May 28, 2020

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

Speedy speeds all through your entire house. Significantly solid effectiveness at range. Straightforward setup. A...

Speedy speeds all through your entire house. Significantly solid effectiveness at range. Straightforward setup. A regular, dependable mesh that quickly steers you from band to band and routes your link devoid of dropping it. A tri-band layout that includes a devoted backhaul for transmissions between the router and the satellites. A long term-proofed, multigig WAN port. Total assist for Wi-Fi six, the latest, swiftest model of Wi-Fi.

Like

  • Total assist for Wi-Fi six
  • Tri-band layout with devoted wireless backhaul
  • Steady mesh effectiveness
  • Multigig WAN port on each and every gadget

Will not Like

  • Minimal speeds on the 2.4GHz band
  • Does not presently assist WPA3 protection
  • High quality of Assistance engine demands third-social gathering details-sharing

These were being all motives that the two-piece, $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six mesh router earned a solid review here on CNET. But I could say all of the identical things about the Asus ZenWiFi AX, much too — and that two-piece system only charges $450. On top rated of that, the ZenWiFi AX boasts far better range for each gadget and a far better array of app-centered controls and customizations for your network, and it lets you use possibly gadget as router or extender (the Orbi will not). It even comes in your preference of white or black.

Go forward and examine that initial paragraph once more. If it’s describing the $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi six mesh router, then it’s detailing a pretty solid system, albeit an expensive just one. But if we implement those people identical factors to the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX, then we’ve discovered the sweet spot for a mesh router update, with that identical large-conclusion effectiveness at a selling price that’s a lot less difficult to swallow. That tends to make the new ZenWiFi system my top rated-rated mesh router to date, an quick Editors’ Preference Award winner, and the initial system I would suggest for anyone on the lookout for a router truly worth splurging on.

I experienced the ZenWiFi system up and managing in less than 15 minutes.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Set up and layout

The initial factor you are going to see as you unbox the two-piece ZenWiFi AX system is that the two items are similar. Possibly gadget can provide as the router or as the range-extending satellite gadget, which tends to make for setup that’s fundamentally foolproof.

To get started, you are going to just plug just one of the devices in and join it to your router with an Ethernet cable. Then, open up the Asus app and adhere to the guidance to get your network up and managing. You are going to want to plug in the satellite gadget in 3 meters of the router in buy to pair the two together (prior to presumably unplugging and relocating it to where by you truly want it), but aside from that, the approach is about as straightforward as it gets, and only took me about ten minutes from get started to end.

You are going to discover a multigig WAN port, 3 spare Ethernet ports and a USB 3.one port on the back again of each and every ZenWiFi gadget.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The moment your network is reside, you are going to be capable to use the app to keep track of speeds and tweak options. The system defaults to placing out a solitary Wi-Fi network that quickly steers your link between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the 2nd, extra able 5GHz band serving as a devoted wireless backhaul between the router and its satellites. If you want to, you can break up those people bands into separate networks, which is a pleasant touch.

Even nicer: You can personalize that backhaul link as you see healthy. If you would alternatively share its bandwidth with devices on your network, you can swap to a nondedicated tactic — or you can swap the two 5GHz bands altogether, utilizing the initial as the backhaul and the 2nd, speedier band for your ordinary network targeted traffic. And, if you have got Ethernet cables managing by your walls, you can wire the satellites back again to the router and use all 3 wireless bands for your network targeted traffic.

As for the hardware alone, it’s the identical layout as the Wi-Fi five model of ZenWiFi, but the aesthetic is correctly large-conclusion devoid of drawing much too a lot interest to alone. With the tall-but-not-much too-tall layout and antennas concealed inside of, some may possibly oversight the things for good speakers, alarm clocks or other such tech that generally sits out in the open up in people’s homes. That is fantastic for a router — they’re going to complete far better if you you should not sense compelled to stash them out of sight in a closet or a drawer someplace.

You are going to discover a multigig WAN port on the back again of each and every gadget that supports incoming wired speeds as large as 2.5Gbps, which is a pleasant, vital piece of long term-proofing for a router at this selling price. You are going to also discover four spare Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and a solitary color-transforming LED standing gentle on the front. I like the way that gentle turns amber in color when a firmware update is prepared for down load, but it took me a moment to realize that’s what it intended, as the app tends to make no mention of amber in its LED color guideline.

No matter, the system tends to make an outstanding initial impression — but how perfectly does it complete? Perfectly…

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-centered velocity exams. With a top rated velocity of 825Mbps at a close-range distance of five toes, it’s comfortably speedier than Wi-Fi five routers like the Eero, the Nest Wifi and the twin-band, budget-priced model of the Netgear Orbi, all of which top rated out at close to 600Mbps. But it isn’t able of top rated speeds that are fairly as rapidly as those people of the fancier Wi-Fi six mesh routers like the AmpliFi Alien, the Arris Surfboard Max Pro or the tri-band model of the Netgear Orbi, all of which value a number of hundred dollars extra than the ZenWiFi AX.

Even extra of an eyebrow-raiser: the ZenWiFi AX got conquer at all distances by the Netgear Nighthawk mesh router. That is a budget-priced Wi-Fi six system that charges about $200 less than the ZenWiFi AX.

