Rapidly speeds all through your entire household. Specifically potent efficiency at variety. Simple setup. A constant, reputable mesh that quickly steers you from band to band and routes your connection without the need of dropping it. A tri-band style featuring a committed backhaul for transmissions in between the router and the satellites. A upcoming-proofed, multigig WAN port. Entire assistance for Wi-Fi six, the latest, swiftest model of Wi-Fi.

Like

  • Entire assistance for Wi-Fi six
  • Tri-band style with committed wi-fi backhaul
  • Stable mesh efficiency
  • Multigig WAN port on each and every device

Never Like

  • Limited speeds on the two.4GHz band
  • High-quality of Company engine involves third-social gathering knowledge-sharing

These have been all good reasons that the two-piece, $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six mesh router attained a potent assessment right here on CNET. But I could say all of the exact same factors about the Asus ZenWiFi AX, too — and that two-piece system only expenditures $450. On prime of that, the ZenWiFi AX features far better variety for each device and a far better array of application-centered controls and customizations for your community, and it allows you use either device as router or extender (the Orbi doesn’t). It even will come in your preference of white or black.

Go forward and examine that first paragraph yet again. If it really is describing the $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi six mesh router, then it really is detailing a pretty potent system, albeit an high priced one. But if we apply individuals exact same details to the $450 Asus ZenWiFi AX, then we’ve uncovered the sweet spot for a mesh router enhance, with that exact same significant-finish efficiency at a price tag that is a lot easier to swallow. That tends to make the new ZenWiFi system my prime-rated mesh router to date, an effortless Editors’ Choice Award winner, and the first system I’d suggest for anybody wanting for a router worth splurging on.

I had the ZenWiFi system up and jogging in significantly less than fifteen minutes.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

Set up and style

The first detail you’ll see as you unbox the two-piece ZenWiFi AX system is that the two parts are equivalent. Possibly device can serve as the router or as the variety-extending satellite device, which tends to make for setup that is effectively foolproof.

To get started off, you’ll just plug one of the products in and join it to your router with an Ethernet cable. Then, open the Asus application and comply with the directions to get your community up and jogging. You may will need to plug in the satellite device within 3 meters of the router in purchase to pair the two with each other (prior to presumably unplugging and relocating it to where by you essentially want it), but aside from that, the process is about as straightforward as it will get, and only took me about ten minutes from start out to finish.

You may obtain a multigig WAN port, three spare Ethernet ports and a USB 3.one port on the back of each and every ZenWiFi device.


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

After your community is dwell, you’ll be in a position to use the application to keep track of speeds and tweak settings, which include up-to-date touches like assistance for WPA3 encryption, the most recent Wi-Fi safety standard. The system defaults to putting out a single Wi-Fi community that quickly steers your connection in between the two.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the next, far more able 5GHz band serving as a committed wi-fi backhaul in between the router and its satellites. If you want to, you can split individuals bands into separate networks, which is a good touch.

Even nicer: You can customize that backhaul connection as you see healthy. If you’d instead share its bandwidth with products on your community, you can change to a nondedicated solution — or you can change the two 5GHz bands altogether, utilizing the first as the backhaul and the next, a lot quicker band for your ordinary community traffic. And, if you’ve obtained Ethernet cables jogging by your partitions, you can wire the satellites back to the router and use all three wi-fi bands for your community traffic.

As for the components itself, it really is the exact same style as the Wi-Fi 5 model of ZenWiFi, but the aesthetic is properly significant-finish without the need of drawing too a great deal interest to itself. With the tall-but-not-too-tall style and antennas concealed inside of, some may well slip-up the factors for intelligent speakers, alarm clocks or other such tech that commonly sits out in the open in people’s houses. That is excellent for a router — they will perform far better if you don’t come to feel compelled to stash them out of sight in a closet or a drawer somewhere.

You may obtain a multigig WAN port on the back of each and every device that supports incoming wired speeds as significant as two.5Gbps, which is a good, necessary piece of upcoming-proofing for a router at this price tag. You may also obtain four spare Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and a single coloration-altering LED status light on the front. I like the way that light turns amber in coloration when a firmware update is completely ready for obtain, but it took me a minute to recognize that is what it meant, as the application tends to make no point out of amber in its LED coloration guide.

No matter, the system tends to make an great first perception — but how properly does it perform? Very well…

The Asus ZenWiFi AX was a middle-of-the-pack performer in our lab.


Ry Crist/CNET

Network nirvana?

The Asus ZenWiFi AX was not always a runaway standout in our lab-centered speed checks. With a prime speed of 825Mbps at a near-variety length of 5 feet, it really is easily a lot quicker than Wi-Fi 5 routers like the Eero, the Nest Wifi and the twin-band, spending plan-priced model of the Netgear Orbi, all of which prime out at all over 600Mbps. But it is just not able of prime speeds that are quite as fast as individuals 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 price a number of hundred dollars far more than the ZenWiFi AX.

Even far more of an eyebrow-raiser: the ZenWiFi AX obtained conquer at all distances by the Netgear Nighthawk mesh router. That is a spending plan-priced Wi-Fi six system that expenditures about $200 significantly less than the ZenWiFi AX.

Still, our prime speed checks depart the variety-extending satellite products out of the equation, and they also don’t incorporate any partitions or obstructions in in between the router and our test notebook. Both equally of individuals variables will make a major impression on the way these techniques perform in a genuine-environment environment. So, I took the ZenWiFi AX household, established it up on my 300Mbps fiber online community and then clocked the speeds all through my smallish, shotgun-type household in Louisville, Kentucky.

