Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2019
********* Updates *********
- New firmware 126.96.36.199.384_5977. Haven't had chance to use for too long yet but issue with device list has been fixed, and it seems now I can just restart Node without restarting router then node in the specific order. Still no second 5GHz band usable to Smart Connect.
- Added Advanced feature section as I got to use some of those features.
- Update second 5G band direct connection section (only connects to router but not node).
- Update Setup section, as for me reboot router and node order makes difference.
- Added Router/Node switch Section
- After 3 weeks of experience,
o Update AiMesh and stability sections, now up from 3 stars to 4 stars features. See detail in corresponding sections.
o Discovered that second 5GHz band can be used as separate SSID in AiMesh mode. (forced dual band section)
o ASUS support very disappointing.
o Simplified conclusion
********* ********* *********
Outside of the price, the specs on this router is currently unbeatable. Just to list a few amazing features that this router offers:
1. Wifi 6 support
2. AiMesh feature
3. VPN Fusion feature
4. Extensive customization options
5. Gamer’s optimization (I cannot comment on this feature as I do not use this feature).
********* ★★★★★ Features *********
+++++ Speed +++++
The router performance is great. In proximity to the router, I can get 500-600 Mbps Wifi internet download speed with 2016 Macbook Pro as well as Ipad Mini 4 on my 1Gbps service. Even at distance when connected to 5GHz band, I can get upper 300’s Mbps download at least 30 ft away from the router.
+++++ Range +++++
Our 3800 sqft two story house needed 3 Orbi Mesh system or 3 Eero Pro system to cover end to end with adequate speed. A single GT-AX11000 covers most of our home except one end of the basement, likely due to concrete wall.
To put into the objective number, Orbi was fast and I could get 200+ Mbps Wifi download speed throughout my home, but very unstable. So I moved onto Eero. Eero got very stable system without a hiccup, running for months, but there were areas where my speed went down to 80's or even lower Mbps for download. A single GT-AX11000 can get me 200+ Mbps throughout the house where the signal is reachable as long as connected to 5GHz band.
With AiMesh, most part of house I get 300+ Mbps and the worst area where I have no AiMesh Node, I still get 200+ Mbps. Though AiMesh to other Mesh network system I had are not directly compared here because I only got 1Gbps service recently and previously had only 400 Mbps service and also I did not have Ethernet back-haul option before. Nonetheless, I’m happy with coverage.
+++++ Advanced Features +++++
Although there are many features that I do not use or don't know how to use, lately as I set up more smart home device/home automation system, I've been impressed by what this router offers as otherwise, it could have got a bit more work.
1) Static IP: Ax11000 allows single toggle button to each of its connected devices to get Static IP, which is based on MAC address of the device and handled by router side, so even after reboot of the router, this feature remains. If needed, even laptop/tablet can use this so going out of network and back is hand-free.
2) VPN Server: Fairly readily set up to remotely log into home network.
3) Free DDNS: This is run by ASUS and let you point to your home network router by NAME.asuscomm.com. This allows remote accessing of home devices easy as we do not have to worry about ISP changing your IP address and reconfigure VPN access etc.
********* ★★★★☆ Features *********
+++++ WIFI 6 support +++++
This is certainly one of the main reasons to choose this router. The potential gain of WIFI 6 (802.11ax) standard is huge including speed boost, battery saving, and more simultaneous device connection. However, in order to see these benefits, supporting client device is needed. Recently, Samsung announced their latest phones to feature these, but I currently don’t own any client device. Also, Ax standard is still a draft version, so final version may have additional features that this router may not support (who knows). Basically, this is the future proof but not yet testable at the time.
+++++ Setup +++++
As a standalone router, set up was easy. As an AiMesh system, the initial set up was also easy enough. However, once I change some parameters, the router goes offline and I must reboot the router and node manually. These should be automatic. Also, in my case default setting of AiMesh did not work so well.
[3/13/2019] As part of other home network change/upgrade, I occasionally need to turn of Mesh Node. But when I do so, in order to get solid network back, I have to restart router first and wait until it is fully up, then turn Mesh Node on. Otherwise, system acts up.
