The latest addition to the Asus ZenWiFi family of mesh systems, the ZenWiFi ET8 ($ 529.99), is the company’s most advanced mesh system to date. Designed to offer seamless wireless connectivity throughout the home, this system offers the latest Wi-Fi 6E technology, allowing compatible clients to connect to it via the 6 GHz radio band. The ET8 delivered performance of Very good signal in all our tests, it was very easy to install and comes with free parental control and anti-malware tools for life. It’s our new Editors’ Choice for Wi-Fi mesh systems.
5500 sq. Ft. Blanket with 6E Wi-Fi signal
The ET8 is a Wi-Fi 6E system, which means that not only does it support 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) technologies, it can also use the 6 GHz radio band to deliver faster throughput speeds, lower latency and more bandwidth than you need. I will get with the busiest 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. However, only client devices that support Wi-Fi 6E can connect to the 6 GHz band. With Wi-Fi 6, you get 160 MHz channel bandwidth, 1024 QAM, division multiple access data streams. Orthogonal frequency (OFDMA), simultaneous MU-MIMO data transmission, WPA3 encryption and direct-to-client signal beamforming.
The ET8 is a two-piece mesh system that provides coverage for homes up to 5,500 square feet. It consists of two nodes that appear identical to the nodes used in the previous generation ZenWiFi AX XT8 system. They measure 6.3 by 6.2 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and sport a white finish with vents on either side for airflow.
A small LED indicator on the front of the node glows blue during the setup process and is white when the satellite node has a strong wireless signal. A yellow light indicates a weak signal and a red light means the signal to the router node has been lost. The rear panel houses a 2.5 Gbps WAN port, three 1 Gbps LAN ports, a USB 3.1 port, a power port, and a power switch. You can use a LAN port for wired backhaul or let the 6 GHz broadband handle it wirelessly.
Each node contains six internal antennas and is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core CPU, 512 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash memory. The ET8 is an AXE6600 system, which means that it is capable of maximum data rates of 574 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band, 1,201 Mbps in the 5 GHz band, and 4.804 Mbps in the 6 GHz band.
As with the ZenWiFi AX XT8 and ZenWiFi AC CT8 mesh systems, the ET8 system comes with AIProtection Pro software. Powered by Trend Micro, AI Protection gives you free lifetime protection against malicious attacks and uses a prevention system proprietary intrusion system to scan incoming and outgoing data, block denial of service (DDos) attacks, prevent access to malicious websites, and block network access to any client devices that are infected with malware.
ET8 parental controls offer customizable web filtering based on age, access scheduling, and usage monitoring. You can automatically deny access to sites that contain adult content such as gambling, pornography, and violence, as well as restrict access to shopping, gaming, instant messaging, and streaming media sites. Plus, you can instantly block Internet access at the touch of a button.
Do (almost) everything in the app
The Asus Router mobile app for iOS and Android devices provides you with many management tools and offers a user-friendly interface. The home screen of the application shows a network map with each connected node, the LAN IP and the name of the network. There is also a button that allows you to select a QoS preset and a button that will optimize the network based on the location of each node.
At the bottom of the home screen are the Start, Devices, Insight, Family, and Settings buttons. The Home button takes you back to the home screen from anywhere in the application and the Devices button opens a screen with all connected client devices and mesh components (nodes). Here you can see which node each client is connected to. Touch any client to block that client’s access or to optimize their connection. You can also prioritize client bandwidth for games or streaming applications, or limit bandwidth usage.
The Insight screen lets you do things like share Wi-Fi access using a QR code, verify your password strength, and search for available mesh nodes, and the Family screen is where you will create profiles for family members and assign parental controls. Using the Settings screen, you can perform network scans and enable AIProtection features such as the aforementioned Intrusion Prevention System and malicious site blocking.
The app is quite capable, but it cannot adjust all the ET8 settings. You will need to use the web console to create VPN profiles and access more advanced settings such as port triggering and firewall settings.
The ET8 supports Amazon Alexa commands that allow you to use your voice to do things like enable the guest network, pause Internet access, restart the router, and update the firmware.
ZenWiFi ET8 review: easy setup, fast performance
Setting up the ET8 for first-time use was easy. I plugged in one of the nodes and connected it to my modem, downloaded the Asus Router mobile app, and hit Configure on the home screen. I selected “Asus ZenWiFi Series” from the list and selected the ET8, and it was immediately recognized via Bluetooth. Next, I tapped on the ET8 tab and followed the instructions to place both nodes close to each other for setup. I powered on the second node and was asked to create a new network name and password. (You can choose to separate the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands if you prefer, or let the smart connect feature choose the best band for optimal performance.)
I created an account and hit Next for the app to configure the network. A few minutes later, the network optimization process finished. The last step is to place the satellite node in a room that is about 30 feet from the router.
The ET8 system scored very well in our performance benchmarks. We used a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra phone equipped with a Wi-Fi 6E radio to test speeds in the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz radio bands. In the 2.4GHz proximity test (same room), the router node delivered 121Mbps, matching the Linksys Atlas Max 6E router, and at a distance of 30 feet it outperformed the Atlas by 11Mbps. The ET8 satellite node’s scores of 119 Mbps in the proximity test and 60 Mbps in the 30-foot test were nearly identical to the Atlas node scores (120 Mbps and 61 Mbps, respectively). These 2.4GHz results are not shown below, but the most critical ones for 5GHz and 6GHz are …
The 5 GHz performance of the ET8 was also solid: it achieved 869 Mbps in the proximity test versus the Atlas Max score of 806 Mbps. In the 30-foot test, the ET8 achieved 350 Mbps while the Atlas achieved 300 Mbps. The ET8 satellite node (787 Mbps) was slightly slower than the Atlas node (792 Mbps) in the proximity test, but its score of 531 Mbps in the 30-foot test outperformed the Atlas node by 16 Mbps. (See the details on how we test routers).
Performance on the 6 GHz band was solid. The ET8 router’s score of 918 Mbps was slightly slower than that of the Atlas (929 Mbps), but it showed much better range, scoring 371 Mbps in the 30-foot test compared to the 258 Mbps of the Atlas. The results were similar for the satellite nodes: the ET8 node’s score of 580 Mbps in the proximity test could not match the Atlas Max node’s score of 598 Mbps, but it came out ahead in the 30-foot test with a score of 333 Mbps (The Atlas Max scored 218 Mbps in this test).
To test the strength of the wireless signal, we used an Ekahau Sidekick Wi-Fi diagnostic device and the Ekahau Survey mobile app to generate a heat map showing the signal strength of the router and satellite node throughout our home from proof. (Editor’s note: Ekahau is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)
The circles on the maps represent the location of the router and the node, and the colors represent the signal strength. Dark green represents the strongest signal, yellow is weakest, and gray indicates no measurable signal reception. As shown on the map, the two nodes have no problem sending strong 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless signals to all corners of the house. (Ekahau does not support 6 GHz measurements.)
Verdict: the best mesh system yet with Wi-Fi 6E
If you’re looking to future-proof your home network with the latest Wi-Fi 6E technology, look no further than the Asus ZenWi-Fi ET8. This two-piece mesh system allows you to connect via the 6 GHz radio band, is easy to install and manage, and offers fast throughput and robust signal performance.
Plus, it’s equipped with a multi-gigabyte WAN port and USB port, and it comes with AIProtection, giving you lifetime network security and free parental control tools. All of this makes it a perfect choice as our editors’ pick for Wi-Fi mesh systems.