ZyXEL NWA1123-AC HD review

A great choice for SMEs looking for secure wireless networks at a reasonable cost

The Zyxel Unified Pro

IT Pro Verdict

An affordable Wave 2 wireless AP with great business-class features and support for ZyXEL’s free Nebula cloud management


  • +

    Plenty of choices; Quick installation; Easy-to-use cloud management


  • -

    Event logs and added features means subscribing to a Nebula Professional Pack license

SMEs that want plenty of wireless network management choices will love ZyXEL's NWA1123-AC HD. This hybrid Wave 2 11ac wireless AP can operate in standalone mode, link up with the ZAC (ZyXEL AP Configuration) Windows app or move into the cloud with ZyXEL's Nebula platform.

The NWA1123-AC HD offers plenty of business features with support for concurrent 2.4GHz and 5GHz operations, plus built-in immunity to 3G/4G interference. It also employs MU-MIMO (multi-user multiple input multiple output) technology. This increases the number of lanes on your wireless highway so it can support a large user base without causing congestion.

The AP has two 2.4GHz and three 5GHz internal aerials and is equipped with standard plus PoE+ Gigabit LAN ports. For the best performance, connect the AP to an 802.3at PoE+ source using an older 802.3af PoE source limits the radios to one transmit stream each.

Installation in standalone mode is quick as the web console wizard sets the country of operations, forces an admin password change, enables both radios and provisions two encrypted SSIDs. The console's dashboard displays plenty of useful details such as AP resource utilization and WLAN interface status and each widget can be dragged around the page to suit.

The AP supports eight SSIDs per radio which can be customised using profiles and objects. Each SSID is assigned one of nine security profiles which can enable SSID masking and define WPA2, RADIUS or 802.1x authentication.

More profiles can be used to enable MAC address filtering, QoS (quality of service) traffic prioritisation and L2 isolation to stop wireless guest clients from seeing each other. Rogue AP detection has been improved as you can enable it for both radios and no longer need to set one to a dedicated monitor mode.

The NWA1123-AC HD supports both standalone and Nebula cloud management modes

Real world performance is good. Our Netgear AC1200 equipped Windows 10 Pro desktop averaged 55MB/sec when copying a file to a server on the LAN. At 10 metres, we saw a slight drop to 49MB/sec while we were able to take an iPad 43m down the main building corridor before the SweetSpots iOS app registered a signal dropout.

The free ZAC app discovered the AP on our LAN, displayed its SSID and security profiles and allowed us to remotely edit them. Profiles can also be stored on the ZAC Windows host and pushed out to multiple APs on the same LAN.

Moving to cloud management is swift as you sign up for a free Nebula account, use the portal to create sites for each office location and add APs to them using their MAC addresses and serial numbers. We tested with three NWA1123-AC HD APs and after entering their details, they appeared online in the portal in one minute.

The portal is designed to manage ZyXEL's Nebula-enabled APs, switches and gateways but you can easily swap the view to wireless networks only. The dashboard map shows each AP's location along with their status, plus doughnut chart, for the busiest SSIDs and wireless clients, along with their detected OS and wireless hardware.

The portal only supports up to eight SSIDs, but each can have their own authentication scheme along with custom captive portals, L2 isolation, walled gardens and upload and download rate limits. If you want more than seven days of event logs plus features such as email alerting and scheduled report generation, you'll need to buy a Nebula Professional Pack license.

Every SSID can be broadcast by all cloud-managed APs or you can assign custom tags to each AP and associate specific SSIDs with them. Schedules determine when SSIDs are active while general site settings include on-demand and automatic AP firmware upgrades.

The NWA1123-AC HD is a great choice for SMEs that want secure wireless networks that won't break their budget. Performance and coverage are good and the free Nebula cloud management platform makes it easy to extend wireless services to remote offices and centrally manage and monitor them all.


An affordable Wave 2 wireless AP with great business-class features and support for ZyXEL’s free Nebula cloud management

Wave 2 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ac

MU-MIMO on 5GHz; 2x 2.4GHz/3 x 5GHz internal aerials

2 x Gigabit (LAN and PoE/PoE+)

External PSU included

Ceiling/wall mounting plate

211 x 223 x 39mm (WDH); 750gms

Limited lifetime warranty

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.