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RT-ac68 and RT-ac86 expiring, what now? RT-ax86(PRO) and Range Extender or not?

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Dr.B

New Around Here
Hello,
I currently have an RT-AC86U as my main router and a bunch of old RT-AC68U that I use as nodes all running merlin. All of these will not be further supported after the end of 2024 and I will be looking into an upgrade. I think the RT-AX86 PRO will do nicely as an upgrade for my current RT-AC86U. I run all my traffic through a VPN and get pretty close to provider suggested speed with the Merlin firmware. Hooray for OpenVPN.

Would it be prudent to upgrade the nodes as well? If so could I use a repeater to replace one? Do these get firmware upgrades? I am aware at least one RT-AC68Us will need upgrading to something with an ethernet port since I use it to connect a wired printer to the whole wifi network.

I prefer to keep using ASUS since it has been pretty intuitive over the years. I however don't want to bankrupt myself on hardware that will expire within a few months.
 
The performance of the RT-AC86U has been eclipsed for a few years now.



Note that in the link above, a single RT-AX68U (the bare minimum entry-level AX class router at that time) just destroyed 2x RT-AC86Us.


Today, that excellent router has been deemed EOL and the RT-AX86U Pro is not a recommended model.

The best bang-for-the-buck model to buy today is the RT-AX88U Pro.

And more than likely, you will not need any repeaters at all.

Use your current RT-AC86U/RT-AC68Us in Media Bridge mode for any wired-capable devices to free up your WiFi environment and give your WiFi-only devices the least utilized environment to play in.
 
I however don't want to bankrupt myself on hardware that will expire within a few months.
I use as nodes all running merlin

RT-AX86U Pro is a good direct replacement model for your older RT-AC86U, but you have 50% chance to continue with Asuswrt-Merlin after the end of 2024 with your new Pro router. It will be moved to Asuswrt 5.0 (3.0.0.6 base firmware) perhaps by the end of 2024 and future existence of Asuswrt-Merlin on 3.0.0.6 is currently unknown. In other words - it may also lose Asuswrt-Merlin support (currently 3.0.0.4 base firmware) by the end of 2024. More information here:


Good news is current Asuswrt has VPN Fusion for selective routing built-in. Not as configurable as VPN Director in Asuswrt-Merlin, but may work for your needs. OpenVPN speeds on RT-AX86U Pro will be similar to what you have now. No much upgrade on OpenVPN speed, but WireGuard is available option if supported by your VPN provider. You don't need to overpay for more expensive models because no VPN will exceed Gigabit on this hardware no matter what.
 
Today, that excellent router has been deemed EOL and the RT-AX86U Pro is not a recommended model.
By whom? On spec they do not differ that much.

The best bang-for-the-buck model to buy today is the RT-AX88U Pro.
Okay, but this is nearly 2x the price.

Use your current RT-AC86U/RT-AC68Us in Media Bridge mode for any wired-capable devices to free up your WiFi environment and give your WiFi-only devices the least utilized environment to play in.
Understood, but my question was whether they will need changing since they will not receive firmware updates anymore.
 
If your RT-AC86U is working well - you don't need to upgrade. In 2025 just lock it down (don't expose any services on Internet) and continue using it as usual. Your nodes are access points (wired AiMesh) or repeaters (wireless AiMesh). There is no routing there and unless some severe Wi-Fi vulnerability is discovered they are all good. No need to spend money on newer hardware when the return of investment is minimal. If you are happy with what you have - summer time is coming, go out and enjoy life.
 
@Dr.B ,As I posted that, by me. Specs do not a stable and reliable router make. And from actual experience.

The difference between models varies by region. Here, it can be as little as $20 more for the superior model.

Always, always, wait for a sale (the new 'regular' price).

As long as they are not used/exposed as the main router(s), they'll be fine. That is why Media Bridge mode is recommended.
 

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