Last month, we wrote about PLDT’s Home WiFi Mesh offerings. Those were WiFi 5, though, so we’re interested to see what they have with WiFi 6. So, PLDT Home sent us the ZenWiFi AX6600 (XT8) to test and see how it performs.
The ZenWiFi XT8 looks similar to the XD6 we did a hands-on last year. It also comes in pairs but is larger and comes in black. It’s also made of high-quality plastic with a brushed finish. with vents at the top and on the sides. There’s an LED indicator on the front to show connection quality. While at the back there’s the DC in, power switch, WAN and LAN ports, and USB-A port. At the bottom are the reset and WPS buttons.
PLDT is offering the XT8 as a WiFi 6 mesh system for enthusiasts given its features but setting it up is pretty much simple. Take one of the XT8 routers, plug it into a power source, and connect it to the LAN1 port of your PLDT modem using the LAN cable included in the package. At this point, the router’s LED will light up green, blue, then white. For the second XT8 modem, plug it into a power source as well but no need to connect it via LAN. Just keep the two routers near each other during the setup process.
Next, you will need to install the ASUS Router app then select ‘Set up a new router’, then choose the ZenWiFi series it belongs to, then follow the rest of the instructions. It will request your preferred WiFi network name (SSID), password, and admin access, so just put those in. The app will then automatically detect the routers and configure itself. Once done, the routers’ LEDs will light up white. You can now move the second XT8 router to another room or area where there are dead spots.
While the app can provide you with most of the features you need to manage the routers, the browser interface is more detailed. From here you can access features such as AiMesh, Guest Network, Adaptive QoS, Traffic Analyzer, USB Application, and AiCloud 2.0. There’s AiProtection which uses Trend Micro tech to protect your network from unwanted access or malicious sites, and Parental Controls to let you control the network access of specific devices in your network as well as control the sites they visit. This is handy if you have children with gadgets in the house. There’s also Advanced Settings for those who want to tweak their network further.
When it comes to performance, the XT8 is better than the XD6. It has a coverage of 5,500 sq.ft, 6.6Gbps WiFi, 3 SSIDs, lifetime free network security and parental controls, and a 2.5G port. Like the XD6, it supports Ethernet and WiFi backhaul between two nodes. We use the latter as we don’t have a LAN cable long enough to reach the second router, and it’s less messy. But what we like about the XT8 uses three WiFi 6 bands (versus two on the XD6):
• 802.11a: up to 54 Mbps
• 802.11b: up to 11 Mbps
• 802.11g: up to 54 Mbps
• WiFi 4 (802.11n): up to 300 Mbps
• WiFi 5 (802.11ac) (1024QAM): up to 4333 Mbps
• WiFi 6 (802.11ax) (2.4GHz): up to 574 Mbps
• WiFi 6 (802.11ax) (5GHz-1): up to 1201 Mbps
• WiFi 6 (802.11ax) (5GHz-2): up to 4804 Mbps
The third band (5GHz-2) is used as a dedicated wireless backhaul for the two routers to communicate. This strengthens the link between routers which improves network performance. In our case, we have the main router in the second-floor master bedroom while the second router is downstairs in the living room and we’re getting a strong uplink. At the most, we have 25 devices connected at the same time. We also didn’t encounter problems with any of our devices, including IoT devices like security cams and smart bulbs. We’re also seamlessly switched between networks when we move around the house.
We can see declined speeds when connected to the secondary node, which is normal in a mesh system. But this is better than the 300 Mbps we’re getting when we’re still using the XD6.
So far, we’re liking the ZenWiFi AX6600 (XT8). It can handle all of our devices without hiccups, we’re getting the speed we subscribed to, and has plenty of features. It’s expensive, though, at PHP 26,299 (PLDT one-time fee) or PHP 1,399 for 24 months on top of your monthly bill. If you’re going to buy it from a store, you can find some selling it for PHP 26K. But if you’re already paying for high-speed internet, then you might want to spend a little extra for a router that can deliver it.