speedy performance and easy setup, despite an annoying menu system. Actually getting down and dirty in the settings is a pain, thanks to confusing, incompletely explained technicals and messy organisation, but basic and intermediate settings can be easily changed in the mobile app. Security and device prioritisation for the router is decent, though I recommend you review the EULA before proceeding to make sure you’re comfortable with the exchange you must make to take advantage. The mesh setup was fairly painless. The RT-AX86U met and, in some cases exceeded, my expectations, at least where it counts. Of course, you’re going to pay for it, at 400 — though you can find decent discounts at the usual online retailers.

Whether you just want lag-free gaming or you need something that can handle a heavy overall load, this router does it with aplomb. We are rapidly approaching the day when recommendations like this one isn’t just about future-proofing, but you will find in the RT-AX86U a router more than capable of meeting the unexpected demands put upon all of us this year. If you’ve got a smaller home that needs a lot of power and would prefer to check out mesh networking at a later date, this is absolutely the router for you.

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