Recently, few networking manufacturers introduced their latest 802.11ax wireless router, or in newest term, Wi-Fi 6 routers. Being in the league, ASUS is one of them, with the launch of their newest AX88U wireless router. In general, there are no any Wi-Fi 6 clients to support this wireless revision, hence, this review might be biased more into Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac revision), although, Wi-Fi 6 routers starting to penetrate the market currently.
However, by default, the numbers speak for themselves, the Wi-Fi 6 is faster compared to its ageing wireless standard predecessor, Wi-Fi 5. Now, we’ve raised a question before conducting a testing on this router, is it really suitable for network upgrade scheme a.k.a NUS? We shall answer the question at the end of the review.
The box is huge, and of course, being a big router, the box feels heavy with image of AX88U printed on the top cover of the box.
Incline of the offered features was imprinted at the bottom of the box, and the quality of presentation before open up the cover, shows professionalism. Dots, Detail and Delivery (3D’s).
The AX88U comes with four detachable antennas, and, since this is a demo unit, hence, the antennas were not wrapped by plastics. We must enlighten here, we kinda miss the “ASUS’ marking on the antennas that has on the AC86U antenna’s.
At the front of the AX88U, there is a single Wi-Fi on/off button and an LED on/off button. Located the right of the router, is a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. At the rear of the router, you will get a single gigabit WAN port, 8 Gigabit LAN ports, a single USB 3.0 port, a WPS button, a reset button and a power button.
The standard supplied accessories are:
- A unit of RT-AX88U
- Four detachable antennas
- A cable of Cat 6
- A warranty cards
- A manual guide
“These days, with an increasing demand in terms of internet speed to cope up with the current needs, most wireless router manufactures begin to provide a Cat 6 cable instead of the traditional Cat 5e cable for better network performance.“
Now, before we move into the specifications of the router, let’s have a brief through of what this router is so special about.
- Next-Gen Wi-Fi standard – Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
- Ultrafast Wi-Fi Speed – 6000Mbps Wi-Fi speed to handle busiest network with ease
- Wider Usage and more Coverage – 4 antennas + 8 Gigabit LAN ports + 1 Gigabit WAN port
- Commercial Grade Network Security – AiProtection PRO
- Better Partner with Mesh System – AiMesh compatible
- Smart Home Ready – Link your Amazon Alexa to AX88U with a simple voice command
Below are the general specification of AX88U.
For a detailed specifications of the AX88U, kindly refer here.
Setting up for first use
The setting up process for this router is pretty straight-forward.
Most of the setting up process of ASUS router’s are simple and understandable. Just fill in the important fields, and, you’re set to fire up your blazing speed of internet connection.
Router Features Walk-through
The features offered in the AX88U is similar with higher end wireless router by ASUS. ASUS is generally known for their long-term support in terms of firmware when it comes to their ageing wireless router, which marks them as one of the reputable brand when it comes to home networking.
In addition, a few months after the AX88U launched in the market, it, soon received its first firmware upgrade, which, further ease a proper test were conducted. To be finalized here, the router was actually running on the latest firmware.
The first feature that caught our eyes is non other than the mesh feature, also known as AiMesh.
RELATED ARTICLE: AiMesh – Worth for your hard earned pennies?
For this test, we’ve actually tested this feature via our ageing AC68U to give a shot. Using the mesh network for about a week, we actually doesn’t face any serious issues. Reported by several forumers in SNBForums, we were enticed to set up AiMesh first before customizing the settings for our needs to be tested out.
RELATED REVIEW: ASUS AC68U Wireless Dual Band AC1900 Review
Below are the plotted graph of the AiMesh feature test by using AX88U as the master and AC68 as the slave node with our iPhone 7 Plus.
Based on the result above, the AC68U comes with 3×3 MIMO, and, we nearly able to hit 600 Mbps over Wi-Fi when the test was conducted near our room. Although we are facing few stability problems in AiMesh currently, we believe that, the problem will be addressed soon and patched over the next release of the firmware.
Powered by Trend Micro, this is a free feature that comes with wireless router starting from AC68U goes up to higher end ASUS wireless routers, and yes, we were informed that, AiProtection PRO is free for your lifetime.
RELATED ARTICLE: ASUS AiProtection – The best protection for your home network
The AiProtection PRO acts as a first layer network defense for your home device against the malware and cybercriminals hovering throughout the digital space.
In addition, this protects your clients connected to the router from getting hacked, and, alerts you in the Web UI or email (If you opt to receive the alert via your email) if your router caught up with fishy activity done either by the client device or from the digital space.
This feature was directed to hardcore gamers who are craving for less ping for smoother gaming experience, the AX88U offers a dedicated VPN service for gamers, known generally as WTFast GPN (Gamers Private Network), which works well along with the LAN Boost feature in the offered sub-feature.
However, one cons of this feature are, if you’re already subscribing to another VPN service and use the service over the router or throughout your clients, then, you can’t really use this service. In order to use this feature, few plans were provided and you can straight away subscribe to the plans offered and enjoy your gaming experience in AX88U.