+++++ AiMesh +++++
This is another major reason why I chose this router. AiMesh feature allows ASUS routers to act as true Mesh system. Advanced users can potentially implement Mesh like system using Access Point and/or Repeater mode of routers, but this requires lots of tuning like selecting proper Channel to avoid conflict, selection of Roaming parameters etc. Dedicated mesh system is simple but lacks customization option. AiMesh allows us to buy new and the latest, feature rich router and turn that into new router then use older routers to be satellite node to cover better range of house. This is a brilliant concept. For this reason, I have purchased two ROG GT-AX11000 routers.
Initially by default setting, I had constant drop out of AiMesh node (satellite). This was fixed by making node into Ethernet mode where default setting was AUTO mode. The latter mode supposed to automatically choose the best connection either Wireless or Ethernet backhaul. In my case, I found out it tried to switch to Wireless but signal was too weak (as I intentionally placed in the area with weak signal), and then disconnects and instead of reconnecting to Ethernet, node went offline. Ever since the change, not a single event of node drop.
+-+-+- Stability +-+-+-
I have HEOS speaker network system. Originally when I got HEOS speakers, I thought it was the HEOS that was faulty system as some speakers kept disappearing from the App device list. But later I found out, it was the Orbi mesh network issue. This is because after switching to Eero mesh network, I had never had this issue once again.
After fixing AiMesh node into Ethernet backhaul mode, this got better; however, I still experienced occasional sudden, device not connected to internet. After doing online research, I eventually changed setting to disable MU-MIMO, universal beamforming and airtime fairness options on both 5GHz and 2.4 GHz bands, and also enabled quality of service in media/internet surf mode. Ever since these changes, the Wifi went rock solid without any drop out. I had 7 solid days without a single reboot. As I do other home network upgrading, I have to turn them off every once and awhile. So mid-term stability is rock solid with appropriate setting, but figuring these on my own were not easy, and I don’t expect everyone get as lucky.
********* ★★★☆☆ Features *********
+-+-+- Many customization options +-+-+-
Stand-alone router system has advantage over Mesh system for more sophisticated customization options to the advanced users. AX11000 has nothing short in terms of these options. This is great for advanced users, but for trouble shooting, too many options make impossible to figure out exactly what’s causing the problem. I think ASUS should make default setup so network stability is the highest priority then let user play around to get more optimized, faster speed.
+-+-+- AiMesh Forced Dual Band +-+-+-
In tri-band systems, AiMesh uses second 5GHz band for dedicated Wireless back-haul. This makes sense as keeping solid connection between the router and node is crucial in mesh network system, and Mesh system like Orbi uses this technology as well. However, what does not make sense is when I have the connection set to Ethernet mode (not AUTO), I see no reason to keep blocking the band. Basically, the router and node are now appears as dual-band system, which we can buy for cheaper price. There is a rumor on Internet forum, this may be reverted in future firmware update.
[3/13/2019] It turned out the second 5GHz band is usable by disabling hidden SSID option. If you try to change the name to match Smart Connect SSID, you get an error though. Also, this band is only accessible on main router and not on Mesh Node.
+-+-+- Router/Node switch +-+-+-
In an ideal world, transition from router to node connection should be smooth and user shouldn’t even notice when the switch happened. In my case, this is a mixed experience. Sometimes device sticks to the original router or node despite the other is closer and even experienced a complete device disconnect when transition is happening. This sensitivity; however, is configurable by user in AiMesh. One need to change RSSI setting. I changed mine and it seemed to work better. However, I wish ASUS implement something so that RSSI value is automatically adjusted based on day to day statistics or at least suggest user to change RSSI values. This is probably one of the most important parameter to adjust to get optimal Mesh experience.
********* ★★☆☆☆ Features *********
----- VPN Fusion -----
Another great feature on paper by ASUS. This feature allows individual device to go through specific VPN service using a single router/network. Previously, I had my old router set up to connect to VPN and devices that I want to connect to the VPN had to switch to the router.
