Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul AiMesh Combos: The Best Wi-Fi 6/E Options

Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul AiMesh Combos: The Best Wi-Fi 6/E Options


This post will work you through the steps to set up a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh system using a few supported broadcasters. As you can see in the box below, it’s part of my series on Asus’s AiMesh.

If you’re new to AiMesh, I’d recommend starting with the first post on the list first.

Also, keep in mind that Multi-Gig is still a luxury right now — you’re getting into the territory that can be more expensive than necessary. You can feel that from the cost of the latest Orbi RBK960 series from Netgear.

Going the AiMesh route won’t dig as big of a hole in your wallet but still doesn’t apply to the budget-minded.

In any case, make sure you have gotten your home wired — we’re talking most about wired networking here. Also, make sure you brush up on what Multi-Gig means.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on October 29, 2021, and since then, I have tested a few more Multi-Gig combos. This update, posted on March 8, 2022, reflected that.

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX6000 vs RT-AX86U
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX6000 and RT-AX86U make an excellent pair of Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo.

Asus Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos: The available hardware options

With the release of the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 and GT-AX6000, both have two 2.5Gbps ports, we now have a decent selection of AiMesh options that can handle Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

And on this front, things will only get better. In early 2022 Asus announced a couple of new and exciting Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters with two or more high-speed network ports, including the GT-AXE16000 and GT-AX11000 Pro.

That said, if what we have right now is not enough, it’s safe to say by the end of 2022, we’ll see a lot more options.

Rules on using Asus wired hardware

With wired backhaul — that’s when you use network cables to link the hardware units — it’s generally a good idea to avoid using traditional Tri-band hardware.

This type of Tri-band broadcaster comes with an additional 5GHz-2 band, like the ZenWiFi XT8, GT-AX11000, or the ZenWiFi Pro XT12.

While they all work in a wired configuration, they are designed for a fully wireless environment, where the 5GHz-2 band functions as the dedicated backhaul.

Consequently, they might have unexpected issues when using network cables to link them. Furthermore, this type of Tri-band provides no added benefits in a wired home, despite the comparatively higher costs.

That said, for a fully wired system, especially one with Multi-Gig speed grades, it’s best to use Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 or Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters.

Finally, generally, it’s not a good idea to mix Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E hardware in a mesh system.

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: ZenWiFi ET8 AiMesh Node
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s the ZenWiFi ET8 working as a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh satellite node for the RT-AX89X.
Note how its 6GHz band is not available to clients — it’s there, but you can’t configure it. That’s the reason why it’s not a good idea to mix Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E in an AiMesh setup. But if you insist on using these broadcasters together, there’s a way to make their 3rd band work — more below.

With that, let’s check out the list of the current hardware we can use right now. You’ll note that I skip all Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers from here on.

Multi-Gig AiMesh combos: The current hardware

In an AiMesh setup, we have the main router and satellite nodes.

Ideally, the router should have two Multi-Gig ports — one for the broadband (WAN) and the other for the local network (LAN). However, we only need Multi-Gig on the LAN side for a home with sub-Gigabit broadband. But it never hurts to have Multi-Gig on both the WAN and LAN sides.

The hardware only needs one Multi-Gig port for the satellite, though having a second Multi-Gig port means you can add a Multi-Gig device, like a server, to it.

In shorts, it never hurts to have more Multi-Gig ports. But for now, two per device are the most we can have. If you want more than that, you need to get a switch.

The table below includes all current hardware that can work as a Multi-Gig wired AiMesh router, satellite, or both.

Router Multi-Gig Ports AiMesh Roles Note
RT-AX86U 1x 2.5Gbps LAN Router or satellite The router role is only suitable for homes
with sub-Gigabit broadband
RT-AX89X 1x 10Gbps Multi-Gig
1x 10Gbps SFP+
Router or Satellite An SFP+-ready Multi-Gig switch
is needed for homes with Gig+
or faster broadband unless the SFP+ port
can be used for WAN connection
GT-AXE11000 1x 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN Router or Satellite The router role is only suitable for homes
with sub-Gigabit broadband
GT-AX6000 1x 2.5Gbps WAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
Router or Satellite Ready for Multi-Gig out of the box
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 1x 2.5Gbps WAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
Router or Satellite Ready for Multi-Gig out of the box
ZenWiFi ET8 1x 2.5Gbps WAN Satellite No Multi-Gig LAN option as a router
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh hardware

Generally, you can use any combination of the above routers to get a system with Multi-Gig wired backhaul. I’ve tried most of the possible combos, and they all work.

However, some combos are better than others. Below are those I’ve used for an extended amount of time with success and tips on setting them up.

