Today it is difficult to imagine our life without Wi-Fi networks, which provide wireless Internet access in homes, offices, shopping centers, parks and public transport. It is not surprising that the vast majority of modern mobile devices support Wi-Fi, which in the latest implementation of IEEE 802.11ax provides a transfer rate of over 2400 Mbps, and ease of setup and a wide range of equipment make building wireless networks accessible to the maximum number of users. But these advantages also directly follow the disadvantages of the technology — the need to limit the power of transmitters, which leads to a narrowing of the coverage area. And there is nothing to be done about it, such is the price for the introduction of high-level quadrature-amplitude modulations, which, together with the physics of the propagation of radio waves of ultra- and microwave frequencies, greatly increases the requirement for the signal-to-noise ratio at the receiver input. An increase in the transmitter power would help, but it is impossible to use this method indefinitely because of the need to stay within the permitted radiation levels, and here various roaming options come to the rescue — the process of switching wireless network subscribers from one access point, from whose service area the client leaves, to the other, in whose service area it falls. To date, Wi-Fi networks have developed and implemented IEEE802.11r and IEEE802.11k roaming standards, as well as many proprietary technologies from wireless equipment vendors. A particular case of using roaming to expand the Wi-Fi coverage area is the construction of so-called mesh networks, where each wireless router acts as a transceiver not only for clients, but also for neighboring nodes. One implementation of mesh networks called AiMesh was developed and offered by ASUSTek. Its key feature is ease of configuration and the ability to use both wireless and wired connections as a transport between network nodes. AiMesh connects up to five ASUS routers to provide reliable coverage even for large residential areas, while seamless roaming allows customers to move between nodes without losing their wireless connection. In the event of a failure of one of the routers, AiMesh will automatically rebuild and maintain its performance. To date, the list of ASUS wireless routers with AiMesh support includes 18 models, among which you can find familiar to our readers RT-AC88U, ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, RT-AX88U and RT-AX58U. It is noteworthy that the manufacturer offers kits for building AiMesh, for example, ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8), consisting of a pair of identical devices of the AX6600 class and designed to organize coverage over an area of up to 500 square meters. m, while one such router will be enough to create a wireless network of 300 sq. m.
Unfortunately, only one instance of ZenWiFi AX (XT8) got into our test lab, so we will definitely consider the features of the AiMesh technology in one of the following materials, and today we suggest that you familiarize yourself with the review of this very unusual wireless router. By the way, in some markets it can be found under the name «RT-AX95Q», but the impressive specifications remain unchanged.
ASUS ZenWiFi AX
|Model||ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8)|
|Operating modes||Wireless Router, Access Point, Media Bridge, Repeater, AiMesh Node|
|WAN connection||Dynamic IP, Static IP, PPPoE (MPPE enabled), PPTP, L2TP, USB 3G/4G|
|Network standards||IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, IPv4, IPv6|
|Transfer rate||802.11a: 6; 9; 12; eighteen; 24; 36; 48; 54 Mbps, 802.11b: 1; 2; 5.5; 11 Mbps, 802.11g: 6; 9; 12; eighteen; 24; 36; 48; 54Mbps, 802.11n: up to 300Mbps, 802.11ac (5GHz_1): up to 866Mbps, 802.11ac (5GHz_2): up to 3466Mbps, 802.11ax (2.4GHz): up to 574 Mbps, 802.11ax (5GHz_1): up to 1201 Mbps, 802.11ax (5GHz_2): up to 4804 Mbps|
|Antennas||Internal, 6 pcs.|
|Operating frequency range||1 x 2.4 GHz, 2 x 5 GHz|
|The width of the line||20/40 MHz (2.4 GHz band), 20/40/80 MHz (5 GHz band_1), 20/40/80/160 MHz (5 GHz band_2)|
|MIMO technology||2 x 2 (2.4 GHz band, 5 GHz_1), 4 x 4 (5 GHz band_2)|
|Firewall and access control||Firewall: SPI intrusion detection, DoS protection, Access control: Parental control, Network service filter, URL filter, Port filter|
|VPN server||L2TP/ PPTP/IPSec Pass-Through, PPTP, OpenVPN|
|VPN client||PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN|
|System functions||UPnP, IGMP v1/v2/v3, DNS Proxy, DHCP, NTP Client, DDNS, Port Trigger, Port Forwarding, DMZ, System Event Log|
|Processor||1500MHz, 4 cores, ARM-A7 architecture|
|Memory||RAM: DDR3 512 MБ, Flash: 256 MБ|
|Port||1 x RJ45 10/100/1000/2500 BaseT для WAN, 3 x RJ45 10/100/1000 BaseT для LAN, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1cType A|
|Buttons||Power, Reset, WPS|
|Additional functions||MU-MIMO, Traffic Analyzer, Adaptive QoS, AiProtection Pro, Parental Control Mac OS Backup, Enhanced media server (AiPlayer app compatible), AiCloud personal cloud service, 3G/4G data sharing, Printer Server, Download Master, AiDisk file server, Dual WAN, IPTV support, Roaming Assist, OFDMA, Beamforming|
|LED indicators||1 universal|
|Power supply, W||33.25 (external)|
|Dimensions (WxDxH), mm||160 x 75 x 161,5|
|Recommended cost, $||280|
Since an engineering sample of ASUS ZenWiFi AX arrived in the test lab in a simple cardboard box filled with bubble polyethylene, we will omit the description of the package and move on to getting to know the device itself, which looks the least like … a wireless router! Many are already accustomed to the fact that modern high-performance Wi-Fi routers bristle with an incredible number of antennas, sparkle with multi-colored backlighting, or are shaped like a spaceship from the Star Wars movie universe. Against their background, the body of the novelty does not stand out with aggressive forms, on the contrary, ZenWiFi AX will look organically in a modern living room, without violating the interior design with its appearance. The dimensions of the device are 160x75x161.5 mm, and its weight is 716 grams, which positively affects the stability of the router on any surface. There are ventilation grilles on the sidewalls of the case, and the top cover is equipped with a circular slot, which serves to remove heated air outside the product.
