First look at the ASUS AiMesh: make a mesh of your router

New firmware makes it possible to use routers in a new way

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Introduction

Do you need new hardware to build a modern mesh network? This doesn't need to be the case with ASUS. The AiMesh firmware presented at CES offers the possibility of building a smart wireless network based on products from the brand you already have in house. Today we are taking a first look at this new technology.


Mesh is the magic word on the Wi-Fi market. It is the solution to one of the major WiFi network problems in an average home or business: coverage. By placing multiple access points or using a power line network, the coverage is increased, and you benefit from a reliable connection everywhere. But mesh is even more convenient - there is no need for wired network connections at all. Thanks to a smart network protocol, the access points are wirelessly interconnected, so you have wireless coverage without any hassle. Each access point is both a transmitter and a receiver, so you can build endlessly. The more “nodes” you place, the greater the coverage becomes.

Brands such as TP-Link and Linksys have already launched products that use this technology. Netgear is also there with them. Their Orbi system used a spoke network topology at first, and later also received mesh functionality. ASUS have entered this market with their Lyra family. You can purchase the Lyra set of three nodes for 380 pounds / 428 euros on average .

What ASUS have now introduced is making this technology available to existing routers, under the name AiMesh. That's what we tested with a RT-AC86U router, which can be found in our Price Comparison for an average of 220 pounds / 249 euros.

AiMesh makes it possible to deploy existing ASUS routers in a wireless network and use them as either a base station or a node. AiMesh and Lyra are two really different products. Where the Lyra series is aimed at optimal user-friendliness, the new AiMesh firmware is positioned as an alternative with better performance.

ASUS RT-AC86U
We upgraded the RT-AC86U's firmware.

ASUS Lyra 3-pack
ASUS' AiMesh is an alternative to the user-friendly Lyra mesh system.

The connection between router and node can be made wirelessly or by cable. If they are connected by both methods, the AiMesh firmware automatically chooses the most optimal route, so you do not need to worry about that. If the best route is the 2.4 GHz band, this will be selected; if the 5 GHz band is better, then that will be selected. If you have a tri-band router, one of the two 5 GHz bands is used. 

AiMesh is currently supported on the RT-AC86U, RT-AC2900, RT-AC68U and RT-AC1900P. Soon the ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, RT-AC5300 and RT-AC88U will also get the upgrade. More information can be found on ASUS' dedicated AiMesh website.

ASUS is not the only manufacturer that offers this solution. The German AVM has also developed a similar solution for its Fritz!Box routers. The software is currently only available as beta on the AVM website, but is also suitable for a large number of products: Fritz!Box 7590,7490, Fritz!WLAN Repeater 1750E, 1160, 310 en 450E, Fritz!Powerline 1260E, 1240E, 540E and 546E.

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