Could somebody explain which of these three ASUS routers is "better", please?

NetworkingNoobie

New Around Here
I am dipping my toe into home networking and wish to upgrade the router my ISP gave me. As I understand it, I can put my router into modem-only mode and connect a third-part router to do everything else. The advantages being that, unlike ISP-provided routers, these third-party routers have far more that can be configured (such as VPNs).
I am currently choosing between a set of Merlin-compatible ASUS routers. I am able to get all of these routers for about the same price. Given this, is any one of these routers any better than any of the others? Or are they all basically the same?
Also, are the 2nd and 3rd routers in my list actually the same router just in different cases? When comparing the tech specs, they seem to be identical.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
You are asking an ASUS centric forum (yes, it is..) why one vendor would be better than another...

@thiggins probably didn't intend it to be this way, but that is what resulted...

There are plenty of other vendors out there - Netgear is pretty good, Linksys is as well. Also consider TP-Link - just saying... GL-Inet - another choice...
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
wish to upgrade the router

ASUS RT-AX56U - overpriced entry-level 2-stream router, four weak 1.5GHz cores CPU ARMv7 based, weak VPN performance
ASUS RT-AC86U - the best Asus AC router, but with reliability issues history and software bugs, fast dual-core 1.8GHz ARMv8 + AES* CPU
ASUS ROG GT-AC2900 - the "gaming" version of AC86U + 160MHz wide channel support**, VPN Fusion, RGB lights, reported shorter Wi-Fi range

If the choice is between the three routers only, I would get a new AC86U with maximum warranty possible and run stock Asuswrt on it. It works well, but the software bug may affect some custom scripts in Asuswrt-Merlin. Excellent Wi-Fi performance in both range and walls penetration.

* - OpenVPN >200Mbps capable
** - very few AC clients support 160MHz wide channel
 

bbunge

Part of the Furniture
Spend some extra and get a RT-AX86U and keep Asus firmware. Tech9 does not like the AX86U but many of us do. I replaced an AC86U with an AX86U and am well pleased!
 

JSinFCVA

Regular Contributor
Spend some extra and get a RT-AX86U and keep Asus firmware. Tech9 does not like the AX86U but many of us do. I replaced an AC86U with an AX86U and am well pleased!
I did the same when the AX86U was first released and am running Merlin on it. Very happy. Its been rock solid and performs great. I have Cox cable/internet with 500 Mbit/10 Mbit (down / up). While the upload speed sucks, I don't need Gigabit speed/price to get the higher uplink speed. The AX86U handles 500 Mbit with ease (I actually get close to 600 Mbit - measured by Ookla Speedtest from the router). Initially I relegated the AC86U to act as a mesh node but abandoned that since my house is small enough that the single AX86U covers the premises just fine.
 
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Tech9

Part of the Furniture
AX86U and keep Asus firmware. Tech9 does not like the AX86U but many of us do.

Not that I don’t like it, but it’s not what I was expecting it to be based on forum feedback. It’s just a good router for the price. Not in the menu in this thread though.
 

Marcus Yansen

Occasional Visitor
Not to add wood to fire but op can wait for ax86u pro for its lower temp cpu as well

but i think as i read here ac86u has more range but ax86u which i own is a faster more powerful router
 

Piotrek

Occasional Visitor
RT-AX56U is a cheap (price ~100USD), modern router that will meet the needs of most normal home users.
Today I would not buy AC routers as more and more devices in the home support WiFi 6.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Today I would not buy AC routers as more and more devices in the home support WiFi 6

AC86U/AC2900 have much better hardware for specific use cases and can still do >500Mbps to common 2-stream client with AC or AX support. Most users won’t tell the difference in Wi-Fi, but will notice better VPN performance right away.
 

Piotrek

Occasional Visitor
As far as I know, WiFi 6 also works at 2.4 GHz, i.e. it can be a change in WiFi speed from N to AX ;-)
Of course, it all depends on what features will be used.
On RT-AX56U I have an OpenVPN server running and I get a speed of 50 Mbps by connecting to the router from the Internet (the maximum speed that my ISP allows - connection speed 300/50 Mbps).

PS: I do not know AC86U/C2900 if there are still new ones available with full warranty (in my country they are no longer in stores), while AX56U I can buy a new one in a store with full Asus warranty for less than $ 100.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
AC86U is available here in Canada new with warranty for the equivalent of USD110. The situation may be different in different countries.
 

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