The wireless router is powered by a 33.25W external adapter designed to operate on 100V to 240V AC, 50Hz or 60Hz. At the output, the power supply provides a constant voltage of 19 V at a current of 1.75 A. It should be noted here that in the load «from the outlet» the device consumed from 9 to 13 W, so the adapter was selected with a huge margin, which means it should last a long time and no problem.
On the front side of the device, made of rough dark gray plastic, there is only the manufacturer’s logo and a multifunctional LED indicator. In operating mode, it glows in a calm milky white color, turns red when there is no Internet connection, and during the first power-up, it lights up in blue, waiting for the initial setup.
At the bottom of the back of the ASUS ZenWiFi AX case there is a panel with a connector for connecting an external network adapter, a power switch, three RJ45 10/100/1000 BaseT ports for LAN and one 10/100/1000/2500 BaseT for connecting to an Internet provider, and There is also a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connector that can be used to connect an external drive, printer, or 4G modem.
On the bottom of the case is a foam rubber pad that helps keep the device on smooth surfaces. In the center of the lining you can see a large plastic sticker with the model name, serial number and other service information. To the left of it is a button to activate the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) function, and to the right is a recessed Reset button to reset the firmware settings.
Under the rubber pad there is a pair of screws that hold the halves of the case, however, we did not succeed in disassembling the ASUS ZenWiFi AX without damaging its marketable appearance. Nevertheless, the manufacturer willingly shares the key design features of the novelty, such as six internal antennas, two of which are installed at an angle of 45° to improve reception, as well as the presence of a massive heatsink that covers the entire surface of the printed circuit board. Knowing the «hot temper» of productive ASUS wireless routers, such a cooling system does not look redundant. In confirmation, using console commands, we checked the heating of the central processor, which, even in the most difficult conditions, did not exceed 57 ° C at an ambient temperature of 23 ° C.
The novelty is based on the 28-nm Broadcom BCM6755 SoC, which has four ARM-A7 cores with a clock frequency of 1500 MHz, an integrated IEEE802.11a/b/g/n/ax transceiver with MIMO 2T2R and a signal bandwidth of 20 / 40/80 MHz, one Gigabit Ethernet port and high-speed RGMII or HSGMII bus, as well as two USB ports: one version 2.0 and the other 3.1 Gen1. The system-on-a-chip is complemented by 512MB of DDR3 RAM and 128MB of SLC NAND flash for firmware storage. The switch function for the four Gigabit Ethernet ports of the local area network is performed by the Broadcom BCM53134 chip, while the Broadcom BCM84880 chip with 2.5GBASE-T support is responsible for the WAN port. Thus, with the support of the provider’s equipment, the Internet connection speed can reach 2,500 Gbps. In addition to the transceiver built into the SoC, the wireless router is equipped with an additional Broadcom BCM43684 radio module that operates in the 5 GHz band and provides Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 wireless networks in MIMO 4T4R mode, which, with a signal bandwidth of 160 MHz, provides throughput capacity 4804 Mbps. In the meantime, the radio unit integrated into the “system-on-a-chip” using the IEEE802.11ax standard allows for a speed of 574 Mbps at a frequency of 2.4 GHz, and all 1201 Mbps in the 5 GHz band, which in total makes it possible classify the novelty in the AX6600 class. To effectively use all this potential, the Smart Connect function is used, which unites all wireless networks under one identifier and automatically switches clients between transceivers depending on the state of the air and the need for bandwidth. Finally, it should be noted that ASUS ZenWiFi AX has Bluetooth 4.0 support, which is implemented by the Qualcomm Atheros 3012 chip and serves to establish a connection with mobile devices with the ASUS Router application installed for initial device setup.