We purchased the Asus RT-AX88U Router (Check latest price on Amazon) so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Asus RT-AX88U is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router, which means it can support both 802.11ax and 802.11ac wireless standards. This router, an update to the Asus RT-AC88U, promises nearly double the throughput while keeping key features like a built-in game accelerator, eight gigabit LAN ports, and link aggregation for even faster wired connection speeds.
I recently unboxed an RT-AX88U and installed it in my network to see if the flashy Wi-Fi 6 router is worth the hefty price tag. Everything from multiple device connections to streaming UHD video content, gaming, and more was put to the test.
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Design: Similar to the RT-AC88U with some minor adjustments
The Asus RT-AX88U is a significant upgrade over the RT-AC88U. These two routers have such a similar overall design that they may have simply reused the same molds. With a row of indicator LEDs marching across the front and a large grill with the Asus logo set into the top rear, the overall body is flat and angular. Another grill is prominently featured on the front to aid in head dissipation.
The unit’s front panel has two large buttons: one that turns on or off the LED lights, and another that turns on or off the Wi-Fi network manually. A flip-down cover hides a USB 3.1 port on the opposite side of these buttons.
The remaining ports are located around the back, including a second USB 3.1 port, a modem port, and eight LAN ports for connecting devices.
Two antennas are on the back and the other two are on the sides of this four-antenna router. They use screw-on connectors to connect to the router and look almost identical to the antennas found on the older RT-AC88U. The only difference is that instead of red, they have gold highlights.
Setup Process: Couldn’t be any easier
Your mileage may vary depending on how your network is set up, but I was able to replace my old router with the RT-AX88U and have it up and running in a matter of minutes. When I tried to load a webpage after plugging in and connecting the router, it automatically directed me to the setup wizard, though you may need to manually navigate to router asus website to get the process started.
The wizard quickly completed the basic setup, allowing me to choose a custom SSID and password, as well as whether or not to combine the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks under one SSID. I was online and ready to test in a matter of minutes.
Beyond a basic setup, you can do a lot of tweaking, and things get a lot more complicated if you’re setting up an AiMesh network instead of just connecting a single router. You can also choose whether or not to use the built-in firewall, enable settings such as denial of service (DoS) protection, and turn on the game boost feature, but all of these options are optional.
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Connectivity: AX6000 with plenty of Ethernet ports
The Asus RT-AX88U is a dual-band AX6000 router, meaning it broadcasts 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks at the same time. The 2.4GHz network has a data transmission rate of 1,148 Mbps, while the 5GHz network has a data transmission rate of up to 4804 Mbps. The 5GHz network can handle a slightly lower 4333Mbps when operating in compatibility mode under the older 802.11ac standard.
Without stuttering or slowdown, I was able to stream high definition Netflix to two televisions on my network while someone else was gaming and various other phones and tablets were in use.
This router also supports MU-MIMO, which means it can simultaneously deliver and receive multiple data streams from multiple devices. The 4×4 MU-MIMO technology in this router allows multiple devices to connect to each network at the same time, eliminating the need for each device to wait in line. In practice, I was able to stream high-definition Netflix to two televisions on my network while someone else was gaming and multiple phones and tablets were in use without stuttering or slowdown.
The Asus RT-AX88U excels in terms of physical connectivity, though it lacks a few features I’d like to see at this price point. To begin with, you’ll have a single gigabit port to connect to your modem. For connecting devices, you also get eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, the first two of which support link aggregation for even faster transfer speeds.
For connecting an SSD or USB stick, the router has two USB 3.1 ports, one on the front and one on the back. You can also connect a network printer or even a cellular modem to act as a failover in the event that your primary internet connection goes down.
A 2.5Gb Ethernet socket, which Asus included with the ROG Rapture AX11000, is noticeably absent. That isn’t a deal breaker, especially since most people wouldn’t use it anyway, but it is something I’d like to see included in a router like this that is otherwise well-equipped.
You can also connect a network printer or even a cellular modem to act as a failover in the event that your primary internet connection goes down.
Network Performance: Fantastic speed, but limited by dual-band design
On a 1Gbps Mediacom cable internet connection, I tested the Asus RT-AX88U for wired and wireless speeds, as well as Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices. Before running my tests, my Eero router registered 845Mbps down at the router and 600Mbps down at my desktop as a control.
The Asus RT-AX88U achieved a top download speed of 481Mbps and an upload speed of 63Mbps when connected to my desktop via Ethernet cable. That’s a little slower than my Eero, but it’s still faster than the majority of routers I’ve tried. When tested with the same exact setup, the ROG Rapture AX11000 only achieved a download speed of 383Mbps. Because both routers are designed to prioritize gaming traffic, the slightly lower speeds are most likely due to quality of service (QoS) settings.
