Effects on AlGaN/GaN high-electron-mobility transistor structure of a high-temperature AlN buffer on sapphire substrate have been studied by high-resolution x-ray diffraction and atomic force microscopy techniques. The buffer improves the microstructural quality of GaN epilayer and reduces approximately one order of magnitude the edge-type threading dislocation density. As expected, the buffer also leads an atomically flat surface with a low root-mean-square of 0.25 nm and a step termination density in the range of 108 cm-2. Due to the high-temperature buffer layer, no change on the strain character of the GaN and AlGaN epitaxial layers has been observed. Both epilayers exhibit compressive strain in parallel to the growth direction and tensile strain in perpendicular to the growth direction. However, an high-temperature AlN buffer layer on sapphire substrate in the HEMT structure reduces the tensile stress in the AlGaN layer. © 2013 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.