A short while back, ASUS launched its latest gaming router, the ASUS RT-AX86U.
Whether you’re seeking improved throughput during your gaming sessions or enhanced security in general, there’s a lot to consider on this router. The inclusion of the “X” in its name brings with it 802.11ax – or in more common terms, WiFi 6. It’s not quite your entry-level gaming, so potential buyers have to consider their full set of requirements prior to investment.
We take a look at what the ASUS RT-AX86U has to offer.
ASUS RT-AX86U Build and Design
If you’re familiar with the gaming router industry, your first observation on the ASUS RT-AX86U would be that it is a vertically standing router. This compared to the horizontal routers that lie flat as a means to combat any balancing issues for the multitude of antennas protruding off the top.
There aren’t any of these concerns on the ASUS RT-AX86U, with only three external antennas. It looks more like a conventional router in most aspects, even down to its relatively small size. The unit is more than capable of operating without the three antennas attached, thanks largely to the internal antenna users won’t be able to see.
The router measures 242x100x325mm with an antenna attached, and down from 325mm to 164mm without. This is in line with dimensions of your standard routers providers by Service Providers, so users needn’t worry about positioning within the home or office. Having said that, it’s fairly chunky, weighing in at a smidge over 814g. Once it’s positioned in its most optimum spot, however, you wouldn’t be too phased about moving it around the room.
Being a gaming router, there are some preconceptions in regard to the design. For starters, there’s an expectation of a colour show from RGB LEDs. That isn’t the case here. The device has a matte black, plastic finish with red accents throughout. Apart from the notification lights, there aren’t all that many LEDs boasted on the devices.
In terms of connectivity options, there are a few. All the ports and switches are fitted on the rear of the router. This includes x2 USB 3.0 ports, WAN, x4 Ethernet ports (10/100/1000), 2.5G Ethernet. On the left-hand side of the rear you’ll find the power input, power switch and the reset switch. Of the four Ethernet ports, the first port (or furthest to the left) is the dedicated gaming port.
Overall, the design is decent without being too flashy. There are a number of ports for most of your requirements and it has a very solid build to round things off.
ASUS RT-AX86U Setup
There are two options to choose from on how to setup the ASUS RT-AX86U. The first, and easiest, is setting up via your PC or laptop via the browser connected via the IP root menu. The second option is to download the ASUS Router app for Android and iOS.
Once you’ve connected to the router’s WiFi – the default being “ASUS_XX” with XX being number – you can then connect to the root menu via the default IP. Here you will be provided with a few options via the guides provided. For example, you can choose to set it up as a simple Internet router or as a repeater. Once you’ve selected the respective option, you can then fine-tune some of the details such as AP name and password before then logging into the administrative menu where you can really let loose in terms of configurations.
Using the smartphone app is both easier and more complicated at the same time. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll be presented with the two options in the Quick Internet Setup screen. The first is the “Start” option, which will proceed to connect to your internet via the Ethernet port, while the second is the “Set Up Manually” option. On the former, it’s quite easy to walk through and be up and running within a minute or two.
Choosing the latter, however, is slightly more complicated, especially for the more novice users. Once you’re connected on the mobile app, however, the options are quite limited. If you’re looking for the more advanced options, you’ll have to use your desktop browser.
The options for setting up the router include wireless router mode / AiMesh Router mode (Default), Access Point (AP) mode / AiMesh Router in AP mode, Repeater mode, Media Bridge as well as AiMesh Node.
Features and Security
Starting with the basics, the ASUS RT-AX86U supports both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. The factory tested speeds reach up to 5.7Gbps, but in real world testing will never reach these throughput speeds. However, it doesn’t mean that it’ll fall short of achieving great results. For the most part, you can expect well above 4Gbps and 800Mbps on the 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz bands, respectively.
Although the majority of households or even small offices will never have the need for it, the router supports having four connections from multiple lines of traffic in order to provide the most optimised Internet speeds.
One of the key features on the router is being able to prioritise traffic, which is especially helping when you’re in a gaming session and don’t need any hinderances. The menus allow for quite a few network connection options, as well as adaptive QoS to prioritise specifically to the games you’re playing. There are a number of configurations available in the Open NAT DB, which provide port-forwarding rules for the best possible setup for games and apps.
I mentioned that there aren’t many options available on the mobile app to play around with, but there is one quite nifty feature. This is the ability to hit a button and prioritise traffic to your phone.
Other options also include parental controls for specific devices or simply blocking access to any devices that haven’t been added to the safe-list. There are also a few other security options for those more technical users.
For my tests, I played around with a few of the different modes to best manage my home network. For starters, I connected my 5G router to the ASUS RT-AX86U to then manage the various devices
connected to the network. It’s not the best configuration to utilise the router, but with no ADSL or fibre, it got the job done.
With the maximum speeds of the 5G router up to 300Mbps, this was my expectation. Thankfully, there wasn’t much loss through the router when connecting directly versus the ASUS RT-AX86U. Depending on where around the house I was connecting from, the maximum drop would be about 20Mbps.
A much better use case in this instance would be the repeater mode. Again, I would connect to the 5G router, however, this time via the WiFi network, which it would then boost and ‘repeat’. I found that the ASUS RT-AX86U had much better coverage around the house than the 5G router, which meant that there wouldn’t be a lack of signal throughout. This was interesting to me as the 5Ghz band on the 5G router doesn’t reach across the entire household, but on the ASUS router it’s more than capable of achieving this.
The final testing conducted was using the AiMesh Node. In an optimal solution, users could reuse older ASUS routers no longer in use to create a mesh network. This is ideal for a larger environment such as small office blocks or even larger houses where you often have dead spots.
Transferring data on the network direct provide much higher throughputs. Setting up devices connected to the WAN all achieved data transfer rates above the 4Gbps speeds for larger files. It does decrease somewhat, to around 1-2Gbps, when copying a series of smaller files, where processing of header data, etc. Reduces the overall transfer speeds.
With sufficiently high transfer speeds for both the Internet and WAN, the Game Device Priority and Adaptive QoS didn’t really factor much. Still, it’s a useful feature when there are quite a few devices connected all with high bandwidth requirements and network congestion. Overall latency averaged between 50 and 250ms on average.
Should you purchase the ASUS RT-AX86U?
With a recommended retail price of R3,999, the ASUS RT-AX86U router isn’t for everyone’s budget. With most users potentially already paying for the current router through their Service Provider bundled solutions, it’s not always easy to justify spending on another router.
Users will then require a very specific need for the router, most likely in households that require better coverage, network prioritisation for gaming and managing the network accordingly. That said, the ASUS RT-AX86U more than justifies its price point, adding a suite of features for advanced users.
The ASUS RT-AX86U is a great midrange gaming router for users that require additional routing options for household and small office networks. It’s not the most affordable of units, so potential buyers would need a solid use case before purchasing.
- Minimalistic design and small frame
- Dedicated gaming port
- Adaptive QoS (preconfigured prioritisation)
- No RGB LEDs
- 2.4Ghz band not as great
Ease of Learning
Ease of Use
Value for Money