May 17, 2022

ptemplates

Born to play

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Review: A Solid Multi-Gig Mesh

The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is the fourth Wi-Fi 6E mesh system I’ve tested, after the Linksys AXE8400, the ZenWiFi ET8, and the Netgear Orbi RBKE960 series.

And, again, I wanted to love it as a fully wireless system but couldn’t due to the innate short range of the 6GHz band. By now, it’s clear that you generally can not count on this band as the wireless backhaul.

That said, if you intend to use the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 in a fully wireless configuration, this expensive system — currently, it costs around $900 — is similar to the much cheaper ZenWiFi ET8.

You’ll find this review somewhat of a ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWiFi ET8 matchup, but the cut to the chase: Don’t get either if you intend to expand your Wi-Fi coverage wirelessly. You’d likely waste your hard-earned cash.

“Likely” because I wanted to tread lightly here. The new mesh might work out excellently without wires if you can place the hardware units relatively close to each other or have the light of sight between them. However, even then, it’s not faster than many cheaper traditional Tri-band systems.

On the other hand, if you have wired your home, this 2-pack might just be the best investment yet. You’d get yourself a powerful system with a Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

And you can even combine it with the GT-AXE11000 to turn your mesh into a gaming Wi-Fi system. In this case, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s cool-looking hardware will also fit in nicely.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on Jan 23, 2022, as a new piece and updated it to a full review on February 28, 2022, after thorough hands-on testing.

The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 includes two identical Wi-Fi 6E routers.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: First purposed built AiMesh system with true Multi-Gig wired backhaul

Like previous ZenWiFi sets, the Pro E12 is a 2-pack that includes two identical mesh routers.

You can use each as a standalone router for a relatively large space or add the second one to form a system to extend the Wi-Fi coverage, either wirelessly or via a network cable.

That’s generally how an AiMesh system works anyway.

Per Asus’s router naming convention, the number in the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 indicates the number of streams the router has.

It’s worth noting, though, that having the same number of streams doesn’t mean the routers are of the same hardware specs. That depends on their bands and Wi-Fi standards.

Specifically, here are the readouts of Asus’s Tri-band ZenWiFi routers:

  • The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a 12 stream Wi-Fi 6E router: 4×4 (2.4GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz) + 4×4 (6GHz).
  • The ZenWiFi ET8 is an 8-sream Wi-Fi 6E router: 2×2 (2.4GHz) + (2×2 5GHz) + 4×4 (6GHz).
  • The ZenWiFi Pro XT12 is a 12 stream Wi-Fi 6 router: 4×4 (2.4GHz) + 4×4 (5GHz-1) + 4×4 (5GHz-2).
  • The ZenWiFi XT8 is an 8-sream Wi-Fi 6 router: 2×2 (2.4GHz) + (2×2 5GHz-1) + 4×4 (5GHz-2).

The new Pro ET12 has four streams on each band – currently the highest among Wi-Fi 6E. Consequently, it’s top-tier among the new type of Tri-band routers.

Nice design, two Multi-Gig port, no USB port

But the ET12 now comes with a new look, and, for an Asus, it’s a beaut.

Each router looks like a large square tower topped with a transparent section. You’ll note the eight internal antennas at the corners and sides in a position supposedly optimized for the coverage through the clear plastic.

From top to almost bottom, one corner of the router is beveled and houses a little LED that bears the vendor’s name and the model of the router.

If that’s not clear enough of an ID, the top of the router houses a big corona vision LED light with the word “Asus” in the middle — there’s no way you’d have to guess who made this router.

But I love the design. The lights are subtle and have a pleasant hue. In any case, you can quickly turn them off via the mobile app.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 31
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Mesh router share the same new design as the ZenWiFi Pro XT12 with some cool lighting.

On one side, the ET12 has four network ports. There are two Gigabit LAN ports, one 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig WAN port, and another 2.5Gbps LAN ports.

It’s the second Asus home router I’ve tested with two Multi-Gig ports. (The RT-AX89X has one SFP+ port.) And that’s great!

