Top positive review
Well suited for tech savvy people and/or those less wifi congested areas
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 18, 2022
Believe me: I hemmed and hawed for months about buying this mesh system. "Too pricey," I told myself. And I was right about that. But I tried everything short of spending on this: experimenting with newer, more central router locations. Buying a new, conventional, modestly priced (and decent) ASUS router. Subsequently tried to pair that new conventional ASUS router with an old one (what a exhausting failure that was!). I thought about drilling holes for an ethernet cable to connect a main router with one or two satellite access points. Complained to my spouse about what I was dealing with. Patiently (usually) absorbed spousal complaints about dropped wifi connections.
My sanity-- and my spouse-- told me to SPEND THE MONEY. I had already read multiple technical reviews of this product (and it's newer, more expensive 6E cousin). Pored through comparative reviews of mesh systems. I was tempted to bite when Amazon announced that new and recent Echo devices would act as Eero mesh nodes. But then I read the ASUS mesh reviews again. They all agreed that this product was the best of the field. One review saved me about $100 and foregoing the 6e product for reasons I will explain below.*
I am satisfied-- no, relieved-- that I bought and installed this mesh system. But as with many things in life, you only get the best results if you put in the work. So read on if you want to know what that entails.
Read the tips below. If you are overwhelmed by them and you live in an urban environment: don't buy something this sophisticated. The automatic features may not cope well with congestion and if you don't feel comfortable with the tips, this mesh system won't yield everything it's capable of.
If you live in a rural environment with a low likelihood of contending wifi signals from neighbors, then the automatic features may be sufficient. (But I still recommend assigning IP addresses as in my tip below. You might get away without doing it. And you certainly could postpone doing it unless/until you determine you need more trouble-free wifi connections.)
- Smooth initial setup: possibly the smoothest I have experienced in 20 years of home networking experience. You plop down one unit (either one) and let the app do the initial setup. When the app asks for the satellite node, you plug it in on the same table and let the app take it from there. Within minutes, they are paired.
- Very powerful signal for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands
- Better choice than the (shinier and more expensive) 6e model at the moment in late 2022 (for more see below*)
- 3 ethernet LAN ports on the SATELLIT unit- so you can bypass wifi for some devices in a remote area of the house (of course the satellite is using wifi.) Very few mesh systems have this generous feature.
- OPTION to use a wired ethernet backhaul instead of wireless for even more reliable interaction between base unit and satellite.
- Only 3 ethernet LAN ports on the main unit. Most conventional routers have 4. If you don't need more ports, you don't need to buy an ethernet switch and you won't care. (This is not a major drawback; you can always buy a modestly priced ethernet switch to add more ports to your network.)
- system is most reliable if you "do the work." Assign IP addresses to routinely used wireless devices (smart home devices, etc.)
- your results may vary but I am finding that occasionally Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands and routines get a somewhat more laggy response than with my previous routers. Not dramatically so. (I'd rather have this minor inconvenience than the poor coverage I experienced with previous systems.)
- DO USE the mobile app for INITIAL SETUP. It's pretty smooth. But don't assume your work is done when the setup phase completes on the app.
- use the web interface for the detailed configuration tasks after the setup phase. The tips below depend on using the web interface. (And if you have ever owned an ASUS router, you'll be using the same familiar web interface.)
- Unless you live in a rural area with very little potential for conflicts with neighbors' systems, you very well might want to turn off automatic channel assignments and choose an unused channel (preferable) or less popular channel (if they're all taken) for both bands.
- in the web interface: assign IP addresses for as many of your wireless devices as you have the patience and information for. (Most devices will have their MAC address right on the device. Often with the tiniest font size. If necessary use your phone camera to capture a picture of the MAC address for devices and then zoom in the picture for legibility.) Don't leave it to the router to keep assigning ad hoc IP addresses (DHCP). Don't get me wrong; this system will consistently assign unique IP addresses. I realize most people just want everything to automatically fall into place. But if you read customer reviews complaining, you're seeing the results of avoiding the work that precludes problems down the line. Do you have to assign absolutely everything? No. But I would strongly urge you to do so for all smart home devices and streaming devices, smart TVs and the like. (But you certainly can let the guest network take care of itself.)
- I do not like the default setting on most of today's routers that assigns the same SSID (wifi network name) to all bands. If you have smart home devices this becomes more significant. Many/most smart home devices like smart plugs, wifi bulbs, smart wall switches, etc. ONLY work on the 2.4Ghz band. You are asking for setup hell and possible future disconnections if these devices get confused when searching for that single, shared SSID name and can't find the 2.4Ghz band. So unless you have a really good reason: use separate names for each band. (The 2.4Ghz band gets a name like "priscilla" and the 5Ghz band is named "priscilla5".) Of course you can enter both SSIDs on your phone. And you can even use the same password for both bands.
- BONUS TIP FOR ANDROID mobile users: on your device(s), look at the "View More" or "Advanced" link(s) for the wifi SSID. Instead of DHCP, select STATIC and specify the same IP address you assigned to that very same device on the router. (As recommended in the previous tip.) This might be overkill, but in our case our rather new Samsung phones were very stubborn about logging in to the 2.4G band without doing this. Even if this doesn't happen to you, having static addresses on both ends, dramatically reduces finicky connection problems.
*Why not buy the 6e version of the ASUS mesh system?
They are designed to use the 6Ghz band for communicating between base station and satellites (backhaul). But a bit of physics here: the higher the frequency, the shorter the transmission distance. So you'd have to place the satellite(s) closer to the base unit than you would for a 5Ghz-based system like the XT8 I'm reviewing. In some cases this might force you to buy one more satellite. But it gets worse: if you have marginal-to-poor communication on that backhaul channel, the devices step down and start using the 5Ghz channel-- which otherwise would be dedicated solely to your video streaming, etc. One reviewer pointed out that the result is you'd have bought a (more expensive) 3-band system and ended up with a more congested 2-band system. And because 6 Ghz has an even shorter transmission distance than 5Ghz it's probable that even your 6e-capable phones, tablets, etc. won't be close enough in the far reaches so they will also tend to depend on 5Ghz anyway.
I hope I've given you a solid foundation for your purchase decision and possibly your wifi future.