Need advice on Asus router replacement before Amazon sale ends... Can you help?

CptMaduro

New Around Here
Hey, folks - I'd appreciate some advice from you veterans on here because I'm trying to (quickly) take advantage of the big Amazon sale that's going on right now and is ending tonight. I'm flustered as heck trying to decode the Asus nomenclature where the same router guts are marketed with a dozen different names and model numbers. So, here's my situation and use case:

1. Currently running an Asus RT-AC66U B1, which I love, but it's old and it starting to have intermittent hardware problems. Also, it doesn't support 802.11ax, which I think I need at this point.

2. Operating in a 1000 sq foot garden condo with permeable walls and currently have no problem with remaining in range of the radios in the router. Most of the time, the primary devices are in line of sight of the antennas, but the smartphones and Amazon Kindle wander around the place. The radio spectrum around here, however, is absolutely congested. I’ve run some sniffers and have gone around the complex with a laptop and, I swear, some of these people must be running 100 different devices in their homes, and some seem powerful enough to reach into the next state. I’m hoping 802.11ax can help me survive in this environment.

3. Devices in use:

a. Big-butt OLED TV without cable TV service (100% internet streaming), plugged directly into a LAN port with RJ-45 (no wireless for this one), consuming 4k content when I can get it from the providers.​
b. Acer gaming laptop connected to 5MHz wireless. I am a gamer and play online games, and appreciate not having to endure lag. I’m not playing first-person shooters, but I do play RPGs with other people and lag spikes can lead to wiping out the party when in the depths of a dungeon fighting a big-bad.​
c. Three smartphones and two kindle e-readers on 5MHz wireless. The phones are mostly web surfing, occasional streaming, but no game playing.​
d. A few wireless doorbells and cameras on the 2.4MHz wireless.​
e. A 2.4MHz guest network used occasionally when there’s guests.​

4. I use some URL filtering, keyword filtering, and have a couple ipchain rules to blackhole crap like Instagram and WhatsApp. I would like to run ProtonVPN (OpenVPN client on the router), which will work on my AC66U B1, but only with a small load.

5. I’m on a budget, but want to get something that will future-proof me as best I can afford. I would like to run Asuswrt-Merlin, which used to be supported on the AC66U. DD-WRT or Tomato are options, but I’ve not used them before.

I am looking at the following, but am open to suggestions:

ASUS ROG Strix AX5400 WiFi 6 Gaming Router (GS-AX5400); Current price $169 down from $249.

ASUS TUF Gaming WiFi 6 Router (TUF-AX5400); Current price $169 down from $199.

ASUS ROG Strix AX3000 WiFi 6 Gaming Router (GS-AX3000); Current price $123 down from $199.

ASUS WiFi 6 Router (RT-AX3000); Current price $159 down from $179.

ASUS AX1800 WiFi 6 Router (RT-AX1800S); Current price $69 down from $99, but is this thing even viable? The price seems pretty low.

If everything listed here just totally sucks, and I get some well-reasoned arguments as to why, I could go with the ASUS ROG Rapture WiFi 6 AX Gaming Router (GT-AX6000); currently $299 down from $399 (which seems to be some good savings). But I have to really be able to justify that price as there’s going to be a pissed-off wife who’s IT-savvy enough to know techno-babble bullcrap when she hears it.

What say you folks? Any advice and analysis you can offer is much appreciated (Note that “get a divorce, and disown the kids” isn’t viable). Many thanks in advance for your help.

[And if someone has the time later on, I’d really like to understand why more than one thing is called an “AX3000,” “AX5400,” etc., and if there’s any sense to decoding what the heck these different makes or models really mean.]
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
ASUS ROG Strix AX5400 WiFi 6 Gaming Router (GS-AX5400); Current price $169 down from $249.
ASUS TUF Gaming WiFi 6 Router (TUF-AX5400); Current price $169 down from $199.
ASUS ROG Strix AX3000 WiFi 6 Gaming Router (GS-AX3000); Current price $123 down from $199.
ASUS WiFi 6 Router (RT-AX3000); Current price $159 down from $179.

All the same router with different marketing and software features locked/unlocked.

ASUS AX1800 WiFi 6 Router (RT-AX1800S); Current price $69 down from $99, but is this thing even viable?

The cheapest Asus AX-class router with bare bone options. I would say waste of money.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
I’d really like to understand why more than one thing is called an “AX3000,” “AX5400,” etc.

Router class. Marketing number. The sum of theoretical maximum throughput possible from all radios. Hard to achieve even in lab conditions.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
From your list one router may have Asuswrt-Merlin support (RT-AX3000, if h/w version is not V2) and one router is supported by Asuswrt-Merlin GNuton fork (TUF-AX5400). If something is locked in stock Asuswrt, it will be locked in Asuswrt-Merlin as well. You can't turn AX3000 router into AX5400 router, even if they use the same hardware... if that's your question. Asuswrt-Merlin gives you more configuration options. It's not a hack firmware.
 

CptMaduro

New Around Here
If something is locked in stock Asuswrt, it will be locked in Asuswrt-Merlin as well. You can't turn AX3000 router into AX5400 router, even if they use the same hardware... if that's your question. Asuswrt-Merlin gives you more configuration options. It's not a hack firmware.
Understood completely, and thanks. My question wasn't meant to imply that I wanted to "hack" something, or get something I'm not paying for. If it's proprietary, I would not seek to circumvent that. I just didn't know if different "models" have, for example, a GUI feature set they target for gamers versus, say, for content creators that are live streaming on YouTube, or something of that nature. All of these model identifiers are obtuse, to say the least, so knowing what's in scope and not in scope for tailoring with legit, legal open source software like Asuswrt-Merlin is useful. When I look at the various models, I can't really discern what features one provides versus another in a lot of cases.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
open source software like Asuswrt-Merlin

This is perhaps the better explanation: Open source is only part of it. The rest comes from Asus and is possible with Asus support only. You can have extra features in Asuswrt-Merlin, but nothing Asus have locked intentionally in hardware or stock Asuswrt. Otherwise there will be no another Asuswrt-Merlin.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Some other things you may want to know:

Currently running an Asus RT-AC66U B1

If your router has USB port at the front - it's still supported by Asus and Asuswrt-Merlin.

I’m hoping 802.11ax can help me survive in this environment.

The number of Wi-Fi networks around is not that important. The available bandwidth is. Newer radio SoC deal with noise and interference better. This is where the improvement is going to come from, not from AX support.

I would like to run ProtonVPN (OpenVPN client on the router)

Up to about 250Mbps on modern routers with ARMv8 + AES CPU. None of the routers in your list has it. GT-AX6000 is good.
 

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