Ultimate mesh system
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is one of the fastest mesh systems available today. It has a unique design that looks stylish without coming across as tacky, and with the three radios combining to deliver a total throughput of 10.8Gbps, this mesh system has more than enough bandwidth to spare. You also get excellent coverage going up to 6,000 sq. ft. via the router and satellite combination, and there are 2.5 Gigabit WAN and LAN ports. It's straightforward to scale the mesh system should you need to do so in the future, and ASUS offers extensive software customization that you just don't get with Orbi, eero, or Nest mesh systems. You are paying a lot here, but you're getting a fantastic overall package.
- Terrific performance
- Unique design
- More throughput than you'll need
- 2.5 Gigabit LAN and WAN ports
- Ties into ASUS's AiMesh platform
- More customization options than other mesh systems
- Design may not be to everyone's tastes
The ZenWiFi ET8 delivers the best features of the ET12 at nearly half the price. You get Wi-Fi 6E connectivity along with the 6GHz band, and the system is able to cover 5,500 sq. ft. There's a 2.5 Gigabit WAN port, the tri-band router delivers a throughput of 5.6Gbps, and it is easily scalable via the AiMesh platform. You don't miss out on any of the software customization or security features either, and if you're looking for a Wi-Fi 6E mesh system that offers the best value, there really isn't anything that comes close to the ET12.
- Stable performance
- Stellar connectivity
- 2.5 Gigabit WAN port
- Works with the AiMesh platform
- Excellent software customizability
- Much better value than other mesh systems
- No 2.5 Gigabit LAN ports
- 5GHz band is hobbled
ASUS ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs. ASUS ZenWiFi ET8: Design and features
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Standalone ASUS routers have conventional designs, but that isn't the case for the brand's mesh systems. Both the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 and ET8 have interesting designs that stand out in their own way. That's particularly true for the ET12, which has a towering design that instantly grabs attention.
The ET12 mesh kit contains a router and a satellite, and both nodes are fairly large. The key deign trait is the see-through top section that houses the antennae. Each node gets eight high-gain antennae, covering an area of up to 3,000 sq. ft. The acrylic housing does a great job differentiating the design, and at the center is an illuminated ASUS logo that just looks plain cool. I'm a fan of routers with LED lighting — I used the AmpliFi Alien for several years — and ASUS did all the right things on the design front.
It's not just a pretty design either; the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has all the features you need in a high-end mesh system. It works over the Wi-Fi 6E standard and includes the 6GHz band with 160MHz channels, and uses a 12-stream configuration, broadcasting at 4x4 over the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz bands. It has a total bandwidth of 10.8Gbps, which is more than what you'll end up using.
The 5GHz and 6GHz bands each have a throughput of 4804Mbps, and the 4x4 MU-MIMO along with inclusion of wider channels means you're guaranteed to get outstanding connectivity throughout your house. You get a 2.5 Gigabit LAN and WAN port as well, alongside dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.
The ZenWiFi ET8 doesn't have the same flamboyancy, instead offering an elegant white chassis that's diminutive next to the ET12. The smaller size makes the ET8 more suitable to a mainstream audience, and what it lacks it flair it makes up for in features. You get Wi-Fi 6E connectivity along with the 6GHz band and 160MHz channels, and while the bandwidth is lower at 5.6Gbps, it's still more than adequate for most users. There's also a 2.5 Gigabit WAN port, but the LAN ports are limited to Gigabit.
What's particularly interesting is that you can choose the backhaul on either router. The 6GHz band is selected as the wireless backhaul by default, but if you intend to use Ethernet (and you really should), you have the ability to change to a wired backhaul with relative ease or even select the 5GHz band.
ASUS ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs. ASUS ZenWiFi ET8: Performance
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 delivers blistering performance from both the 5GHz and 6GHz bands, and honestly, it is one of the best Wi-Fi 6E mesh routers available today. This mesh system takes full advantage of Gigabit internet connections, and is positioned to make the most of 2.5 Gigabit connectivity should you decide to upgrade down the line.
Now, the ET8 also does a great job in its own right, but its biggest limitation is that the 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios transmit and receive at 2x2, with only the 6GHz band hitting 4x4 streams. This wouldn't be an issue if all the devices in your home come with Wi-Fi 6e connectivity, but that's not going to be the case, and as such they'll primarily rely on the 5GHz band, which is limited to a bandwidth of 1,201Mbps.
The 6GHz gets 4804Mbps, and I feel like ASUS should have paid more attention to the 5GHz band here. While the 5GHz band could have benefitted from a 4x4 stream, it still manages to deliver consistent bandwidth, and you shouldn't see any connectivity or latency issues for the most part. But when seen against the ET12, it is lacking.
ASUS ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs. ASUS ZenWiFi ET8: Which should you buy?
ASUS doesn't make as many mesh systems as its rivals, but it doesn't need to: the brand's unique AiMesh ecosystem allows any combination of standalone routers to be added in a mesh configuration, giving customers much better flexibility. That said, the two ZenWiFi models we're talking about here do a terrific job delivering a full-fledged mesh network out of the box.
If you need a fast Wi-Fi 6E mesh system that doesn't miss out on any features, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is the obvious choice. Yes, it costs nearly twice as much as the ZenWiFi ET8, but you are getting nearly double the throughput, and the 12-stream system is designed for multi-Gigabit internet connections.
So if you're considering switching to 2.5 Gigabit fiber connectivity, the ET12 is just about the best mesh system for your needs. Unlike other brands, ASUS hasn't limited the software customizability of the ET12, and you get all the advanced settings and configuration options that you'll find in the brand's standalone routers.
If you just need a Wi-Fi 6E mesh system for use with a Gigabit home network, the ZenWiFi ET12 has unmatched value. Sure, it doesn't have the same bold styling and you don't get the same bandwidth, but it should still be adequate for most users, and you don't lose out on whole-home coverage.
Regardless of whatever router you're going with, you'll get ASUS's security suite as standard, and you don't have to pay anything extra to do so — unlike other mesh systems.
Ultimate mesh system
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is one of the most powerful Wi-Fi 6E mesh systems available today, so if you need a high-end solution that will offer reliable connectivity for several years to come, it is a no-brainer.
The ZenWiFi ET8 is the smart Wi-Fi 6E choice — it has all the features you care about, and you don't have to pay a premium.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.