Asus ZenWiFi AX review: This Wi-Fi 6 mesh router hits the sweet spot

Quick speeds throughout your complete residence. Particularly sturdy general performance at variety. Straightforward set up. A steady, trusted mesh that quickly steers you from band to band and routes your relationship with no dropping it. A tri-band design and style that includes a devoted backhaul for transmissions involving the router and the satellites. A upcoming-proofed, multigig WAN port. Entire aid for Wi-Fi six, the most recent, fastest version of Wi-Fi.

Like

  • Entire aid for Wi-Fi six
  • Tri-band design and style with devoted wi-fi backhaul
  • Steady mesh general performance
  • Multigig WAN port on each and every unit

Really don’t Like

  • Minimal speeds on the two.4GHz band
  • High quality of Services motor calls for 3rd-social gathering knowledge-sharing

These were all reasons that the two-piece, $700 Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six mesh router earned a sturdy evaluate here on CNET. But I could say all of the same things about the Asus ZenWiFi AX, also — and that two-piece system only fees $450. On leading of that, the ZenWiFi AX boasts improved variety for each unit and a improved array of app-based mostly controls and customizations for your network, and it allows you use either unit as router or extender (the Orbi isn’t going to). It even arrives in your decision of white or black.

Go in advance and study that initial paragraph once again. If it is describing the $700 Netgear Orbi six mesh router, then it is detailing a really sturdy system, albeit an high-priced one. But if we utilize all those same factors to the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX, then we’ve found the sweet place for a mesh router update, with that same higher-close general performance at a price tag that’s a great deal a lot easier to swallow. That tends to make the new ZenWiFi system my leading-rated mesh router to day, an simple Editors’ Option Award winner, and the initial system I might propose for any one wanting for a router worthy of splurging on.

I had the ZenWiFi system up and jogging in significantly less than 15 minutes.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Setup and design and style

The initial point you may notice as you unbox the two-piece ZenWiFi AX system is that the two pieces are equivalent. Either unit can serve as the router or as the variety-extending satellite unit, which tends to make for set up that’s fundamentally foolproof.

To get started, you may just plug one of the equipment in and hook up it to your router with an Ethernet cable. Then, open the Asus app and observe the guidance to get your network up and jogging. You can expect to have to have to plug in the satellite unit inside of 3 meters of the router in purchase to pair the two with each other (prior to presumably unplugging and relocating it to exactly where you actually want it), but aside from that, the method is about as straightforward as it will get, and only took me about 10 minutes from start out to finish.

You can expect to locate a multigig WAN port, a few spare Ethernet ports and a USB 3.1 port on the again of each and every ZenWiFi unit.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When your network is stay, you may be capable to use the app to keep track of speeds and tweak configurations, together with up-to-day touches like aid for WPA3 encryption, the most up-to-date Wi-Fi protection typical. The system defaults to putting out a one Wi-Fi network that quickly steers your relationship involving the two.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the second, much more capable 5GHz band serving as a devoted wi-fi backhaul involving the router and its satellites. If you want to, you can break up all those bands into individual networks, which is a nice contact.

Even nicer: You can personalize that backhaul relationship as you see in good shape. If you would relatively share its bandwidth with equipment on your network, you can switch to a nondedicated approach — or you can switch the two 5GHz bands entirely, employing the initial as the backhaul and the second, a lot quicker band for your usual network traffic. And, if you have got Ethernet cables jogging by your walls, you can wire the satellites again to the router and use all a few wi-fi bands for your network traffic.

As for the hardware itself, it is the same design and style as the Wi-Fi 5 version of ZenWiFi, but the aesthetic is correctly higher-close with no drawing also much interest to itself. With the tall-but-not-also-tall design and style and antennas hidden inside of, some may well oversight the things for smart speakers, alarm clocks or other this sort of tech that commonly sits out in the open in people’s residences. That’s fantastic for a router — they’re going to execute improved if you never feel compelled to stash them out of sight in a closet or a drawer someplace.

You can expect to locate a multigig WAN port on the again of each and every unit that supports incoming wired speeds as higher as two.5Gbps, which is a nice, important piece of upcoming-proofing for a router at this price tag. You can expect to also locate 4 spare Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and a one colour-transforming LED position light-weight on the front. I like the way that light-weight turns amber in colour when a firmware update is prepared for download, but it took me a minute to comprehend that’s what it intended, as the app tends to make no point out of amber in its LED colour manual.

Regardless, the system tends to make an exceptional initial perception — but how nicely does it execute? Nicely…

The Asus ZenWiFi AX was a middle-of-the-pack performer in our lab.


Ry Crist/CNET

Network nirvana?

The Asus ZenWiFi AX wasn’t necessarily a runaway standout in our lab-based mostly speed checks. With a leading speed of 825Mbps at a near-variety length of 5 toes, it is comfortably a lot quicker than Wi-Fi 5 routers like the Eero, the Nest Wifi and the dual-band, spending budget-priced version of the Netgear Orbi, all of which leading out at all-around 600Mbps. But it isn’t really capable of leading speeds that are really as rapid as all those of the fancier Wi-Fi six mesh routers like the AmpliFi Alien, the Arris Surfboard Max Professional or the tri-band version of the Netgear Orbi, all of which price tag a number of hundred bucks much more than the ZenWiFi AX.

Even much more of an eyebrow-raiser: the ZenWiFi AX got beat at all distances by the Netgear Nighthawk mesh router. That’s a spending budget-priced Wi-Fi six system that fees about $two hundred significantly less than the ZenWiFi AX.

