Mesh systems help people solve one of the most banal problems with home Wi-Fi — “dead” coverage areas. There are many cases when, even in not very large apartments, due to some local features, even quite powerful routers are not able to cover the entire necessary area with a stable connection. And Mesh-systems are just able to “fix” it. There is no need to say how such systems can help in private homes. In today’s review, we will look at the capabilities of the small, but quite powerful trio ASUS ZenWiFi XD5.
ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 kit
ASUS has its own approach to the equipment of its routers, so the packaging has its own peculiarities. We received a system of three nodes with the corresponding number of external power supplies for review. Each of them has two versions of “plugs” for sockets of different formats. There are hardly any users who will travel to the UK with their routers, so this is more of a manufacturing unification. But that’s is still quite interesting.
Also, they did not forget to include one Ethernet cable and three sets for fixing routers on the wall in the box, if there is such a need. It’s nice that the manufacturer took care of such a little thing that will be appreciated by customers who envisioned such an option for installing network devices at home.
Design and usability
ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 is not a fundamentally new model, so the design cannot be called that. At least with the previous Wi-Fi standard, the company already had such a system. And, in my opinion, it is one of the most successful in its segment. XD5 routers are small “cubes” without external antennas, which allows you to place them as conveniently as possible at home or in a small office. That being said, you can find a cup that will be bigger than one of these devices (yes, it will be a big cup, but still).
The manufacturer will offer a choice of white or black system. With a size of approximately 90×90×85 mm, you will hardly have to look for additional space for such boxes, and the absence of antennas will allow you to install them in inconspicuous furniture niches. And in general, the device has a good appearance and is unlikely to become a “stain” in the interior. Matte plastic will withstand cleaning and possible pets impact (because there are glossy routers that are easily scratched even with soft rags, not to mention the claws of a kitten that will walk on the gadget).
On top of the case, a barely noticeable signature pattern of ASUS Zen devices is applied. There is also a small recess in the case, which has a practical purpose – it hides the slots for air circulation. At the same time, all sides of the device remain solid with a completely matte surface and a small golden logo of the manufacturer.
An indicator is also hidden under the logo, which is capable of notifying the current status of work in different colors. If it interferes in any way, it can be turned off.
Also on the bottom you can find the WAN and LAN ports, power, as well as the WPS (which can be assigned other roles) and Reset buttons. Additional ventilation is hidden next to the ports, but in normal situations the slots remain invisible and do not spoil the appearance of the device. Along the contour of the lower part, there are rubber feet that will hold the router in case of accidental shocks and protect the furniture covering from trouble.
Mesh systems usually have a nicer design than traditional routers, because the lack of antennas and rather laconic appearance have a really better look and practically do not interfere with the home atmosphere with a whimsical design. On the other hand, enthusiasts may find this design too simple and unlikely to attract attention. Although there are many other options for demanding users.
ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 functionality
In our case, the ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 set consists of three devices of the Wi-Fi 6 standard — AX3000 (2402 Mbit/s + 574 Mbit/s). The manufacturer calculates that one device is enough for 225 m², two for 325 m², and three for 465 m². Of course, this depends on various factors and in practice everything can be a little more complicated, but looks good.
With only 2.4 GHz (2×2) and 5 GHz (2×2) wireless options, the system does not have a dedicated channel for network support. But I did not expect this from such small devices. Although if there is physical capacity, the routers can be connected by wired 1-gigabit RJ-45, i.e. Ethernet Backhaul is supported. At the same time, ZenWiFi XD5 is equipped with OFDMA support, a frequency of 160 MHz and 1024-QAM modulation. Additionally, branded routers with AiMesh technology support can be added to the network.
All this can work in the Smart Connect mode, in which the system itself will assign the appropriate bands to the devices, and the clients will “see” only one network. Additionally, you can create six guest networks (three in each range) and set individual access and speed parameters for them.
