|At a glance|
|Product||Zyxel 802.11ac Dual-Radio Ceiling Mount PoE Access Point (NWA1123-ACv2) [Website]|
|Summary||Qualcomm-based AC1200 2x2 PoE-powered access point.|
|Pros||• Very small footprint|
• Decent performance
|Cons||• No band steering|
• Setup much more difficult than it should be
• Poor performance in multi-client load test
Typical Price: $80 Buy From Amazon
Updated 5 April 2018: Product retested due to defective AP
The NWA1123-AC is a chunky disc, smaller in radius but several times thicker than a Ubiqitui UAP-AC-Lite. It has a hidden bay in the back of the device providing access to its 12VDC and RJ-45 jacks; it's also got a little "cable maze" on the way out of the bay which secures the weight of the device on the Ethernet cable, not on the jacks, should the device fall off a wall. I really liked that little touch.
I initially had an extremely poor experience with both setup and performance of the NWA1123ac, but this turned out to be due to a defective access point. While it's not great that a defective AP made its way out the door, it would be unfair to judge the entire line based on one defective part's performance. So we've updated the results (and the setup experience) to reflect the typical behavior. I paperclip reset the second of three NWA1123ac access points in my possession and set it up from scratch, then logged three complete new test runs under the same conditions to confirm a true, repeatable baseline. The updated results here are from the median of those three runs.
The NWA1123-AC will grab an IP address by DHCP from your existing LAN, or will statically configure itself to 192.168.1.2 if no DHCP server is available. You can connect to the NWA1123ac either over your LAN, or over the "Zyxel" setup SSID it presents in factory condition. The web UI for the NWA1123 was extremely slow. It spawned actual popup windows, which modern browsers will block automatically. Its help icon, when I tried it, took me to an external page. In a blocked pop-up. Which 404'ed, when I manually unblocked the pop-up.
I wanted that help because the setup wizard failed on the second AP I tried, and it took me a good half an hour puzzling my way through the regular interface just to configure an SSID. It's not under "wireless"... it's under "objects", and in several pieces. First you have to go to the SSIDs sub-tab under "objects", and configure those. Then go to the Security sub-tab of "objects", scroll down far enough to find the PSK section, and set up password and auth profiles. Then you can go into the actual "wireless" section of the interface, into APs beneath there, and apply both the SSID profiles and Security profiles to each radio individually. (For bonus points, the radios are labeled "Radio 1" and "Radio 2" with no hint whatsoever as to which is 2.4 GHz and which is 5 GHz.)
Zyxel NWA1123-ACv2 web GUI
I was not impressed with the NWA1123-AC setup experience.
The NWA1123-AC did a reasonably good job on 2.4 GHz. Its station curves are pretty tightly grouped with a predictable slope through the 80th percentile on all stations, and through the 90th percentile on all stations but the one behind four interior walls. Unfortunately, things go pretty badly haywire after that - the NWA1123-AC failed several page loads entirely on 2.4 GHz, resulting in throughput under 7 Mbps (of the targeted 8 Mbps) and a sharp knee off the chart a tthe 95th percentile on all stations. A user on this network would absolutely be clicking "reload" in their browser every now and then on this network.
Zyxel NWA1123-AC's 2.4 GHz application latency curves
The NWA1123-AC did quite well on 5 GHz. Although it's still plagued with a failure to load a few pages on stations C and D, its curves are predictable and tightly grouped all the way to the 95th percentile here, with slightly faster returns than even the top-ranked TP-Link EAP225 v2. Despite the slightly lower (faster) returns across most of the X axis, I would still give the EAP the nod on this test, since it did not take more than 3000ms to load any pages.
Zyxel NWA1123-AC's 5 GHz application latency curves
While my defective NWA1123-AC struggled with single-client throughput results, the second, properly functioning AP turned in outstanding numbers. These are the best single-client 2.4GHz throughput numbers of the round-up, with 5 GHz throughput coming in third, just behind the OpenMesh A60.
Zyxel NWA1123-AC's single-client throughput
Zyxel offers free cloud management of these access points via their Nebula platform, at nebula.zyxel.com. Although the initial setup is a little clunky - it may take you a little while of confusedly poking at it before you figure out how to create your first "organization" and then "site" within that organization. It is pretty attractive and easy to navigate once set up, and offers plenty of information and graphs, along with event logs showing when client devices show up and drop off from the network.
In addition to management of access points—and Zyxel switches and gateways, if you have any—and logs of client device events, Nebula can serve as the back-end for WPA-Enterprise authentication. This is a pretty nice feature for SMBs or homes that would like to have individual Wi-Fi logins per user, but don't want to deal with the significant hassle of running their own RADIUS server. Nebula is free for any number of sites and devices, and up to 200 WPA-Enterprise users. If you want to manage more user accounts than that, you'll need to upgrade to and pay for a Pro subscription (which I didn't price). Pro also offers additional log storage; the free version stores events and graphs for the past seven days only.
The NWA-1123AC does not support 11k,v or r, but does offer RSSI-based roaming assistance. All devices and interfaces connected on 5 GHz when connecting to the dual-band SSID on the NWA1123-AC access points initially. STA D roamed freely to AP2 after about ten seconds standing behind it, but refused to switch to 2.4 GHz downstairs in the far corner even after several minutes, and despite a -85 dBM signal strength there.
It did change to the 2.4 GHz band about 350ms into an iperf3 runbut switched right back to 5 GHz again about 15 seconds after the iperf3 run completed. At this farthest location, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz both produced shaky 9-18 Mbps iperf3 runs, both TX and RX. It eventually shifted back to 2.4 GHz on AP 2 as I played with iperf3 in the downstairs far corner; and roamed back to AP 1 on 5 GHz as I set it on the test stand near AP1. There was no doubt that the Zyxel APs were assisting roaming; the Intel AC 7265 is not that prompt to roam on its own. While the AP steering was prompt, the band steeringif anyleft much to be desired.