Still, our top rated velocity exams go away the range-extending satellite devices out of the equation, and they also you should not involve any walls or obstructions in between the router and our test laptop. Equally of those people variables will make a big impression on the way these methods complete in a true-globe setting. So, I took the ZenWiFi AX house, established it up on my 300Mbps fiber world wide web network and then clocked the speeds all through my smallish, shotgun-model house in Louisville, Kentucky.

The ZenWiFi AX completed with an normal down load velocity all through my house that was 2nd best amid all of the Wi-Fi six mesh routers I’ve analyzed. Only the Wi-Fi six model of the Netgear Orbi was speedier.


Ry Crist/CNET

The Asus system shone in these true-globe exams. More than various days and throughout dozens of velocity exams, the ZenWiFi AX under no circumstances once dropped my link or stalled out as I moved from space to space. In the conclusion, it completed with an general, full-house normal down load velocity of 271Mbps, or about 90% of what my world wide web link is able of. That is 2nd only to the $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi six mesh system, which completed with an general normal of 288Mbps in the identical spate of exams.

What is extra, when I eradicated the range extender and reran my exams with just the router, the ZenWiFi AX jumped up to initial place. In my back again toilet, the farthest space from the router and a typical useless zone for solitary-point routers in my velocity exams, I was however averaging speeds just about 250Mbps, which is outstanding. Following greatest was the AmpliFi Alien, which averaged back again-toilet speeds of 132Mbps with the range extender unplugged. On its own, the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six router averaged a back again toilet velocity of just 82Mbps. Equally of those people opponents returned speedier top rated speeds in an open up-floorplan lab, but the ZenWiFi AX router appears to be the extra able piece of hardware once you get obstructions into thought.

Consider your details, much too

1 of the pleasant characteristics in the Asus app is a High quality of Assistance engine that lets you prioritize targeted traffic to particular devices on your network. It really is a useful instrument that you you should not generally get with mesh routers like these.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

But when you go to switch the element on, the app alerts you to the actuality that utilizing the High quality of Assistance engine demands you to agree to the conditions and situations for a third-social gathering business identified as Development Micro. That business runs the software program that powers the Asus QoS engine, and “your data will be gathered,” Asus says.

“Asus is not liable for neither the arrangement between you and Development Micro nor any articles of the service delivered by Development Micro,” the assertion reads (presumably the double negative is unintended). “Make sure you refer to the privacy-linked assertion issued by Development Micro or contact Development Micro for extra information.”

High-quality print directing you to examine extra fantastic print, and from a business you have most likely under no circumstances heard of. Excellent.

At any level, I made positive to give that Development Micro privacy policy a examine. It really is 21 pages very long, but the component that appears to implement most to ZenWiFi people starts off on Web page nine. 

When you use Development Micro merchandise like the Asus QoS engine, the policy reads, Development Micro collects personalized details that could involve your name, mobile phone variety, e-mail deal with and gadget ID.

“We use this personalized data to be certain that the applicable customer’s license to our alternatives is valid, and to contact our shoppers with regards to renewals, technical concerns and new product data.”

The policy goes on to get extra granular about the varieties of details Development Micro collects, and it backlinks out to a separate details disclosure document (once more, fantastic print directing you to examine other fantastic print). That details disclosure lists five particular purposes for which Development Micro collects consumer data, and the particular varieties of consumer data that each and every intent collects. I requested Asus which of the five features on the record used to the QoS engine. For each Asus, it was truly four of them — and between them, the details gathered consists of resource and location IP addresses, URLs, file names and file paths.

This is where by I jumped back again about to the Development Micro privacy policy:

Development Micro does neither desire to acquire nor want any sensitive personalized data, i.e. personalized data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political views, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic details, biometric details, details relating to well being or details relating to a purely natural person’s intercourse daily life or sexual orientation.

To me, that’s all but an admission that sensitive details is, in actuality, finding scooped up by Development Micro’s processors. And even if the business says it will not want or want that type of data in specific, it however desires your data as a full. A lot of that could be for authentic purposes, like checking network targeted traffic for opportunity threats — but the policy also admits to utilizing personalized data for marketing: “We could also use personalized data for other business purposes, which includes maintaining existing and previous Prospects informed about our Solutions, Expert services and promotions.”

I’ll also point out that Development Micro’s legalese retains things fairly vague when describing how it retains consumer details protected, mentioning only “suitable protection steps” that limit access to “approved personnel only.”

I give Asus some credit for alerting you to the privacy implications in a quite straightforward fashion as shortly as you test to switch the QoS engine on. Still, I would not suggest undertaking so unless of course you happen to be sure that you want it (and most nearly certainly will not).


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Privateness gripes aside, the Asus ZenWiFi AX is an outstanding mesh router. It feels every bit the component of a large-conclusion update, and virtually managed to match the greatest-in-course effectiveness of the Wi-Fi six model of the Netgear Orbi even with costing hundreds less than that system. The ZenWiFi AX system was a cinch to established up and use, it offers a a lot much better diploma of customization than you ordinarily get with a mesh system and it carried out like a champ, maintaining speeds large all through all corners of my house and under no circumstances dropping my signal as I moved from space to space.

At $450, this is however a splurge, no doubt about it. But the Asus ZenWiFi AX is perfectly truly worth the cash if you happen to be on the lookout for the greatest price doable from a large-conclusion, Wi-Fi six mesh router system with a devoted backhaul band. If you happen to be on the lookout for an update, place it ideal at the top rated of your record.