Imagine you bought the ASUS RT-AC86U router for your home. Sometime later, you are suffering from upgrade-titis and decide that you want the faster RT-AC88U. What do you do with your old RT-AC86U? It’s still a pretty capable router, so giving it away would be a waste, or you could sell it off online, but dealing with time wasters and lowballers is a major annoyance. If only there was a way I could use it to expand my home Wi-Fi…
Well, now you can with ASUS AiMesh. In a nutshell, AiMesh allows you to use multiple ASUS routers to create your own mesh Wi-Fi network. In the above scenario, this means that you can use the RT-AC88U as your primary router and your older RT-AC86U as a mesh Wi-Fi node. If you have Wi-Fi dead spots in your home, this can be very useful.
Unfortunately not all ASUS routers are supported at the moment, but a good many of their popular models are. Here is the list of supported routers at the point of writing:-
Getting AiMesh to work isn’t as complicated as you might think. Granted, it isn’t as easy as the current crop of purpose-built mesh networking systems like the Google Wifi or Linksys Velop, but it isn’t too difficult either.
The other thing to note is that even with AiMesh enabled, you retain all of the features of your ASUS router. This means features like AiProtection, QoS, Parental Controls, VPN, etc., are all intact and usable. This is great because most mesh networking systems only offer very basic networking features.
ASUS recommends that you use the faster router as the primary router, so in our testing, we will be using the RT-AC88U as the primary AiMesh router and the RT-AC86U as the AiMesh node.
The first thing that you want to do is to ensure that all of your ASUS routers are running the latest firmware. You can do so by going to the Administration menu and then the Firmware Upgrade tab.
Next, factory reset the router that is going to function as the node. You can do so by pressing and holding on to the reset button on the router for at least 5 seconds. Release when the power LED is flashing slowly.
The next time you power up and connect to your AiMesh node (i.e. when you log in to the router's admin panel), the RT-AC86U, you will be greeted by a screen asking you to select the operating mode of the router. Pick AiMesh and then select AiMesh node. It will then prompt you to connect to your AiMesh router, which in our case is the RT-AC88U.
The last thing to do is to connect to the primary router. Now, in the main menu for the ASUSWRT router management interface, you will see an AiMesh menu on the top right. Hit ‘Search’ and let it look for the AiMesh node. Once it finds the node, it will ask if you want to add it to your AiMesh system. Answer to the affirmative and the let router do its magic. After a while, you will see a message saying that the node has been successfully added.
AiMesh works like other mesh networking systems. It will use the optimum frequency band - either 2.4GHz or 5GHz - for backhaul data transmission to relay data from your primary router and across nodes to your client device. When using a tri-band ASUS router, it will try to use 5GHz network for backhaul communications since the 5GHz network is faster.
However, if your home has a LAN network in place or if you don’t mind a long Ethernet cable running through your home, you can also connect the AiMesh router to the AiMesh node using via Ethernet. In this mode, the routers will use the Ethernet connection for backhaul communication, which will free up the wireless network.