A robust router capable of maintaining high speed at low latency is necessary for gaming. When lag kicks, many gamers regret only splurging on the most powerful GPU. If that sounds familiar then it’s time to meet the ASUS AX86U Gaming router.
Playing games with the right router makes all the difference. ASUS is no stranger to developing quality gaming routers, satisfying most gamers. Below, I’ll share my experience with the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router.
Design and Packaging: What's in the Box?
As far as looks go the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router is slightly unusual. Asus doubled down on the stand-up router design from the earlier AC86U. It’s not exactly ugly but just slightly off the norm for routers. The stand-up design does save a tiny bit of space, though.
The outer shell is black plastic with red accents, as expected of the modern gaming router. It includes several ventilation areas at the top of the router and alongside the back to ensure proper airflow. At the bottom are rubber linings to prevent it from moving about once placed on a surface.
At the front of the router, there are LED indicators for WPS, WAN, and LAN ports, Power, WiFi, and 2.5G Port. The rear is where the actual ports reside, including the options for WPS and reset. Naturally, that’s where you’ll find the power port as well.
The tri-antenna is top-mounted and omnidirectional. While you can adjust them, it generally is not necessary. Pointing them straight up will be fine. Overall, it’s a basic package that doesn’t go above and beyond the necessary.
The box includes a standard power adapter that can be replaced with a generic one if needed. I’ve had a previous router power adapter burnout, so believe me, it might be necessary. The three external antennas come separately and can be screwed in easily.
ASUS AX86U Gaming Router Specifications
|CPU||1.8GHz Quad-core (Broadcom BCM4908KFEBG)|
|Memory||1GB (Nanya NT5CC256M16ER-EK)|
|Ports||1 X Gigabit WAN, 4 x Gigabit LAN, 1 x 2.5Gb Multipurpose|
|USB||2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)|
|Antenna||3 x External, 1 x Internal PCB|
|T/R||2.4GHz 3×3, 5GHz 4×4|
Pros: What I Like About The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router
1. Tight Security Measures and Great Parental Controls
The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router also has a built-in AiProtection Pro powered by Trend Micro, ensuring your network and data are protected. And no, you don’t have to pay extra for this lifetime subscription. With this security feature, rest knowing your data will not get compromised for all your smart devices that don't have any security protection.
On the firmware, the AiProtection allows you to scan your router to check for risks while offering further solutions to protect your data. It also blocks various malicious sites automatically for you. I find this useful to prevent potential scams, phishing, or hacking.
Parental controls are also part of the AiProtection, so if you have kids (or plan on getting them), this feature allows you to control, monitor, and restrict access to several websites or apps. Aside from that, you can also schedule specific block times to prevent your kids from using the Internet during certain hours.
Another plus point is an Internet Activity Dashboard that displays the type of content they are viewing and the highest usage timing.
2. WiFi 6 Gives the AX86U Excellent Speed
Thanks to the dual-band WiFi 6 that uses 802.11ax, you’ll get a speed of up to 5700 Mbps. This means it’s more than enough to handle multiple devices simultaneously due to the built-in feature OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiple access). Not only that, but with that speed, you can start gaming or streaming music and videos simultaneously.
If you aren’t aware, WiFi 6 offers up to 1024-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation), which boosts the speed up to 30%. The QAM capability allows devices to transmit ten digits of binary data each time.
You also won’t have to worry about devices made for old WiFi as this router is compatible with both old and current WiFi technology.
3. Most important – The Cool Game Mode
Back to the critical point of my ASUS AX86U Gaming Router – the game mode. The Gear Accelerator helps prioritize what’s important – emphasizing the device you’re gaming on. This router will ensure that the device gets the most internet bandwidth.
There’s also a specific game mode for mobile devices where it will prioritize wireless mobile devices such as your smartphones.
However, I feel that Asus could have done more to set things up properly out of the box, given how prominently they market this router for gaming. Instead, I guess they leave a little out so that reviewers can do some of the work.
If you’re considering buying the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router for gaming, make sure you handle the following settings;
- Make sure that Game Device Prioritizing is Enabled.
- Unless you have many people using your home network, ensure that you disable QoS.
- If you don’t want to deal with port forwarding, there’s a potential alternative – Toggle the Universal Plug and Play mode ON.
- While Asus claims this is a gaming router with WiFi 6, I highly recommend you consider using a LAN cable. I always find it to be the more stable option.
As you can see, “gaming” is mostly a gimmick. The capability of the AX86U in gaming lies in its ample RAM, powerful processor, and stable performance.
Some gamers have referred to the Adaptive QoS capabilities of the AX86U. Specifically, the option to Enable GeForce NOW QoS UPnP control. While this may indeed be useful, it’s limited to GeForce NOW. Sorry, but I had to state the obvious.
4. AiMesh Helps Cover Larger Homes
Though this feature is available with most ASUS routers, it’s still a great perk to have so that you can avoid any potential dead zones. The AiMesh technology is known to have enabled multiple routers to form a mesh network and ensure the whole area can be connected.
It’s beneficial for those who have large, sprawling homes or even spread across multiple floors. While the AX86U has pretty powerful wireless broadcast, that is still subject to blockages in between – like walls, for instance.
