ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) review: Good looks meet solid performance!
At CES 2020 (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, ASUS launched many products, including a new line-up of advanced mesh Wi-Fi systems. The most affordable of them is ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8), also known as ASUS RT-AC95U. It is a tri-band mesh Wi-Fi system that looks great. ZenWiFi AC (CT8) promises improved firmware and performance compared to the ASUS Lyra line-up from previous years. We took it for a spin, made plenty of measurements, and here is our opinion about what it has to offer:
ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8): Who is it good for?
This AiMesh Wi-Fi system is an excellent choice for:
- Users who want the best security for their smart home
- People who desire an advanced mobile app from which they can remotely control their network
- Knowledgeable users who want advanced firmware that offers complete control
- People who want task automation services from their network, through IFTT (If This, Then That)
- Users who want to control their home network using the Alexa voice assistant
Pros and cons
Here are the things we like about ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8):
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- Pleasant vertical design approach
- Excellent speed for Wi-Fi
- Advanced firmware with tons of features and settings
- Can be remotely controlled from a mobile app
- It has a USB 3.0 port
- Excellent security features that secure your smart home
- Great multilingual support and easily accessible Help documentation
- It works with other ASUS networking devices that support AiMesh
- Plenty of Ethernet ports
There are also negatives to consider:
- The launch price is a bit high
- To get the best experience, upgrade the firmware to newer versions
ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is an elegant mesh Wi-Fi system that offers excellent performance and security. It has plenty of ports, including USB 3.0, and an advanced mobile app that you can use to remotely control your network from anywhere on the internet. You can also use it alongside any AiMesh compatible router and mesh Wi-Fi system from ASUS. The only notable downside is that the launch price is a bit high. Overall, ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is an excellent choice for anyone who wants fast Wi-Fi, as well as excellent wireless coverage.
Unboxing the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) mesh Wi-Fi system
The ASUS ZenWiFi AC3000 whole-home mesh Wi-Fi system comes in packages of one or two stations. It is also available in two colors: black and white. We received the black 2-pack package for testing. As you can see in the picture below, the box has an elegant look worthy of a premium device. On the sides of the box, you find more details about the features of this mesh Wi-Fi system.
When you open the box, you see the two devices that make up the kit. The stations have a clean look that appeals to people who are looking for an elegant device to use in their homes.
Beneath the stations, you find the power adapters for them, an Ethernet network cable, the quick setup guide, and the warranty.
The unboxing experience offered by ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is worthy of a premium device, and the packaging includes everything you need to get started.
Hardware specifications and design
ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is also known under the product name ASUS RT-AC95U. Each station has a quad-core Qualcomm IPQ4019 processor running at 717 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, and 128 MB of storage space for the firmware. It offers support for the Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac Wave 2) standard and 2x2 MU-MIMO wireless transfers.
The stations that make up the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) mesh Wi-Fi kit have an understated elegance. Their vertical housing holds a special six antenna design and a circuit board that optimizes Wi-Fi signal strength. You see the ASUS logo on the front and a small LED light that changes its color depending on the status of each station. On the sides, you have ventilation grids that provide the necessary airflow to keep things cool on the inside.
There is a cover on the top, with a bit of space around the edge. That is used to redirect the airflow for optimal cooling. As a result, the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) never gets hot, even when the processor is used at its maximum capacity. Inside each station, there is also a double heatsink for maximum heat dissipation.
Each station has a size of 6.2 x 3 x 6.3 inches or 16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm (Width x Depth x Height). It weighs a total of 25.7 ounces or 730 grams. On the back of each ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8), you find the power jack, power button, a USB 3.0 port, and four Ethernet ports at 1 Gbps. One of those is used to connect the main station to the internet. When compared with other mesh Wi-Fi solutions, the port selection is quite generous.
ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) is a tri-band mesh Wi-Fi system. The total maximum bandwidth is split as follows: 400 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz band, 867 Mbps for the first 5 GHz band, and 1733 Mbps for the second 5 GHz band. One crucial aspect to keep in mind is that the second 5 GHz band is used for the backhaul between the stations that make up the kit. It can't be used by the devices that connect to the network, only by the mesh Wi-Fi system, so that it provides the lowest latency and the maximum speed possible.
To learn more about the technical specifications of this product, go to this page: ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) Specifications.
Setting up and using the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) mesh Wi-Fi system
Setting up the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) can be done using a web browser or the ASUS Router mobile app for Android and iOS. The setup involves providing the details for your internet connection, choosing a network name and password for the WiFi, and setting up the login name and password for ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8). At the end of the setup wizard, you are also asked whether you want to use the Yandex.DNS service to restrict access to malicious sites and adult content. Considering that this DNS service is from Russia, most international users won't enable it for their network.
One cool feature is that the two stations that make up the 2-pack kit are paired from the factory. You don't need to add the second station to the mesh Wi-Fi system. You configure everything in one go, as if it were a single device, not two. However, if you need to add a third station, that one needs to be manually added to the mesh Wi-Fi system. ZenWiFi AC (CT8) uses ASUS's AiMesh technology, meaning that it can be coupled with wireless routers and mesh Wi-Fi stations made by the same company. If you already own an ASUS wireless device, it is cheaper to upgrade your network by buying one ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) instead of two.
The user interface is the same as on other ASUS wireless devices, meaning that it is easy to use, well organized, and available in 24 languages. Also, if you are an advanced user, you are going to appreciate the complete control that you get. There are plenty of settings available for all the features of this mesh Wi-Fi system.
The user documentation is accessible and well built. One neat trick is to move the mouse cursor over a setting that you do not understand, and a question mark is shown. Click on the question mark, and you see information explaining that setting. One downside is that the documentation has not been updated to include information about all the features included by ASUS in their firmware. Therefore, for a few of them, this trick does not work.
If you are not an advanced user, you may prefer the ASUS Router mobile app for setting up and administering the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8). One cool feature is that you can use it to remotely control your network from anywhere on the internet. The app has been updated recently, it has a new look, and it is organized better than before. With it, you can view the devices connected to the network, see their traffic in real time, block them or limit their bandwidth, manage the devices used by your children, set up parental control rules, and configure the main features of ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8).
While the ASUS Router mobile app is a lot more advanced than similar apps for mesh Wi-Fi systems, you can't use it to configure everything, as you do from the firmware. Regarding the firmware, the initial version has Multi-User MIMO disabled by default. We found this strange because this technology delivers better Wi-Fi performance. We recommend that you upgrade to the newest firmware version for improved performance, and to double-check that MU-MIMO is turned on for all wireless bands, including the backhaul.
We connected more than a dozen devices to the network managed by ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8), including a desktop PC, two laptops, one tablet, several smartphones, one wireless printer, two smart plugs, one smart bulb, an intelligent robot vacuum cleaner, and an Xbox One console. Then, we started sharing data and making data transfers. We enjoyed fast Wi-Fi in all the rooms of our apartment. We evaluated the speed and variability of wireless transfers, and we were pleased with the results. We took our laptop and moved to a room that is separated by one wall from the main station. We made a wireless transfer on it. As you can see below, it was quite stable, and the average speed was high.
If you want to know more about the real-world performance offered by ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8), including comparisons with other mesh Wi-Fi systems, go to the next page of this review.