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.
Widely available online for about $100, the ZyXel (which, in the interest of brevity, is how I'll refer to it from here out) can be configured to operate in four different modes:
- Stand-alone wireless AP: The device is hardwired to your router and supports multiple wireless clients. In this mode, the ZyXel can support as many as eight virtual APs, each with its own profile (network name, security, quality of service, MAC filter, and other settings).
- Root wireless AP: The ZyXel is hardwired to your router, but it serves both wireless clients and wireless repeaters to extend the range of your wireless network. The device can support up to five virtual APs in this mode.
- Wireless repeater: The ZyXel connects to another ZyXel operating in root wireless AP mode to extend the range of your Wi-Fi network.
- Wireless client: The ZyXel is hardwired to a client PC (or a printer, fax machine, or anything else with an Ethernet port), but wirelessly connected to your router.
The ZyXel can operate in dual-band mode--on the 2.4GHz band as part of an 802.11b/g/n network, and on the 5GHz band as part of an 802.11n, 802.11a, or 802.11ac network simultaneously--in any of the first three configurations. When you configure the device as a wireless client, of course, you must choose either the 2.4- or the 5GHz frequency bands, depending on the type of wireless network you're connecting to.
If you're looking to optimize the performance of your Wi-Fi network, you might use the more crowded 2.4GHz band for non-latency-sensitive tasks such as web surfing and downloading files, and reserve the less-crowded 5GHz band for applications that are sensitive to lag, such as streaming media and playing games.
You could also set up guest networks on either or both frequency bands and configure them to allow your guests Internet access, but prevent them from slowing down your own streaming by reducing their quality of service settings. You can also increase the security of your network by denying them the ability to access other computers on your network.
Security and Power over Ethernet
You'll find support for all the usual wireless security protocols, including WPA2-PSK, and you can establish as many as eight unique security profiles, which you can then assign to the various APs you set up. Business users will want to know that the ZyXel also supports the RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In User Service) networking protocol that provides centralized user authentication and authorization to connect clients to the network. RADIUS support is well beyond anything consumers need, however, so I won't get into that topic any deeper.
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