Best standard Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh: The ZenWi-Fi Pro ET12

The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is the readiest Multi-Gig system you can find. The system is currently available as a 2-pack, and it’s ready right out of the box.

In fact, all you have to do is set up one unit as the main (or standalone) router. After that, connect the second unit’s WAN port to the router’s 2.5Gbps LAN port using a network cable, and your Multi-Gig system is ready.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Wired Backhaul
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 running with a Multi-Gig wired configuration.

Since each unit has two 2.5Gbps ports, you’ll get Mult-Gig on both the WAN and LAN side. What’s more, if you get more units, you can daisy-chain them without the need for a Multi-Gig switch.

Best Gaming Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E Multi-Gi AiMesh Combos: GT-AXE11000 as the main router

Currently, no Asus Wi-Fi 6E gaming router comes with more than one Multi-Gig port — we have to wait for the GT-AXE16000.

That said, for now, the only option is the GT-AXE11000, and that means we only have Multi-Gig on the LAN side.

That said, any combo with this one as the main router will deliver Multi-Gig only on the LAN side. And we have two:

The best performance option: ZenWiFi Pro ET12 as the satellite nodes

GT-AXE11000 + a 2-pack ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is the best combo in this case. You’ll get the full gaming features from the main router, the best performance throughout, and the fancy lighting of the nodes doesn’t hurt.

Asus AiMesh GT AXE11000 and ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s the GT-AXE11000 hosting two ZenWiFi Pro ET12 satellites.

Since each ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has two 2.5Gbps ports, you won’t need a switch — you can daisy-chain them. But depending on the layout of the house, a switch might be necessary when you want to place the two units on two different sides of the router.

That said, here are the detailed steps:

  • Setup the GT-AXE11000 as a standalone router using its default Gigabit WAN to connect to the Internet source (such as a modem).
  • Upgrade the router to the latest firmware. This step is a must, the mesh won’t work well with the router’s older (initial) firmware.
  • Optional: Connect a Multi-Gig unmanaged switch to the router’s 2.5Gbps LAN port.
  • Add the first ET12 as a satellite node — you can do that wirelessly or connect its WAN port to switch or the router’s 2.5Gbps LAN port. (Detailed steps in this post on AiMesh.) Important: Keep the other ET12 off during this process.
  • Repeat step #4 above to add the second ET12 to the mesh.
  • Connect both ET12 to the network using their WAN port, via daisy-chaining or the switch. Manually restart all the hardware units.

And that’s it. Your mesh is ready.

The more affordable option: ZenWiFi ET8 as the satellite nodes

The ZenWiFi ET8 is also available as a 2-pack.

This combo will require a Multi-Gig switch if you want to use both ET8 units with Multi-Gig wired backhauls. Since the hardware only supports 2.5Gbps, the Zyxel MG-108 is an excellent fit.

After that, the steps are similar to the case of the ET12 above:

  • Setup the GT-AXE11000 as a standalone router.
  • Upgrade the router to the latest firmware.
  • Connect a Multi-Gig unmanaged switch to the router’s 2.5Gbps LAN port.
  • Add the first ET8 as a wireless satellite node. Important: Make sure that you do not turn on the second ET8 unit this time.
  • Open the AiMesh section of the GT-AXE11000 and select the node, and change the Backhaul Connection Priority to 2.5Gbps first. Important: Now turn this unit off and make sure it remains off when you work with the second ET8 unit.
  • Add the second ET8 unit as a wireless satellite node. Change its backhaul to 2.5Gbps in the AiMesh section of the GT-AXE11000.
  • Restart the GT-AXE11000 and plug both ET8 units into power and connect their WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch. Mission accomplish.
Asus Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos GT AXE11000 and ZenWiFi ET8
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s an Asus GT-AXE11000 hosting two ZenWiFi ET8 satellites.

Best standard Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: RT-AX89X + RT-AX86U

You can have a Multi-Gig wired backhaul mesh system right away when using this combo. But if you want to use two RT-AX86U as satellite nodes, then you’d need a Multi-Gig switch.

A switch with an SFP+ uplink port will also come in handy if you have a Gig+ or faster broadband that requires the router’s 10Gbps BASE-T port. In this case, the Zyxel XGS1250-12 is a good option.

(You can also consider the TP-Link TL-SX1008 or the Zyxel MG-108 if you don’t have Multi-Gig broadband or can use the router’s SFP+ for the WAN side.)

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: RT-AX89X and RT-AX86U Multi Gig Backhaul Setting
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s the step to change the backhaul of the satellite into the Multi-Gig connection using the router’s web interface.

