Pricey high-speed mesh router delivers

Being the first to market is not always a good thing.

Especially if you are selling a router using the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard (also known as 802.11ax) that can realise its full potential with only a handful of Wi-Fi 6-capable client devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 phones and Razer Blade gaming laptops.

The Asus AiMesh AX6100 Wi-Fi system, which comes in a set of two routers, mitigates this by finding a further use for its Wi-Fi 6 capability. Besides offering ample bandwidth (up to 4,804Mbps) for Wi-Fi 6 client devices, the AX6100 can also use its Wi-Fi 6 connection for wireless backhaul - to transmit data at high speed between its two units.

In other words, you do not need a Wi-Fi 6 client to benefit from these routers. Of course, this point is moot if your home is already wired up for Internet with in-wall Ethernet ports in each room, as you can also connect the two routers via Ethernet cable for high speed (wired) backhaul.

Both routers are identical so you can connect either unit to the modem from your Internet service provider via an Ethernet cable.

Set-up is a breeze using the Asus Router app (available for iOS and Android), which is chock-full with features and settings, albeit not as comfortable on the eyes as rival apps' layout.

The app recommends placing the two units within a few metres of each other during the initial pairing process, after which you can place them farther apart - one in the living room and the other in the bedroom, for instance. Asus says a pair of these routers provides wireless coverage of up to 5,500 sq feet.

Unlike most mesh routers that try to appear unobtrusive and ornamental, the AX6100 looks like Asus' gaming-centric Rapture AC5300 model, but smaller and with fewer antennae.

  • FOR

    • Very good wireless performance and signal strength

    • Useful parental and security controls

    • Future-proof

  • AGAINST

    • Expensive

  • SPECS

    PRICE:  $769 (pack of two)

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x Gigabit WAN port, 4 x Gigabit LAN ports

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 802.11ax (wireless backhaul)

    SECURITY: WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise, WPS support

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4.5/5

It has two holes for wall-mounting and comes with four Gigabit LAN ports, as well as two USB ports to connect to a printer or an external storage drive.

I was blown away by the AX6100's wireless speeds in my testing. I clocked an average download speed of 400Mbps to 500Mbps for a laptop placed in the farthest bedroom in my home. Mesh routers I had previously tested clocked around 100Mbps to 200Mbps in the same scenario.

The speeds increased to around 500Mbps to 600Mbps when I moved the laptop to the living room. These results are less spectacular as they can be achieved by a good router. But they are excellent for mesh routers.

As a premium model, the AX6100 comes bundled with plenty of extras. The most useful feature is AiProtection Pro, a suite of home network security tools powered by Trend Micro that defend your connected home devices from cyber threats.

AiProtection Pro also comes with parental controls to restrict Internet access or block inappropriate content from children.

Asus has also thrown in the gaming virtual private network service WTFast, which promises lower latency and less lag while gaming by funnelling gaming traffic through optimised network routes.

The only catch is its price tag. At $769 for a pair, the AX6100 mesh Wi-Fi system is expensive, though its future-proof nature may be worth the price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Pricey high-speed mesh router delivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe