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Wireless Reviews

AC2200 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Wireless Gigabit Router
At a glance
ProductZyxel AC2200 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Wireless Gigabit Router (NBG6815)   [Website]
SummaryAC2200 class MU-MIMO router with Quantenna 5 GHz radio.
Pros• Streamboost automatic bandwidth management
• 4 SSIDs per band (3 Guest networks + default)
• Hardware radio on/off switch
• IPv6 support
Cons• MU-MIMO doesn't work
• No USB 3.0 ports
• Not Wi-Fi Certified
• No LAN link/activity indicators
• Poor attached storage performance

Typical Price: $140  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

ZyXEL has gone in a unique direction for the NBG6815 AC2200 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Wireless Gigabit Router, its first MU-MIMO router. It's in a class of its own—AC2200—a step down from AC2350/AC2400 class routers because on 2.4 GHz, it uses a 3x3 N450 class radio. AC2350/AC2400 class routers support a maximum link rate of 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz because they support 256 QAM modulation.

The more notable feature of the NBG6815 is that it uses Quantenna's QSR1000 MU-MIMO chipset on the 5 GHz side. And as the pièce de résistance, MU-MIMO is actually enabled. So this is our first look at how Quantenna MU-MIMO performs.

Router in Use

Router in Use

The NBG6815 is designed to sit vertically, the better to position its seven internal antennas. Mounted on its foot, the device cants slightly backward. Unlike the then top-of -line NBG6716 AC1750 class router we reviewed in 2014, the NBG6815 has only a single row of LEDs. The LEDs for the four LAN and two USB ports have been eliminated on the NBG6815. Shown in the callout below, there's a single USB 2.0 port on the right side. On the left side of the router, you'll find the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button.

ZyXEL NBG 6815 Front and Right Side Panel Callouts

ZyXEL NBG 6815 Front and Right Side Panel Callouts

The chart below summarizes the indicator lights you'll find in the upper left corner on the front of the router.

ZyXEL NBG6815 LED indicator chart

ZyXEL NBG6815 LED indicator chart

On the rear of the NBG6815, you'll find four Gigabit LAN ports and Gigabit WAN port, second USB 2.0 port, reset button and power jack. Not found on too many routers, the NBG6815 has switches for Wi-Fi on/off, Power on/off and one to enable/disable the front panel LEDs. While we applaud the inclusion of these switches, it would be better if ZyXEL followed the lead of other manufacturers and shipped the router with all switches on. We initially thought we had a dead router until we realized the LED switch was off.

Normally, when there are no LAN port LEDs on the front panel, many manufacturers indicate link status, activity, and sometimes connection speed using indicators built into the RJ45 jacks. That's not the case with the NBG6815. The link status and connection speed is shown on a status screen within the Expert Mode of the UI.

ZyXEL NBG6815 Rear Panel Callouts

ZyXEL NBG6815 Rear Panel Callouts

Inside

Like the previously reviewed AC1750 class ZyXEL NBG6716, the NBG6815 is powered by a Qualcomm QCA9558 processor with built-in 3X3 2.4 GHz radio. The switch is a QCA8837. For 5 GHz, the NBG6815 uses a Quantenna QSR1000 (QT3840BC Baseband & QT2518B RF), as previously noted.

The board top view has the RF can tops removed that cover RAM and 2.4 GHz power amplifiers. The QCA9558 SoC isn't in an RF can and isn't heatsinked. The heatsink at lower left is under the 5 GHz power amplifiers.

ZyXEL NBG6815 PCB Component Side

ZyXEL NBG6815 PCB Component Side

The circuit side view shows the Quantenna 5 GHz radio, its 128 MB of RAM and power amplifiers. The heatsink is under the 2.4 GHz power amps.

ZyXEL NBG6815 PCB Bottom Side

ZyXEL NBG6815 PCB Bottom Side

Table 1 below summarizes the key components of the NBG6815 as well as two AC2350 class routers.

  ZyXEL NBG6815 ASUS RT-AC87U NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 R7500 V2
CPU Qualcomm QCA9558 802.11abgn SoC Broadcom BCM4709A Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8064 Internet Processor @ 1.4 GHz
Switch Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337 in BCM4709A Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337
RAM 256 MB 256 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB Spansion S34ML01G200TFI000 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - in QCA9558 3x3 802.11abgn SoC
- Skyworks SE2605L 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM4360 (3x3 ac) - QCA9880 3-stream 802.11ac radio solution
5 GHz Radio - Quantenna QSR1000 (QT3840BC Baseband & QT2518B RF)
- 128 MB DDR3 RAM Samsung K4B1G1646G
- Skyworks SKY85405 5 GHz power amp (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85606-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA
- Quantenna QSR1000 (4x4 ac) - QCA9980 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
Table 1: Key component summary

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