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I began by connecting my Google Pixel 3 phone to the Asus RT-AX88U and using the Ookla Speed Test app to conduct my wireless testing. These tests all measured the Asus RT-802.11ac AX88U’s performance because the Pixel 3 is a Wi-Fi 5 device.
I got a top download speed of 479Mbps and a top upload speed of 61Mbps when I measured in close proximity to the router. Although the ROG Rapture AX11000 hit a top download speed of 627Mbps under the same conditions, that’s one of the better 802.11ac speeds I’ve measured.
Then, with a closed door in the way, I moved about 10 feet away from the router. The download speed dropped to 300Mbps at that distance. Then, at 50 feet away, with several walls, furniture, and appliances in the way, I took a reading and discovered a top download speed of 283 Mbps.
I took my phone down into the garage for my final Wi-Fi 5 test, which was over 100 feet away from the router. At that distance, it struggled to maintain a connection and only managed 12Mbps.
After finishing my Wi-Fi 5 testing, I switched to my HP Spectre x360, which has Wi-Fi 6. I got a top download speed of 560Mbps in my close-proximity test. My 10-foot test yielded a top download speed of 550Mbps, while my 50-foot test yielded a top download speed of 400Mbps. Finally, at a distance of about 100 feet, I was able to achieve a top download speed of 50Mbps in my garage.
The Asus RT-overall AX88U’s performance is about what you’d expect from a Wi-Fi 6 router in this price range. Beyond the numbers, the RT-AX88U did not cause me any problems during the week I had it connected to my network. While the available bandwidth would be higher if it were a tri-band device, I was able to stream high-definition video, play video games, voice chat, and run multiple other connected devices without any problems.
Software: Same old Asus web interface with nested menus
You can control the Asus RT-AX88U using either a web-based interface or a smartphone app. Although the app is more modern, you’ll find that the web interface is the only way to access most of the advanced controls.
The web interface is essentially the same as what Asus has been using for years, so if you’ve previously owned an Asus router, you shouldn’t have any trouble navigating it. The problem is that the interface is cluttered with nested menus and can be challenging to navigate at times. Everything is fairly self-explanatory, but finding the exact location of some settings that are hidden several menus deep can be difficult.
You can control the Asus RT-AX88U using either a web-based interface or a smartphone app.
The majority of the important features, such as AiProtection, QoS settings, and the Game Boost feature, are accessible from the top level. Trend Micro provides the AiProtect feature, which includes some useful antivirus and anti-intrusion features. This feature is free, so there is no need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use it. The Game Boost feature is also completely free, as is a single-device WTFast VPN account. To prioritize and limit certain types of traffic, you can choose between adaptive, traditional, and a bandwidth limiter in QoS settings.
Trend Micro provides the AiProtect feature, which includes some useful antivirus and anti-intrusion features.
Price: You’re paying for future-proofed performance
The Asus RT-AX88U isn’t a cheap router, with an MSRP of $350 (Check latest price on Amazon). You’re essentially paying for Wi-Fi 6, which is likely to be around for a long time. That means investing in a Wi-Fi 6 router, even if you don’t have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices, is essentially future-proofing your network, and this is a great way to get started. When you consider the wide range of connectivity options, excellent QoS features, and high performance, this is an expensive router that is well worth the asking price.
Asus RT-AX88U VS. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 (available on Amazon) is a gaming-focused Wi-Fi 6 router similar to the Asus RT-AX88U, but they’re very different beasts. The GT-AX11000 is significantly more expensive, with an MSRP of $450, but it’s also a tri-band router rather than a dual-band router, with twice as many antennas, almost twice the throughput, and slightly faster download speeds during my testing.
When gaming, I didn’t notice much of a difference between the two routers in terms of QoS and gamer-centric features. Although the GT-AX11000 has a 2.5GbE port, the RT-AC88U has twice the number of Ethernet ports. The RT-AC88U can also be wall-mounted by removing two rubber plugs on the bottom side, which the much larger GT-AX11000 does not have.
For most users, the Asus RT-AX88U is the better option when purchased at its MSRP. If you have a large house or a lot of data to transfer, the ROG Rapture is worth considering, especially if you can find it for less than MSRP.
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The Final Word
Even if you don’t have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices, the Asus RT-AX88U is an excellent Wi-Fi 6 router and a great way to future-proof your home network. Although it is only a dual-band router, the higher data transfer capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 mean that once the majority of your devices switch to 802.11ax instead of 802.11ac, you won’t have to worry about it as much. You can save money by sticking with a Wi-Fi 5 router, but once Wi-Fi 6 devices become more common, you’ll probably want to upgrade again.