On the downside, considering the router’s large physical size, I wish it had more network ports — most routers have five ports. There’s no USB port, either, which will make fans of router-based mini NAS servers disappointed.

Everything you can expect from an Asus AiMesh router, with pre-synced harware

The new design aside, on the inside, the ZenWiFI Pro ET12, as a single router, is similar to all other Wi-Fi 6 routers from the company.

If you have used an Asus router before, I’d know what I mean. If not, check out this post where I lay out their common settings and features. Among those, the ET12 has all the core features minus those designed for games — it’s not a machine.

That said, if you want to quickly run through what it can do, the button below will give you the highlights.

Extra: Asus routers’ core features

While this extra content was largely available in the general post on Asus Wi-Fi broadcasters, it contains specific information about the ZenWiFi Pro ET12.

Universal setting restoration

You can interchangeably restore the backup settings of most Asus Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 routers. That’s the case with the ZenWiFi Pro ET12, too.

As a result, you won’t need to program the new router from scratch in an upgrade or replacement. Instead, most of your network’s configurations — including those of an AiMesh system — will migrate from the old router to the new one.

This feature is a huge optional time saver if you have many settings, such as IP reservation and port-forwarding entries.

Note, though, that it’s always better to set up the router from scratch to avoid possible setting conflicts.

In the case of the ET12, it’s not a good idea if you load the backup files of very different routers, like a traditional Tri-band one, such as the GT-AX11000 or RT-AX92U. I’ve tried that, and it worked, but only after I did some tweaks.

Tip: After the migration, adjust applicable specific settings, such as the router model name, bands, etc., to make sure they match the new router and perform a deliberate backup and restore. This step will make the old setting “native” to the new router.

A robust web user interface

Asus is one of a few networking vendors that stays true to the web interface and doesn’t coerce users into a cloud-based web portal, which is excellent for those caring about privacy.

(All Asus routers allow remote management, which is turned off by default, via Dynamic DNS mentioned below.)

The interface allows access to a router’s tons of settings and features — some are listed below. Savvy networking enthusiasts will love that though it can be overwhelming for novice users.

Dynamic DNS

Dynamic DNS (DDNS) is a relatively common feature of all home routers. It’s excellent for those wanting to dial home remotely via other advanced features, including remote access or VPNs.

What sets Asus’s Dynamic DNS apart is that the networking vendor also includes an entirely free DDNS domain — you won’t need to get a third-party one. On top of that, this domain also comes included with an SSL certificate.

That said, if you need DDNS, Asus is by far the best option. (Read more about DDNS in this post.)

Standard setup process

Thanks to the web interface, all the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 share the same standard setup process as I detailed in this post on building a home network from scratch.

However, here are the general steps:

  1. Connect your router’s WAN port to the Internet source, be it a modem, an existing gateway, or the Fiberoptic ONT. Turn it on.
  2. Connect a computer to the router, either via a network cable to one of its LAN ports, or the default open Wi-Fi network, generally named “Asus xx”.
  3. Open a browser and navigate to the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.50.1 (or router.asus.com).

The rest is self-explanatory. The first time you get to the web interface, you’ll run into a wizard that walks you through a few steps.

(Alternatively, you can also use the Asus mobile app in step #3 if you use a phone or tablet instead of a computer. However, I recommend the web user interface even when you use a mobile device for the setup process.)

Helpful mobile app, no login accout required

Again, the Asus mobile app works for both the setup process and ongoing management.

This app is common for all Asus routers and is quite comprehensive. It’s one of the best mobile apps for routers you can find on the market. But, still, it’s not as in-depth as the web interface.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Mobile App
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 shares the same useful Asus Router mobile app as the other Asus routers.

The best thing about it is that you can use it to manage the router remotely without a login account. Instead, just like the web interface, it operates the remote management via the router’s built-in support for Dynamic DNS feature that includes a free SSL certificate.

However, one thing to note is that using the app can inadvertently turn on or off specific settings that could cause the router to behave unexpectedly. In this case, you’ll have to reset the router and set it up from the beginning.

So, while this app is convenient and fun to use, it can cause issues if you mess around too much.

