The Armor Z2 is Zyxel’s most high-end merchandise to date in its networking portfolio, that contains a range of NAS units, extenders and power line adaptors in addition to numerous products geared toward business users. Even though the business isn’t quite as large or well known as several networking brands, preceding Zyxel kit we’ve looked as been quite nifty, often using a feature or two that stands outside, fantastic performance and adequate value for money too.
After considerable testing and usage, we are please to state the Armor Z2 met our expectations.
It provides up to 800Mbps over 2.4GHz 802.11n, and 2167Mbps over 802.11ac, with a compatible customer. There’s also an program for settings, called Zyxel One Touch.
The appearance is obviously aimed at gamers, with a sleek black plastic casing, highlighted with little tinges of yellow in the several crevices and curves that contribute to the ‘alien-like’ look.
The slim measurements of the Armor Z2 contribute into some compact and low profile design, at least by modern standards, considering a few of the monster-sized router models from companies like Asus. Across, it’s 250mm, but just 9.8mm top.
And unlike certain phones, no ports are left in the quest for slimmer casing. The four antennas surprisingly aren’t removable, a thought if you want to replace with larger, custom antennas that theoretically could improve range.
Interior is a dual-core 1.7GHz processor with 512MB of memory, a more fair specification that is comparable with most modern high-end router models. It results in fast performance when navigating the various menus within the web-based Armor Z2 program interface. Pages load and upgrade almost immediately, a great advantage when making changes to the router settings.
The interface design is rather sparse. Unlike the graphics-heavy overall look of Linksys or Asus networking software, there aren’t any widgets on front page, and a lot of information is relayed as tables of text. The front page provides one map of your house network, listing all of the connected devices, with other functions offered in ‘Expert’ mode. A string of applications toggles underneath let you switch off the white LEDs at the front of the unit, empower parental controls, guest wifi notifications and access.
Switch to Expert mode and the front page will be take over with device information presented as a long page of text, such as details of WAN and LAN IP addresses, MAC addresses, wireless information and resource utilisation.
If you’ve not heard of StreamBoost earlier, it works by dynamically prioritising traffic data, dependent on the information it needs. It should know how much data to allocate when a customer is seeing Netflix, or whenever gaming, and free up sufficient funds to guarantee good performance if a different bandwidth-hogging action is happening at the exact same time, like a large file downloading.
The application profiles it utilizes are created from monitoring users’ anonymous behavior, a completely opt-in procedure.
While all the settings pages of this Armor Z2’s interface are fairly sparse, Zyxel has pulled all the stops with its traffic monitoring tool, which not only looks great, but also displays a far more complete set of information than we’re Utilized to viewing provided
You can see a live view of the bandwidth is being distributed to customers, perfect for diagnosing rogue applications gobbling up bandwidth in a house, plus a ‘fool-proof’ method to work out when the children are online if they need to be in bed.
There’s also a slick graphical display of bandwidth usage with time, which shows total amounts uploaded and downloaded over up to 30 days, but also what software are used and from what customers. Again, it’s a helpful tool to diagnose whether or not a person or device is using more information than they should, and if you are on a metered internet connection, you can take action to restrict that data utilization.
In term of this physical design and applications, the Zyxel Armor Z2 receives a well-deserved up horn, then, but what about the performance?
We analyzed the Armor Z2 at three ranges over both its 5GHz and 2.4GHz wireless bands, using a MacBook Pro using a triple flow 802.11ac adaptor. Testing was completed at 1m, 5m and 10m distances based on sight into the router.
In practice, speeds from a single link depend on both the router and client. Your laptop or device may not support the complete quad-stream capacities of the Armor Z2, and there are just a few devices available on the market that do. One of them is your Asus PCE-AC88U 802.11ac wireless card, for desktop PCs.
Although the Armor Z2 was not very fast enough to earn some documents, its short and long-range transfer speeds are competitive with other high-end router models.
Over 802.11ac we recorded a receive rate of 657 MB/sec in 1m space 297 MB/sec in 5m distance, and 125 MB/sec at 10m.
Send rates were somewhat faster at longer range, together with 623 MB/sec in 1m, 342 MB/sec in 5m and 267 MB/sec at 10m.
And above 802.11n we recorded great results also. We recorded receive rates of 88 MB/sec at 1m, 68 MB/sec at 5m, 54 MB/sec at 10m, with ship rates of 96 MB/sec at 1m , 84 MB/sec in 5m, 72 MB/sec at 10m.
While our notebook wasn’t using the full potential of this Armor Z2, the 802.11ac rates continue to be decent and in line, if not beating, many other wireless routers on the current market, with any differences being rather slim. Performance is no weak point here.
While it is not just cheap, it’s priced comparably with other quad-stream MU-MIMO routers. And best of all, it was noticeably reliable during the whole time we tested it with no single drop-out or reboot needed in a whole month, something which cannot be said of each router in the marketplace.