Question New ASUS ZenWifi AX (XT8)

dslatsh

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Hello all, I was looking into trying to beef up my network system for coverage...I currently own a ASUS RT-AC86U. I saw this new ZenWifi on a couple review sites and it seems to get good ratings and uses wifi6/wpa3 and decent coverage..think 5500 sq ft? Reason I am looking is i noticed my signal doesn't reach to well outside/to garage...and I'm also looking into getting some wifi cameras for around outside. My question here is...do you think it be worth it to upgrade to the zen? I do a lot of streaming,youtube and gaming. Sometimes streaming and gaming occur at once...but I usually hardwire my PC from the router anyways. I also would hardwire the node (2nd one) in the living room, instead of having it use the triband to make the mesh (if i'm right in how that works). Or would i be better off just buying another AC86U and using it as a mesh system or even two more of them...Think it would still be cheaper then purchasing the two pack of the XT8. I've put the links below to asus specs.


 
First the radio coverage is actually a function of radio power. It has nothing to do with the way the data is encoded. The strength of the signal is purely a function radio transmit power. This is regulated by the government and almost all routers put out the legal maximum. Most problems with coverage are related to the end device many of which have small antenna and low power radios.

It gets extremely complex when you try to introduce the concept of transfer speed and coverage. This has so many variables that it is hard to compare devices. In some way the coverage is actually less for wifi6 devices when you think of it this way. They use 160mhz of radio bandwidth so you take a much higher chance of interference and they use a much more dense encoding method so any interference causes more data loss. So if you would compare the distance you can use a wifi5 router and a wifi6 router at their max rates (which are different) the wifi6 router would be much less. Since the wifi6 router can just drop back and function like the wifi5 router use older protocols it coverage would be different for each variation of channel width and radio encoding. This is one of those things that make your head hurt. So it is best to just assume that if you have a quality router the coverage will be about the same as any other quality router.

The way you intend to increase coverage is the best since you have a ethernet cable. Most mesh systems are using wifi repeater methods that have massive downsides. What you are doing is a simple remote AP. This is how large enterprise still does it, none use silly mesh systems.

You need nothing really fancy. You can get a actual AP if you want but any router that has the correct radio specs you want will work since that is the only part you are using when you use it as AP. Most costs of router is for other software features you can not use when you run it as a AP.
Don't be fooled by mesh and roaming. They do not really seamless roam. The end device not the network control this function and end devices are really stupid. If you adjust the radio power on the radios (ie turn them down) the device should pick the proper radio source. The so called mesh function just forces a disconnect and hopes the end device picks the best AP correctly. For most people you can just stop and start the wifi and it will switch over if it is connected to the wrong source. There really is no reason to be watching netflix or playing video games while you are actually walking around your house, and maybe falling down the stairs because you are not paying attention.

I have a ac86u and it is a very special router so I would not replace it. If want wifi6 there are other asus models that use the same cpu but different radios. Key feature I like it for other than a very high clock speed is that the cpu has vpn accelerator hardware. This is one of the very few routers that can run a vpn client on the router and get 200m most other routers can barely get 30m. Now this only matters for your main router the remote device is only using the wifi radio do a inexpensive router will be fine.
 

gggplaya

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You can continue to use the 86u as your main router, then use the XT8 units as AiMesh Nodes.

I personally would try to hardwire the backhaul though, either via MOCA or ethernet.
 

dslatsh

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First the radio coverage is actually a function of radio power. It has nothing to do with the way the data is encoded. The strength of the signal is purely a function radio transmit power. This is regulated by the government and almost all routers put out the legal maximum. Most problems with coverage are related to the end device many of which have small antenna and low power radios.

It gets extremely complex when you try to introduce the concept of transfer speed and coverage. This has so many variables that it is hard to compare devices. In some way the coverage is actually less for wifi6 devices when you think of it this way. They use 160mhz of radio bandwidth so you take a much higher chance of interference and they use a much more dense encoding method so any interference causes more data loss. So if you would compare the distance you can use a wifi5 router and a wifi6 router at their max rates (which are different) the wifi6 router would be much less. Since the wifi6 router can just drop back and function like the wifi5 router use older protocols it coverage would be different for each variation of channel width and radio encoding. This is one of those things that make your head hurt. So it is best to just assume that if you have a quality router the coverage will be about the same as any other quality router.

The way you intend to increase coverage is the best since you have a ethernet cable. Most mesh systems are using wifi repeater methods that have massive downsides. What you are doing is a simple remote AP. This is how large enterprise still does it, none use silly mesh systems.