AiProtection

The AiProtection is a feature that adds so much value to an Asus router.

It includes a free-for-life real-time Network Protection powered by Trend Micro and a Parental Control engine.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 AiProtection
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has the complete set of Asus AiProtection

Network Protection is designed to keep the entire local network safe. In many ways, it’s somewhat like a strip-down version of an add-on firewall, like the Firewalla or the subscription-based Armor from Netgear.

Still, for a free product, it’s excellent. I’ve used it for years in multiple networks, and it has proven effective against many malicious websites and malware. Don’t expect it as total protection (there’s no such thing!), but just a helping hand, and you’ll love it.

On the other hand, the Parental Control portion has been a bit too rigid, in my opinion, and the way Asus defines categories for web-filtering is a bit vague. On top of that, you can’t use it to block a particular website. This simplistic approach is not a big deal for me since I don’t believe in Parental Controls anyway.

(While AiProtection is available in all Asus routers, some get a stripped-down version due to their limited processing power. The XDR, which is the router unit of the XD4 mesh set, is an example. Its Network Protection and Parental Controls are neutered.)

Adaptive QoS

The Adaptive QoS is a common feature available in all Asus routers and is one of the most easy-to-use QoS features among all home routers.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 QoS
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s QoS feature is similar to that of most other Asus routers.

“QoS” stands for the quality of service, and it enables users to prioritize Internet traffic to support different applications or services.

Asus’s Adaptive QoS requires minimum work from the user and is quite effective. It also includes Bandwidth Monitor, Web History, and an Internet Speed test if you want to know more about your resources and keep tabs on your network’s online activities.

Flexible port configuration: WAN vs LAN

Asus routers generally have a lot of flexibility in their port configurations. Following are what you can do with them when the hardware is working in the router mode. (In other modes — AiMesh satellite node, access point, repeater, etc. — all ports work as LANs.)

For the case of the ZenWiFi Pro ET12:

  • Its default 2.5Gbps WAN always works as the WAN port, there’s no way to change this.
  • In Dual-WAN setup, you can use any other LAN port including its 2.5Gbps LAN as the secondary WAN.
  • In a WAN Link Aggregation, you must use both of its 2.5Gbps ports, to deliver a combined connection of up to 5Gbps.
  • The mesh support LAN Link Aggregation. In this case, you can combo the two Gigabit LAN ports (LAN1 and LAN2) on the router or satellite unit to deliver a 2Gbps connection.

Other useful features

Other than the above, you can also expect the following from all Asus routers:

Networking tools: Wake on LAN, Ping, Netstat, and Smart Connect Rule can come in handy for advanced users.

Auto-reboot: You can set your router to restart by itself on a schedule.

Traffic Analyzer: A set of tools and statistics for those wanting to find out what’s happening in the network.

The standard set of network settings and features: These include IP reservation, Port-forwarding, VPN server, and some Alexa Skills.

Frequent firmware update: Asus pushes out firmware updates regularly to fix issues and improve its routers’ performance and function. You can choose to update manually or turn on auto-update.

By the way, like precious ZenWiFi sets, the 2-pack Pro ET12 is pre-synced. As a result, all you have to do is set up one as a standalone router. After that, plug the other into power at a reasonable distance, or connect them via a network cable, and your mesh is ready.

AiMesh Backhaul Connection Priority via the ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 allows picking which band or port to work as its backhaul.

AiMesh 2.0 fully supported

And as a mesh router, the Pro ET12 has all features and settings of a device that support AiMesh 2.0. Again, I detailed that in this post on AiMesh, but the button below will give you the highlights.

