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Review: ZyXel's Latest Access Point Hits Wi-Fi Sweet Spots

Super-high speeds, easy setup and group management make ZyXel a solid choice for new deployments as well as infrastructure upgrades.

ZyXEL 6500

Changing standards and increases in demand for wireless access present VARs with myriad opportunities for new installations, upgrades and retrofits. Even customer sites outfitted with Wi-Fi as recently as just a few years ago can benefit from the faster speeds delivered by the 802.11ac specification and the increased capacity and range of newer access points. Among a small handful of vendors at the leading edge of this wave is ZyXel, which last week launched the 6500 Series of dual-band manageable Wi-Fi access points that it claims max out at speeds close to 2 Gbps and overcome the range limitations of the 5 GHz frequency.

[Related: Battery-Operated Mobile Router Provides Uninterrupted Access]

The 6500 Series forms a new high-end for ZyXel access points. All units in the series support Power over Ethernet and include so-called Smart Antenna technology, which the company says analyzes wireless usage and adjusts antenna patterns in real time to compensate for the shorter range characteristics of the 5 GHz band without sacrificing its speed. This enables the faster, more versatile 5 GHz band to be used to maximum benefit without increasing the number of APs required for the same coverage area.

The 6500 line also includes ZyXel's management and administrative tools, with support for its proprietary mesh computing, as well as load balancing and limitations on bandwidth and the number of client connections to help ensure a good user experience. ZyXel's management tools can handle as many as 512 access points, making its solutions suitable for companies large and small.

For review, ZyXel sent the CRN Test Center the $899-list WAC6503D-S, its high-end 3x3 MIMO (multi-in, multi-out) unit that employs three spatial streams and six internal antennas to achieve a maximum theoretical data rate of 1.75 Gbps. Also part of the 6500 Series are the two-stream, four-antenna WAC6502D-S, listing for $699, and the two-stream WAC6502D-E unit with four external antennas for $599.

As with other ZyXEL products we've tested, setup was straightforward and mostly automatic. The unit is DHCP-enabled by default, so if you are using it strictly as an AP, simply plugging it into a PoE switch is all that's required. If additional network services are called for, a quick-start guide illustrates how to connect for initial setup using a browser-based wizard.

All three 6500 Series models support numerous security protocols, including WPA/WPA2-Enterprise, plus Microsoft AD and LDAP authentication, RADIUS, MAC filtering and rogue AP detection.

To test throughput performance, we set up a shared folder on a high-performance desktop workstation and copied a 1,022-Mbyte (approximately 1 GB) file from a mobile workstation directly adjacent to an AP with 802.11 n/g protocols and then through ZyXel's 802.11ac device. The results were remarkable. The first file copy completed in 2 minutes, 47 seconds. The same file copied through the ZyXel WAC6503 in 33 seconds. Repeated from about 20 feet away through one wall, the file copies in 53 seconds, and from 30 feet away through three walls in 1:44, more than a full minute faster than the older Wi-Fi n unit.

As demand for faster and more available wireless connectivity grows, standard bodies and hardware makers are doing their best to keep pace. This all translates to VAR opportunities for new installations for clients responding to customer demand and upgrades to existing infrastructure to provide the latest capabilities. For either scenario, CRN Test Center believes that the $899-list WAC6503D-S would make an excellent choice for deployment; it's a recommended product.


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