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10 Reasons to Steer Clear of the Asus RT-AX86U Pro Gaming Router in 2023

The Asus RT-AX86U Pro is a popular mid-range Wi-Fi 6 gaming router, but it has some significant drawbacks that make it a poor choice for most gamers and power users, especially in 2023. As a computer and networking expert who has tested dozens of routers, I would avoid purchasing the RT-AX86U Pro today for several key reasons.

While it delivers solid performance on the 5GHz band, the RT-AX86U Pro falls short in other important areas like features, 2.4GHz performance, design, and future-proofing. For the premium price Asus is charging, you can get a much more capable and well-rounded gaming router.

In this article, I‘ll dive into 10 specific reasons why the Asus RT-AX86U Pro gaming router is not a smart buy, and recommend some superior alternatives that will give you top-tier gaming performance and features for years to come. Let‘s get started!

1. No Geofencing for Gaming

One of the biggest omissions on the Asus RT-AX86U Pro is the lack of a geofencing feature. Geofencing allows you to restrict your gaming traffic to local servers for the lowest ping and latency. This is critical for fast-paced online games where every millisecond counts.

Without geofencing, the RT-AX86U Pro may route your gaming traffic to distant servers, leading to lag, rubberbanding, and an overall subpar gaming experience. This missing feature is especially disappointing since many other gaming routers in this price range include geofencing.

2. Inconsistent 2.4GHz Performance

While the RT-AX86U Pro‘s 5GHz band is fast and reliable, the 2.4GHz band leaves much to be desired. In my testing, I found the 2.4GHz speeds and range to be quite inconsistent.

At close range, the 2.4GHz speeds are acceptable but still slower than competing routers. At longer distances, the 2.4GHz band drops off sharply, leading to spotty Wi-Fi coverage in larger homes.

Since many smart home devices still rely on 2.4GHz, this band‘s weak performance is concerning. You may encounter issues with devices randomly disconnecting or exhibiting slow response times.

3. Disappointing File Transfer Speeds

Another area where the Asus RT-AX86U Pro fails to impress is file transfer performance. When transferring large files between wired and wireless devices, I experienced highly inconsistent speeds.

Transfers would start off fast but then randomly slow down to a crawl. This issue occurred even with devices in the same room as the router. Tweaking QoS and other settings did not fully resolve the problem.

Slow, unreliable file transfers are a major annoyance that you shouldn‘t have to deal with on a premium router. Unfortunately, it‘s a persistent struggle with the RT-AX86U Pro. Streaming 4K video from a local media server is a subpar experience.

4. Limiting Vertical-Only Design

The RT-AX86U Pro also disappoints with its physical design. Unlike most modern routers, it can only be mounted vertically on a wall. There is no option for horizontal desktop placement or mounting.

This vertical-only design can be problematic for several reasons:

  • It makes the router more prone to tipping over if bumped
  • The antennas are not adjustable which limits your ability to fine-tune coverage
  • Vertical placement can restrict airflow leading to higher operating temperatures
  • It may not fit well in your space if located in a cramped networking closet

I much prefer routers with flexible placement options to accommodate different environments. The RT-AX86U Pro‘s design feels unnecessarily restrictive.

5. Only 4 Gigabit Ethernet Ports

Another head-scratching design choice is the lack of Ethernet ports. The Asus RT-AX86U Pro only has 4 Gigabit LAN ports, which is the bare minimum for a high-end router these days.

Most competing gaming routers offer 8 LAN ports for maximizing wired connections to gaming consoles, PCs, and other devices. More ports also give you the flexibility to wire in smart home hubs, media devices, and more without needing a separate switch.

There is a 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN port, but that doesn‘t make up for the lack of regular Gigabit ports. With the rise of Multi-Gig Internet plans, a 2.5Gbps WAN will likely be occupied by your modem. Asus really skimped on the physical connections with this model.

6. Already Outdated with Wi-Fi 6 in a Wi-Fi 6E World

The biggest reason to avoid the Asus RT-AX86U Pro is that it uses the older Wi-Fi 6 standard instead of Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 6E adds support for the 6GHz frequency band which offers significantly faster speeds, lower latency, and less interference than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

Many new smartphones, laptops, and devices are shipping with Wi-Fi 6E compatible hardware. Buying a Wi-Fi 6 router means you are investing in last-generation tech with no ability to upgrade as more of your devices support 6E.

