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ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) Review

Mesh systems that use Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) technology have largely taken a back seat to mesh systems that use the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11x) technology. Because there are more Wi-Fi 5 clients than Wi-Fi 6 clients out there, and unless you intend to upgrade your phones, tablets, and computers in the near future, an excellent Wi-Fi 5 mesh system, such as the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 ($329.99), will meet all of your home networking needs.

This two-piece mesh system is simple to install and manage, and it provides lifetime parental controls and anti-malware tools. It can cover up to 5,400 square feet and is easy to maintain. First and foremost, it provided fast throughput speeds in our throughput performance tests and maintained a consistent signal strength throughout the house. As a result, it receives our Editors’ Choice Award for the most affordable mesh systems.

It is similar to the $449.99 ZenWiFi AX XT8 Wi-Fi 6 system in that it comes with two identical routers that provide coverage for homes up to 5,400 square feet, similar to the ZenWiFi AC CT8 system. The flat-yet-cylindrical routers used by the XT8 are virtually identical in appearance. Their dimensions are 6.2 by 6.3 by 2.9 inches (HWD) each, and they each have a small LED indicator on the front that glows blue during setup, white when the satellite node has a strong wireless signal with the router, yellow when there is a weak signal, and red when there is no signal at all.

There are three gigabit LAN ports, one gigabit WAN port, a USB 3.1 port, a power port, and a power switch on the back of the laptop. The reset and WPS buttons are located on the bottom of the device. The 2.5GHz LAN port that comes with the ZenWiFi XT8 is absent from this model. If you want to use an Ethernet backhaul port, you can do so. Alternatively, you can dedicate the second 5GHz band to backhaul.

Performance

ZenWiFi AC (CT8) will be installed in my apartment in order to provide faster WiFi coverage throughout the entire building. We will compare the performance of the ASUS RT-AC86U wireless router to that of an existing ASUS wireless router. The goal is to install 5Ghz WiFi throughout the entire apartment because 2.4Ghz WiFi performs extremely poorly in apartments due to the high levels of interference that are common.

For maximum 5Ghz coverage throughout the apartment, we have strategically placed the main router as well as the mesh points as shown in the illustration below. The main unit is connected to the Internet service provider’s modem via a 1Gbps connection. After that, we will use an Apple iPhone X to conduct speed tests at various locations and compare the results to the performance of a single router setup.

Some apartments have an unusual layout that makes it difficult to receive WiFi signals. In apartments with a rectangular shape, this is especially common because getting WiFi in the room at the far end is extremely difficult to achieve. Furthermore, many apartments have steel-reinforced concrete structural walls, which exacerbates the situation even further.

A common characteristic of mesh systems is their ease of installation and configuration, and the ZenWiFi CT8 system does not disappoint in this regard. I began by connecting both nodes to my computer and connecting one of them to my modem. Afterward, I downloaded the mobile app and opened it. On the welcome screen, I selected Set Up a New Network from the list of router types, and then selected ZenWiFi AC from the list of router types again. The app discovered both nodes in a matter of seconds.

When I tapped the first node, I was prompted to give my new network a name and a password, which I gladly provided. You have the option of separating the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands at this time, or you can wait until later if you prefer. After that, I created an account and waited for the router to be configured and optimized, which took a couple of minutes. During this time, the satellite node was initialized and automatically joined the network, completing the process. In response to receiving an alert that I had a strong connection, I clicked Finish and relocated my satellite node to another room in my house. I waited a few seconds for the LED on the node to turn white before declaring the installation complete.

Specifications

Model Name

  • CT8 (W-1-PK)
  • CT8 (B-1-PK)
  • CT8 (W-2-PK)
  • CT8 (B-2-PK)

Network Standard

  • IEEE 802.11a
  • IEEE 802.11b
  • IEEE 802.11g
  • WiFi 4 (802.11n)
  • WiFi 5 (802.11ac)
  • IPv4
  • IPv6

Data Rate

  • 802.11a : up to 54 Mbps
  • 802.11b : up to 11 Mbps
  • 802.11g : up to 54 Mbps
  • WiFi 4 (802.11n) : up to 150 Mbps
  • 802.11n TurboQAM : up to 400 Mbps
  • WiFi 5 (802.11ac) : up to 433 Mbps
  • WiFi 5 (802.11ac) : up to 867 Mbps

