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Asus ROG Rapture GT6 mesh gaming router
In an age of Orbis and Decos and Eeros and Nests, where monolithic white plastic reigns supreme, it’d be an understatement to call the $600 Asus Rog Rapture GT6 a standout among mesh routers. I mean, just look at the thing. For its first official mesh offering in an already expansive catalog of gaming routers, Asus took a swing here. The result is a mesh router that looks more like a pair of stout-statured, custom-built gaming PCs, complete with angular, irregular builds and dot-matrix LED logos ready to shine in whatever array of colors you like.
“For those who dare,” reads the all-caps relief lettering etched into the side of each unit.
Well, I dared — which is to say, I was pretty darned curious to test the thing out and see if it was any good. And, after putting it through the exact same speed tests that I used to evaluate the aforementioned Orbi, Deco, Eero, and Nest systems, I noticed something interesting. The GT6 was better than all of them, and it wasn’t particularly close.
How much better? Our controlled test space is a five-room setup at our product-testing lab with gigabit download speeds that max out at around 940 megabits per second. After running a multitude of speed tests in each room over the course of two days, the GT6 finished with an average download speed across all distances of 809Mbps. Next best is the TP-Link Deco X4300 Pro, another tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 mesh router — which finished with an average of 646Mbps.
It’s an impressive performance delta for the system over its competitors, and it might have something to do with its support for full-width, 160MHz channels. That’s a key upgrade that allows Wi-Fi 6 routers like this one to move mass amounts of data back and forth with greater efficiency. Asus takes things one step further with support for recently opened UNII-4 spectra at 5.9GHz, which the GT6 uses to sneak in room for a third 160MHz-wide channel. That positions the system to do a better job of maintaining fast speeds even in large, high-traffic environments, and that’s exactly the sort of performance I saw as I tested the thing out.
Couple that with the gamer-friendly features in the Asus Router app and the inclusion of a multigig WAN port capable of accepting incoming wired speeds as fast as 2.5Gbps, and you’re looking at one of the most impressive and complete Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers on the market. Even if you aren’t a gamer, and even if you hate the spacey design (admittedly, some might), this is still a top-of-the-line mesh router for homes as large as 5,800 square feet, and one that’s well worth the splurge at $600.
A design that dares
Built for gamers who like showing off their hardware, the Asus Rog Rapture GTX is about as flashy as mesh routers get. It isn’t the first router to combine design aesthetics from the gaming and mesh categories, but it’s still a striking departure that’ll stand out in the router aisle, not to mention a system that should fit in right alongside even the fanciest gaming setups.
Not everyone will want a router that looks like a Star Wars prop, mind you, particularly a mesh router that’ll take up at least two spots in your home. Folks who feel like it wouldn’t blend in with their home’s decor might be inclined to keep the things out of sight — but routers perform their best when they’re placed out in the open. If you’d like a Wi-Fi 6 mesh router that’s a little less conspicuous, then you should probably opt for the minimalism of something like the Eero 6 Plus or the TP-Link Deco X4300 Pro, instead.
As for the hardware, each GT6 unit is a tri-band AX10000 device. The “AX” in that speed rating tells you that the system supports 802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6, while the “10000” part refers to the combined top theoretical speeds of the 2.4GHz band (574Mbps) and the two 5GHz bands (4,804Mbps each). Along with the nine internal antennas, the interior houses a sturdy 1.7GHz tri-core processor with the typical 512MB of RAM and 256MB of Flash memory. Turn the GT6 around, and you’ll find a WAN port that supports incoming wired speeds up to 2.5Gbps, as well as three spare gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, a physical power switch, the A/C power jack, and a USB 3.2 port, which is rare to find on a mesh router these days. Each GT6 unit is identical, too, so any of them can connect with your modem and serve as the main device in your setup.
You’ll set the system up using the Asus Router app on your Android or iOS device. It’s quite decent as router apps go, managing to stay simple and straightforward while offering a deeper mix of features and controls than you’ll get with most mesh competitors. I also appreciate that the interface doesn’t bombard you with splash ads for premium security services like the ones you’ll find in Netgear’s Nighthawk and Orbi apps.
