Review: The next wave of Gigabit Wi-Fi products

Meru hits enterprise sweet spot, EnGenius and ZyXEL target SMBs with 802.11ac access points

access points

The access points (APs) in this round of tests include the enterprise-class Meru AP832, the SMB-class APs EnGenius EAP1750H and ZyXEL NWA1123-AC, and the Amped Wireless APA20 designed for homes and small offices. Then there is the enterprise-class HP 501 Wireless Bridge. We found the average maximum throughput speeds for the APs were in the range of 217 to 442Mbps. On the low end was the Amped Wireless APA20, one of the APs that only supports two spatial streams; all the other APs support three streams. On the high end was the EnGenius AP. Here are the individual results: (Read the story version.)

Meru AP832
Meru AP832

The AP832 from Meru is an enterprise-class access point priced at $1,295, which we tested using their MC1550 wireless controller ($1,295). It has two dual-band radios, supporting up to two concurrent 5GHz three spatial streams, for maximum data rates per radio of 1.3Gbps. The wireless controller’s initial setup is made using the CLI via a serial connection from a computer to the AP.  You follow prompts to set basic settings, like country, hostname, password, and network connectivity. This is a straightforward process. On the web-based interface we found enterprise-level look and feel, settings, and user experience. It supports centralized, distributed, mesh, bridged, and VPN tunneled modes; plus implicit and explicit beamforming.

EnGenius EAP1750H
EnGenius EAP1750H

The 802.11ac 3x3 Dual Band Ceiling-Mount Wireless Access Point (EAP1750H) from EnGenius is priced at $399 and is designed for SMB environments. It includes one radio for 2.4GHz and another for 5GHz. Both support up to three spatial streams, giving you maximum theoretical data rates of 1.3Gbps. The AP doesn’t require a wireless controller, but could be managed with their free SNMP-based EZ Controller software. In the web-based GUI we found the typical business-class AP features, such as multiple BSSIDs and VLAN support. It provides QoS functionality, supports 802.11e/WMM and the ability to offer varying degrees of bandwidth limits, but it doesn’t allow manual configuring of WMM categories like voice, video, or background. It’s the fastest AP we’ve seen yet.

ZyXEL NWA1123-AC
ZyXEL NWA1123-AC

The 802.11n/ac Ceiling Mount PoE Access Point (NWA1123-AC) from ZyXEL is priced at $199 and is designed for SMB environments. It includes one radio for 2.4GHz and another for 5GHz. Both support up to two spatial streams, giving you maximum theoretical data rates of 866Mbps. The AP doesn’t require a wireless controller, but could be managed with their SNMP-based tools offered via their Enterprise Network Center, which you can purchase. Installation and configuration was straightforward. The ZyXEL includes all the usual business-class AP features, such as multiple BSSIDs, VLAN support, and QoS. We found the ZyXEL NWA1123-AC AP to be an economical option for SMBs, although it can’t provide the throughput rates the other APs can, as it only supports two spatial streams.

Amped Wireless APA20
Amped Wireless APA20

The High Power 700mW Dual Band AC Wi-Fi Access Point (APA20) from Amped Wireless is priced at $199.99 and is designed for home and small office environments. Its dual-band radio supports up to two spatial streams, giving you maximum theoretical data rates of 866Mbps. This one also has a 4-port gigabit Ethernet switch and a USB 2.0 port. The setup and configuration process was quick and easy. For each band you can create four additional SSIDs. You can set each SSID with separate wireless band, security, and throughput. We found the USB drive sharing easy to setup and configure. The integrated Ethernet switch offers connectivity for additional wired devices and the USB port provides a simple NAS solution.

HP 501 Wireless Client Bridge
HP 501 Wireless Client Bridge

The HP 501 Wireless Client Bridge is priced at $369 and is targeted for business and enterprise environments. It includes a dual-band radio supporting up to three spatial streams, giving you maximum theoretical data rates of 1.3Gbps. It allows you to connect one Ethernet client device (or up to 15 with a switch) or an RS-232 serial device to the wireless LAN, giving wired-only devices or legacy wireless devices Wi-Fi connectivity. The initial configuration process is similar to non-managed APs. You access the web-based GUI via a default IP to configure the network and wireless settings. The wireless bridge supports 802.1X and has a serial port to support POS and other serial devices.