Are you ready for the future of internet routers? I had a chance to spend some time with the brand new ASUS RT-AX88U Dual-Band Wi-Fi router, and I’m here to tell you all about the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi format, why you should be excited, and how this baby performs. Here’s my review.
What’s the big deal about 802.11ax?
The world of Wi-Fi networking is poised for a major update. Currently, 802.11ac is the standard. However, the biggest problem that 802.11ac faces is congestion that occurs because of the sheer number of connected devices that we have today. When the standard was developed, even the most wireless house only had a couple of computers or something. But, now we have all sorts of devices, from iPhones and tablets to smart household devices, sensors and all sorts of streaming devices. It is not unusual now for even a modestly connected household to have a dozen or more connected devices sucking up bandwidth.
That high number of connected devices puts a massive strain on a router’s performance. That’s because today’s routers can typically only transmit or receive signals at any one time. That’s why performance degrades rapidly as more devices are connected to the router. The router has to divide its time up amongst more connected devices and the “wait” to get served by the router becomes longer as more devices join the network. That’s the reason why Wi-Fi slows to a frustrating crawl in crowded places like offices, airports, concert stadiums, or coffee shops.
Without getting into all the nitty-gritty geeky details of why and how it is all accomplished, the upcoming 802.11ax (also known as Wi-Fi 6) standard promises to offer faster speeds than 802.11ac, but more importantly, has technological implementations that seek to solve the congestion problems that plague 802.11ac.
So, this router is the next-gen of Wi-Fi, allowing you to add 20, 30 or more devices and get efficient and fast internet speeds (supposedly up to 2.3 times faster!).
Asus RT-AX88U out of the box
Inside the RT-AX88U box, you’ll find the base unit, four antennas, a power cable and a network cable for attaching the router to your modem. There is also a quick start guide and the usual documentation. Like many high-end routers, the RT-AX88U looks like an alien spider, with its four antennas sticking out. The base unit is matte black, with indicator lights on the front. The four antennas are black with gold accents. In the back, the router sports eight LAN ports, a WAN port, and two USB 3.0 ports. It looks nice, but it isn’t exactly discreet.
Setting up the RT-AX88U router
You will need to screw the antennas into the base unit first. After that, you will need to connect the router and modem using the supplied cable, and then plug the router into an available outlet using the power cable. Next, power up the router. Once you see all the lights for WAN and the dual bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz, then you are good to connect a PC to the router using either Wi-Fi, or with an additional network cable which is not supplied. I had a bit of a problem as I had no Wi-Fi network and I couldn’t for the life of me find a network cable. I finally had to scour through some old bins I had sitting in the garage that were full of old cables, connectors and cords to old devices I’ve since thrown out (don’t call me a hoarder!) and at the bottom of one I found the needed network cable.
After connecting the router to your PC, you log in and connect to the ASUS setup wizard through a web browser. Once there, you’ll be prompted to name your networks, set passwords and then be able to customize all aspects of your new network. It’s a pretty robust admin page, letting you adjust and customize guest networks, usage and all manner of data, plus it also features a game boosting mode that squeezes out more bandwidth and reduces latency so you can frag like a Twitch-streaming pro.
Using the ASUS RT-AX88U router
All my devices are older, mostly, so the ax standard isn’t really coming into play. However, after setting up the router and re-connecting every one of my devices to the new network, I didn’t find any disruption or discernible lag in anything I did. Sometimes, when my daughter is watching reruns of “Friends” on Netflix, while my son watches the Funnel Family on YouTube, and my darling wife is streaming a food documentary; my gaming tends to take a hit in the ‘ol bandwidth, especially if someone is also streaming music on the Google Home in the background, and one or more of my smart home devices are doing something in the background, too. But, the RT-AX88U seemed to offer a solid connection and no discernible dip in performance when I was playing games and the whole family was sucking up the internet juice like no tomorrow.
The Game Boost function seems to offer prioritized and smoother online play, which is something I really should have tested out, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to create the new account and fiddle with making a GPN profile during my time reviewing the model. What I can say, is the router performed really well, and its signal reached to all the places in my house it needed to (including through a concrete wall to the garage) and seemed to amply provide the speeds and stable, lag-free connection everyone needed when they needed it. What more can anyone ask? A smartphone app to control it all as well? Okay, it has that, too
The final word
This is a next-gen product, so if you want to future-proof your network (meaning you are planning on buying Wi-Fi 6 device in the future ), get superior network security and want to be able to efficiently connect many, many devices to your network—then the ASUS RT-AX88U router is certainly a router to look at.
I didn’t encounter any setup or performance issues, and I’m pretty sure my speeds were slightly higher when gaming, even when my whole family was using some sort of device or two for streaming content at the same time.
Do you think you’ll jump on the ax Wi-Fi bandwagon? Let me know in the comment section below, and don’t forget to check out all the routers available online at Best Buy.