Equipped with two USB 3.1 Gen-2 ports, each one located at the front and at the rear of the router, using both ports gives full speed, 150 Mbit/s which, as well as depends on the type of your external hard-drive’s read and write capability.
Image above shows the download process of a sample 4K video from YouTube and the files were directly saved to the external USB attached to the rear port of the AX88U. Not bad, for such process.
Virtual Private Network (Not to confuse with GPN)
The AX88U offers a VPN Server and a VPN Client. It does support the recent recommended protocols, the OpenVPN. Mind you that, if you’ve setup another VPN client via the router, then, you can’t really use your own VPN service over GPN or vice versa.
Network Throughput Test
Generally, to fully utilize your subscribed internet package, it is highly advisable to use a LAN connection over wireless due to the stability, less interference compared with wireless connection, and, more dedicated speed linked to your connected clients so that, there won’t be any loss in the data transmitted throughout the air.
Currently, we are subscribing to UniFi 800 Mbps (Download) | 200 Mbps (Upload) package, from Telekom Malaysia. Based on our wired test, this wireless router easily touches up to 850 Mbps with ease, without any spike in CPU usage graph, which indicating that, the AX88U can easily handle speed more than 1 Gbps. Although this is an AX router, it doesn’t offered with 10 Gbps ethernet port support.
From the graph plotted above, it is clearly shown that the AX88U falls second after the Archer C3150v2 in terms of wired test. Personally, being feel that, the performance of the speed can be improved over the constant fixing the bugs in the firmware and, it is surprising that, the AX88U did quite well here.
Now, we are actually using a wireless ac client that comes with 2×2 MIMO due to hardware limitation from our side. The wireless speed-test should be varied according to the type of wireless router’s transmit and receive MIMO.
Graph 1: Wireless Speed Test – 2.4 GHz Download
Based on the download analysis of Graph 1, the AX88U leads followed by Archer C3150 in terms of better download transmission. When the channel width was set to 20 MHz, the transmission rate of Ax88U hovers around 107 – 108 Mbps and increased to 210 – 211 Mbps when the channel width was set to 40 MHz. However, in congested areas, it is advisable to set your channel width to 20 MHz to avoid network congestion.
Graph 2: Wireless Speed Test – 2.4 GHz Upload
Based on the upload analysis of Graph 2, the upload transmission under 40 MHz for AX88U shows the highest among the wireless routers, we’ve tested so far, and surprisingly, the newly launch wireless router, that just received its first firmware update shows positive result over the pre-loaded firmware that comes with the router before.
Graph 3: Wireless Speed Test – 5 GHz Download
Based on the download analysis of Graph 3 dedicated to 5 GHz wireless bands, the download transmission under 160MHz channel width shows the highest reading. However, to make it a fair judgement, we will focus on 80 MHz channel width setting and still, the AX88U leads over other wireless ac routers we’ve tested so far and, the actual data might be even higher if, we don’t have hardware limitations on our side. When we tested with an iPhone 7 Plus, we managed to get over 600 Mbps under 160 MHz.
Graph 4: Wireless Speed Test – 5 GHz Upload
Based on the upload analysis of Graph 4 dedicated to 5 GHz wireless bands, the upload transmission of AX88U under 160 MHz slightly higher when compared to transmission rate when the channel width was set to 80 MHz. The outcome of the upload result conducted shows, the AX88U leads and, we able to achieve full upload transmission speed for the package we’ve subscribed to.
The AX88U holds the current highest recorded wired and wireless transmission. The wireless router pass through the test thrown at it. Despite of our hardware limitations currently, we’re pretty sure that, this router can perform even better via wireless when 4×4 client were used. Overall, we would conclude that, this router able to deliver what it promises.
To summarize our review on this beast, the AX88U packs heaps of feature in it. Firstly, you can turn your old wireless AC router from ASUS (only if the feature was supported for your wireless AC model), into a slave node to extend your wireless coverage throughout your huge house. Next, you can secure your home network from unwanted intruders (cyber-criminals) that awaits you in the digital space from taking over your connected clients with a simple click, with its commercial grade security, AiProtection Pro, a feature offered by Trend Micro and free for your lifetime. The AX88U is the recent Wi-Fi 6 router, or, a wireless router that supports 802.11ax, the recent wireless standards, however, we couldn’t actually test its ax feature due to there is no any Wi-Fi 6 capable client, thus, it may consume some amount of time to arrive in the market which marked as a disadvantage to us for such limitation.
To be added in good news list, RMerlin, the developer of Asus-Merlin officially supports AX88U. So, if you don’t mind loosing the AiMesh feature, then, you can directly flash to Asus-Merlin firmware.
However, fear not comrades, as, we will test this router again in the future, if there is any Wi-Fi 6 client available in the future. So, is the AX88U worth for your network equipment upgrade? The answer is, yes. It is better to future proof the network equipment to cope up with future blazing fast wireless technology.
- Asus-Merlin Support
- Eight LAN Ports with DUAL WAN support
- Link Aggregation
- Great network throughput
- AiMesh and AiProtection Pro
- Able to handle busiest network (heavy load)
- Two USB 3.1 Gen-2 Ports
- No AX client supported, currently.
- No WPA3 wireless encryption
- No 10 Gbps ports, yet.