This feature can be a 3 stars because I was able to get this working with some VPN service such as Express VPN, but not others. However, those that do not work on this router works on ASUS Merlin firmware installed another router, so I believe it is not VPN server side issue. Basically, I see VPN connected on both server side and router menu; however, internet becomes inaccessible. To make it even worse, it affects entire network rather than just the device I associate with the VPN. Since this is one of the feature ASUS advertise, and I see as relatively unique to only some of ASUS routers, I hope to see this fixed.
----- Devices disappearing from Network List -----
[Update 3/31/2019] Firmware 188.8.131.52.384_5977 has resolved this issue.
----- AiMesh Node not configurable -----
It makes sense for some features to be non-selectable/configurable on AiMesh node as the purpose of mesh system is to make one change and reflect to all as a whole system. However, some feature like “light” on node should be individually configurable.
----- Aesthetics -----
It looks like a giant spider.
********* ★☆☆☆☆ Features *********
----- ASUS Customer Service -----
I have submitted my issues on the Ax11000 soon after I received the first router. ASUS occasionally sent me email saying they are still working on then referring to special tech, which sounded a good customer care. However, they were all templated e-mails and most likely just to buy a time. After 3 weeks of wait, the response was very disappointing without any content that’s useful.
********* ALTERNATIVE CONSIDERATIONS *********
The main reason to choose this router is its WIFI 6 support. Currently, there are relatively limited options for WIFI 6 compatible routers, but many more are on its way. So why did I choose this over the other options? Noteworthy alternatives are ASUS AX88U, Netgear RAX120 and TP Link Archer AX11000.
Vs. ASUS Ax88U
Ax88U is cheaper and also supports AiMesh. But it's a dual band, lacks VPN fusion feature and theoretical speed rating is 6000. So technically, ROG Ax11000 is better in all the specs. However, when used in AiMesh with Ethernet back-haul, I am losing a band anyways with current firmware, so Ax88U is likely to give the same performance with cheaper price.
Vs. TP Link Archer AX11000
This router also has 11000 speed rating. Furthermore, TP Link announced AiMesh equivalent OneMesh feature. Up on reviewing online, I just saw ASUS router gets higher rating in general and longer support from the company. But prior to current purchase, I've never had ASUS or TP Link router, so I just went with what I read. Also another feature I wanted was VPN Fusion but TP Link had no mention about this type of technology.
Vs. Netgear RAX120
Out of all system, I think this was the biggest alternative option for me. RAX120 has multigig LAN ports up to 5Gbps whereas, ROG GT-Ax11000 only has one 2.5 Gbps LAN port. However, RAX120 is 6000 speed rated with dual band. Netgear does not have direct competitor technology of AiMesh but has Orbi like Extenders with Ethernet back-haul option, but I felt conceptually AiMesh sounded better with more flexibility. For instance, if times comes and I really need 5Gbps or even 10Gbps LAN port, I can purchase next generation ASUS router with such feature and use both AX11000 as AiMesh node.
Vs. Other AX Mesh systems
Orbi, TP Link, and Arris will have Wifi 6 Mesh systems this year. I like and need Mesh system at home, but if we can get the Mesh functionality with more option/flexibility why would I choose more restrictive system? (Other than simplicity).
********* Conclusion *********
On paper, ROG Ax11000 is undoubtedly the best router on the market including what's coming in near future. As a single router, this deserved 5 stars for sure.
In AiMesh mode, I had originally struggled due to network stability issue. I was lucky enough to solve this on my own with internet search; however, ASUS tech support was no help. I would have returned the devices if I couldn’t have solved the issue. Since default setting did not work smoothly, I expect there will be others having the same or some different issues, and may consider this device may be unusable in AiMesh mode. So I’d give 4 stars for AiMesh setting because set up can be very tricky but once one figures out, it works better than other Mesh system I owned in the past.
In the future, I hope VPN Fusion feature to be fully functional, third band to be optionally opens up in AiMesh mode and node to be configurable at least to some extent.