You need nothing really fancy. You can get a actual AP if you want but any router that has the correct radio specs you want will work since that is the only part you are using when you use it as AP. Most costs of router is for other software features you can not use when you run it as a AP.
Don't be fooled by mesh and roaming. They do not really seamless roam. The end device not the network control this function and end devices are really stupid. If you adjust the radio power on the radios (ie turn them down) the device should pick the proper radio source. The so called mesh function just forces a disconnect and hopes the end device picks the best AP correctly. For most people you can just stop and start the wifi and it will switch over if it is connected to the wrong source. There really is no reason to be watching netflix or playing video games while you are actually walking around your house, and maybe falling down the stairs because you are not paying attention.

I have a ac86u and it is a very special router so I would not replace it. If want wifi6 there are other asus models that use the same cpu but different radios. Key feature I like it for other than a very high clock speed is that the cpu has vpn accelerator hardware. This is one of the very few routers that can run a vpn client on the router and get 200m most other routers can barely get 30m. Now this only matters for your main router the remote device is only using the wifi radio do a inexpensive router will be fine.
Right I know coverage is by the antenna signals etc. however it's advertised to cover 5500 sq ft where as my current router is not (mean obviously i think it's because there's two system set up) and I was unaware that wifi 6 has a worse signal so you're saying the speeds may not be as fast as advertised then when comes to distance? So would i be better off purchasing two more (or even one more) ac86u's? Or doing what gggplaya mentioned and buying the zens and using those as mesh with the ac86u? Only thing then is i'll have one node without using dedicated ethernet...or i'd have to run another cable somewhere....which could be possible i got enough ports left to run up from basement but older houses are harder to work with sometimes :). However i do wanna add I like the look of the zens...easier for the SO to not complain about the appearances around compared to the ac86u.

I thought i read that the zen could also do VPN clients as well...seemed like it had very similar specs to the ac86u other then sq foot and wifi 6 and I think the processor....? I was looking into this oiginally because was looking into just doing APs but i read that the issue with a lot of APs or extenders is that that's all they do they don't monitor the traffic....and i'm a snob about my network...i mean I know they'd have to know the password still to connect but doesn't monitor packets just sends them etc why it was mentioned that a MESH network be better because uses router and nodes and still monitors etc.

Either way your info was great, so now i just need to bounce ideas off people....I'm a researchish person and like to get the best idea, and i also want the best way of performance but also secure....and wifi6 supposed to be more secure but if it's ust going to drop down to wifi5 to maintain speeds at distance...etc...i'll stop typing now lol
 

dslatsh

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Look into MOCA, do you have cable outlets anywhere in the house where you're thinking for the third node?
Uh be honest I was only looking into having two...so no cable outlets but I could run it up next to an outlet and just have an outlet with rj45 port... think be a dual gang then.
 
See if you can find scientific proof of their claim of 5500 sq feet. You need to almost ignore anything you find on a vendor site other that very technical specifications. Maybe they have a house that is 1 large room that is 5500 sq feet.

It may support client vpn but that does not mean it has the ability to run it fast. Almost every router will only run about 25-30mbsp of openvpn encrypted vpn. The 86u can do over 200. It has extra instructions in the cpu to help with the encryption.

This is where you need to ignore the marketing guys and look up the specs on the actual processors. It is the same as a PC nobody is going to believe the claims of vendors, they know a certain intel cpu has certain capacity. It would be nice if there were standardized benchmarks like pc.

It takes very little reseach to find that the zenwifi uses a broadcom BCM6755. This chip has 4 cores that run 1.5. The ac86u uses bcm4906 is only 2 cores but runs 1.8. Encryption can only run single cores so the ac86u is partially faster because of that. The KEY difference the bcm4906 is using Cortex-a53 arm technology and hte BCM6755 is using cortex-a7. Only the A53 has the AES encryption acceleration instructions. It is the high clock speed and these special instructions build into the chip to do AES encryption that makes it fast.

Although asus does have a couple of wifi6 models that use this cpu it is actually close to 3yr old tech. I have been watch for new chips but it is very tedious to try to find this information. Even then you have to be careful. One of the raspberry pi models uses a cpu that support cortex-a53 so you would think it would have the encryption instructions. Turns out to save money raspberry did not pay to license the use so the hardware can do it but when it was manufactured for raspberry they disabled it.

Now to add even a new twist wifi6 is actually a outdated technology. The FCC about 6 months ago approved the use of the 6g radio band. It has massive amounts of new radio bandwidth. So now for a while neighbors can use 160mhz chucks of bandwidth and not stomp on each other. This is called wifi6e. It uses all the same data encoding it can just also run on the new radio bands. I am unsure why we have not seen some routers already. I suspect companies are artificially delaying it so they can make back more of their costs on the wifi6 equipment.

