Zyxel NBG6503 review

£40
Price when reviewed

The ZyXEL NBG6503 is as cheap as 802.11ac routers get right now. At a mere £39, this cable router is a fraction of the price of anything else we’ve tested recently.

It’s great to see the latest wireless technology at such a good price, but it comes at a cost: the NBG6503 provides the bare minimum of features.

We like the fact that it has external, adjustable antennas, but there are only two of them, supporting 2×2 spatial streams – and that places a limit on the router’s top performance.

In fact, in terms of maximum link speeds, the NBG6503 is the slowest 802.11ac router we’ve reviewed, rated at 300Mbits/sec for 2.4GHz 802.11n connections and 433Mbits/sec for 5GHz 802.11n and 802.11ac connections.

Zyxel NBG6503

Physical ports are limited, too. This router has no USB port, so you can’t share a thumbdrive, hard disk or printer over the network, and the network ports on the rear are also limited to 10/100 Ethernet.

The latter is the key restriction here, since it places a hard limit on the speeds the NBG6503 can hit. Thus, in our close-range wireless testing, transfer rates never rose above 11.6MB/sec, while other 2×2 stream routers we’ve tested recently delivered faster speeds.

This limitation is felt even in our long-range testing at 30m, with speed over 802.11ac once again topping out at 11.6MB/sec. In other tests, speed at range was even less impressive, with 2.4GHz 802.11n speeds to our PC averaging 7.2MB/sec, and rates dropping further to 3.6MB/sec and 2.3MB/sec to our iPad Air over 5GHz and 2.4GHz connections.

Zyxel NBG6503

Overall, this ZyXEL is the slowest 802.11ac router we’ve seen; the only router to present worse long-range performance is TalkTalk’s Super Router.

The ZyXEL NBG6503 is temptingly priced, but it’s sorely lacking when it comes to core hardware capabilities; frankly, we’d rather buy an 802.11n router with Gigabit than an 802.11ac unit without.

Details

WiFi standard802.11ac
Modem typeCable

Wireless standards

802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes

LAN ports

Gigabit LAN ports0
10/100 LAN ports4

Features

Interior antennae0
Exterior antennae2

Security

WEP supportyes
WPA supportyes
WPA Enterprise supportno
WPS (wireless protected setup)yes

Dimensions

Dimensions157 x 140 x 103mm (WDH)

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