With that, here are the steps to build this Multi-Gig AiMesh system:

  • Setup the RT-AX89X as a single router. Update it to the latest firmware.
  • Add the RT-AX86U as a wireless node. (Detailed steps in this post on AiMesh.) Update it to the latest firmware using the router’s web interface.
  • Open the AiMesh section of the RT-AX89X and select the node, and change the Backhaul Connection Priority to 2.5Gbps first.
  • Now, plug the RT-AX86U’s 2.5Gbps port into the 10Gbps LAN port of the RT-AX89X or the Multi-Gig switch connected to that port.
  • Repeat step #2 to add more satellite nodes if applicable. Manually restart all routers. Mission accomplished.
Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: RT-AX89X and RT-AX86U Multi Gig Backhaul
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s an RT-AX89X hosting an RT-AX86U satellite.

Alternatively use the RT-AX89X (router) + RT-AX89X (satellite) or GT-AX6000 (satellite). I haven’t tried these out extensively, but they worked, and the former is currently the only option for 10Gbps backhaul.

Best Gaming Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 Multi-Gig AiMesh Combos: GT-AX6000 as the main router

With the GT-AX6000 as the main router, you’ll get a network with all features and settings available to any Asus router, including those designed for gamers.

In this case, for the satellites, you can use any other Dual-band routers, including another GT-AX6000, RT-AX89X, or the RT-AX86U. In all cases, you’d get a robust system with a 2.5Gbps wired backhaul.

Asus GT AX6000 Multi Gig Wired AiMesh Setup with RT AX89X
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s the GT-AX6000 hosting a few other Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 routers, including the RT-AX89X, in a Multi-Gig wired backhaul setup.

Depending on the number of satellites, you might or might not need a Multi-Gig switch. But if you do, the Zyxel MG-108 is a good fit.

Extra: Mixed Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos

As mentioned above, generally, you shouldn’t mix a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router with Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E satellites.

That’s because AiMesh doesn’t have a practical way (yet) to control the node’s 3rd band. As a result, this band is not used, which is unacceptable.

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
For the most part, you shouldn’t use this Tri-band Asus ZenWiFi ET8 with a Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router in an AiMesh system.

But if you have mixed hardware like this for some reason, there’s a way to make the best out of them. Specifically, you can use the Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E hardware the AP mode on top o the router.

Needless to say, this is not the best way to go about getting a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh setup, but it will work out well.

In this example, I used an RT-AX89X as the main router and a 2-pack ZenWiFi ET8 as the satellite. However, the steps are similar if you use any other Dual-band routers — including a non-Asus one — as the primary router and any other Tri-band hardware as the satellite.

Here are the steps:

  • Set up the RT-AX89X as a router.
  • Connect a Multi-Gig switch to the router’s Multi-Gig LAN port.
  • Set up the ET8s set as APs to the RT-AX89X. Two possibilities:
    1. If you get a 2-pack (two units in one set — pre-synced hardware):
      • Connect the first ET8’s WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch.
      • Open its web interface and choose the AP mode.
      • Set up its Wi-Fi with the same SSID and password as that of the RT-AX89X. (You can use a different SSID for each band, especially for the ET8’s 6GHz band.)
      • Connect the 2nd ET8’s WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch. Mission accomplished. The 2-pack ET8 now automatically works as an AP-mode AiMesh system.
    2. If you get two ET8 units separately (they are not pre-synced):
      • Set up the first ET8 as a router — use the same SSDs and password as those of the router — then add the 2nd unit as a wireless node.
      • Use the first ET8’s web interface to switch the mode of the mesh into AP mode.
      • Connect both ET8 units’ WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch. Mission accomplished.

And now you get a standalone router (the RT-AX89X) and an AiMesh running in the AP mode (the ET8).

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: Asus ZenWi Fi ET8 Multi-Gig Backhaul Satellite
Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo: Here’s my Asus ZenWi-Fi ET8 set is working in AP mode via a Multi-Gig wired backhaul connection.

In this case, you can not control the ET8 via the web interface (or mobile app) of the RT-AX89X. But in return, you can use all of the ET8’s bands and get all hardware connected using Multi-Gig wired connections.

Hopefully, Asus will release firmware at some point that allows for better controlling of tri-band satellites via a dual-band router — which has been the case in Synology Mesh from the get-go. Until then, if you intend to use a dual-band router with tri-band satellites, this is the only way.

The takeaway

There you have it. These are virtually all possible options in Multi-Gig wired AiMesh systems.

As time goes by, there will undoubtedly be more hardware options, but the principles remain: You generally only want to use Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 to Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E together.

Again, traditional Tri-band hardware — those with an additional 5GHz band — might work, but it’s not ideal to use them in a wired backhaul setup.



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