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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Extremely fast 802.11az speeds
Decent 802.11ac performance
Lots of network ports
The Asus RT-AX88U is an AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 router that comes with a hefty price tag and a rich feature set. If you’re ready to future-proof your wireless network, look no further.
The Asus RT-AX88U is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router, which means it supports the 802.11ax wireless standard while remaining backward compatible with 802.11ac. As an update to the Asus RT-AC88U, this router promises almost double the throughput while hanging on to important features like a built-in game accelerator, eight gigabit LAN ports, and link aggregation to provide even faster-wired connection speeds.
I recently unboxed an RT-AX88U and slotted it into my network setup to see if this flashy Wi-Fi 6 router is worth the substantial asking price. I tested everything from how it handles multiple device connections, streaming UHD video content, gaming, and more.
The Asus RT-AX88U is an update to the older RT-AC88U, and it shows. The overall design of these two routers is so similar that they may have actually just reused the same molds. The overall body is flat and angular, with a row of indicator LEDs marching across the front, and a large grill with the Asus logo set into the top rear. Another grill features prominently on the front to further help in head dissipation.
The front of the unit features two large buttons: one that switches the LED lights on or off, and another that allows you to manually turn the Wi-Fi network on or off. Opposite these buttons, you’ll find a flip-down cover that hides a USB 3.1 port.
The rest of the ports can be found around back, including a second USB 3.1 port, a port to connect your modem, and eight LAN ports to connect devices.
This is a four antenna router, with two antennas on the back and then the other two on the sides. They connect to the router via screw-on connectors, and are almost identical in appearance to the antennas found on the older RT-AC88U. The only notable difference is that they feature gold highlights instead of red.
Your mileage will vary depending on how your network is set up, but I was able to slot the RT-AX88U in place of my normal router and have it up and running in just a few minutes. Attempting to load a webpage once the router was plugged in and connected automatically forwarded me to the setup wizard, although you may have to manually navigate to http://router.asus.com to get the process started.
The wizard took care of the basic setup quickly, allowing me to set a custom SSID and password and choose whether or not to combine the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks under a single SSID. Within a few minutes, I was online and ready to start testing.
There’s a lot of tweaking you can do beyond a basic setup, and things definitely get more complicated if you’re setting up an AiMesh network instead of just hooking up a single router. You can also choose whether or not to enable the built-in firewall, enable settings like denial of service (DoS) protection, and activate the game boost feature, but that’s all optional.
The Asus RT-AX88U is a dual-band AX6000 router, which means it broadcasts simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. The 2.4GHz network is capable of transmitting data at a rate of 1,148 Mbps, while the 5GHz network can transmit data at a rate of up to 4804Mbps. When operating in compatibility mode under the older 802.11ac standard, the 5GHz network can handle a slightly lower 4333Mbps.
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 without any stuttering or slowdown.
This router is also MU-MIMO compatible, so it can deliver and receive multiple data streams from multiple devices at once. Instead of each device needing to wait in line, the 4x4 MU-MIMO technology in this router allows multiple devices to connect to each network at the same time. In practice, 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 without any stuttering or slowdown.
The Asus RT-AX88U really shines when it comes to physical connectivity, though it’s still missing a few things I’d like to see at this price range. First off, you get a single gigabit port for connecting to your modem. You also get eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting devices, the first two of which support link aggregation for even faster transfer speeds.
There are also two USB 3.1 ports, one each on the front and back of the router, for connecting an SSD or USB stick. You also have the option to plug in a network printer, or even a cellular modem to act as a failover in times when your primary internet connection isn’t available.
Notably absent is a 2.5Gb Ethernet socket like Asus included with the ROG Rapture AX11000. That isn’t a deal breaker, especially since most people wouldn’t use it anyway, but it is something I would like to see included in an otherwise well-equipped router like this.
You also have the option to plug in a network printer, or even a cellular modem to act as a failover in times when your primary internet connection isn’t available.
I tested the Asus RT-AX88U on a 1Gbps Mediacom cable internet connection, testing both wired and wireless speeds, and both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 devices. As a control, my Eero router registered 845Mbps down at the router and 600Mbps down at my desktop immediately before running my tests.
When connected via Ethernet cable to my desktop, the Asus RT-AX88U achieved a top download speed of 481Mbps and upload of 63Mbps. That’s a bit lower than my Eero, but faster than most routers I’ve tested. For example, the ROG Rapture AX11000 only notched a download speed of 383Mbps when tested with the same exact setup. In both cases, the slightly lower speeds are likely due to quality of service (QoS) settings since both routers are designed to prioritize gaming traffic.
