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Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: Fast, flexible and fairly priced

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 250
inc. VAT

Strong performance and plenty of powerful features make the RT-AXE7800 an excellent choice for anyone who doesn’t want to wait for Wi-Fi 7

Pros

  • Strong wireless performance and range
  • Unbeatable software features
  • Very competitive price for 6E

Cons

  • Doesn’t support the new Wi-Fi 7 standard
  • Single 2.5GbE socket

As the first Wi-Fi 7 routers and meshes start to appear, Wi-Fi 6E may sound old hat. But it will be many years before most homes need the extreme performance of the newest wireless standard, and in the meantime 6E can still deliver huge speeds at much lower prices.

Hence the Asus RT-AXE7800. While its headline specifications can’t compete with a next-generation flagship router such as the Netgear Nighthawk RS700S, it’s more than fast enough for a typical home or small office, and offers a better set of built-in software features.

Eventually the day will come when Wi-Fi 7 is a must-have, but if you’re looking to buy a router right now, the RT-AXE7800 is a smart choice that should keep you very happy for a long time.


Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: What you need to know

The RT-AXE7800’s model number represents the total available bandwidth across its three wireless radios – 574Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz band, plus 4.8Gbits/sec in the 5GHz range and 2.4Gbits/sec for 6GHz connections.

Those aren’t quite best-in-class figures: Netgear’s top-of-the-range Nighthawk routers offer a full 4.8Gbits/sec on both upper radio bands. In practice though, you probably won’t notice much difference, as almost all client devices are limited to 2×2 MIMO, meaning they can’t connect faster than 2.4Gbits/sec anyway.

For wired connectivity, four gigabit Ethernet ports are joined by a single 2.5GbE socket. This can be used for either a multi-gigabit WAN connection or a high-speed internal network link, though you can’t have both. Bear in mind too that if you want multiple wired devices to talk to each other at 2.5Gbits/sec, you’ll need an external switch.

You can also combine two gigabit ports into an additional 2Gbits/sec WAN or LAN connection, if your modem or network client supports 802.3ad aggregation.

READ NEXT: Best Wi-Fi 6 router

Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: Price and competition

The RT-AXE7800 currently costs £238 from Amazon, which makes it one of the cheapest Wi-Fi 6E routers we’ve tested. The only lower-priced option is the Linksys Hydra Pro 6E, now on sale for a knockdown £160 – but that’s a questionable bargain, as its performance in our tests fell well short of expectations.

Otherwise, the closest rival to the Asus RT-AXE7800 is the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300. Originally reviewed at £350, it’s now available for £280, but its software features are limited compared to the Asus – and as we’ll see below, it doesn’t offer a significant performance advantage.

At the top of the Wi-Fi 6E market is that router’s bigger brother, the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500. With maxed-out specifications on all three radio bands, it’s a formidable performer that will cost you a steep £550. If you really want the bee’s knees of Wi-Fi, Netgear has also just released the Nighthawk RS700S, which adds support for cutting-edge Wi-Fi 7 technology – for a rather shocking price of £800 inc VAT.

If you don’t need the very fastest speeds it’s worth considering cheaper Wi-Fi 6 options too. Asus’ own RT-AX59U is one of our Best Buy routers, offering enough bandwidth for everyday duties, plus the same excellent software features as the RT-AXE7800, for just £125.

Meanwhile, gamers can check out the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000. It’s not the fastest 6E router around, and at £434 it’s quite pricey, but it includes an extensive range of custom gaming features aimed at ensuring a fast, stable connection, with easy setup and plenty of settings to play with.

READ NEXT: Best mesh Wi-Fi router

Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: Design and features

The RT-AXE7800 sports an unusual six-sided design, with a stubby flip-up antenna at each corner. The shape might not be wholly shelf-friendly, but it’s not oversized, with maximum dimensions of 243 x 223mm.

At the front, a row of LEDs light up to indicate activity on each of the three Wi-Fi bands and five Ethernet ports; at the rear you’ll find the ports themselves, plus a single 5Gbits/sec USB Type-A socket. The WPS button is hidden on the base, so you have to physically pick the router up to find it – a simple trick that might make it harder for any passing opportunist to surreptitiously join your network.

The big story is the software. Asus’ router firmware puts other manufacturers to shame, with an enormous range of advanced settings and features: technical types can tweak stuff like DNSSEC options, protocol-specific NAT passthrough and IPv6 configuration, while everyday users can benefit from a long list of bonus features.

These include intrusion protection and malware scanning powered by antivirus specialist Trend Micro, plus parental controls that let you block particular types of website and set usage schedules for individual clients. Asus’ optional DNS-based filtering can also automatically scrub malware, porn and intrusive adverts from your entire web experience.

Configurable QoS meanwhile lets you either limit individual devices’ bandwidth usage, or prioritise particular types of traffic, so your videos and VoIP calls don’t get interrupted by web surfing and peer-to-peer traffic. For outsiders, up to nine guest networks can be created (three per radio band), each with its own SSID, authentication method and optional expiration time.

VPN support is another strength. The RT-AXE7800’s inbound VPN service supports PPTP, IPsec, OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols, so you can quickly and securely connect to your home network from anywhere. And the router also supports outbound VPN connections, so you can route all of your internal traffic via a third-party server.

In fact, for maximum flexibility, you can configure up to 16 outbound servers and assign them to different device groups – so, for example, your smart TV might use a US server while your laptops all connect through a high-speed VPN node in the Netherlands.

