ASUS RT-AX86S review

There are a lot of things we do these days that put heavy demand on our home Wi-Fi routers. Despite the growing collections of smart devices, 4K video streaming, smart speakers, plus our smartphones and PCs, probably nothing is quite as demanding as online gaming. This requires not just high bandwidth, but minimal latency. That’s a combination that not all routers can pull off. One that can is the made-for-gamers ASUS RT-AX86S. This is a dual-band AX5700 Wi-Fi 6 gaming router.

ASUS RT-AX86S unboxing and first impressions

 ASUS RT-AX86S reviewThe RT-AX86S gives off a gaming vibe—which is understandable, considering it’s from ASUS, the company behind Republic of Gamers. The back of the router features a geometric design with dozens of cutouts to help with cooling. The front is angled, with the ASUS logo in gold. There are 10 LED indicator lights. Peeking out from the bottom is a bright red grill that contrasts nicely with the black plastic. Definitely aimed at a gamer crowd!

I’ve been hands-on with quite a few gaming routers over the years and they tend to be bulky. I still have a very high performance model from two-years ago stashed in my office as a backup and that thing is huge. It’s physically large, sits horizontally (so it takes up a big chunk of table-top real estate), and its power brick is literally the size of a brick.

According to my tape measure, the footprint of the vertically-oriented RT-AX86S is roughly 10 cm x 24 cm. That’s pretty compact. I was surprised by how small its power brick is. It’s still a standalone brick (although with plenty of cable on both sides) but it’s around half the size of an eye glasses case. It should be pretty easy to hide out of sight. 

Easy setup

ASUS has one of the best mobile apps around in terms of easy setup for its routers. Scan the QR code, download the app, and walk through the setup. It’s straightforward and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. This includes waiting a minute or two while the router optimizes itself. As part of that process you connect the router to your ISP’s internet gateway (ASUS includes the Ethernet cable), and you’ll want to think about the optimal position for the router for your space—ideally, somewhere central, for maximum coverage (more on that shortly).

I appreciated the fact that I did not have to create an account with ASUS as part of the configuration. Some router setups do force that step. The ASUS app does a great job of putting the info you want to know upfront for network management. It offers a wide range of tools that let you customize the setup, including parental controls. It also controls the AiProtection security feature that offers router-level (before it reaches your devices) protection from malware and attacks.

 ASUS RT-AX86S review


ASUS RT-AX86S key specs:

  • Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router
  • 5700 Mbps throughput (2.4GHz 861 Mbps + 5.0 GHz 4804 Mbps)
  • 3 adjustable external antenna, 1 internal PCB antenna
  • Dual-core 1.8GHz processor with 256MB Flash memory and 512MB RAM
  • OFDMA, beamforming, Mu-MIMO, 1024-QAM high data rate, 20/40/80/160 MHz bandwidth
  • 1GPS WAN port, 4x 1GPS LAN ports (including dedicated gaming port)
  • 1 x USB 3.0, 1X USB 2.0 ports
  • WPS button, LED indicators
  • Configurable using ASUS mobile router app with parental controls, guest network
  • Adaptive QoS
  • Supports Game Boost
  • Supports ASUS AiMesh
  • AiProtection security

Impressive performance, but …

Once the router had finished setup, it was time to test it out. I pay for 500Mbps internet service, although I frequently get a little more speed than that. When I ran speed tests for the ASUS RT-AX86S, the results were impressive. They were showing a download speed of 757 Mbps, a ping of under 15 ms, and jitter under 4 ms. Using a third party speed tester confirmed the performance, with similar readings.

The ASUS app includes a helpful description of what that kind of speed allows you to do:

“You can stream many 4K movies and play online games simultaneously on multiple devices.”

The speed is more than enough for any online game. That ping reading is just as important—if not more so. Ping is the time needed for your actions to reach the game server and the response to come back. The latency in other words. Lower is better and a ping rate under 50ms is generally considered to be excellent. The ASUS app also offers a Mobile Game Mode that optimizes the Wi-Fi experience for your smartphone and tablet-based games.

It’s worth noting that speed and ping rate are not all about the router. Your internet plan dictates your maximum connection speed, and ping rate can be impacted by both the internet and the game server. However, having a good gaming router will maximize what you get.

 ASUS RT-AX86S review

If your internet gateways(s) support it, ASUS says you can combine two separate 1Gbps internet connections by using the WAN port plus one LAN port, then shares that bandwidth over Wi-Fi.

The one downside I found with the ASUS RT-AX86S was coverage distance.

Optimal positioning and orientation of the antennas will help, but in my house the router’s signal strength dropped off rapidly as I moved from the basement (where the router was set up) to the upper floors. When I stepped outside to the end of the driveway, speeds dropped down to single-digit Mbps levels. In comparison, my home mesh Wi-Fi system could easily hit 40Mbps from the same spot.

AiMesh to the rescue for larger spaces

 ASUS RT-AX86S review

Fortunately, if you have a large space to cover, or one that has many potential Wi-Fi obstacles (like solid walls and floors), this router supports the ASUS AiMesh feature. This lets you join two or more supported ASUS routers into a mesh network to expand Wi-Fi coverage.

 ASUS RT-AX86S reviewPowerful wired options

Another solution to Wi-Fi issues (including wireless interference) for gamers and video streamers is an Ethernet connection.

Plug your console, PC, or streamer directly into the RT-AX86S’s four Gigabit LAN ports to eliminate any Wi-Fi issues. 

One of these ports is a dedicated gaming port. Whatever is plugged into this port automatically gets an optimized, priority connection with no configuration required. 

A solid high-speed router, period, but especially suited to gamers

If your online gaming or video streaming experience hasn’t been living up to expectations, a gaming router like the ASUS RT-AX86S is going to seriously up your Wi-Fi game, while also offering wired connections for four devices. It features a gaming-inspired look, and a compact form factor. It’s also a great high-performance Wi-Fi 6 upgrade if your current router is older and simply not able to keep up with modern Wi-Fi demands.

Just be aware that positioning is important and if you have large space, you might want to consider twinning the RT-AX86S with another ASUS router using AiMesh for maximum Wi-Fi coverage.

Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.

263 COMMENTS

  1. The most interesting part of this review was the section about signal stength. It is something that we have struggled with in our home, with our router and extender having been moved multiple times at this point.

  2. I like the fact that the article discussed the wifi coverage signal issue as well as the solve for that issue which can be fixed via the available AiMesh feature to connect it to another ASUS router.

  3. The router’s ASUS AiMesh feature that lets you join two or more supported ASUS routers into a mesh network to expand Wi-Fi coverage which would solve Wi-Fi in concrete buildings was interesting.

  4. The most interesting part of this review for me was the range test that Brad conducted. Definitely good to have an idea of the Wi-Fi speeds one would receive on their device depending on their distance and strategic placement of the actual router itself.

  5. My most interesting part of the article was his introduction of the ASUS AiMesh feature, which allows you to expand your coverage throughout your home using additional ASUS routers. This could solve our issues.

  6. I liked the section that states it is a solid high speed router and it is especially suited to games. My daughter is becoming fascinated with gamily and this would be ideal for her as we need better speed and connectivity.

  7. The preferential gaming feature for high-demand bandwidth, along with the ASUS app to set it up are my two favorite features.

  8. The most interesting part of this article to me is the footprint size. Usually gaming routers are too big. Glad to hear that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Plus love that it can be expanded with AiMesh in dead spots!

  9. I need easy set-up. ASUS has one of the best mobile apps around in terms of easy setup for its routers. Scan the QR code, download the app, and walk through the setup.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here