Fine performance and a huge breadth of software features make this a very likeable home router
- Solid download speeds over Wi-Fi 6
- Every setting and feature you could ask for
- Mesh option for extended range
- Not the fastest router over longer distances
Previous Asus routers have tended to follow the stealth-bomber aesthetic, but the RT-AX59U is a simpler, smaller design. That reflects its role as an affordable, unfussy router intended for typical domestic networking duties.
Let’s not undersell it, though. It’s a very capable Wi-Fi 6 router, with strong performance and the same extensive range of software features as Asus’ flagship models. Dual USB sockets let you share media or use a mobile broadband adapter – or do both at once – and Asus’ AiMesh technology gives you the option of extending your network at a later date by pairing multiple units together.
Considering it only costs £125, it isn’t surprising that the RT-AX59U doesn’t support the newest Wi-Fi 6E networking standard, nor multi-gigabit Ethernet. Even so, it does everything most people need and more, for a very reasonable price.
Asus RT-AX59U router review: What you need to know
The Asus RT-AX59U is a standalone Wi-Fi 6 router. As usual, it doesn’t have a built-in modem, so it won’t plug directly into the wall socket; ideally you’ll want to switch your ISP router into modem mode, and let that handle your internet connection while the RT-AX59U takes care of running your home network.
Inside, the RT-AX59U has an unusual antenna arrangement: the 5GHz radio has a 3×3 MU-MIMO array, enabling a maximum speed of 3,603Mbits/sec with simultaneous connections to one, two or three devices. The router can also connect on the 2.4GHz band at up to 574Mbits/sec.
Wired networking is taken care of by three gigabit Ethernet sockets, while a pair of USB ports let you connect and share external devices. Just note the different colouring of these ports: the top one supports USB 3 speeds of up to 5Gbits/sec, while the lower socket is limited to USB 2 at 480Mbits/sec.
Asus RT-AX59U router review: Price and competition
The RT-AX59U is temptingly priced, but there are cheaper options. The D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI AX1500 provides basic Wi-Fi 6 coverage for just £53; the TP-Link Archer AX53 is another low-cost choice at a very reasonable £70. Those routers have much more rudimentary feature sets than the RT-AX59U, however, and as we’ll see below they can’t match the Asus’ performance, either.
In fact, if you’re looking for something that’s comparable to the RT-AX59U, the closest rival might well be Asus’ own RT-AX82U. That router has long been a favourite of ours, and its performance still holds up but, at this point, it’s three years old and even after numerous price cuts it’s still £23 more than the RT-AX59U.
Another Asus alternative is the ROG Rapture GT-AX6000, a high-end router that delivers great speeds over Wi-Fi 6 and has a distinctive set of gamer-friendly traffic-management features. This one’s a huge leap up in price from the RT-AX59U, though, at £350.
Indeed, for that sort of money you might as well step up to Wi-Fi 6E: the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300, currently on sale at £297, is one of the fastest routers we’ve ever tested, with superb speeds on the 6GHz band and an uncompromising feature set that includes 2.5Gbits/sec Ethernet. If you’re comfortable at around the £125 mark, however, the RT-AX59U hits a pretty compelling sweet spot.
Asus RT-AX59U router review: Design and features
The RT-AX59U introduces a novel upright tower design, with rounded ends and a corrugated exterior effect to add visual interest. It stands on a simple plastic base; if you prefer to attach it to a wall, you can easily unscrew this, and pop off two covers on the side to reveal a pair of mounting points.
A single multicoloured LED wraps around the front, providing a clue as to the router’s status from any angle. At the back, the three LAN ports, WAN connector, and USB sockets sit in a stack, with the power and WPS pairing buttons below. It’s a functional layout, with no extraneous switches or controls to fiddle with.
Tinkerers need not fear, however, as there are plenty of software features to explore, via either the Asus Router mobile app or a good old-fashioned web portal. The two interfaces have very different looks and layouts but you can fully manage the router from either; the app also supports remote access, so you can check in on your home network from afar.
The range of controls and features on offer is impressive. Indeed, it’s exactly the same as you’ll find on Asus’ most expensive domestic routers. That means you get extensive traffic monitoring and management tools, a built-in firewall and Asus’ outstanding VPN support, which lets you route nominated devices through up to 16 different VPN gateways, as well as running an inbound VPN server to allow secure access to your own LAN.
Some noteworthy premium features are thrown in, too. Parental controls let you enforce time limits and web filtering on kids’ devices, while the AiProtection suite (powered by Trend Micro) blocks malicious content and connections, and isolates infected devices so problems can’t spread across your home network. With a router from Netgear or TP-Link you’d pay extra for these features but Asus includes them for free.
As for the USB ports, these can be used in several ways. If you attach an external storage device, you can share its files like a simple NAS, or use it as storage for FTP, iTunes or Apple Time Machine server duties. Alternatively, you can connect and share a USB printer – or, you can plug in a mobile broadband adapter, to provide internet access without a fixed line.
It must be admitted that the sheer range of features on offer makes the management interface a bit daunting – especially in the web portal. But if you just want fuss-free Wi-Fi, there’s no need to get your hands dirty. The basic setup procedure just takes a few taps or clicks, and the default settings will work perfectly well for most home networks.
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Asus RT-AX59U router review: Performance
To test the performance of the RT-AX59U, I installed the router in the study of my own home, using default settings for internet access and Wi-Fi. I hooked up an Asustor Drivestor 4 Pro NAS appliance to one of the LAN ports and connected to the 5GHz wireless network from a test laptop equipped with a 2×2 Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E network card.
I then carried the laptop around various rooms of my house, copied a set of files to and from the NAS unit, and measured average upload and download speeds in each location. Here’s what I saw, along with results from a selection of alternative routers:
It’s clear that the RT-AX59U is in a different league to the cheaper D-Link and TP-Link routers. As well as utterly outclassing them on features, it delivered substantially faster uploads and downloads in every location. At the same time, it’s evident (and hardly surprising) that it can’t keep pace with routers costing £300 and upwards.
As I’ve hinted at, the TR-AX59U’s nearest rival is its older stablemate, the RT-AX82U. The two routers performed similarly at close range but the RT-AX82U managed to keep up higher speeds as I moved further away. That probably has much to do with the bigger antenna array of the RT-AX82U, and its 4×4 MIMO support surely doesn’t hurt either.
Still, for most people the RT-AX59U will be fast enough. Even in the bathroom at the far end of the house, I was able to get download speeds of 13.6MB/sec – equivalent to more than 100Mbits/sec. That’s absolutely ample for video streaming, FaceTime and whatever else you might want to do online. You’re only likely to need more bandwidth if you’re regularly moving very large files around your internal network.
The compact, low-key design has something going for it, too, and it’s quite power efficient, drawing 9.8W when idle and peaking at 10.9W during out tests. If you want to boost long-range performance, you can do it via the AiMesh system, which lets you connect any compatible Asus router or mesh unit to the main router to create a seamless extended network.
Asus RT-AX59U router review: Verdict
The RT-AX59U is a great little Wi-Fi 6 router; it’s compact, affordable and buzzing with versatile features. If you need the fastest wireless speeds then it won’t fit the bill but, otherwise, there’s no reason the RT-AX59U shouldn’t happily drive your network for many years to come.
The only question is whether it might be smarter to pay a little extra for the RT-AX82U. That’s still a fine router, offering all the same core features plus better range. However, in light of its age we won’t be surprised if that model is discontinued soon, while the brand-new RT-AX59U can expect several years of active support and its neater, nattier design has an indisputable charm of its own.