5. QoS is Handy for Multi-user Networks
You can further enhance your internet connection with the Adaptive QoS (Quality of Service) settings. This means you can easily adjust the router based on priority. When multiple devices are using the Internet simultaneously, it will just take up so much bandwidth, causing your game performance to lag.
Thankfully, the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router has various categories catering to different uses. Some of the available classes include gaming, media streaming, work-from-home, learn-from-home, and web surfing.
6. Ample Amount of Ports
The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router comes with the standard 4 LAN ports, but a 2.5Gbps multipurpose port is also available. Note that one of the ports is a “gaming port.” Any device you hook up to that port will get priority.
One thing I feel deserves mention is the twin USB 3.2 ports. While limited to 5Gbps speed, you can hook up external hard drives and create a quasi-home network drive. I’ve found this very handy on many occasions, even if it’s only a temporary USB drive getting plugged into one of the ports.
Remember, to get the best gaming performance, I highly recommend using LAN over WiFi.
7. Easy Sharing for Guests
Worried about passing around your WiFi password so freely? You’ll be glad to know that the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router comes with a guest network option, so you can share your WiFi password by asking them to scan the barcode. The guest network also restricts your guests from accessing your local network.
8. Support for WireGuard VPN Protocol
I waited a long time for Asus routers to support WireGuard natively and it's finally come to certain router models – including the AX86U. While the interface on the firmware that provides this is a bit glitchy it works fine with WireGuard.
So far I've been able to get WireGuard speeds on my VPN that break past the 400Mbps mark on my AX86U (on a line that averages 500Mbps typical speed). Naturally, the speed will also depend on which VPN server you select.
Remember, though, that the router only supports VPNs with pure WireGuard protocol. You won't be able to use it with NordVPN's NordLynx.
Cons: What I Didn’t Like About The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router
1. Price May be Steep for Some
The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router can be considered expensive for its features despite the WiFi 6 inclusion. Although prices fluctuate somewhat, it hovers at around the $250 mark on Amazon.
I imagine they would have also thrown in a Type-C port for that price. Though this router has the latest 802.11ax WiFi, there are still cheaper routers that offer just the same. Yet not with the same power level in CPU and memory – and that’s important to remember.
Still, it is comparatively affordable when pitted against the top-end models from all brands, including ASUS. TP-Link, and Netgear.
2. Wall Mounting the AX86U is a Nightmare
Perhaps because of the stand-up design, Asus neglected wall mount holes on the AX86U. You can only prop it up vertically and up right on your table. This placement mode takes up some real estate, so it wouldn’t be ideal if you have limited space.
Who Should Buy the ASUS AX86U Gaming Router
If you’re still unsure whether this router is for you, below are some reasons why you might consider getting this model:
1. You’re a Competitive Gamer
I won’t say that getting the AX86U will make you a better gamer. However, this router is powerful enough to handle a multi-device network without breaking a sweat. That power likewise translates into a low-latency, lag-free gaming experience.
2. You Need to Share the Router
The built-in parental controls make this router extremely beneficial, especially if you have young children. You can create separate profiles for every child to monitor their Internet activity with the dashboard.
3. Need for Speed
The ASUS AX86U Gaming Router is seriously fast, whether on WiFi 6 or LAN. I’ve tested the router over WiFi, and the speeds are impressive. While there is overhead in terms of latency here between Wireless and LAN, the difference is less than 2ms on average.
My home Internet line speed is 500Mbps, and I manage the full speed on wireless and wired. That’s when running 4 PCs, one laptop, three tablets, and many IoT devices.
Where to Buy an Asus AX86U Gaming Router
Asus is a global brand and its routers are available in many locations. That means you'll probably be able to find it at most large IT hardware retail outlets near you. If you happen to be out of reach from these locations, many online retailers and eCommerce outlets also sell the Asus AX86U.
Some of the best online purchase sites include;
For retail outlets, a good option is Micro Center which is present in many states including;
- New Jersey
- New York
Alternatives to the Asus AX86U Router
Don't worry if, for some reason, the AX86U isn't your cup of tea. There are many alternative options in the market from Asus and strong competing brands. Some recommendations include;
TP-Link Archer AX55
The TP-Link Archer AX55 is much more inexpensive and you'll generally find it at less than half the price of the AX86U. It makes an excellent alternative if you want something that's capable yet without the frills.
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500
The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 is an absolute beast. It blows most of the competition out of the water and is likely the most powerful Wireless router you'll find in the consumer range. However, it costs far more than the average AX86U.
Asus ZenWiFi XD4 Plus
For those with large homes, the ideal choice would be a mesh system like the Asus ZenWiFi XD4 Plus. The add-on units the system supports will turn your ranch or multi-story mansion into a complete-coverage WiFi zone.
Verdict: Is the ASUS AX86U a Good Choice?
The ASUS AX86U is one of the best upper-mid-end wireless routers I've come across. I’ve always felt routers get the short stick among tech gear. Everyone spends a fortune on PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones. Whatever’s remaining goes to the router, which isn’t often much.
Regardless, I have to say the AX86U sits in a pretty sweet spot. While expensive, it is not close to the Asus ROG Rapture or Netgear NightHawk RAX120. Most homes won’t need those, so this model is a good choice over the crappy default router that most ISPs provide.