Setup only takes a matter of minutes. You’ll select the GT6 from the list of Asus routers, scan a QR code on the bottom of whatever device you’re connecting to your modem, pick a name and password for your network, and that’ll do it. From there, you’ll be able to monitor real-time upload and download traffic from the homescreen, as well as CPU/RAM percentages and the number of connected devices. You can also tap on the homescreen to adjust the color and style of those LED lights (or to turn them off). My only gripe there: When I tried to turn the LEDs off on the extender and not the main router itself, it didn’t work. They were either both off or both on.
The home screen also offers shortcuts to two of the main gaming features: a quality of service engine (QoS) used for prioritizing different types of web traffic (favoring gaming or streaming over file transfers and other potential bandwidth hogs, for instance), and a mobile boost mode that, with the touch of a button, prioritizes gaming traffic to whatever phone or tablet you’re running the app on. Advanced users can dig through the ample settings to find extras like Open NAT port forwarding controls and other networking tricks.
It’s not all about gaming, of course — the Asus Router app also offers comprehensive and customizable parental controls, as well as automatic threat scans and VPN access. You can also download a separate Instant Guard app to tunnel your web traffic back through your home network like a VPN while you’re traveling or using public Wi-Fi networks. Best of all, none of that requires any sort of subscription or monthly fee. All of it is free to use, which is obviously excellent.
Performance and speed
Speaking of excellent, take a good look at the chart above, which shows the average download and upload speeds of each mesh system I’ve tested in our lab’s 1,300 sq. ft. test space, where we have a gigabit fiber connection. The Asus Rog Rapture GT6 is our new speed king in those tests, with an average wireless download speed to our Wi-Fi 6 test laptop of 809Mbps and an average wireless upload speed of 785Mbps. Both of those figures are faster than any competitor I’ve tested to date.
Taking a closer look at the test data shows that the GT6 was able to hit wireless download speeds in the 850-900Mbps range in each of the five rooms I ran speed tests in, which is great. However, you’ll also notice a split in the first three rooms I test in, with roughly half of the tests dipping down to the 500-to-650Mbps range. That’s because I split my speed tests into two sets — one set where I establish my laptop’s connection in the same room as the router (the lab’s “living room”) and then work away from it, and another set where I start my connection in the farthest room from the router (the “garage”), and then work back towards it.
In the tests where I started my connection far from the router, the system would begin by routing my traffic through the extender, which makes sense because I was starting far from the router. But then, as I worked back towards the router, the system continued routing my traffic through the extender, even after I had moved closer to the router than the extender, and even after I had returned to the very room where the router itself sits. At that point, the extender was only creating an extra, unnecessary jump for my connection, but the system continued using it anyway.
That sort of “sticky client” issue, where the system keeps using the extender after it should, is fairly common among the mesh routers I test. In some severe cases, with systems where there’s a notable dip in performance whenever traffic takes the extra step of routing through an extender, an issue like this could cause a significant drop in your overall average speeds (that’s what happened with the last-place-finishing Linksys Velop MX2000, for instance). In the case of the GT6, the system is strong enough that the split in speeds doesn’t actually add up to much of a noticeable difference — and certainly not noticeable enough to keep the GT6 out of the top spot as far as speeds are concerned. It’s also mostly a point of concern for phones, laptops and other devices that’ll move around the house with you, and not for stationary devices like smart home gadgets or media streamers.
As for latency, our standard operating procedure is to track the ping value of each speed test we run, all of them to the same AT&T server located in St. Louis. That server is outside of our control, so I’m reluctant to make too many comparisons to systems we tested months ago, but compared to our most recent round of mesh tests, the GT6 was right in line, finishing with an average latency of 32ms, with spikes no higher than 56ms. Days before, I tested the Netgear Orbi 860 Series, another high-end Wi-Fi 6 mesh router. That system finished with a lower average of latency of 19ms, though it saw slightly steeper spikes as high as 64ms.
I’d be curious to see how those latency numbers changed after employing some of the system’s QoS controls and port forwarding rules — if we end up batch testing gaming routers in a setup like that, I’ll be sure to throw the GT6 into the mix so we can find out.
Do you dare spend $600 on a fancy new mesh router? If it’s the Asus Rog Rapture GT6, I really couldn’t blame you. With blazing-fast speed built for gigabit networks and beyond, plus strong ease of setup; likable, free-to-use features and an endearingly in-your-face design, it successfully marries the best of the mesh and gaming router categories. It’s an easy Editors’ Choice pick and a justifiable splurge at $600, though your best bet would be to try and snag it for less next time there’s a big sale.