Even for something as seemingly modest as the USB port, Asus goes the extra mile. As well as sharing data across your local network, you can configure the router to make your files available over the internet, host a personal cloud service or act as a Time Machine destination for macOS backups.

Nor are you limited to storage devices: the RT-AXE7800 can also share a USB printer, or if your main internet connection goes down you can plug in a 4G/5G mobile adaptor or hook up an Android phone as an ad hoc connection.

We haven’t seen any other router brand that comes close to this level of versatility – and the best part is, it’s all completely free for the lifetime of the router. That’s something that can’t be said for Netgear’s Nighthawk devices, which require hefty annual subscriptions on top of the purchase price to fully enable security and parental controls.

The trade-off is that finding one’s way around all these features and settings can be quite daunting. The web management interface offers no fewer than 19 main pages of controls, most with multiple tabs along the top for different subpanes.

You might be happier using the Asus Router mobile app, which has a cleaner, more modern look and layout, and also includes a game optimiser function for accelerating mobile games. However, picking your way through all of its pages and menus can still feel like delving into a maze.


Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: Performance

If you’ve read one of my router reviews before, you’ll know how I tested the RT-AXE7800. First, I set up the router in the study at the front of my home, installed the latest firmware and connected my internet line to the 1Gbits/sec WAN port. I then plugged my Asustor Drivestor AS3304T NAS into the 2.5GbE socket.

With this done, I took my test laptop (equipped with an Intel AX210 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E card) to various rooms of my home, copied a set of test files to and from the NAS and measured the average upload and download speeds. I did this first over the router’s 5GHz network, to measure performance over regular Wi-Fi 6, and then again over a Wi-Fi 6E connection.

Here are the 5GHz results I got from the RT-AXE7800, along with comparable results from competing routers:

Asus RT-AXE7800 download speed chart

Asus RT-AXE7800 upload speed chart

I should mention that the above figures reflect the RT-AXE7800’s default configuration, which uses an 80MHz channel width on the 5GHz band; I tried repeating my tests with the 160MHz option enabled, but saw no significant variation in performance.

At any rate, the router acquitted itself well, outperforming the 5GHz-only AX59U and Linksys Hydra Pro 6E in almost every location. While it couldn’t match the top speeds of its most expensive rivals, it’s fast enough that that may not matter: for context, Zoom suggests that high-definition video calls require around 4Mbits/sec of bandwidth (0.5MB/sec), while Disney+ recommends 25Mbits/sec (3.1MB/sec) for 4k HDR streaming. In other words, the RT-AXE7800 should be sufficient for almost any home or small office.

It’s also notable that the Asus’ 5GHz coverage held up unusually well over distance, to the point that the RT-AXE7800 outpaced much pricier routers in the bathroom at the far end of my home.

For the widest possible reach you can enable Asus’ AiMesh feature to use another Asus router or extender as a managed range booster for the RT-AXE7800. Bear in mind though that backhaul communications between the router and the extender node will eat into your overall available bandwidth.

Asus RT-AXE7800 6GHz download performance charts

Asus RT-AXE7800 6GHz upload performance charts

Switching to the 6GHz band reveals what the RT-AXE7800 is really capable of: close-range download speeds were more than 50% faster than on the 5GHz band, and 30% faster in the downstairs living room. Overall performance was in the same echelon as Netgear’s Wi-Fi 6E and 7 flagship routers, and almost precisely on par with the highly commended Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 (which makes sense, as that router has identical Wi-Fi radio specifications).

This impressive showing comes with just a few caveats. First, higher-frequency radio transmissions have less penetrative power, and in the bathroom the Wi-Fi 6E connection was slower than regular Wi-Fi 6. It was still pretty speedy, though – and you always have the option of binding further-away devices to the 5GHz network.

It’s worth remembering too that the RT-AXE7800 only supports 2×2 MIMO, so there’s no “spare” bandwidth beyond the figures you see above. By contrast, the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 and RS700S models have 4×4 antennae, so they can (in theory) provide the full speeds shown above to two clients at once.

The Asus also isn’t the most energy-efficient router we’ve tested: I found it sat idle at around 12W, and hit a peak power draw of 15.4W during my tests. That’s better than the Nighthawk RS700S, though, whose power consumption ranged from 17.8W to 21.2W.


Asus RT-AXE7800 Wi-Fi 6E router review: Verdict

The RT-AXE7800 isn’t the right choice for everyone. If you just want a basic wireless connection for everyday internet tasks, a cheaper Wi-Fi 6 router such as the RT-AX59U will suit you perfectly well. There are even some Wi-Fi 6 meshes that’ll provide wide-area coverage on a smaller budget, such as the Mercusys Halo H80X.

If you’re seeking something a little swifter, though – perhaps to take advantage of a high-end internet line, or to accelerate a busy internal network – this smart little hexagon is an ideal candidate. With 2.5GbE and a real burst of speed on the 6GHz band, it can provide performance well beyond any low-cost router.

However, the RT-AXE7800 won’t get the best from the incoming wave of Wi-Fi 7 devices. It’s worth considering whether you might be better off investing in the incoming standard – perhaps a year or two down the line – rather than buying a new 6E router right now.

In most cases though the Asus RT-AXE7800 will do everything you need for years to come, for a far lower price than any foreseeable Wi-Fi 7 system – and it comes with a superb range of advanced features and value-added services thrown in for free. In terms of bang-per-buck it’s a fantastic deal.

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