Zyxel NR5101 review: A competitively priced 5G mobile router
A flexible and affordable 5G mobile router with speedy Wi-Fi 6 services and support for cloud management
Zyxel's NR5101 has a connection for every occasion as this desktop mobile router combines 5G NR (new radio), Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit networking services. This makes it incredibly versatile: it will suit businesses and home workers in remote or rural locations that can't get decent fixed-line broadband speeds, those that need a high-speed wireless router with 5G WAN failover, or mobile workers that demand anywhere internet access.
The NR5101 is solidly built and its 600g weight makes it reasonably portable, but if you want a 5G mobile router you can slip in your pocket then Zyxel's smaller NR2101 is worth considering. The NR5101 offers more features, though, and the latest firmware upgrade supports Zyxel's Nebula Control Center (NCC) for cloud-based remote management.
Two Gigabit ports are provided, with the first offering WAN and LAN services and the second for connecting other devices to its network. The NR5101 is an AX1800-rated Wi-Fi 6 access point (AP) with speeds of up to 1,200Mbits/sec on its 5GHZ radio and 573Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz one. The Wi-Fi 6 high-speed 160MHz channels aren't supported, but the NR5101 mustered a very creditable performance in our real-world tests.
Copies of a 25GB test file between a Windows 10 Pro workstation equipped with a TP-Link Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 PCI-E adapter and a server on the Gigabit LAN averaged 93.5MB/sec at close range, dropping to 82MB/sec when we moved the router ten metres away and into an adjoining room.
Zyxel supplied our review sample with a pre-configured Voxi 5G micro SIM card, which fits into a slot on the unit's base. There's also a removable panel at the back that provides dual SMA connectors for Zyxel's optional external aerials.
The NR5101 is simple to deploy using the wizard provided by its local web browser interface. It then presents a dashboard with details such as cellular status and signal strength, active wireless networks and Nebula cloud connections.
The router is supplied with active SSIDs on each radio, which are protected by strong default passwords. You can also create two active guest wireless networks that only permit internet access to connected clients. Cellular settings are provided in the network menu, where you can PIN-protect the SIM and enable data roaming should you wish.
An integral firewall offers three security levels set with a slider bar, and filters can be added for controlling access to specific network services. Zyxel's Air mobile app will undoubtedly come in handy. After we connected an iPad to the router's wireless network, it provided details on cellular signal strength and status. Alas, with the lab located in deepest, darkest Sussex, the app reminded us we only currently have 4G services in our area, and we also found that its internet speed test function is not currently supported by the NR5101.
To add the router to our Nebula account, we scanned its QR code using the Nebula iOS app. It appeared in the portal under the Mobile router section and we could add a status widget for it in the site dashboard. Selecting the mobile router in Nebula takes you to a screen with hardware details and a location map alongside. Down below are a set of tools for viewing WAN and cellular status, traffic graphs for up to 30 days and details of connected wired and wireless clients.
Nebula handles firmware updates so when a new version becomes available it can push it out for you. Nebula can't be used to configure the router, but its new remote configurator feature allowed us to load its local web browser interface directly from the portal. Zyxel's NR5101 is a competitively priced 5G mobile router; D-Link's DWR-978 costs nearly the same but only offers Wi-Fi 5 services.
The impressive range of features makes the NR5101 suited to a wide range of usage scenarios, and support for cloud management will appeal to businesses that want to deploy it to remote workers.
Zyxel NR5101 Specifications
|Connections||AX1800 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ax|
|Ports||2 x 2 MU-MIMO 4G/5G micro SIM slot 2 x Gigabit (LAN/WAN, LAN) USB 2 2 x|
|Dimensions||100 x 100 x 205mm (WDH)|
|Warranty||2yr RTB warranty|
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