ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8)RM1299
- ASUSWRT features
- Built-in VPN support
- Centralized Management
- Intelligent Band Switching
- AiProtection Pro
- WPS feature needed to turn on
- High RAM Usage
ASUS recently launched their ZenWiFi mesh system as an answer of their own unique signature as one of the main mesh provider for the home consumer. ASUS had lent us their ZenWiFi AC (CT8), a WiFi 5 mesh system to be reviewed. The ZenWiFi CT8 is a direct successor to the Lyra series. According to ASUS, the ZenWiFi CT8 provides wireless coverage up to 2700 sq.ft for a single unit and 5400 sq.ft in pair. Out of the box, you will get a pair of ZenWiFi CT8, an RJ45 cable, a pair of power adapter, a quick start-guide and a warranty card.
The ZenWiFi CT8 enclosed in a faux brushed aluminium with a modern design. Each unit gets a single LED indicator with six uniquely placed built-in antennas. The only thing makes me awkward is the power switch. I mean, why did ASUS move from a cool push button to a switch? Really ASUS? Each unit gets a built-in heat-sink that allow hot air to escape through the holes.
ASUS finally accepted the feedback from their end-users and perfectly design their mesh system in a good way. This means, by default, the ZenWiFi CT8 offers four standard Gigabit RJ45 port with one act as a WAN port and the remaining ports act as a LAN. You can plug your IPTV on the LAN 3 port of the ZenWiFi CT8. Each unit gets a 3.1 USB port to be used to setup your external storage devices or sharing printers throughout the network.
The specification of ZenWiFi AC (CT8) are as follows according to the source:
|Product Segment||AC3000 ultimate AC performance： 400+867+1733|
|Data Rate:||802.11n: up to 300 Mbps
802.11n 256QAM: up to 400 Mbps
802.11ac (5GHZ-1) ：up to 867 Mbps
802.11ac (5GHZ-2) ：up to 1733 Mbps
|CPU||Qualcomm IPQ4019 (717 MHz, 4 cores)|
|Encryption||WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise, WPS support|
|VPN Suppport||IPSec Pass-Through
|WAN Connection Type||Automatic IP
PPPoE (MPPE supported)
|Ports||RJ45 for Gigabits BaseT for WAN x 1, RJ45 for Gigabits BaseT for
LAN x 3USB 3.1 Gen 1 x 1
The latest issued firmware dated 20 December 2019. The ZenWiFi CT8 are powered by a quad-core Qualcomm IPQ4019 processor clocked at 717MHz. The same processor was used on Deco M5 and Deco M9 from TP-LINK due to marketing competition in Malaysia.
The setting up process of ZenWiFi CT8 can be done both via the ASUS Router app (iOS & android) and via the standard web-administrative interface. Additionally, it is advisable to power on both ZenWiFi units, while setting up the internet for the first use, while the remaining mesh unit will automatically adds itself in the AiMesh network.
Once set up the ZenWiFi CT8, you will be directed to ASUS dashboard where a few familiar panels containing accessible features available. Realizing the fact that secondary ZenWiFi CT8 mesh using the secondary 5GH-2 band as a backhaul, the system information will tell you via the wireless broadcast information on top of the dashboard. Looking at the graph, it is noticeable that the memory usage is quite high, although the unit is under a standard setting. This is most probably due to small CPU clock-speed and it requires more resource to run.
The AiMesh panel shows the current available mesh node in your home network. The panel shows a topology of the slave nodes (mesh nodes) connected. One of the biggest advantages of AiMesh is, it allows centralized management, thus only authorized user able to manage the system overall. According to ASUS, you can add mesh nodes to the system since AiMesh works well in cross-platform.
ZenWiFi CT8 carries IPv6 feature standard by default. Since my fibre provider is getting better with their IPv6 route, I personally feel it is a MUST have feature for a mesh system if you don’t end up buying a standalone router. I’ve tested the IPv6 feature using a reliable site and the site shows my IPv6 public address.
Next, in the current era, having a dedicated VPN subscription is a MUST, especially with numerous companies always sneak up our browsing activity and invade (we can’t blame them as we accept EULA form without reading) our privacy. To protect myself from sneaking eyes over the internet, I used Surfshark due to their unlimited device support that will be useful to route the entire device through a safe and secure tunnel with a strong military-grade encryption technology. Thankfully, the ZenWiFi CT8 support PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols. It requires less than 10 seconds to activate the VPN and all the available clients will be routed through the secured tunnel. To ensure there are no bugs, I’ve tested the if ZenWiFi CT8 leaking my ISP‘s IP, and once again, the result comes out, clean. You can refer to the video review of ZenWiFi CT8 here.
|Wireless Mode||N only||N/AC Mixed||N/AC Mixed|
|Speedtest (D/load)||98.55Mbps||609.31 Mbps||507.76 Mbps|
The table above shows the standard settings I’ve set up for this test and the secondary 5GHz-2 band were dedicated for backhaul. The test was conducted with a standard 2×2 stream that bundled together with my ageing ROG G752VT laptop. You can enable the Smart-Connect if you want to combine both 2.4GHz and 5GHz-1 into one single band and the system will pick the right band suitable for your device.
I am living in a 20×70 double-storey house. Living in a residential area sure requires a good, secure and stable wireless connectivity since the signal will be congested especially living near universities. The main node act as a router located at the center of the house and the secondary mesh node was placed in the downstairs, also at the center. Based on the graph plotted above, I able to get a good speed both at the upstairs and the downstairs when previously, my standalone AC68U don’t really allows me to experience a good wireless connection over the downstairs.
The ZenWiFi CT8 is operable through the ASUS Router application. This application is available on both iOS and android platform. The application has a friendly interface with most of the features mapped in a right section. Features such as parental control, AiProtection, managing the wireless scheduler, adding more mesh node to the network without even have to enter the web administrative interface and many more.
Another interesting feature is the wireless scheduler and roaming block list. By using the roaming block list, you can allow or block any devices to/to not roam over the mesh nodes. The ZenWiFi CT8 offers almost everything a standalone ASUS router would offer.
Ultimately, the ZenWiFi CT8 is a good mesh system thanks to its sleek design that don’t require much space and brilliantly designed mesh system. For its premium price range, it does offer more feature as how a standalone ASUS router would offer. Compared to its competitor, the ZenWiFi CT8 is still a good value for the money. With firmware support from ASUS, the mesh system will always receive future improvement, thus adding an extra safety layer for your home network from cyber-criminals. Priced at RM 1299 for WiFi 5 mesh system, I won’t mind on adding a few bucks further to allow me to get the WiFi 6 certified, ZenWiFi XT8 mesh system instead. If you’re not ready move towards WiFi 6 mesh system, then the ZenWiFi CT8 is a good choice.