Back in 2016, I got myself an Asus RT-AC88U router. Fast forward to 2018 and I got a new router in the form of Asus RT-AC86U. At this point, you might have two questions in your mind: (1) What’s the difference between the two? and (2) Why switch from RT-AC88U to RT-AC86U? Let me answer the first question by giving this link straight from Asus that compares both routers. But in a nutshell the differences are as follows:
- Link Aggregation (802.3ad) on Port 1 & 2 (not available on the RT-AC86U)
- 8 Gigabit Ports (vs. 4 on the RT-AC86U)
- MIMO 2.4GHz 4×4 (vs. 3×3 on the RT-AC86U)
- 4 External Antenna (vs. 3 on the RT-AC86U)
- 256MB Flash (vs. 128MB on the RT-AC88U)
- 1.8GHz dual-core processor (vs. 1.4GHz on the RT-AC88U)
- 3 External and 1 Internal 3dBi Antennas (vs. 4 External on the RT-AC88U)
I’ll try to answer why I switched after the unboxing photos.
The box of the RT-AC86U router is big but not as big as the RT-AC88U’s. You can also see some of the features and marketing material in front of the box.
Looking at the packaging closer, you’ll see that the logo for AiMesh and RangeBoost are just stickers which were added after the box was produced. This is due to AiMesh being made available to select router models via firmware update. In other words, AiMesh came out after the RT-AC86U was released in the market.
The actual box that holds all the hardware is just a white box. A big difference from the box of the RT-AC88U.
Upon opening the box, you’ll be greeted with the router itself and the WTFast flyer. Holding the router and other hardware components is a recycled carton similar to what Starbucks is using as take-out trays.
Here’s a closer look of the other hardware components that comes with the unit. The 3 antenna on top, 1 RJ45 LAN cable, the power brick and 3 outlet plug options.
Here are the box contents for posterity.
The power brick is much smaller compared to the RT-AC88U’s and also plugs in directly to the wall outlet instead of having a cord that goes between the power brick and the wall outlet which is what the RT-AC88U has.
This is where you slot-in one of the three optional outlet plugs.
Here’s a closer look of the three outlet plug options that came with the box. Type C on top, Type G on the left and Type I on the right.
Finally, the three antenna looks bland because it does not have any red color accents unlike the ones from the RT-AC88U. I think I can swap the antenna on both units.
So why did I switched when I’m going to lose Link aggregation, 4 Gigabit ports, 1×1 MIMO Tx/Rx stream and an external antenna? In my case, my RT-AC88U’s 2.4GHz channel died. As in dead as a Dodo. It’s not transmitting the SSID for the 2.4GHz but the 5GHz works flawlessly. I even tried flashing the latest stable Asuswrt-Merlin on the RT-AC88U which is an opensource alternative firmware for Asus routers that has more advanced features and faster security updates (which also supports the RT-AC86U). I was hoping that the newer software might fix the dead 2.4GHz but it seems like it is a common hardware issue with the router. Some folks online returned their units to Asus since they still have warranty but I think this is more trouble than its worth especially here in the Philippines. Below are some links online that shows people having issues with the 2.4GHz on the RT-AC88U:
- Brand new AC88u 2.4Ghz not working
- AC88U – 2.4G Network Not Working
- [Maylyn – Networking] ASUS RT-AC88U
- Got about a year out of it before problems set in.
Another big reason that convinced me to switch to the RT-AC86U instead of buying another RT-AC88U (AiMesh anyone? But then again AiMesh promises mixed routers should work) or going through the hoops of returning the unit to Asus is the age and design of the hardware. Just by looking at the model numbers, you’d think that the RT-AC86U is a generation behind the RT-AC88U. But that is not the case. The RT-AC88U was actually released back in October 2015 while the RT-AC86U was released in August 2017 – almost a two-year gap between the two. Given the two-year gap, the routers used a processor that’s available at the time of release (Broadcom’s 1.4GHz BCM4709C0 on the RT-AC88U vs. 1.8GHz BCM4906 on the RT-AC86U) which explains the difference in speed. The difference in speed is really noticeable when booting, navigating, modifying settings and rebooting the routers and the RT-AC86U comes out on top.