Asus RT-AX82U review: Next-gen Wi-Fi performance for less

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Our Rating 
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The RT-AX82U steps out of its sibling’s shadow to offer superb performance levels for the price

Solid connections in every room
Affordable and feature rich
Built-in VPN server works well
Has only one USB connector
Intimidating web portal

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While Asus’ flagship RT- AX88U is designed for maximum performance, the RT-AX82U is more of a balancing act, promising next-gen wireless for a much lower price. That being the case, it’s remarkable how closely the core hardware matches up to its big brother’s. The 5GHz radio has the same maximum connection rate of 4,800Mbits/sec and there’s 4x4 MU-MIMO, with full support for 160MHz channels. It wasn’t too surprising, therefore, to see the RT-AX82U put in a very respectable showing in our tests.

It couldn’t quite equal the RT-AX88U’s download speeds over Wi-Fi 6, but it gave us a strong, fast signal in almost every part of the house. Only in the difficult-to-reach bathroom did the RT-AX82U fall significantly behind, and even then a download rate of 14MB/sec is hardly disastrous. The news was even better when we repeated the tests on our legacy Wi-Fi 5 laptop. This time, the RT-AX82U’s same-room performance was merely decent, but speeds held up superbly as we moved around the house, making this overall the fastest router on test for 802.11ac connections.

Asus RT-AX82U review: Features

The feature set hasn’t been cut down, either: open the management interface and you’ll find all the same functions and settings as on the top- end model. Those include outbound VPN support, so you can route all your household traffic via a third-party provider to hide your identity or spoof your location, and a built-in VPN server for securely accessing your home network from elsewhere. Nine different dynamic DNS services are supported too, along with a flexible QoS function that lets you prioritise certain types of traffic or clients. The Asus firmware also excels when it comes to parental controls.

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For each connected client you can allow or deny network access on an hour-by-hour basis, and optionally bar adult sites, instant-messaging platforms, peer-to-peer software or video streaming sites. The database is licensed from Trend Micro, but if you’re worried about unrecognised sites slipping through the cracks then you can use the Web History function to review and block the pages each client has been accessing.

Additional network protection features aim to block malicious websites and attempted remote exploits, and a one-stop security assessment tool flags up potential issues such as weak/default passwords or various types of remote access being enabled.

Asus RT-AX82U review: Connectivity

If you want to isolate visitors or untrusted devices, there’s the ability to create up to three separate guest networks on the 5GHz band and another three over 2.4GHz. A final feather in Asus’ cap is USB support. The USB connector is of the ultrafast 20Gbits/sec type, and you can plug in anything from an external hard disk to a printer or a 3G/4G modem. Storage devices can even be shared over the internet via the free AiCloud service.

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Asus RT-AX82U review: Price and competition 

You’re probably wondering why this router is so much cheaper than the RT-AX88U, since it seems to offer very nearly all the same benefits. One point is that while the RT-AX88U has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, the AX82U provides only four. It also sports a single USB connector rather than the pair found on the RT-AX88U.

But, frankly, we doubt many people will find this constraining. The 2.4GHz radio in this router is half as fast as the one in the RT-AX88U, with a quoted maximum speed of 574Mbits/sec – and it only supports 2x2 MIMO, rather than 4x4. Again, this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for anyone. Our biggest reservation about the RT-AX82U is that the standard Asus web portal feels overloaded with features and options.

Asus RT-AX82U review: Verdict

Experts will appreciate the wealth of technical settings, but with so many pages, tabs and dropdowns to navigate it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for or even to understand what you’re looking at. Beginners are likely to find this quite discouraging.

Still, that’s something you’ll rarely need to deal with beyond the initial setup, and it’s not a big enough deal to take the lustre off this absurdly capable router. Those willing to pay a premium for the fastest router around should consider the RT-AX88U or the Netgear RAX80 – but the RT-AX82U gets you into the same performance bracket for a price that’s much easier to swallow. 

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