Wifi6e is going to be a massive improvement over pretty much anything else we have seen in years. The number1 reason everyone is putting in mesh/repeaters etc is because all their neighbors are doing it and everyone is stomping on the signals. It is like turning the stereo up louder because they neighbor is too loud. With all the new bandwidth we can share.....at least until someone finds a way to build routers with 10 radio chips.

Another nasty surprise I am not sure you found is if you attempt to monitor traffic is disabled the NAT acceleration feature. Almost all modern routers have offloaded the NAT function off the CPU. When it passes the cpu you only get about 300mbps where the hardware NAT function can do gigabit. For you to monitor data the cpu has to see it and collect information, this means you cap your bandwidth.
 

dslatsh

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Right...the review sites who do their.tests say it works great but then you never know if they're doing a positive for payment or legit...so I mean more great info so would you suggest waiting for 6e? I don't have an issue with neighbors really because they're older...etc or are you suggesting sticking with the 86u? Or heck is there any other model/brand would suggest? I went with 86u for its cnet reviews and others being the easiest interfaces etc. I used to.have a buffalo with the wd...rt? I forget the acronym but the ability to flash over/more customization and loved.the buffalo never slowed...
 

kanewolf

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advertised to cover 5500 sq ft
Advertising can say almost anything. 5500Sq ft in an open space is one thing. That is a 75ft square. I would believe that. A 90x60, also about 5500 sq ft, maybe not.
The other issue is that your devices have much lower power than your router. Even if you can "blast" a signal to a device. The device can't transmit back.
I agree with @gggplaya look for a wired infrastructure and add WIFI sources geographically distributed throughout the house.
 

dslatsh

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Advertising can say almost anything. 5500Sq ft in an open space is one thing. That is a 75ft square. I would believe that. A 90x60, also about 5500 sq ft, maybe not.
The other issue is that your devices have much lower power than your router. Even if you can "blast" a signal to a device. The device can't transmit back.
I agree with @gggplaya look for a wired infrastructure and add WIFI sources geographically distributed throughout the house.
So are you saying I should stick more with the 86u, and purchase a couple. I have a spot in the living room with an ethernet running for the chormecast, however i'd just hook up the router to the internet then run another cat cable to the chrome cast. And if i got a third is it possible to try and get it to reach the garage by putting it out there and using as a access point sort of/mesh i guess....even though I believe the 86u is only a dual band?
 

kanewolf

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So are you saying I should stick more with the 86u, and purchase a couple. I have a spot in the living room with an ethernet running for the chormecast, however i'd just hook up the router to the internet then run another cat cable to the chrome cast. And if i got a third is it possible to try and get it to reach the garage by putting it out there and using as a access point sort of/mesh i guess....even though I believe the 86u is only a dual band?
The way to get good WIFI coverage is to have multiple WIFI radios tied together with a wired infrastructure.
The 86U is dual band.
 

gggplaya

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I wouldn't recommend that. WIFI 6e (6Ghz) is still in work. I would wait for that if you aren't sticking with AC units.
That's what they said when Wireless N draft came out. Was in limbo for years.

Point is, if you are buying now due to necessity, you might as well get wifi 6.

If you aren't in a hurry to buy now, you can want another year or so for broadcom or someone else to come out with a chipset and transceivers that supports 6ghz wifi 6e. Then get wifi 6e routers.

I just don't see the point of limiting yourself to a wireless AC router, when for a little more money you can get the benefits of wifi 6 on the 5ghz band today.
 

kanewolf

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That's what they said when Wireless N draft came out. Was in limbo for years.

Point is, if you are buying now due to necessity, you might as well get wifi 6.

If you aren't in a hurry to buy now, you can want another year or so for broadcom or someone else to come out with a chipset and transceivers that supports 6ghz wifi 6e. Then get wifi 6e routers.

I just don't see the point of limiting yourself to a wireless AC router, when for a little more money you can get the benefits of wifi 6 on the 5ghz band today.
Sorry, I completely disagree. If buying now buy AC. WIFI 6 is still buggy, and since it shares spectrum with AC, you really don't get bandwidth benefits, IMO. You get the benefit of WPA3 but I doubt most home users have too much to worry about with WPA2.

You and I will just disagree on this one.
 

gggplaya

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Sorry, I completely disagree. If buying now buy AC. WIFI 6 is still buggy, and since it shares spectrum with AC, you really don't get bandwidth benefits, IMO. You get the benefit of WPA3 but I doubt most home users have too much to worry about with WPA2.

