The Bottom Line
Introduction & Pricing, Availability, and Specifications
With the RT-AX82U in the books, it's time to switch gears to the next platform on our list, which just so happens to be yet another mainstream Wi-Fi 6 platform from ASUS. This time in the lab, we have the RT-AX86U, an AX5700 class solution that has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The AX86U is yet another Broadcom based platform, this time using the more popular BCM4908. This SoC is built from the ground up for high-performance multi-gig routers and gateways and is currently one of the most deployed solutions for Wi-Fi 6. The BCM4908 is a quad-core 1.8GHz solution, ASUS has paired it with 1GB of DDR3 and 512MB of flash.
The Broadcom 4908 handles a large portion of the workload for the AX86U, including the 2x2 2.4GHz radio, four-port gigabit switch, and WAN. ASUS has chosen the BCM43684 Radio to handle the 5GHz band with a 4x4:4 interface and the BCM84880 to control the 2.5Gbe port. Two USB 3.0 ports are also included in this model.
Pricing and Availability
The RT-AX86U is currently available at several online retailers, including Newegg, Amazon, and ASUS Store. MSRP is coming in at $249.99 with a two-year warranty.
ASUS RT-AX86U Wireless Router
Packaging offers a look at the router on the right, marketing to the left with its AX5700 class and features listed below, including the 2.5Gbps port.
Included with the router, we have the power adapter and ethernet cables and the quick start guide in several languages.
The RT-AX86U is a vertical platform offering branding and room for air to escape through a plastic mesh exterior.
We have a series of LEDs for each LAN port, internet, and power along the bottom.
The back panel is a bit busy with power and USB coming from the left to the 2.5Gbe and WAN port in the middle and gigabit LAN rounding on the right side.
Last, we have an image of the PCB. The first offers a look at the BCM4908 on the right side with two DRAM packages from Nanya; to the left, we have the BCM43684 and BCM84880.
Management GUI Details
For AiMesh platform solutions, this is the typical setup routine. From this first menu, you can start setup with default options or changing the router "mode" by choosing advanced settings.
One significant change in the setup process for Wi-Fi 6 solution on AiMesh is the screen above. If you do not have any Wi-Fi 6 clients on your network, you can disable the technology from here and run in legacy Wi-Fi 5 mode.
The dashboard is once again that AiMesh platform we have seen on many solutions in the past. This offers a client list down below and system status for both Wi-Fi and hardware to the right.
Moving into the client list, we can see all devices connected to the router, the radio they are connected to, and the current data rate.
AiProtection is a built-in suite of security software to help you shore up the setting of your router, so there are no security risks. Also, AiProtection offers Parental controls per device with time scheduling and app filters.
The Adaptive QoS screen offers insight per device, showing bandwidth used along with the ability to prioritize with QoS.
The "Game" menu offers control for boosting your mobile and PC/Console gaming experience by configuring port forwarding options or prioritizing PC, Consoles and Mobile devices to the router.
Open NAT offers yet another way to make your gaming experience better by installing game profiles that include the appropriate ports for forwarding.
USB application is one of the many features that set ASUS routers apart from nearly all other platforms. Here we have support for storage with AiDisk and Samba, turn your printer into a network capable unit with printer server, or add a second WAN option with a 3G/4G dongle!
Adding to the AiDisk options is AiCloud that allows you to access your data on the go with Cloud Disk.
Last, we have the many options for configuring the Wi-Fi, including smart connect that moves devices to the appropriate band automatically.
Test System Setup & Benchmark Throughput Tests
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair VIII Formula X570 (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB 2x8GB DDR4 3600 (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro H60 (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Corsair Carbide 275R (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Corsair MP600 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM850x (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
We perform all tests in a real-world environment. You may get better range and throughput results in a spacious facility with few internal walls or outdoors. Our tests provide a benchmark for estimating the range and throughput of wireless networking devices in an indoor setting with some obstacles.
After the AX82U, I went through and cleaned up the charts. This allows us to see where each router sits a little easier. With the AX86U, we see wired LAN performance at 951Mbps, pretty standard for gigabit connections. Wireless to wireless comes in at 430.6Mbps.
In our 2.4GHz testing, the AX86U was the quickest we have seen to date with 20MHz channels just under 200Mbps. Opting for 40MHz instead brought performance up to 348Mbps about 40Mbps shy of the MX5, our current leader.
5GHz Wi-Fi showed reliable 80MHz performance a touch over 800Mbps while moving to 160MHz channels brought us up to 1325Mbps, about 70Mbps shy of the current leader; AX89X.
Mobile Throughput / Range
Setting up our iPhone 11 Pro for mobile throughput testing, we see the AX86U bring in a touch under 130Mbps with 2.4GHz.
5GHz performance was top 5 in our charts, the AX86U bringing in 650Mbps at 30Ft.
Benchmarks - Storage Performance & Final Thoughts
Testing the USB storage capabilities, we deployed a portable SSD and mapped it as a drive on our test system. The AX86U came away with pretty solid results, 156 MB/s read, and 150 MB/s write.
With both the AX82U and AX86U now in the books, ASUS has put together a rather lovely mainstream lineup of solutions. That said, I do believe we have one or two more models to look at in the future to round out their portfolio.
As for the AX86U, ASUS has a fantastic mid-range platform using trusted components in the BCM4908 adding in a gig of DRAM to handle the extra performance you will get from the 2.5Gbe LAN/WAN port something I don't believe I have seen yet on a sub $300 platform.
Performance in both wired and wireless was quite good, reaching 951 Mbps for LAN while wireless saw 348Mbps for 2.4GHz and 1325Mbps in 5GHz. Storage performance was somewhat surprising as well for the AX86U; at 150/150, this router can easily handle basic NAS functionality and offers the ability with AiCloud to be a personal cloud device only by adding a portable HDD or SSD.
Pricing is equally incredible for the AX86U, so much that I had to check multiple retailers to make sure it wasn't a fluke but yes the $249.99 MSRP is real, and you are getting a full 4x4 5GHz radio AX5700 class solution, legit USB storage performance and 2.5Gbe WAN/ LAN allowing you the ability to upgrade your network to multi-gig just by adding a capable switch.
The Bottom Line
ASUS has it nailed offering an AX5700 class platform with 2.5Gbe under $250!
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