Asus ZenWiFi XT9: The XT8's Better Variant

Asus ZenWiFi XT9: The XT8’s Better Variant

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With the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 around the corner, you might have missed another variant in this Tri-band AiMesh family, the ZenWiFi XT9.

First quietly unveiled back in May, the XT9, as the name suggests, is a step between the XT8 and the XT12. And its hardware specs show precisely that.

This post will fill you in with the currently known details of this upcoming mesh set. In a way, this is a piece on a ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8 matchup.

ZenWiFi XT9 White
Like the case of the ZenWiFi XT8, the ZenWiFi XT9 also comes in Black and White versions.

ZenWiFi XT9: The XT8 with a slightly faster 5GHz-1 band

Physically, the XT9 looks the same as the XT8, taking the single-slot-toaster design. Each hardware unit is an up-standing box that resembles a toaster big enough to handle half a bagel at a time.

The new broadcaster is available in a 2-pack. Still, you likely can also get a single unit as a standalone router and add more units later to expand the coverage using Asus’s now popular AiMesh approach. It’s also available in black or white.

If you get a 2-pack, the hardware is pre-sync, which implies the setup process.

ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8: Hardware specifications

A ZenWiFi XT9 mesh router looks identical to an XT8 counterpart. There are no discernable visual differences between the two.

On the inside, the two have only a few minor differences. Specifically, the XT9’s first 5GHz band (5GHz-1) now supports the 160MHz channel width and has double the bandwidth. It also runs on a slightly more powerful CPU.

Both the XT9 and XT8 support UNII-4 which is great for wireless backhauling.

5.9GHz Wi-Fi 6: What UNII-4 is and why it can be exciting

Model ZenWiFi XT9 ZenWiFi XT8
Full Name ASUS ZenWiFi XT9 Mesh Router Asus ZenWiFi XT8 Mesh Router
Mesh-Ready Yes
Dimensions (WxDxH) 6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
Weight 1.63 lbs (740 g) 1.56 lbs (710 g)
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs 2 x 2 AX
Up to 574 Mbps
2 x 2 AX
Up to 574 Mbps
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs
(channel width)
2×2 AX
Up to 2402Mbps
2×2 AX
Up to 1201Mbps
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs 4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
UNII-4 Support Yes
(at launch)
(via firmware updates)
Wi-Fi Designation AX7800 AX6600
Dedicated Backhaul Band Yes (5GHz-2) Yes (5GHz-2)
Wired Backhaul Yes Yes
Backward Compatibility 802.11ac/n/g/a/b 802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Mobile App Asus Router Asus Router
Web User Interface Yes (Full) Yes (Full)
AP Mode Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
(as a router or a mesh)
USB Port 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
Gigabit Port 3 x LAN 3 x LAN
Multi-Gig Port 1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN 1x 2.5 Gpbs/1Gbps WAN
Link Aggregation No No
Dual-WAN Yes Yes
Processing Power 1.7GHz quad-core CPU,
256MB Flash, 512MB DDR4 RAM
1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256MB Flash, 512MB DDR3 RAM
Release Date September 2022 (?) February 2020
Power Adapter AC Input: 110V~240V (50~60Hz)
DC Output : 12V 3A
AC Input: 110V~240V (50~60Hz)
DC Output : 19V 1.75A
US Price
(at launch)
TBD $449.99
Hardware specifications: ZenWiFi XT9 vs XT8.

In all, had Asus kept its original promise to give the XT8 a firmware update that enables its 5GHz-1 to support the 160MHz channel width, the XT9 would have had little reason to come into existence.

ZenWiFi XT9 FrontZenWiFi XT9 Black Ports
The front and back of a ZenWiFi XT9 mesh router

The familiar ZenWiFi experience

Other than the differences noted in the table above, the rest of the ZenWiFi XT9 is the same as the XT8. And that includes the familiar Asuswrt firmware with a comprehensive set of features and settings, available to all ZenWiFi variants and Asus routers.

The new mesh is designed primarily for homes with sub-Gigabit broadband that need a fully wireless mesh system though it will also work well with wired backhauling. There’s hope it’ll be less buggy when used that way — the XT8 was initially buggy when you use a network cable to link the hardware units though it has improved a great deal via firmware updates on this front.

Backhaul vs fronthaul

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices occurs in a single band, using a fixed channel, at any given time. (That’s always been the case before Wi-Fi 7, which might work differently.)

Generally, when you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters, like in the case of a mesh network, there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signal a mesh hub broadcasts outward for clients or its network ports for wired devices. That’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

On the other hand, backhaul, a.k.a backbone, is the link between one broadcasting hub and another, be it the main router or another satellite hub.

This link works behind the scene to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to a satellite hub.

Dual-WAN: Where the distinction between bandwidth vs speed is clear

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half of its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.

When a band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called a dedicated backhaul band. In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware with an additional 5GHz band can have a dedicated backhaul band.

Generally, it’s best to use a network cable for backhauling — wired backhaul. And that’s an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a hub can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, using network cables is always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

The takeaway

Unlike the recently announced all-new ROG Rapture GT6, the ZenWiFi XT9, in more ways than one, is just a slightly improved version of the XT8. At the very least, it looks the same and leaves much to be desired, such as the lack of a 2nd Multi-Gig port or the 4×4 specs on the 5GHz-1 band.

Asus is currently tight-lipped on when the ZenWiFi XT9 will be available and how much it will cost — we’ll likely find out soon. In the meantime, it’s safe to say the new mesh will be better than the XT8, but by a small degree. Let’s hope its pricing will reflect all that accordingly.

Check back for more.

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