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Asus releases a 3-piece mesh router with Wi-Fi 6 support for $300

Available now, the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini promises to fill your home with speedy, reliable internet and full support for Wi-Fi 6.

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The Asus ZenWifi AX Mini, a new 3-piece mesh router that supports Wi-Fi 6.

Asus

Earlier this year, we tested out the Asus ZenWiFi AX, a two-piece mesh router with full support for Wi-Fi 6. Like other mesh routers, it uses multiple devices throughout your home to spread a more reliable Wi-Fi signal from room to room. The solid hardware and robust mix of features left us impressed, especially once it practically aced our tests. At $450, it became one of our top-recommended upgrade picks in the wireless networking category, and an Editors' Choice-winner to boot.

Now, Asus is expanding the lineup with a new, smaller-size version of that ZenWiFi system that doesn't cost quite so much. Dubbed the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini (XD4), it's a three-piece mesh router that still supports Wi-Fi 6 -- and, available now at $300, it's a bit easier to afford.

In fact, the three-piece ZenWiFi AX Mini system is only $50 more than a three-piece Eero system from Amazon, and $50 less than a three-piece Nest Wifi system from Google. Neither of those alternatives supports Wi-Fi 6 at all.

For the money, you're getting a trio of white, cube-shaped devices, any one of which you can connect to your modem to broadcast a Wi-Fi network into your home (charcoal-colored versions are coming later this year, Asus says). From there, the other two devices will act as repeaters. Scatter them around your house, and they'll receive the incoming Wi-Fi signal from the device acting as the router and rebroadcast it farther out around your home.

With full support for new Wi-Fi 6 features like OFDMA and 1024 QAM, and top speeds of up to 1,201Mbps on the 5GHz band, the ZenWiFi AX should be more than capable of taking full advantage of a gigabit internet plan. And, if it broadcasts a network that's as reliable as the full-size version, and as good at steering your connection between bands and devices as you move about your home, then it'll make for a pretty tempting home networking upgrade.

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As for features, something Asus typically excels at, the ZenWiFi AX Mini includes a basic Quality of Service engine for traffic prioritization, free-for-life AiProtection network security powered by Trend Micro, and a VPN server. The system also supports Asus' AiMesh feature, which means you can add other AiMesh-compatible Asus products to your network to act as additional extenders.

Each ZenWiFi AX Mini device includes two gigabit LAN ports, one of which can also serve as the WAN connection with your modem. No USB ports, though.

Asus

There are some notable trade-offs at first glance, though. One of the things we liked most about the full-size ZenWiFi system was that it was a tri-band mesh router. That means that it includes the usual 2.4 and 5GHz bands, plus an additional 5GHz band that you can choose to dedicate exclusively to backhaul transmissions between the router and its satellites, an approach that can greatly improve speeds at a distance, when you're far enough from the router that your connection is getting directed through a satellite. 

You don't get the luxury of a third band with the ZenWiFi AX Mini, so your regular network traffic will have to coexist with the system's signals (though you can always wire your devices together with Ethernet cable for a wired backhaul).

In addition, the full-size ZenWiFi AX includes a multigig WAN port capable of accepting incoming wired speeds as high as 2.5Gbps. With the ZenWiFi AX Mini, your incoming speeds are capped at a less future-friendly 1Gbps.

Still, all of that seems pretty reasonable given that the Mini costs $150 less than the original ZenWiFi AX. We'll know better once we've had a chance to test out the speeds, features and reliability to see how the system compares against other, similar mesh systems we've reviewed, including the Netgear Nighthawk AX. Expect to see a full review in the coming weeks.

Specs

  • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax)
  • Dual-band (2.4GHz up to 574Mbps, 5GHz up to 1,201Mbps)
  • 1024 QAM
  • OFDMA
  • WPA3 encryption
  • Standards-based and universal beamforming
  • 20/40/80MHz channel bandwidth
  • 2x2 MU-MIMO
  • 1 Gigabit WAN/LAN port, 1 Gigabit LAN port
  • 2 internal antennas
  • Quad-core SoC processor
  • 256MB Flash memory, 256MB RAM