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Asus ZenWiFi AX review: Appearances can be deceiving

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
Inc VAT

Perplexing interface and boxy design aside, this is an appealing mesh option

Pros 
Consistent high speeds
Lots of connectivity options
Offers many features and settings
Cons 
Not beginner friendly
Plain and perplexing design
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Some companies like to create clear distinctions between their router and mesh products. With Asus, what’s striking is how little separation there is between the ZenWiFi AX mesh kit and its regular router equivalent, the RT-AX88U. Granted, there’s not much of a visual similarity. The ZenWiFi nodes are plain, boxy-looking things with a single multicoloured status LED, rather than a row of blinking lights.

The units we tested were finished in white, although Asus also offers charcoal-coloured variants that look as if they fell out of the 1980s. Once you start setting up your network, however, the experience is immediately familiar. The interface is identical across the two devices, offering the same huge range of features and settings, splurged across the same perplexing matrix of pages and panes.

Indeed, the mesh element adds an extra dimension of confusion because the hardware appears not as a unified network but as a single tri-band router, with its second 5GHz radio preconfigured to connect to a remote node running the company’s AiMesh service. In fairness, technically speaking, that’s exactly what you’re dealing with, but it’s not exactly an intuitive presentation.

When it comes to performance, the ZenWiFi AX does rather well. Its 5GHz radios quote a top speed of 4,808Mbits/sec (though 160MHz is only available on the backhaul band), and in our Wi-Fi 5 test it was this month’s fastest mesh overall. Over Wi-Fi 6 the Asus mesh lagged a little behind the Netgear Orbi systems, but coverage was generally creditable, with speeds nowhere falling below 36MB/sec.

It’s also great to note that each ZenWiFi node offers four Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus a 10Gbits/sec USB socket supporting storage, printing and modem duties. While that’s nothing exceptional by regular router standards, it’s a degree of connectivity that few mesh products can match.

All of this only reinforces the sense of kinship between the ZenWiFi AX and the RT-AX88U. Neither is quite the fastest Wi-Fi 6 solution in its class, nor the cheapest or the most welcoming for beginners – but if you’re after strong performance, excellent features and plenty of expansion potential, it’s a highly persuasive option.

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