Asus AC2900 dual-band Wi-Fi router (RT-AC86U) review: Asus has built a fast router with something for everyone

NitroQAM technology (1024-QAM modulation) is what makes this router stand out from its competitors. The RT-AC86U has 4x4 (four transmit antennas and four receive antennas) capability on 5GHz and 3x3 on 2.4GHz, so combined with NitroQAM, it offers theoretical speeds that are 1.25 times that of a 256-QAM router, like the Asus RT-AC87U and the Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2350 router.

The QoS features give you easy access to prioritizing your network traffic. You can use the adaptive QoS automatic settings to prioritize certain types of traffic like games or streaming, or you can manually set which traffic and devices get priority. There's also traditional QoS to limit bandwidth.

Gamers will enjoy the one-click LAN boost which automatically prioritizes games to no. 1 on your network. This router even comes with a free two-week trial of Gamers Private Network (GPN), powered by WTFast. This service will automatically select the most efficient route for your game packets. After the trial, you will need to pay $10 per month if you want to keep your subscription.

Asus also included its commercial grade security, AiProtection, with the RT-AC86U. Asus, together with Trend Micro, will provide your devices with extra protection from malicious attacks and viruses. AiProtection monitors your entire network to ward off attacks as well as neutralize any devices that my get infected. You also have access to parental controls to restrict access to certain sites on your devices.

It's rare that you see a router with such attention paid to both security and gaming, but this one really does seem like the complete package.

If I had to nitpick, the RT-AC86U does lack versatility with its app. You can control your network when you are connected to your home Wi-Fi network, but it doesn't work remotely. The app is very robust though and works very much like the browser-based interface.

asus-router-6

Three detachable antennas and one internal antenna give the Asus RT-AC86U fast speeds.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Finally, the Asus RT-AC86U offer two USB ports, one for USB 2.0 and one for USB 3.1 Gen 1. This gives you a super-fast option for printing, storing files on an external hard drive or transferring files.

Fast, fast, fast on 5GHz

The performance of the Asus RT-AC86U was very impressive, especially on 5GHz. Remember though, that the speed you are paying for from your internet service provider will cap how fast you can download, stream and surf the web. Unless you have a fiber connection, you are probably restricted to bandwidth well under 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

On the 2.4GHz band, I was a little unimpressed with speeds of only 142Mbps from 7 feet away, but at 25 feet, I saw the number jump to a respectable 169Mbps. I'm seeing this odd discrepancy of faster speeds farther away on the 2.4GHz band more and more lately. This could be due to increased interference directly around a router, which is constantly transmitting and receiving signals. Also, beamforming technology focuses your Wi-Fi on a device as it moves farther away, potentially creating a better signal. This will drop off eventually, so every router has a sweet spot.

The 5GHz band did not show a similar discrepancy in speed. It was the fastest I've tested to date at 938Mbps from 7 feet away. As expected on 5GHz, it dropped off significantly as more distance and obstacles were introduced, but it still hit nearly 300Mbps from 50 feet away. A multilevel home should be no problem for the Asus RT-AC86U.

Here's how the RT-AC86U stacks up to similar routers I've tested:

2.4GHz Wi-Fi Performance

Asus RT-AC86U AC2900
142
169
143
Linksys WRT32X AC3200
172
165
152
D-Link DIR-882 AC2600
165
164
164
Linksys EA8300 AC2200
110
116
116

Legend:

7 feet
25 feet
50 feet

Note:

All speeds in megabits per second (Mbps)

5GHz Wi-Fi Performance

Asus RT-AC86U AC2900
938
567
293
Linksys WRT32X AC3200
770
370
116
D-Link DIR-882 AC2600
927
568
283
Linksys EA8300 AC2200
655
367
89

Legend:

7 feet
25 feet
50 feet

Note:

All speeds in megabits per second (Mbps)

Should you buy one?

You are going to get maximum bang for your buck with the Asus RT-AC86U AC2900 Wi-Fi router. It's menu is user-friendly enough for novice users, yet customizable enough for network engineers. Gamers have options to help reduce latency, and the extra security features will give everyone peace of mind.

With a price tag of just $200, you get high-end features like MU-MIMO, advanced traffic prioritization, USB 3.1 and dual-WAN. And with extras like GameBoost and AiProtection, the Asus RT-AC86U is perfect for anyone looking to improve their home network. It's powerful enough for for all your current devices and ones you get in future.

Asus RT-AC86U Specs

Brand Asus Model RT-AC86U
IEEE 802.11 Standard a/b/g/n/ac Class AC2900
Speed (Mbps) 2,917 (750+2,167) CPU Processor Dual core 1.8GHz
Frequency Dual band (2.4GHz+5GHz) RAM Memory 512MB
Ethernet Ports 1 Gigabit WAN; 4 Gigabit LAN; Dual-WAN Flash Memory 256MB
USB Ports 1 USB 2.0; 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Guest Wi-Fi Yes
Antennas 3 External; 1 Internal Parental Controls Yes
Spatial Streams 3 (2.4GHz); 4 (5GHz) MU-MIMO Yes
Modulation 1024-QAM 5/6 Beamforming Yes
Security AiProtection powered by Trend Micro, 64-bit/128-bit WEP, WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, WPA-Enterprise, WPA2-Enterprise , WPS support Setup App or Browser
Size (in) 8.7 by 6.3 x 3.3 Weight (lbs) 1.9

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