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I need some advise to upgrade Asus AI mesh setup

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I currently have an Asus AI Mesh system in a two-floor house. The main box, an RT-AC68U, is on the first floor, and a node, an RT-AC66U B1, is on the second floor. Additionally, I have an RT-AX57 as a second node on the first floor, though it adds no real value. It slightly extends the network to the yard outside the house. These nodes are using Wi-Fi as the backhaul.

I had a cable network, but it has been upgraded to fiber optics. At the same time, I want to upgrade my local network. The end of the fiber optics cable will be at the other end of the house in the utility cabin. From that cabin, there will be two Ethernet cables: one to the first floor and one to the second floor. Does anyone have any suggestions about which new routers to buy?

  • I still want to stick with Asus.
  • The new backhaul will be wired.
  • I am looking for reliable, long-service-life routers, somewhere in the mid-price range.
  • The AI Mesh main node will be in the closed utility cabin, which will significantly block the Wi-Fi range, I think. So, there is no real reason to invest in a high-end main node router?
  • The first-floor AI Mesh node will be handling almost all the Wi-Fi load. I currently have about 35 clients on the network.
  • Will the RT-AX57 still be good as a node on the second floor since it is a secondary area?
  • Can I still add, for example, the old RT-AC68U as an AI Mesh node in the garage, or will it bring down the performance of the whole network if all other nodes are Wi-Fi 6 devices?
 
I currently have an Asus AI Mesh system in a two-floor house. The main box, an RT-AC68U, is on the first floor, and a node, an RT-AC66U B1, is on the second floor. Additionally, I have an RT-AX57 as a second node on the first floor, though it adds no real value. It slightly extends the network to the yard outside the house. These nodes are using Wi-Fi as the backhaul.

I'd plan on retiring all of that kit sooner than later.

I had a cable network, but it has been upgraded to fiber optics. At the same time, I want to upgrade my local network. The end of the fiber optics cable will be at the other end of the house in the utility cabin. From that cabin, there will be two Ethernet cables: one to the first floor and one to the second floor.Does anyone have any suggestions about which new routers to buy?

Given wired backhaul and buying now, you would be served well enough by dual-band WiFi-6 models.

ASUS is moving forward with ASUSWRT 5.0 (3.0.0.6.* firmware) which currently requires 'Pro' model routers.

A new WiFi-6 AX router will provide better effective coverage than your old models, so you may want to start with one main router and see how it works in your radio space. If one AP, then centrally located; otherwise, 2 APs spread far apart. This flexibility is subject to your ISP demarc location and how wires are or can be run... but would look like this:

fiber ISP <wire> AiMesh router (root node) <wire> AiMesh node

Candidate models I'd consider are RT-AX88U Pro and RT-AX86U Pro... the AX88U Pro has two 2.5GbE ports, the AX86U Pro has one... if your fiber ISP ONT has a 2.5GbE port, it could be wired like this:

fiber ISP <wire 2.5GbE> RT-AX88U Pro router <wire 2.5GbE> RT-AX86U Pro node

  • I am looking for reliable, long-service-life routers, somewhere in the mid-price range.

Shop sales. In the US, you can trade in an old router to Best Buy for 15% off a new router... I did this recently and got the AX88U Pro, on sale for $240, for $204.

  • The AI Mesh main node will be in the closed utility cabin, which will significantly block the Wi-Fi range, I think. So, there is no real reason to invest in a high-end main node router?

The main router should be the one with the best specs... it's doing the heavy lifting. It should also be in conditioned air, if possible, to keep it running as cool as possible. Plan A would be to run Ethernet to where you locate it, and from there to the second router/node.

  • The first-floor AI Mesh node will be handling almost all the Wi-Fi load. I currently have about 35 clients on the network.

The main router would serve well here with most clients including media center devices (ideally wired) connecting to it and then straight out to the Internet. I would build this first. My AX88U Pro covers 3 1650 sq ft levels, more or less... depends on surrounding building materials... dense materials like masonry attenuate radio more than 2x4s and drywall.

  • Will the RT-AX57 still be good as a node on the second floor since it is a secondary area?

Maybe, you can try it and then decide. It will not support VLAN WLANs now being introduced in ASUSWRT 5.0 for Pro models. You could upgrade it later... it may go EoL sooner than later.

  • Can I still add, for example, the old RT-AC68U as an AI Mesh node in the garage, or will it bring down the performance of the whole network if all other nodes are Wi-Fi 6 devices?

It is EoL, slow, and not worth the trouble it will likely cause with new kit... I would retire it. That said, you can try it!... the trick with AiMesh is to make informed first choices in the right direction and then upgrade from there as required, pushing old kit out to node duty. ASUSWRT 5.0 and 'Pro' models defeats this approach somewhat, but you have to expect some of this for new tech to be introduced. Be sure to consider the overall cost of ownership including maintaining and using it.

OE
 
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  • I still want to stick with Asus.
  • The new backhaul will be wired.
  • I am looking for reliable, long-service-life routers, somewhere in the mid-price range.
Take a look at the Expertwifi series if you are sticking with only gigabit fiber. EBG15 or EBR63 may work for you.


All your old Asus routers will pair and work as nodes. (note: they are EOL and up to you whether or not running as a node is acceptable).
 
Hi, thanks for the suggestions. The ExpertWiFi series is new to me. What would be the pros and cons of going with these compared to consumer models?

Also, when browsing through different models, I am a bit confused by similar-looking devices like the RT-AX5400 vs. the TUF-AX5400. What are the main differences between those two, for example?
 
TUF models have more gaming features than the RT models. (I was comparing between the two, or more specifically RT-AX82U).

ExpertWiFi is very new business grade equipment. (When I open available instructions the last I saw showed Copyright 2024). Since you have a RT-AC68U still in service like I do you tend to keep them a very long time, so a new release will very likely last longer.

When planning your Ethernet wiring it would be good to have an understanding of how ASUS designed AiMesh to be connected:

 
I am in a very similar position except my main router is an RT-AC3100. Right now I run no nodes but I probably need one for the backyard area.

the trick with AiMesh is to make informed first choices in the right direction and then upgrade from there as required, pushing old kit out to node duty. ASUSWRT 5.0 and 'Pro' models defeats this approach somewhat, but you have to expect some of this for new tech to be introduced. Be sure to consider the overall cost of ownership including maintaining and using it.

Lets say I went with a rt-ax88u pro to be my main. Would the rt-ac3100 as a node make the rt-ax88u pro work worse as the main?

I.E. would their be features of the rt-ax88u pro that would not be able to be used if I have the 3100 as a node?
 

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