Asus’ new mini-mesh is clearly better at the most important things than its predecessor. It can be a challenge to get the most out of the router with its many features and inconsistent interface, but once you get the hang of it, it’s worth it.
The main advantage of Wi-Fi 6 over Wi-Fi 5 is range. Put simply, a Wi-Fi 6 router can maintain high speed communication with a range 40 to 50 per cent more than a Wi-Fi 5 router. And this makes Wi-Fi 6 mesh packages particularly interesting. You could get by in a larger home with a two-pack instead of three or more nodes. Less hassle to set up, and cheaper.
However, Asus didn’t seem to get this. With the ZenWIFI AX Mini XD4 that I tested in early 2022, you got all the other Wi-Fi 6 benefits: fast top speed, increased security in a stylish and feature-rich small router, but only about 15 metres of range per node while maintaining acceptable speeds.
Asus has fixed this in the follow-up: the ZenWIFI AX Mini XD5.
Now, I can put a second node two rooms away from the main unit and still get stable wireless backhaul speeds of over 200Mbps, allowing you to download, browse and stream in high definition without any problems. The top speed of a laptop with 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 in ideal conditions, about three metres from the router in the same room, is still around 800Mbps over 5GHz.
When configuring the system, you can choose between having a single SSID for 2.4 and 5GHz, or split them up and choose which to connect to from each device yourself. Since 2.4GHz bandwidth is limited to just over half a gigabit, it might be a good idea to keep them separate, connect your smart home gadgets to the slower frequency, and then connect computers and phones to 5GHz, where you have more bandwidth to work with.
Not a huge amount more: this is a dual-band AX3000 system where there’s 2,400Mbps of bandwidth for devices and the mesh system itself to share. This is an increase from the ZenWIFI AX Mini XD4 which only had 1,200Mbps on 5GHz. So if the old model was suitable for one or two people in a two-room apartment, the ZenWIFI AX Mini XD5 can be considered suitable for two to three people in three to five rooms. Maybe even a balcony or patio, if you place the second node in the best position. Asus claims 3500 square feet of coverage for the XD5 two-pack, and 5000 square feet for the three-pack.
During a week-long test where I ran two XD5 devices as my main home Wi-Fi, things went well overall. On a couple of occasions the backhaul between the nodes was interrupted and the system had to reconnect, which happened automatically, but took about two minutes. A bit annoying, but not a big problem. When this happened, I was able to connect to the main router (further away) and could continue surfing, albeit at a lower speed.
Testing with a Wi-Fi 6E-equipped laptop, I measured a speed of 820Mbps at a distance of 3m from the main node: roughly what you’d expect from a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 system around this price. And the range is around 20m / 60ft (with two internal walls between the laptop and node) to maintain a minimum of 200Mbps.
It is also sold as a single unit, in case you want to add extra coverage later on. However, consider what you will need, because you’ll save a lot by buying the right number from the start, rather than getting individual extras and expanding afterwards.
The XD5 units retain the compact design of the XD4: cubes with rounded sides, with all external dimensions under 100mm / 4in, two gigabit network ports underneath, one of which can be used for a WAN connection (typically to connect the main unit to your existing router), and a discreet LED at the bottom of the front. The XD5 is available in white as well as the black of the XD4. Also, there are now brackets on the bottom that make it easy to mount them on a wall, something not possible with the XD4.
Functionally, the XD5 offers the same rich feature set as the XD4. That means you have both a VPN server and VPN client, detailed QoS control, parental control with scheduling and content filtering for the kids, versatile guest network capability, and built-in lifetime virus monitoring from Trend Micro. These are the kind of features that other vendors charge extra for, but not Asus.
Setting up and administering everything can be a challenge. You can do a lot via the Asus app, with more detailed network and Wi-Fi settings than many competitors, but for full control you sometimes need to log into the much messier web interface. But it’s worth exploring and familiarising yourself with, so you can get the most out of the system.
Product name: Asus Zenwifi AX Mini XD5 2-pack Wireless protocols: Wi-Fi 6 Frequency band: 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz Performance: 574 + 2400 Mbit/s Connections per device: 1 gigabit WAN/LAN, 1 gigabit LAN Wireless security: WPA/WPA2, WPA3, WPS Speed, 3m*: 820 Mbit/s Rangeper unit**: 20 metres File server/write server: No/No Other: Guest network, parental control, qos, antivirus, vpn server and client, support for Alexa and IFTTT User interface: Web, app Remote administration: Via app Dimensions. antennas: 9 x 9 x 8 cm
* Measured on the main unit of the system towards the laptop with 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E ** Longest distance, including two inner walls, where a new mesh node is needed to maintain the surfing speed of at least 200 Mbit/s.