For my wireless testing, I started out by connecting my Google Pixel 3 phone to the Asus RT-AX88U and running the Ookla Speed Test app. Since the Pixel 3 is a Wi-Fi 5 device, these tests all measured the Asus RT-AX88U’s 802.11ac performance.
When measured in close proximity to the router, I noted a top download speed of 479Mbps and an upload of 61Mbps. That’s one of the better 802.11ac speeds I’ve measured, although the ROG Rapture AX11000 hit a top download speed of 627Mbps under the same circumstances.
Next up, I moved about 10 feet away from the router with a closed door in the way. At that distance, the download speed dropped to 300Mbps. Then I took a reading at 50 feet, with several walls, furniture, and appliances in the way, and noted a top download speed of 283 Mbps.
For my final Wi-Fi 5 test, I took my phone down into the garage, at a distance of over 100 feet from the router. It struggled to maintain a connection at that distance and managed a meager 12Mbps.
Once I finished with my Wi-Fi 5 testing, I fired up my HP Spectre x360, which is equipped with Wi-Fi 6. For my close-proximity test, I registered a top download speed of 560Mbps. My 10-foot test resulted in a maximum download speed of 550Mbps, and my 50-foot test resulted in a top speed of 400 Mbps. Finally, I was able to achieve a top download speed of 50Mbps in my garage at a distance of about 100 feet.
The overall performance of the Asus RT-AX88U is more or less what you would expect from a Wi-Fi 6 router in this price range. Looking beyond the numbers, the RT-AX88U gave me no trouble at all during the week I spent with it slotted into 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 all at the same time without a hitch.
The Asus RT-AX88U gives you the option to control it via a web-based interface or a smartphone app. The app is a little more modern, but you’ll find that the only way to access most of the advanced controls is to dig into the web interface.
The web interface here is basically the same interface Asus has been using for years, so you shouldn’t have trouble navigating it if you’ve owned an Asus router in the past. The issue is that the interface is full of nested menus and is somewhat difficult to navigate at times. Everything is fairly self-explanatory, but it can be difficult to find the exact location of some settings that are found several menus deep.
The Asus RT-AX88U gives you the option to control it via a web-based interface or a smartphone app.
Most of the important stuff is available at the top level, including AiProtection, QoS settings, and the Game Boost feature. The AiProtect feature is powered by Trend Micro and brings some useful antivirus and anti-intrusion features to the table. This feature is free, so you don’t have to pay any kind of ongoing subscription fee to access it. The Game Boost feature is also free, including a WTFast VPN account that’s good for a single device. For QoS settings, you can choose between adaptive, traditional, and a bandwidth limiter to prioritize and limit certain kinds of traffic.
The AiProtect feature is powered by Trend Micro and brings some useful antivirus and anti-intrusion features to the table.
With an MSRP of $350, the Asus RT-AX88U isn’t a cheap router. You’re really paying for that Wi-Fi 6 technology, which is likely to be around for quite a while. That means investing in a Wi-Fi 6 router is essentially future-proofing your network, even if you don’t have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices, and this is a great entry into that world. Throw in the generous connectivity options, great QoS features, and excellent performance, and this is one expensive router that’s actually worth the asking price.
The ROG Rapture AC11000 (see on Amazon) is a gaming-centric Wi-Fi 6 router just like the RT-AX88U, and they’re both made by Asus, but they are actually very different beasts. With an MSRP of $450, the ROG Rapture AX11000 is significantly more expensive, but it’s also a tri-band router instead of dual-band, has twice as many antennas, almost twice the throughput, and notched slightly higher download speeds during my testing.
Both of these routers feature great QoS and gamer-centric features, and I didn’t notice much of a difference between the two when gaming. The AX11000 does have a 2.5GbE port, but the RT-AC88U has twice as many Ethernet ports. The RT-AC88U also has the option to mount it on a wall by removing two rubber plugs on the bottom side, which is a feature the much larger AX11000 lacks.
When sold at its MSRP, the Asus RT-AX88U is the better choice for most users. If you have an especially large house, or tremendously large data transfer needs, then the ROG Rapture is worth a look, especially if you can find it priced under MSRP.
Worth a look if you’re ready to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6.
The Asus RT-AX88U is an excellent Wi-Fi 6 router and is a great way to future proof your home network even if you don’t already have a lot of Wi-Fi 6 devices. It is only a dual-band router, but the higher data transfer capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 mean that you shouldn’t have to worry about that as much once the majority of your devices are using 802.11ax instead of 802.11ac. You can save some money by sticking to a Wi-Fi 5 router, but you’ll probably end up wanting to upgrade again once Wi-Fi 6 devices become more ubiquitous.