Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

ZyXEL X550N

In reviewing ZyXEL products over the years, we consistently come away with the impression that the company should be more popular than it is. This is another one of those D-Link-ish “we do some of everything” vendors—soup to nuts, print servers to powerline adapters. The margins must be so slim in networking gear that the industry’s players have to span the entire product range just to make a buck. When you try to do everything at once, the tendency is to do nothing particularly well unless you have fairly deep pockets.

ZyXEL, while never dazzling us with unique innovation, has never disappointed us, either. The X550N ($99.93) fits the pattern: boring on the outside, interesting on the inside, with high enough performance and build quality at a low enough price to make the whole package attractive.

As an indication of how serious ZyXEL is about its gear, this router’s manual is over 300 pages and features over 300 tables and illustrations. Having QoS is now ordinary, and a bandwidth monitor is almost expected now, but how about a bandwidth monitor for different traffic types? Interesting, right? The setup wizard comes in six languages. There’s a router/AP mode selector in the maintenance menus (although we still prefer a physical exterior switch). ZyXEL goes beyond the usual basic QoS functionality by not only providing general Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) QoS—prioritizing by voice, video, “best effort,” and background—but several common application profiles and a custom configuration area where you can create user-defined QoS profiles. This sort of management depth reflects ZyXEL’s larger presence in the business products world. If you dislike 24x7 wireless broadcasting, use the integrated scheduling matrix to disable it during off hours. All told, there’s just so much great functionality buried in this router that it’s easy just to geek out and get lost in it, forgetting along the way that ZyXEL omits a USB port for NAS and FTP functionality, has no media serving capabilities, or any of the other modern consumer amenities. The overall impression is that this is a router for business and productivity, not entertainment.

From the outside, the X500N is totally ordinary: bland white non-styling, three detachable 2 dBi antennas, a WPS button, and five total gigabit Ethernet LAN and WAN ports. It would have been really interesting to try out the X550NH, which replaces the X550N’s 2 dBi antennas with 6 dBi high-gain alternatives, but we weren’t able to land this variant for our review. You can buy the ANT1106 antenna upgrade for $45.10, which is odd when the entire X550NH package runs only $117.27.

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7 comments
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  • Dandalf
    I'd buy the Linksys if it didn't have a bloody spoiler on it. Chavviest router I ever saw.
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  • madskillz12_1
    £20 cashback on the Linksys until 30/4/10 as well. You'd be mad not to.
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  • daglesj
    Belkin routers are a joke. I bought a low end one as a spare. It couldnt get a speed of higher than 2Mbps. Any other router would get 6Mbps+. After several attempts of getting a sane response from Belkin India, one of their techs finally admitted that model has an issue with the Firewall. Switch it off and speed goes back up. He said a firmware update would sort it. Nearly a year later...yup no firmware. A couple of my customers have the new Belkin N spec routers. Really bad.
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  • chronicbint
    Surprising, I am on my second Belkin N router and they have all worked perfectly well.
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  • hairystuff
    I've realised with Belkin routers they sometimes have multiple revisions of the same product code/model number, some of the revision work really well and others are pure trash, I've noticed this with D-Link aswell but generally the differences are marginally acceptable.
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  • gagaga
    I'm not normally a fan of Apple gear, but I can get 14MB/s (equal to 112Mb/s) from my airport extreme (the older 2 aerial one) on big files.

    Guessing the laptop (Vaio TZ) has a big influence - that has three separate aerials and the top-end Intel card, and the fact mine is the only 5GHz network in the area...
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  • Accurim
    What did you use with the WRT610N? I'd be interested in getting it based on the benchmarks but I'd have to get the same client adaptor also.

    I believe you did your testing with a laptop also, if I were to get a desktop adaptor would this be fine:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833124342
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