Antenna

Internal antenna x 6

Transmit/Receive

  • 2.4 GHz 2 x 2
  • 5 GHz-1 2 x 2
  • 5 GHz-2 4 x 4

Memory

  • 128 MB Flash
  • 256 MB RAM

Operating Frequency

  • 2.4GHz, 5 GHz-1, 5 GHz-2

Ports

  • RJ45 for Gigabits BaseT for WAN x 1, RJ45 for Gigabits BaseT for LAN x 3
  • USB 3.1 Gen 1 x 1

Button

  • WPS Button, Reset Button, Power Button

LED Indicator

  • Power x 1

Power Supply

  • AC Input : 110V~240V(50~60Hz)
  • DC Output : 19 V with max. 1.75 A current

Package content

  • ZenWiFi AC
  • RJ45 Ethernet Cable
  • Power Adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty Card

Product Weight (g)

  • 730

AiMesh

  • AiMesh : Yes
  • Primary AiMesh router : Yes
  • AiMesh node : Yes

Router APP

  • ASUS Router APP : Yes

Game

  • Game Boost/acceleration : No
  • WTFast : No

Alexa

  • Support Alexa skill : Yes

AiProtection

  • AiProtection : AiProtection Pro
  • Router Security Assessment : Yes
  • Malicious site blocking : Yes
  • Two-Way IPS : Yes
  • Infected Device Prevention and Blocking : Yes

Parental Control

  • Parental Control : Yes
  • Parental Control Customized Internet schedule : Yes
  • Maximum Parental Control profile : 16
  • Maximum Parental Control content filter rule : 16

Traffic Control

  • Adaptive QoS : Yes
  • Bandwidth Monitor : Yes
  • Bandwidth limiter : Yes
  • Maximum Bandwidth limiter rule : 32
  • Traditional QoS : Yes
  • Maximum Traditional QoS rule : 32
  • Traffic Monitor : Yes
  • Real-time traffic monitor : Yes
  • Wired Traffic Monitor : Yes
  • Wireless Traffic Monitor : Yes
  • Traffic Analyzer : Yes
  • Website history : Yes

Wireless

  • IPv6 : Yes
  • MU-MIMO : Yes
  • Wi-Fi Encryption : WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise , WPA2-Enterprise , WPS support
  • UTF-8 SSID : Yes
  • Guest Network : Yes
  • Maximum Guest Network rule : 9
  • Guest Network Connection time limit : Yes
  • Guest Network Encryption : 9
  • WPS : Yes
  • Wi-Fi MAC address filter : Yes
  • Maximum MAC filters : 64
  • Wireless scheduler : Yes
  • Airtime fairness : Yes
  • RADIUS Server : Yes
  • Universal beamforming : Yes
  • Explicit beamforming : Yes

WAN

  • Internet connection Type : PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP, Automatic IP, Static IP
  • Dual WAN : No
  • WAN Aggregation : No
  • 3G/4G LTE dongle : Yes
  • Android tethering : Yes
  • Port forwarding : Yes
  • Port triggering : Yes
  • DMZ : Yes
  • DDNS : Yes
  • NAT Passthrough : PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, RTSP, H.323, SIP Passthrough
  • Let’s Encrypt : Yes

LAN

  • DHCP Server : Yes
  • IGMP snooping : Yes
  • IPTV : Yes
  • LAN Link Aggregation : No
  • Manually assign IP address : Yes
  • Maximum manually assign IP address rule : 64

VPN

  • VPN Client L2PT : Yes
  • VPN Client OVPN : Yes
  • VPN Client PPTP : Yes
  • VPN Server IPSec : Yes
  • VPN Server OVPN : Yes
  • VPN Server PPTP : Yes
  • VPN Fusion : Yes

Verdict

If you want to eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots in your home without having to pay a premium for Wi-Fi 6, the Asus ZenWiFi AC CT8 is an excellent choice for an 802.11ac-based mesh Wi-Fi 5 system that does not require you to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6. In our throughput speed tests, it delivered excellent performance, as well as strong signal coverage throughout our test home. It installs in minutes and performs excellently.

AiProtection subscription for life is included, which provides you with robust parental controls as well as protection against viruses and other malware, as well as other benefits. Although the CT8 lacks a multi-gigabit LAN port, which is present on its more powerful (and more expensive) Wi-Fi 6 sibling, the XT8, this does not prevent it from earning our Editors’ Choice award for mesh systems.

The Asus ZenWiFi AC (CT8) mesh system is simple to set up and manage, and it offers robust parental controls as well as real-time malware protection. It reliably provides fast Wi-Fi coverage throughout your entire home.

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