Extra: What you can expect from Asus AiMesh

  • Flexible backhaul: Starting with AiMesh 2.0 — available with firmware version 3.0.0.4.386.xxx later — an AiMesh system has flexible backhaul support. Specifically:
    • Dedicated wireless backhaul: When you use traditional tri-band routers, like RT-AX92U, or GT-AX11000, one of its 5Ghz bands, the 5GHz-2, will work as the dedicated backhaul band by default — this band works solely as the wireless link between the router and satellite. This doesn’t apply when you mix Tri-band and Dual-band hardware or use wired backhaul.
    • Wireless backhaul: You can manually set any of the bands (6GHz, 5GHz, or 2.4GHz) as backhaul priority. When left at Auto (default), the system will use the fastest band, for the distance between the main router and a particular satellite, as the backhaul. Auto also prioritizes wired backhaul (when available).
    • Wired backhaul: Generally, the WAN port of the satellite unit must be used for backhaul. However, with a router that has a Multi-Gig LAN port (such as RT-AX86U or RT-AX89X) the high-speed port of the satellite node can be used for a Multi-Gig wired backhaul.
    • Mixed backhaul: Generally, it’s best to use wired backhaul consistently throughout the system — you can daisy-chain the units. However, AiMesh does allow for mixing wired and wireless backhaul.
  • Third-party switch supported: For wired backhaul, you can use switches between the main router and nodes. For best performance, make sure you use Gigabit (or faster) unmanaged switches.
  • Auto-sensing network ports: On the router unit, the WAN port functions as its designated role — it needs to connect to an Internet source. After that, the rest of the network ports in the mesh system, including the WAN ports on the satellite units (nodes), work as LANs. That’s generally true in either a wired- or a wireless-backhaul setup.
  • Up to 7 hardware units: Asus says realistically a system shouldn’t have more than seven units, including the router and I’ve indeed tried that many units in a wired backhaul setup. In a wireless configuration, though, I’d recommend no more than three hardware units, especially with dual-band hardware.
  • No vendor account required: Just like any Asus router, no login account with Asus is necessary to use AiMesh, even when using the Asus Router mobile app. For remote access, Asus uses Dynamic DNS. So, AiMesh is less of a privacy risk (if at all) compared with other systems.
  • Access point (AP) mode: As a system, an AiMesh setup can work in the access point mode — not to be confused with an individual router’s AP mode. In other words, you can use manage a few AiMesh hardware that works solely as Wi-Fi broadcasters on top of an existing (third-party) router. Among other things, it helps avoid the use of double NAT.

Other than the lack of a USB port, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 has all AiMesh 2.0 has to offer — including the support for a systemwide Guest Wi-Fi network. On top of that, thanks to the two Multi-Gig ports, it’s the latest option in the list of Multi-Gig wired backhaul combos.

Notes on Asus routers’ privacy

Upon turning on some features on an Asus router, you will run into this scary warning:

“By using AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS/Game boost, Web history, you agree to the Trend Micro End User License Agreement. Please note that your information will be collected by Trend Micro through AiProtection, Traffic analyzer, Apps analyzer, Adaptive QoS, and web history.”

Asus Privacy Message
That ominous privacy warning

If you read the entire EULA, you’d understand what it entails. But since nobody wants to read that boring, yet important, document, and some might not appreciate its wording, let me put this in simple terms:

These features only work because their provider scans the router’s traffic. That’s like if you want to be protected in real life, you will need to have somebody, like a bodyguard, to watch over you. In networking, protection requires extra connections — there’s no way around that.

I won’t pretend I know what TrendMicro or Asus does with the information it might have access to — I don’t — but I’d be more worried about how and what Facebook, Google, or Amazon would do with my data.

But yes, using these features will inherently cause privacy risks. The good news is, they are turned off by default, and you’re never coerced into turning them on.

So, use them or not use them. It’s your call. Just remember, you can’t have it both ways.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWiFi ET8: A new bread of “dual-band” mesh routers

Similar to the case of the ET8, the new ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a Tri-band router. However, it doesn’t have an additional 5GHz band as found in a traditional Tri-band router.

As a result, there’s no band to use as a dedicated backhaul in a wireless configuration — the hardware needs all the bands to support all clients of different Wi-Fi stands.

Both systems, by default, use the 6GHz band as the (non-dedicated) backhaul. When that works, this band suffers from signal loss and delivers just half the speed on the front end, at best.

And that doesn’t work most of the time since the 6GHz band’s range is short with little wall penetration. When you place the hardware units far from each other or with a wall in between, the systems likely automatically switch to the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band for backhauling resulting in even slower performance.

