Asus’s new mesh Wi-Fi system is the Zen WiFi AX XT8. It has three bands, and a kit with two devices costs $449.99. It uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 and mesh networking technologies to make sure there are no WiFi dead spots in your home.
This system is easy to set up and stands out because it comes with free family controls and network security tools from Trend Micro for life. The most important thing is that it did very well on our transfer speed tests. Overall, it’s good enough to get award for whole-home networking.
Zen WiFi AX XT8: Setup and Design
When you take the Zen WiFi AX system out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is that the two parts are the same. Either device can be the router or the satellite that extends the range, so it’s pretty easy to set up.
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To get started, just plug in one of the devices and connect it to your computer with an Ethernet wire. Then, open the Asus app and set up your network by following the steps on the screen. To connect the satellite device to the router, you have to plug it in within 3 meters of the router.
After that, you can unplug it and move it where you want. Other than that, the process is as easy as it gets, and from start to finish, it only took me about 10 minutes. Once your network is up and running, you can use the app to check speeds and change settings. It also has current features like support for WPA3, the newest Wi-Fi security standard.
By default, the system puts out a single Wi-Fi network that instantly moves your connection between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The second, stronger 5GHz band is used as a specialized wireless backhaul between the router and its satellites. This is a nice touch: you can divide these bands into different networks if you want to.
You can change anything about how that backup link works. If you’d rather share its bandwidth with other devices on your network, you can switch to a nondedicated way or switch the two 5GHz bands altogether, using the slower band for your normal network traffic and the faster band as a backup.
And if you have Ethernet wires running through your walls, you can connect the satellites back to the router and use all three wireless bands for your network traffic. The technology is the same as the ZenWiFi version with Wi-Fi 5, but it looks high-end without being too flashy.
With antennas hidden inside and a design that is tall but not too tall, the things could be confused for smart speakers, alarm clocks, or other tech that people often leave out in the open in their homes. That’s good for a router because it will work better if you don’t feel like you have to hide it in a box or room. Each device has a multigig WAN port on the back that lets connected speeds go as fast as 2.5Gbps.
This is a good way for a router at this price to get ready for the future, and it is also important. On the front, there is a single LED status light that changes colors and four extra Gigabit Ethernet jacks. I like how that light turns amber when a software update is ready to download, but it took me a minute to figure out what it meant because the app’s LED color guide doesn’t say anything about amber.
ZenWiFi AX XT8: Performance
The Asus Router app and set-up process aren’t as easy as what we’ve seen with other mesh systems, but once everything is up and running, the app has a lot of cool features that are worth checking out. Most mesh systems start with an Ethernet cable that connects the first mesh router to your current internet router.
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Then, you put the other mesh routers in places farther away from the first one. At this point, the Asus app doesn’t tell you anything, so you have to read the old-fashioned written instructions to find out how to get started. Strangely, both routers have to be put in and set up in the same room at first, hopefully within three meters of each other.
Your new mesh network will then be set up using Bluetooth by the Asus app on your iOS or Android phone or computer. And, unlike many routers and mesh systems, it starts off by asking if you want to combine the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands into a single network or make two separate networks with different names and passwords.
After that, you can unplug the second ZenWifi router and move it to another room to finish your new network. Again, though, the app doesn’t help you with this, so you’ll have to look through the written directions to find the answer.
It also uses terms like “dynamic DNS” without explaining what they mean, so Asus could do a little more to help people who aren’t as familiar with mesh technology understand how to set it up. Once your new mesh network is up and running, though, the Asus app is much easier to use and has a good set of parental settings and other tools.
You can make accounts for family members under 18 that are linked to the devices they use. With these profiles, you can set up a plan for Internet access and use content filters to keep younger children from seeing adult material, gambling apps, or messaging apps.
There is also a simple “QoS” (quality of service) option that lets you give more bandwidth to certain services, like streaming video or gaming, and a “bandwidth limiter” that lets you control how much data each device can use.
The app also has Asus’s AiProtection features, which look out for dangerous websites, malware, and other attempts from the outside to hack into your home network. Many routers and mesh systems charge extra for security features and family limits like these, so it’s great that Asus includes them for free.
ZenWiFi AX XT8: Bundled Security Tools
As described above, the Asus XT8, unlike the Netgear Orbi and the Linksys Velop AX MX10, which were also tested, comes with a lifetime subscription to Asus’s AIProtection Pro. This set of tools was made by Trend Micro to keep kids safe and protect against malware. The IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) of AIProtection checks all incoming and outgoing data and stops attacks like DoS and password attacks.
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It also stops access to websites that are known to be harmful, finds infections, and blocks data for all clients that are connected to your network. Most people don’t use most of the security features on their router, so the easy-to-use AIProtection suite should give most home networks an extra layer of safety. Still, you should keep antivirus and anti-malware software on all of your gadgets up-to-date.
ZenWiFi AX XT8: Price
The ASUS ZenWifi can be a great addition to your home network, but it costs about $450, which is a bit much. With Netgear’s tri-band Orbi Mesh Router, you can set up a mesh network for less money, but the extra parental and security fees can make that hard for some users. You will also get an extra 600 feet of service for that extra $150.