The ZenWiFi AX completed with an typical obtain speed all through my household that was next maximum among the all of the Wi-Fi six mesh routers I’ve tested. Only the Wi-Fi six model of the Netgear Orbi was a lot quicker.


Ry Crist/CNET

The Asus system shone in these genuine-environment checks. Above several times and across dozens of speed checks, the ZenWiFi AX hardly ever after dropped my connection or stalled out as I moved from home to home. In the finish, it completed with an total, total-household typical obtain speed of 271Mbps, or about 90% of what my online connection is able of. That is next only to the $seven-hundred Netgear Orbi six mesh system, which completed with an total typical of 288Mbps in the exact same spate of checks.

What is far more, when I removed the variety extender and reran my checks with just the router, the ZenWiFi AX jumped up to first place. In my back lavatory, the farthest home from the router and a popular dead zone for single-stage routers in my speed checks, I was nonetheless averaging speeds just around 250Mbps, which is great. Up coming very best was the AmpliFi Alien, which averaged back-lavatory speeds of 132Mbps with the variety extender unplugged. On its individual, the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi six router averaged a back lavatory speed of just 82Mbps. Both equally of individuals competitors returned a lot quicker prime speeds in an open-floorplan lab, but the ZenWiFi AX router looks to be the far more able piece of components after you just take obstructions into thought.

Take into consideration your knowledge, too

A person of the good functions in the Asus application is a High-quality of Company engine that allows you prioritize traffic to distinct products on your community. It truly is a useful device that you don’t usually get with mesh routers like these.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

But when you go to convert the function on, the application alerts you to the fact that utilizing the High-quality of Company engine involves you to agree to the phrases and disorders for a third-social gathering business called Trend Micro. That business operates the program that powers the Asus QoS engine, and “your info will be gathered,” Asus states.

“Asus is not dependable for neither the arrangement in between you and Trend Micro nor any content of the support supplied by Trend Micro,” the statement reads (presumably the double detrimental is unintentional). “Be sure to refer to the privateness-associated statement issued by Trend Micro or call Trend Micro for far more facts.”

Good print directing you to examine far more wonderful print, and from a business you’ve most likely hardly ever listened to of. Fantastic.

At any rate, I created absolutely sure to give that Trend Micro privateness policy a examine. It truly is 21 internet pages long, but the aspect that looks to apply most to ZenWiFi people commences on Web site nine. 

When you use Trend Micro goods like the Asus QoS engine, the policy reads, Trend Micro collects own knowledge that may well incorporate your title, cell phone number, email handle and device ID.

“We use this own info to be certain that the related customer’s license to our alternatives is legitimate, and to call our customers about renewals, specialized challenges and new product or service info.”

The policy goes on to get far more granular about the kinds of knowledge Trend Micro collects, and it links out to a separate knowledge disclosure doc (yet again, wonderful print directing you to examine other wonderful print). That knowledge disclosure lists 5 distinct applications for which Trend Micro collects consumer info, and the distinct kinds of consumer info that each and every objective collects. I asked Asus which of the 5 features on the checklist used to the QoS engine. For every Asus, it was essentially four of them — and in between them, the knowledge gathered features source and place IP addresses, URLs, file names and file paths.

This is where by I jumped back around to the Trend Micro privateness policy:

Trend Micro does neither would like to get nor will need any sensitive own info, i.e. own info revealing racial or ethnic origin, political views, spiritual or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic knowledge, biometric knowledge, knowledge concerning health and fitness or knowledge concerning a organic person’s sex existence or sexual orientation.

To me, that is all but an admission that sensitive knowledge is, in fact, receiving scooped up by Trend Micro’s processors. And even if the business states it doesn’t want or will need that type of info in certain, it nonetheless wishes your info as a total. Significantly of that may well be for legitimate applications, like checking community traffic for opportunity threats — but the policy also admits to utilizing own info for marketing: “We may well also use own info for other business applications, which include maintaining current and past Buyers educated about our Products, Expert services and promotions.”

I’ll also stage out that Trend Micro’s legalese retains factors fairly imprecise when describing how it retains consumer knowledge secure, mentioning only “ideal safety actions” that limit entry to “licensed staff only.”

I give Asus some credit rating for alerting you to the privateness implications in a pretty straightforward fashion as shortly as you attempt to convert the QoS engine on. Still, I wouldn’t suggest performing so unless of course you are certain that you will need it (and most virtually undoubtedly will not likely).


Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Privacy gripes aside, the Asus ZenWiFi AX is an great mesh router. It feels each individual little bit the aspect of a significant-finish enhance, and approximately managed to match the very best-in-class efficiency of the Wi-Fi six model of the Netgear Orbi irrespective of costing hundreds significantly less than that system. The ZenWiFi AX system was a cinch to established up and use, it presents a a great deal more powerful degree of customization than you usually get with a mesh system and it executed like a champ, maintaining speeds significant all through all corners of my household and hardly ever dropping my signal as I moved from home to home.

At $450, this is nonetheless a splurge, no doubt about it. But the Asus ZenWiFi AX is properly worth the funds if you are wanting for the very best value attainable from a significant-finish, Wi-Fi six mesh router system with a committed backhaul band. If you are wanting for an enhance, place it correct at the prime of your checklist.

At first posted March one.
Update, March two: Up to date to reflect that the ZenWiFi AX supports WPA3 safety.