Final Words & Conclusion
Final Words & Conclusion
It is a bit of a bummer (well not a bit, a massive one) that AX clients are not yet available to the consumer, otherwise, I would have to see what this puppy can really do. But realistically 99.99% of the WIFI clients out there are either 2.4 Ghz N/G, and 5 GHz AC based, which these days is labeled as Wi-fi 5. That's said, the router leaves a very sturdy impression as it pretty much matched the performance of the XR500 from Netgear, and I consider that to be a premium flagship product that is the trend setter.
Wi-Fi 6 - 802.11ax
The specs overall for the RT-AX88U are of course impressive. But should you buy an AX router already with no clients available? It's a difficult question to answer really. I am inclined to say yes for the simple reason that a router probably is going to last you five to ten years. During that time technology will evolve and AX will become a standard that will be supported broadly in many devices. The downside, you need to pay a price premium which at this time cannot be justified. So price wise it doesn't make much sense right now, but over time that extra money might be well invested as we move towards AX wifi, which promises amazing and amusing numbers and performance.
The ASUS RT-AX88U is a lovely product, the range, and performance on the 2.4 and 5 GHz AC band are matching what we see only the best router do in performance. That performance, the cool options, the sheer hardware and of course a very wide range of WIFI functionality as well as the eight Ethernet ports are great. A miss, however, is the lack of any implementation of 2.5, 5 or 10 Gbps Ethernet. At 369 EUR you purchase a product that will last you many years, and you do want to be prepared for faster Ethernet, all eight ports are 1 Gigabit max.
The RT-AX88U is loaded with features, like priority game packets, the ability to use a private network, VPN options, server routing options and very strong diagnostic and monitoring options all are present in this four CPU core beast. It's good, really really good at every little corner inside my house got coverage, I was able to pick up plenty AC signal to stream say Netflix in Ultra HD. Range wise this puppy is excellent, but I do need to say it, not exponentially better than say the competing MIMO Multi-band AC routers from names like Dlink, Netgear, and TP-Link. What is worth some extra dough though, is the level of support. The routers are getting firmware updates pretty actively, and that's great in these vulnerable times. There is a second comment I need to make as well, I like the admin interface, which does offer pretty extremely advanced network settings. The GUI, by the way, needs an aesthetic overhaul.
Overall wired throughput is good, for LAN to LAN measurements we topped 930 Mb/sec but that's normal for any gigabit router these days. The power consumption can be discussed as far as I am concerned, at almost 10 Watts we do think that the RT-AX88Uis consuming quite a bit of it, remember these devices are on 24/7/365). With your household devices online 24/7 these days your power bill will increase 20 to 25 bucks per year. If you take into account that you can also use the unit as a bit of NAS with external storage connected to the router, well that does help out in the equation, of course. The USB 3.1 throughput performance is really good, reads are close to 110 MB/s, writes a notch lower. The web interface works and responds fast as well.
For the time being, we're all waiting for proper ax clients and more routers before we can really check out what the new WI-Fi 6 standard really is all about. In that respect, this review needs to be considered a preview.
The ASUS RT-AX88U ticks most right boxes, the performance is good, and you are AX ready which could justify the 369 EUR price tag to be a bit more future proof. The big downside right now is that there are no AX clients available, but as stated .. you are ready for it and trust me, AX or Wi-Fi6 is coming sooner than later. Paired with a really proper WIFI implementation you receive very good range inside your house. The range, however, is trivial, as all routers need to follow the same government regulated maximum wattage. So the wifi radio brand and your environment often is more the defining factor in your WIFI performance. So WIFI will, however, be WIFI, signals outside will be harder to reach and sure each and every WIFI router is limited to that maximum power output. Good hardware helps a bit, as well as extra antennas. If you purchase a router like this, we'd recommend, dual-band 5 GHz devices clients. The user-interface is advanced and offers anything g33ky that you desire with proper port forwarding and even VPN features. That user-interface is due for a design change IMHO. A bit of a bummer is that this premium AX router does not offer 2.5, 5 or 10 Gbps ethernet jacks, if the industry keeps it up like this then we'll be stuck at 1 Gbps for many years to come. That change needs to be made and it would be great if ASUS would take a lead in the forefront for this, I know if a router would have gotten at least 2.5GBASE-T, 5 or 10 Gbps ethernet jacks it would be my next router to choose from, plain and simple as I want my Ethernet and WIFI infrastructure ready for the future. Heck, many motherboards we have tested already have such Ethernet jacks.
Combined with the right AC WIFI NICs and AC enabled devices you'll enjoy very good WIFI performance throughout your house. In the end, the product comes recommended, but it is a lot of money for a consumer slash gaming router alright making that preliminary move to AX hard to justify. We hand out a recommended award. Would it have gotten faster ethernet jacks, it likely would have gotten a top pick award.