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Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 review: A likeable router for gamers on a budget

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
135
inc VAT

While gaming features are a little limited, this router is terrifically configurable and performs well for the price

Pros 
Superb breadth of network management features
Respectable Wi-Fi performance
Great price
Cons 
Short on gaming-specific optimisations
Basic wired connectivity
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If you’re looking for a cheap gaming router, the Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 is an eye-catching proposition. At £135, it’s less than half the price of the company’s ROG Rapture GT-AX6000.

The two models aren’t entirely comparable, however. For one thing, Asus’ TUF Gaming routers don’t provide all the user-friendly gaming optimisations of the ROG series. The AX5400 also uses mid-range radio hardware that can’t match the top speeds of a premium model.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal. Instead, it’s suited to casual gamers seeking a low-cost Wi-Fi solution, rather than esports devotees hoping to gain a competitive edge.

Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: What you need to know

The TUF Gaming AX5400 offers a promising hardware specification. Asus claims transfer speeds of up to 4.8Gbits/sec for Wi-Fi 6 connections – matching the most expensive routers we’ve tested – and a still-swift 4.3Gbits/sec for older Wi-Fi 5 devices. The new Wi-Fi 6E standard isn’t supported but there’s 4x4 MU-MIMO to help maximise throughput.

One area where costs have been cut is the 2.4GHz radio, which tops out at a much slower 574Mbits/sec. That’s not a big deal, though, as that band is very rarely used for anything performance-critical.

Be aware, too, that despite the “Gaming” moniker the AX5400 doesn’t run the dedicated Gaming Router firmware found on Asus’ ROG models. Even so, it does provide a few gaming features and is configurable enough to help you get the best from your games with just a little tweaking.

Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: Price and competition

With its £130 price tag the TUF Gaming AX5400 is easily the cheapest “gaming” router we’ve tested. Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX6000 costs a much steeper £300, while the top-of-the-range GT-AXE11000 will set you back £480. Then again, those routers use custom gaming firmware and support 2.5GbE networking, with the AXE11000 adding Wi-Fi 6E as well.

The budget-friendly TUF Gaming AX5400 has more in common with Asus’ general-purpose routers such as the RT-AX82U. It could even be a tempting alternative to that model, which costs £180 and has a similar feature set, although the RT-AX82U proved a little faster in our performance tests.

If it’s the low price of the AX5400 that appeals, you could also consider the £90 D-Link X1860, or check out our upcoming review of the D-Link R15 Eagle Pro, a dinky little Wi-Fi 6 router that will set you back a mere £60.

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Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: Hardware design

The AX5400 is pleasingly compact, with six captive antennas and a tasteful light on top. You can set this to glow in whatever colour you like and optionally apply a pulsing pattern. Little LEDs at the front light up and flash to indicate network activity and so forth, although the recessed design means they’re not visible from all angles.

At the rear of the router are four LAN ports and a WAN connector. These are all limited to gigabit speeds, but you can configure link aggregation for both your LAN and WAN connections, to accommodate a multi-gig internet line plus a 2Gbits/sec connection to a desktop computer.

There’s also a single 5Gbits/sec USB socket and, as usual with Asus, this supports a good range of functions. You can plug in an external drive for basic NAS duties, share a USB printer or connect an Android smartphone to provide a backup internet connection if your main broadband link goes down. Not bad at all for the price.

Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: Software features

The TUF-AX5400’s web console looks an awful lot like Asus’ regular router firmware and all the standard features are here. Those include extensive control over your wireless settings, a simple firewall and provision for up to six guest networks (three on each radio band).

The AX5400 also comes with Asus’ built-in AiProtection and Parental Controls services, which can protect you against hack attacks and block unsuitable content from kids’ devices. These modules are quite basic but, since they’re free, we’re not minded to be sniffy about that. There’s also excellent VPN support: you can enable a local server, to securely access your home network over the internet, and configure up to 16 third-party VPN connections for outbound traffic.

A selection of gaming features have been transplanted from the ROG firmware. The first Ethernet socket is designated as the Gaming Port and automatically gets priority over other connections. You can use the Game Boost settings to mark other devices for priority treatment and, if you install the Asus Router app for Android or iOS, you can give mobile games a boost, too.

The Open NAT and Game Profile options are here, too, helping you to set up port forwarding for a long list of popular games with just a few clicks. What you don’t get is the automatic recognition and acceleration of gaming packets; however, you can use the Traffic Analyser tool to break down which devices and apps are eating up your bandwidth and then adjust the QoS settings to apply per-device bandwidth limits or set priority levels for different types of traffic.

Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: Performance

The TUF Gaming AX5400 advertises transfer speeds of up to 4,800Mbits/sec over a Wi-Fi 6 connection. That’s exactly the same as the ROG Rapture GT-AX6000, so I was interested to see how the performance of the two routers would compare in practice.

To find out, I carried out my standard set of tests. First, I set up the AX5400 router in my study and connected one of its gigabit LAN ports to an Asus Drivestor 4 Pro NAS appliance. I then connected a laptop to the router over Wi-Fi 6, took it to various locations in my home and measured average transfer speeds while copying a standard set of 100MB files to and from the Drivestor unit.

Here are the results I obtained, along with the speeds achieved in the same tests by the competing routers mentioned above:

The TUF Gaming AX5400 doesn’t come close to the top speeds of the ROG Rapture GT-AX6000, and that’s not too surprising. The pricier router benefits from a powerful CPU and Asus’ latest radio hardware, which enabled it to comfortably outpace the AX5400 at short range.

However, once I moved two rooms away from the router the AX5400’s download speeds held up impressively well, beating the GT-AX6000 in the kitchen and bedroom and not falling too far behind the Asus RT-AX82U.

Even in the bathroom at the opposite end of the house – always a harsh test for standalone routers – the TUF Gaming AX5400 kept up an average rate of 11.4MB/sec. That’s hardly a top-of-the-class performance, but it’s still equivalent to almost the full speed of a 100Mbits/sec internet connection.

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Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 router review: Verdict

The branding of this router might seem a bit cheeky when it doesn’t give you the full gaming firmware experience, but there’s no denying the Asus TUF Gaming AX5400 makes it easy to prioritise your gaming devices and traffic. It also has that groovy RGB LED on top and Asus’ handy Gaming Port at the rear.

Weigh in decent Wi-Fi 6 performance and a wealth of regular network configuration options and you’re looking at a decent deal. Obviously, the TUF Gaming AX5400 was never going to be the fastest or most specialised router on the market, but for £135 it has plenty to offer value-focused gamers and regular folks alike.

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