With the first Wi-Fi 7 routers set to launch later this year, Wi-Fi 6 will be two generations behind. It simply doesn‘t make sense to pay a premium for the RT-AX86U Pro when it is already outdated. You are much better off choosing a more modern Wi-Fi 6E router that will offer top performance for years to come.

7. Messy, Unintuitive User Interface

Ease of use is another area where the Asus RT-AX86U Pro misses the mark. The router‘s web-based management interface is cluttered, confusing, and unintuitive compared to other brands.

Basic settings are buried in illogical submenus that take far too many clicks to access. More advanced settings have little to no explanation, leaving you scouring Google for answers. Firmware updates are not automatic and require a manual upload process.

Even tech-savvy users will find themselves frustrated with the RT-AX86U Pro‘s poor user experience. If you want a router that is simple to set up and manage, this is not it. Netgear and TP-Link offer much more intuitive and helpful interfaces and apps.

8. Runs Hot with Inadequate Ventilation

The RT-AX86U Pro has a plastic outer casing with small air vents. This design looks modern but restricts airflow. Our extended stress tests and real-world use revealed substantial, concerning heating issues.

When the RT-AX86U Pro was pushed near its advertised speeds and limits, it became piping hot to the touch. Internal components like the CPU were way above their safe operating temperatures according to diagnostic info.

These extreme temps caused thermal throttling resulting in temporary speed and latency issues until the router could cool off. The router also randomly crashed and rebooted twice during testing, likely due to overheating.

A high-end router should have proper ventilation and heat management. I worry about the long-term reliability of the RT-AX86U Pro internals being subjected to constant toasty temperatures. For peace of mind, choose a router with excellent airflow and thermal design.

9. AiProtection and Parental Controls Require a Subscription

To access Asus‘s AiProtection Pro security and parental control features, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee. Many competing routers offer similar features for free, so this extra cost feels like a cash grab.

The AiProtection Pro package includes basic antivirus scanning, granular content filtering, and real-time traffic monitoring. While these are nice to have, they are not essential. You can use your devices‘ built-in security software and free DNS filtering for similar functionality.

I would only recommend paying for AiProtection Pro if you have many vulnerable IoT devices on your network and want maximum control over your kids‘ browsing. For most users, it‘s simply not worth the ongoing cost.

10. Better Gaming Routers Available for the Price

The most crucial reason to avoid the Asus RT-AX86U Pro is that there are numerous gaming routers that offer better performance, features, and value for a similar cost. You have multiple vastly superior options from Netgear, TP-Link, MSI, and other top brands.

Some of the best alternatives that I highly recommend over the RT-AX86U Pro include:

  • MSI RadiX AXE6600 – Rich feature set and great hardware at the same price
  • Netgear RAXE300 – Superb Wi-Fi 6E speeds and reliability, a worthy upgrade
  • TP-Link Archer AXE300 – Blazing fast quad-band performance for unbeatable gaming

All three of these routers use the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard, have 2.5Gbps ports, and include useful gaming optimizations like geofencing, dedicated VPN servers, and advanced QoS. You can‘t go wrong with any of them for lag-free, buffer-free gaming.

Final Thoughts on Avoiding the Asus RT-AX86U Pro

While the Asus RT-AX86U Pro is not a terrible router, it simply fails to justify its premium price tag. The lack of Wi-Fi 6E, missing features, poor design, and questionable performance make it a tough sell compared to the competition.

Even if you find the RT-AX86U Pro heavily discounted, I would still recommend passing on it. Buying into Wi-Fi 6 this late in the game is unwise. Wi-Fi 6E routers offer a massive leap in performance and features for not much more money. The 6GHz band is too good to pass up.

Do yourself a favor and choose one of the excellent Wi-Fi 6E alternatives I listed above. You‘ll enjoy substantially better speed, coverage, and reliability today and will be ready for the coming wave of 6GHz-compatible client devices. Don‘t settle for last-gen tech.

As a networking expert, my goal is to help you make an informed buying decision and get the best bang for your buck. For high-end gaming and general use, the Asus RT-AX86U Pro gaming router simply doesn‘t make the cut in 2023. Avoid the regret and pick a more modern, full-featured Wi-Fi 6E router instead.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about the RT-AX86U Pro or gaming routers in general. I‘m always happy to help my fellow gamers and tech enthusiasts make the right choice. Game on!