I explained this wireless backhaul dilemma in detail via the review of the ET8 and the Wi-Fi 6E explainer piece. But the gist is: get your home wired! Don’t use either in a fully wireless environment.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Wired Backhaul
In a wired home, the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 makes an excellent mesh system with a Multi-Gig backhaul.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWi-Fi ET8: Hardware specifications

ZenWiFi ET8
Mesh Router
ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Mesh Router
Model ET8 ET12
Mesh-Ready Yes (2-pack) Yes (2-pack)
Pre-Synced Hardware Yes Yes
Dedicated Backhaul
(default)
Yes (6GHz) Yes (6GHZ)
Wired Backhaul Yes Yes
Dimensions 
(WxDxH)
6.29 x 2.95 x 6.35 in  
(16 x 7.5 x 16.15 cm)
4.53 x 4.53 x 9.45 in
(11.5 x 24.1 x 11.5 cm)
Weight 1.56 lb (716 g) 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
Wi-Fi Designation Tri-band AXE6600 Tri-band AXE11000
1st Band
(2.4GHz)
2×2 AX
up to 574 Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4 x 4 AX 
Up to 1,148Mbps

(20/40MHz)
2nd Band
(5GHz)
2×2 AX
Up to 1200 Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
4 x 4 AX 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
3rd Band 6GHz
4×4 AXE 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
6GHz
4×4 AXE 
Up to 4800Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Backward Compatibility 802.11ac/n/g/a/b 802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Mobile App Asus Router Asus Router
Web User Interface Yes Yes
AP Mode Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
USB Port 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 None
Gigabit Port 3 x LAN 2x LAN
Multi-Gig Port 1x 2.5 Gbps WAN 1x 2.5Gbps WAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
Link Aggregation No Yes
(WAN and LAN)
Dual-WAN Yes Yes
Processing Power 1.5GHz quad-core CPU, 
256 MB Flash, 512 MB RAM
2.0GHz quad-core CPU
256 MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Firmware Version
(at review)
3.0.0.4.386_43981 3.0.0.4.386_47636
Release Date July 2021 February 2022
US Retail Price
(at launch)
$530 (2-pack) 899.99 (2-pack)
Hardware specifications: ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs ZenWi-Fi ET8

As you can see on the table, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is in many ways an upgrade to the ET8, but only with a wired backhaul.

When set up as fully wireless using the 6GHz band as backhaul, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 will be similar to the much cheaper ET8 due to the backhaul band’s signal loss — more in the performance section below.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: Detail photos

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s retail box

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Out of the box, the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 includes two identical routers.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Each router is a relatively huge square tower.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
On top, the routers have a clear section revealing the antennas on the inside.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 29
Thanks to its lighting, the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 looks quite cool at night.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Each Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 comes with four network ports on one of its sides, including two 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig ports.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Other sides of the router have ventilation openings.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 from the top — note the antennas.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Here’s the underside of an Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 router. The hardware is not wall-mountable.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12
Asus’s Wi-Fi 6E mesh hardware: The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 next to the ZenWiFi ET8

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 25

The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is currently the most powerful Wi-Fi 6E hardware.


Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12: Exciting performance with caveats

I’ve been testing (and using) the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 for almost a month and, for the most part, am happy with it.

I tested the hardware both as a standalone router and a mesh system, and I’ve used it both in the wireless and wired configurations.

For the former, it’s important to note that the scores in the charts here are those of the best-case scenario, per the way I do my standard testing. Specifically:

  • I used the 6GHz band or 5GHz band as the backhaul.
  • The satellite node was 40 feet away from the main router, within line of sight.

With that, let’s check out some specifics.

ZenWiFi Pro ET12 as a standalone router: Excellent all router

As a standalone router, the ZenWiFI Pro ET12 did exceptionally well. The router delivered excellent coverage, rivaling that of the GT-AX6000.

It’s hard to put the coverage in a concrete number — it varies depending on the environment — but if you have a house of fewer than 3000 ft2 (279 m2), place it in the middle, and chances are one of its bands will reach every corner.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Router Performance
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s performance as a single router
I used a 4×4 AC client for the close-range test and a 3×3 AC client for the long-range test.

