ZyXEL NWA3160-N review

23 Jul 2012

ZyXEL offers SMBs an affordable, managed wireless network solution that can grow as they do

ZyXEL NWA3160-N
Price when reviewed 
184
5

ZyXEL’s NWA3160-N provides a low-cost route to a fully managed and expandable wireless network. It can function as a normal AP, but has two other management modes. You can add 24 APs to a network, designating one AP controller with the rest as managed APs. It has a single radio, so you must choose between 2.4GHz and 5GHz operations, and ZyXEL claims a top speed of 15MB/sec.

The web interface is simple, but familiarise yourself with ZyXEL’s objects to make it easier to set up radio profiles. These define 2.4GHz or 5GHz operations and can have up to eight SSIDs, each with a security profile that defines WPA2 encryption, and profiles for MAC address filtering and QoS.

Setting the router to monitor mode lets it detect APs that are considered rogues. Containment works only if the rogue AP isn’t physically cabled to the main network, otherwise you’ll have to find it and manually disconnect it. We tested using a Linksys 802.11g router, which was spotted as soon it came online.

ZyXEL NWA3160-N

We wirelessly connected two Windows 7 clients to the Linksys box and set up a continuous ping. Once containment had been set, the ZyXEL threw deauthorisation packets at them, and we could see it had forced them to disconnect from the Linksys router.

To test wireless performance we equipped our Windows 7 systems with Netgear and Linksys dual-band USB wireless adapters. Our file-copy results almost tallied with its claims: a 5GHz close-range connection hit 12.8MB/sec.

We noticed 20MHz channel bonding is only on the 5GHz radio, so 2.4GHz throughput won’t be great. A close-range connection confirmed this with speeds of 8.2MB/sec; moving to 35ft away saw speeds for both radios drop by around 25%.

These results sit in the lower reaches of our last dual-band router test. However, the NWA3160-N does provide an easy, cheap way to create a managed wireless network.

Details

Price ex VAT £153
Price inc VAT £184
Overall rating 5
Performance 3
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
WiFi standard 802.11n

Wireless standards

802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes

LAN ports

Gigabit LAN ports 1