You and I will just disagree on this one.
Well OFDMA is a major new feature of wifi 6 and should help increase bandwidth by decreasing traffic overhead(major reason wifi actual speeds are nowhere near connection speed), as well as increase efficiency to multiple clients which should help with wifi congestion.
 

dslatsh

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Well OFDMA is a major new feature of wifi 6 and should help increase bandwidth by decreasing traffic overhead(major reason wifi actual speeds are nowhere near connection speed), as well as increase efficiency to multiple clients which should help with wifi congestion.
uhhhh......well now i'm torn here. I get both sides since wifi6 is newer....but i also read that have a tri band would be better for a network such as mesh.....so it has that fall back band instead of using a dual band so when falls back is using a band might want. But since we also said be best to hardwire it....my idea like i said is to have the main router in my comptuer area...then add another router (node) to the living room where i have network cable running...and then since I would like to possibly reach out to the garage...may need to use it wireless...(there actually may be a cable out there previous owner had a busniness above the garage so i'd have to check). So that was the reason was looking at teh zens even though i'd wire them since they claim so much sq footage...but then i was debating purchasing another 86u or looking into the upgraded version of one i have that is on wifi6 or the tri band version....I do not want to lose speeds either though, or like was mentioned VPN acceleration because i do use them from time to times . Think the VPN part only works though if I have the VPN run through the router, such as VPN client and using the certificate etc. not using just a VPN client app on the PC, right?
 

gggplaya

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Any way you do it, I think you'll be the same. I think Asus is using the same software for all those routers, with minor differences.

Wifi 6 was in development well before the FCC free'd up the 6ghz band, so there are some improvements over AC.

It's just a factor of added cost or possibly waiting for the first 6E routers to come out.
 
The vpn is not a software thing it is a hardware feature. The 86u is a very special router it is one of the very few that has the AES encryption acceleration instructions build into the processor chip. It makes a massive difference. You get only about 25-30 m using even the highest clock speed router cpu but you get close to 200m using the cpu the 86u uses. You really want to run merlin firmware if you are going to use the vpn since it has more features but asus did take the vpn acceleration into the main router image. It just does not function on router cpu that do not have the AES acceleration.

All depends on how important vpn running on the router is.

Asus does have 1 model of router that has the wifi6 radio chip and that cpu. Unfortunately the wifi6 chipset is the first generation and the newer ones are better.

Not sure the future of the hardware vpn. I have not seen newer cpu chips with the feature. Even with wifi6e comes out you may not be able to get a router that has vpn acceleration. You end up having to use a AP to add the wifi6e unfortunately.
 

dslatsh

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The vpn is not a software thing it is a hardware feature. The 86u is a very special router it is one of the very few that has the AES encryption acceleration instructions build into the processor chip. It makes a massive difference. You get only about 25-30 m using even the highest clock speed router cpu but you get close to 200m using the cpu the 86u uses. You really want to run merlin firmware if you are going to use the vpn since it has more features but asus did take the vpn acceleration into the main router image. It just does not function on router cpu that do not have the AES acceleration.

All depends on how important vpn running on the router is.

Asus does have 1 model of router that has the wifi6 radio chip and that cpu. Unfortunately the wifi6 chipset is the first generation and the newer ones are better.

Not sure the future of the hardware vpn. I have not seen newer cpu chips with the feature. Even with wifi6e comes out you may not be able to get a router that has vpn acceleration. You end up having to use a AP to add the wifi6e unfortunately.
Think this may be the router referring to. According to CNET it's the 86u just with the wifi6 in a sense...hence its ax versus ac
https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/asus-rt-ax86u-wi-fi-6-router-review/
 
Merlin firmware used to have a lot of feature asus mainline didn't. The key feature it had first was the ability to use the accelerated vpn instructions. Asus worked pretty closely with the "merlin" guy and over the years have move many of the more popular features into the factory firmware. Merlin still has a better vpn implementation. It has been so long since I ran a factory image I can't say for sure. It is not as advanced as say dd-wrt but its primary mission is to add the feature most people use and be very very stable. It was until very recently very easy to move back and forth between merlin and factory firmware. Asus did something so you have ot be a bit more careful.
 

dslatsh

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Merlin firmware used to have a lot of feature asus mainline didn't. The key feature it had first was the ability to use the accelerated vpn instructions. Asus worked pretty closely with the "merlin" guy and over the years have move many of the more popular features into the factory firmware. Merlin still has a better vpn implementation. It has been so long since I ran a factory image I can't say for sure. It is not as advanced as say dd-wrt but its primary mission is to add the feature most people use and be very very stable. It was until very recently very easy to move back and forth between merlin and factory firmware. Asus did something so you have ot be a bit more careful.
hmm okay.....so not sure if I should move to getting something like this new router that seems to be like the 86u just AX vs AC giving wifi 6 etc.. or stick with current 86u and purcahse another to use as a node
 
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