And the performance was excellent, too, as you can see on the charts. Thanks to the 2.5Gbps LAN port, the router proved to be one of the fastest Wi-Fi routers to date.

As a mesh: Excellent with wired backhaul

I test the ET12 as a mesh in all possible ways using the 6GHz (default), 5GHz band, and its 2.5Gbps connection as the backhaul. And as expected, the mesh performed at its best via the Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

I manually pick either the 6GHz or 5GHz for the testing in a wireless setup. In either case, the backhaul band is not dedicated, meaning it also worked as the fronthaul to host clients.

That said, whichever band works as backhaul would have significantly lower performance compared to when it’s not — for the official scores, I used a single client at a time.

I also tested the mesh in the Auto setting for its backhaul and the standard setup — the satellite is 40 feet away from the main router with a line of sight — the 6GHz band always worked as the backhaul.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 Satellite Performance
The Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12’s performance when working as a satellite node.
<6BH>: 6GHz band as backhaul (when applicable.)
<WBH>: Multi-Gig (2.5Gbps) wired backhaul (when available.)

However, in real-world tests, as I moved the satellite father behind a wall, the mesh now mostly used the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band as the backhaul. And it switched between these two somewhat randomly, causing the performance to fluctuate a great deal.

In any case, when there was a wall in between the two, I could seldom use the 6GHz as backhaul. This band’s range was just too short, and most importantly, it just didn’t penetrate the wall well, if at all.

The good news is, no matter in what setup, be it a standalone router or a wireless or wired mesh, the ZenWiFi Pro E12 proved reliable. During my week-long testing, I had no issue with disconnections, both locally and with internet access.

Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12

Pros

Wi-Fi 6E-ready, extensive Wi-Fi coverage with top performance in specific setups with possible fast Wi-Fi performance in certain setups

Dual Multi-Gig pots with Multi-Gig wired backhaul, flexible port configurations

Excellent performance and coverage as a standalone router

Tons of useful features and settings, flexible Wi-Fi customization

AiMesh 2.0 full support, helpful mobile app, no login account required

Cons

Bulky, no USB, only four network ports

Fluctuating performance as a fully wireless mesh due to the lack of a dedicated backhaul band

Expensive, not wall-mountable

The recap

The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a new Tri-band router — all of its bands are needed for it to host 2.4GHz, 5Ghz, and 6GHz clients.

As a result, you can’t expect any of the bands as the dedicated backhaul when using two or more units in a mesh system.

That said, keep these three scenarios in mind:

  1. It’s ideal to use the mesh via wired backhaul, in this case, use the 2.5Gbps ports. You’ll get the best performance consistently on all bands.
  2. Use the 6GHz band as backhaul. In this case, the mesh will cap at 2400Mbps, or 50% the speed of the backhaul band due to signal loss. This case is great for:
    • You can place the routers no father than 60 feet away within a line of sight.
    • Have mostly, 5GHz clients.
  3. Use the 5GHz band as backhaul. In this case the mesh will cap likely at 1200Mbps, or 50% the speed of the backhaul band at 80MHz — due to the use of DSF, you can’t always count on the 160MHz channel width. This case applies when:
    • You have a wall or two between the hardware units.
    • You have mostly 6GHz clients.

Like all cases of Wi-Fi 6E mesh systems, you might hear the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 being advertised with the performance of the 6GHz band and the range of the 5GHz band. You can ever have that combo.

And if you use it in a wireless setup, there’s no way to get the best performance out of it.

Conclusion

At the current hefty price tag of $899.99, the new ZenWiFi Pro ET12 can be a bit of a disappointment or an excellent buy, depending on if you have gotten your house wired.

In the latter case, which is the only case in which I’d recommend I’d recommend this mesh, you’ll get yourself one of the best Wi-Fi systems that will last you years in the future.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fully wireless setup, check out the ZenWiFi XT8, or maybe the ZenWiFi Pro XT12, which I haven’t tested yet, instead.