The standard AiProtection, Parental Control and QoS tabs are also present. Here you can get additional network protection with tips on how to improve it, as well as set restrictions for individual devices.
The manufacturer did not forget about support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (the latter can be configured through a mobile application), support for VPN services (PPTP, OpenVPN or IPSec standards), VPN Fusion and the Instant Guard function, which will help you quickly connect from a smartphone to a home VPN.
Administrative capabilities look almost the same as in other relatively new routers of the company. Mostly these tabs are unified and have very similar settings for most ASUS network systems.
As before, the mobile application will offer slightly fewer settings, but the vast majority of the necessary parameters are there. The design is also unified, so those users who have already worked with ASUS routers should not get confused in this case either.
ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 performance
In the method of connection and initial setup, everything here is traditional for ASUS and simply for those users who have not often met with the setup of such systems in general. First, you need to turn on one router, which will act as the main one (it can be any of the set). The mobile application will “guide” the user through all the necessary steps, where mostly you only need to connect to a new network (you can quickly through the QR code below) and specify the desired network name and password to it. Other routers just need to be turned on next to the main one, and when the system does everything, move them to the right places in the house (in small apartments, and in general, immediately connect them where they will be installed). Everything is very simple.
Well, at this stage, you can start “high-speed” tests, because it is interesting how much the system’s capabilities have been increased by the change in standards. And as it turned out, it benefited very much. So, alongside the device in the 2.4 GHz band, it was possible to get 215 Mbps download and 196 Mbps data transfer via Speedtest. For 5 GHz, the same indicators were 856/773 Mbit/s, which is quite unexpected for such a small “box” with built-in antennas. The speed with a wired connection of the laptop through the router was almost no different from the direct connection — 893/907 Mbit/s.
Unfortunately, the test conditions are much less than desirable for testing – a two-room apartment, not a two-story house – but it is still possible to test the basic capabilities. Therefore, continuing the testing, I tried to measure the speed in Speedtest in the farthest corners of the house from the router, where I later set other points. So, at the place of installation of the second point, the speed was 111/121 Mbit/s in 2.4 GHz and 858/879 Mbit/s in 5 GHz. At the other end of the apartment, where the third node was later installed, the same indicators were 108/128 and 586/443 Mbit/s, respectively. And for a single router, this is one of the best results I’ve seen.
With the help of ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 17 SE and Dream Machines RS3080-17UA51 gaming laptops, I also tried to measure the internal data transfer speed, the averages of which also turned out to be quite good. So, in the 2.4 GHz band, in the same places, you could get an average of 125, 96 and 77 Mbps, and in 5 GHz – 884, 556 and 440 Mbps.
After familiarizing yourself with the capabilities of one router, it’s time to connect the entire system. So, next to the second node it was possible to get data transfer speeds in Speedtest of 150/128 Mbps in 2.4 GHz, 451/453 in 5 GHz and 860/878 Mbps over a wired connection. Leaving one of the laptops at the main point, data could be transferred to the second in the local network with an average speed of 112 Mbit/s in 2.4 GHz, 470 in 5 and 848 via RJ-45.
The same procedure at the third point showed in Speedtest 176/176, 420/532 and 667/825 Mbps according to the connection type, and the average internal speed under the same conditions was 121, 478 and 687 Mbps. Honestly, I did not think that such a small system could demonstrate such results.
For the next two weeks, all ASUS ZenWiFi XD5 points were in Smart Connect mode and served the network for several laptops, TVs, a couple of smartphones and other smaller gadgets. Periodically checking the connection speed, I was pleasantly surprised by the results every time, because not every test router saw more than 450 Mbit/s at my workplace (and more than 800 Mbit/s with a wired connection), or even 600+ in the kitchen. Obviously, downloading or sending relatively large files at such speeds makes everyday tasks very comfortable, not to mention the absence of problems with, for example, broadcasting a series on TV from a laptop, or communication with “smart” home gadgets.