Continue to, our leading speed checks leave the variety-extending satellite equipment out of the equation, and they also never include any walls or obstructions in involving the router and our examination laptop. Equally of all those variables will make a huge impression on the way these devices execute in a real-planet setting. So, I took the ZenWiFi AX residence, set it up on my 300Mbps fiber world-wide-web network and then clocked the speeds throughout my smallish, shotgun-model residence in Louisville, Kentucky.

The ZenWiFi AX finished with an normal download speed throughout my residence that was second highest amongst all of the Wi-Fi six mesh routers I’ve tested. Only the Wi-Fi six version of the Netgear Orbi was a lot quicker.


Ry Crist/CNET

The Asus system shone in these real-planet checks. More than a number of days and across dozens of speed checks, the ZenWiFi AX hardly ever at the time dropped my relationship or stalled out as I moved from space to space. In the close, it finished with an all round, full-residence normal download speed of 271Mbps, or about 90% of what my world-wide-web relationship is capable of. That’s second only to the $700 Netgear Orbi six mesh system, which finished with an all round normal of 288Mbps in the same spate of checks.

What is actually much more, when I eliminated the variety extender and reran my checks with just the router, the ZenWiFi AX jumped up to initial spot. In my again lavatory, the farthest space from the router and a prevalent dead zone for one-stage routers in my speed checks, I was nonetheless averaging speeds just about 250Mbps, which is exceptional. Up coming very best was the AmpliFi Alien, which averaged again-lavatory speeds of 132Mbps with the variety extender unplugged. On its possess, the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six router averaged a again lavatory speed of just 82Mbps. Equally of all those opponents returned a lot quicker leading speeds in an open-floorplan lab, but the ZenWiFi AX router looks to be the much more capable piece of hardware at the time you choose obstructions into thought.

Contemplate your knowledge, also

1 of the nice features in the Asus app is a High quality of Services motor that allows you prioritize traffic to specific equipment on your network. It truly is a handy device that you never generally get with mesh routers like these.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

But when you go to transform the characteristic on, the app alerts you to the actuality that employing the High quality of Services motor calls for you to agree to the phrases and situations for a 3rd-social gathering company referred to as Craze Micro. That company runs the software package that powers the Asus QoS motor, and “your info will be gathered,” Asus states.

“Asus is not responsible for neither the settlement involving you and Craze Micro nor any information of the company delivered by Craze Micro,” the assertion reads (presumably the double adverse is unintended). “You should refer to the privacy-relevant assertion issued by Craze Micro or speak to Craze Micro for much more information.”

Fantastic print directing you to study much more fantastic print, and from a company you have likely hardly ever listened to of. Great.

At any charge, I made sure to give that Craze Micro privacy policy a study. It truly is 21 webpages extensive, but the portion that looks to utilize most to ZenWiFi people commences on Web site 9. 

When you use Craze Micro products like the Asus QoS motor, the policy reads, Craze Micro collects individual knowledge that may perhaps include your title, mobile phone quantity, e mail tackle and unit ID.

“We use this individual info to ensure that the appropriate customer’s license to our alternatives is legitimate, and to speak to our buyers concerning renewals, technical problems and new product info.”

The policy goes on to get much more granular about the varieties of knowledge Craze Micro collects, and it links out to a individual knowledge disclosure document (once again, fantastic print directing you to study other fantastic print). That knowledge disclosure lists 5 specific reasons for which Craze Micro collects person info, and the specific varieties of person info that each and every goal collects. I asked Asus which of the 5 capabilities on the list used to the QoS motor. For each Asus, it was actually 4 of them — and involving them, the knowledge gathered involves supply and vacation spot IP addresses, URLs, file names and file paths.

This is exactly where I jumped again about to the Craze Micro privacy policy:

Craze Micro does neither want to receive nor have to have any sensitive individual info, i.e. individual info revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic knowledge, biometric knowledge, knowledge about health and fitness or knowledge about a organic person’s sex lifestyle or sexual orientation.

To me, that’s all but an admission that sensitive knowledge is, in actuality, obtaining scooped up by Craze Micro’s processors. And even if the company states it isn’t going to want or have to have that type of info in unique, it nonetheless needs your info as a full. Substantially of that may perhaps be for respectable reasons, like checking network traffic for opportunity threats — but the policy also admits to employing individual info for marketing and advertising: “We may perhaps also use individual info for other small business reasons, together with holding current and previous Consumers knowledgeable about our Items, Expert services and promotions.”

I will also stage out that Craze Micro’s legalese retains things fairly obscure when describing how it retains person knowledge secure, mentioning only “appropriate protection steps” that restrict entry to “approved personnel only.”

I give Asus some credit score for alerting you to the privacy implications in a reasonably straightforward manner as soon as you test to transform the QoS motor on. Continue to, I wouldn’t propose accomplishing so until you might be sure that you have to have it (and most pretty much absolutely would not).

asus-zenwifi-ax-1

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Privateness gripes aside, the Asus ZenWiFi AX is an exceptional mesh router. It feels each individual bit the portion of a higher-close update, and almost managed to match the very best-in-class general performance of the Wi-Fi six version of the Netgear Orbi in spite of costing hundreds significantly less than that system. The ZenWiFi AX system was a cinch to set up and use, it offers a much more robust degree of customization than you generally get with a mesh system and it carried out like a champ, holding speeds higher throughout all corners of my residence and hardly ever dropping my sign as I moved from space to space.

At $450, this is nonetheless a splurge, no question about it. But the Asus ZenWiFi AX is nicely worthy of the dollars if you might be wanting for the very best worth possible from a higher-close, Wi-Fi six mesh router system with a devoted backhaul band. If you might be wanting for an update, set it suitable at the leading of your list.

Initially printed March 1.
Update, March two: Updated to reflect that the ZenWiFi AX supports WPA3 protection.

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