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ZyXel NWA1123-AC Wireless Access Point review: Made for business, but great for the home, too

Michael Brown | July 8, 2015
As you can probably tell by its name, ZyXel's NWA1123-AC Wireless AP is designed more for small business users than for consumers, but people with larger homes that even the strongest Wi-Fi router can't cover will want to take a long look at this wireless access point (AP). It's packed with features, and it delivers very good performance.

Layer-2 isolation, on the other hand, is worthy of discussion, even for consumers. Enable this feature and you can restrict wireless clients from communicating with each other. You could use this in conjunction with your guest network to allow guests to access the Internet, and also to use your networked printer while barring access to any of the other computers or storage devices on your network. All you need to do is enter the printer's MAC address in the Layer-2 isolation configuration screen. You could do the same if you wanted to grant guests access to a NAS box with music or photographs stored on it, or any other device on your network.

The ZyXel can be powered with a conventional AC power adapter, and one is provided, but if you have a router or switch that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), the AP supports that as well. PoE is a fabulous option in that you can use the same cable to carry both data and power. This makes deployment much more flexible because you don't need to worry about placing the AP near an AC outlet, and you don't need an electrician to string CAT5 cable (because it's consider low voltage wiring).

If you don't have a router or switch that supports PoE (I don't know of any consumer routers that do), you can use a PoE injector (you can find these for sale online for less than $20).

Industrial design and performance

The ZyXel's circular design closely resembles a smoke detector. Mount it to the ceiling and run the wires up into your attic, and the device won't draw any more attention than one of those safety devices will. The housing is plenum-rated, too, meaning it's fabricated from a non-toxic material that won't emit hazardous fumes should a fire break out in your home.

For reasons of physical security in an office environment, the manufacturer recommends installing the access point in a secure area, such as a locked room, to prevent unauthorized people from gaining physical access to it. I didn't need to go that far, of course, but I did want to install it in as central an area of my home as I could get while still having access to an Ethernet jack. I ended up installing it on the ceiling inside the built-in floor-to-ceiling entertainment center in my home theater.

That location might have reduced the ZyXel's throughput at longer range, especially when you consider that my home theater is a room-within-a-room design with double-thick walls, but the AP had no problem delivering speeds fast enough to support HD video streaming at all four of my test locations. While it wasn't as quick as the fastest 802.11ac routers I've tested, all of those devices have supported three spatial streams; the ZyXel delivers only two.


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