At the current price of around $380 a pop, the ZyXel WAX630S wireless access point (WAP), available for purchase today, is not cheap. But it still costs significantly less than EnGenius ECW230 while delivering a similar experience.
Truth be told, just like the EnGenius counterpart, the WAX630S represents a section of each company’s products. There are other APs from Zyxel, including those from the WAX6xx family, of lower and higher tiers that cost less or more than the WAX630S, respectively.
However, when comparing apples to apples, ZyXel’s hardware tends to be slightly more affordable. Still, this WAX630S could use some price reduction to be more enticing, and my guess is its street price will come down relatively soon.
As a business WAP, the WAX630s is a bit hard to set up at first — it also requires an online account if you want to use multiple units in a mesh system.
But if you want to blanket a large property with reliably fast Wi-Fi 6, a couple of these broadcasters will make a robust Wi-Fi solution, provided you already have a good router.
That said, on the one hand, the new AP is great. You can start with one and scale up as you want your network to expand. And if you choose to use the mobile app, this approach is user-friendly enough.
On the other hand, considering the cost, you can opt for one of the home options among those on this list — many will make life comparatively easier for you.
ZyXel WAX630S: A mesh-ready Wi-Fi 6 access point
I’ve been a fan of Wi-Fi access points for a long time — even before I reviewed TP-Link’s Omada series, which, by the way, are still excellent buys today.
The main reason is that APs require network cables to work, which means they are applicable for homes with the infrastructure to get the fastest possible network speed. You heard it right — get your home wired!
And now, with the proliferation of Multi-Gig, this wired approach has gotten even more exciting. And the new WAX530S seems to fit right in, at least from the hardware specs.
ZyXel WAX630S: Hardware specifications
|Name||Zyxel WAX630S 802.11ax Dual-Radio
Unified Pro Access Point
|5 GHz Speeds
|4×4 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
2×4 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
|2.4 GH Speeds
|2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
|Number of SSIDs||8 per radio|
|Role Supported||Access Point,
|Power over Ethernet (PoE)||802.11at|
|PoE Power Consumption||19.5W|
|DC input||12V DC at 2 A|
|Network Ports||1x 2.5GBASE-T PoE Multi-Gig,
|Wireless Security Methods||WEP
Rogue AP detection
|Mobile App||Zyxel Nebula|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||7.09 x 7.09 x 1.54 in
(180 x 180 x 39 mm)
|Weight||1.171.17 lbs. (530 g)|
|Operating Environment||Temperature: 0°C to 50°C/32°F to 122°F
Humidity: 10% to 95% (non-condensing)
|Processor||Qualcomm 4-Core CPU|
|Release Date||March 15, 2022|
A Dual-radio standard PoE access point with a hard-to-ignore cloud-manage option
The WAX630S looks like most access points you’ve seen, but it has a bit of a difference. It’s a Dual-radio access point.
Dual-radio vs Dual-band
Indeed, the WAX630S is a Dual-radios access point. In other words, it has two separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio broadcasters, each capable of delivering up to 8 virtual SSID (Wi-Fi network names).
When you choose to make an SSID as Dual-band, it will use both radios. The idea of Dual-radio vs Dual-band is that the latter comes with a single radio broadcaster that can handle two bands simultaneously.
That said, Dual-radio is more complicated to use — you have to deal with two bands individually — but offers more flexibility and options in terms of Wi-Fi configuration.
In fact, the WAX630S can be a little too much. To take advantage of its Wi-Fi settings and configuration, you will need to understand all sorts of new terms, such as objects and profiles, which are pre-customized groups of Wi-Fi or security settings.
In the end, to make it work, you’ll just need to create a single Dual-band SSID or two SSIDs, one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz. But I’m a bit ahead of myself.
No power adapter or PoE injector included
Out of the box, the Zyxel WAX630S won’t work at all.
That’s because it includes nothing but mounting accessories. There’s no power adapter or even a network cable. The device supports 802.3at PoE, but there’s no injector included, either.
This type of packaging is relatively standard for SMB and business APs. If you get one from another brand like Netgear or EnGenius, expect things to be the same.
But you sure would hate that sinking feeling that you’d have to get something else before you can use the new shiny device — it’s much worse than getting a USB printer that doesn’t include a USB cable.
In any case, when you have all the necessary parts, the hardware setup portion of the AP is simple and the same as setting up any PoE device:
- First, mount the access point to where you want it to be via the included mounting accessory. Or you can place it on a surface.
- Then, connect its PoE port — the 2.5Gbps labeled as Uplink — to an existing network via a PoE switch or an injector.
And you’re all set!
After that, there are two ways to use the WAX630S. But first, let’s check out how the access point itself looks and feels.
ZyXel WAX630S: Detail photos
Local web interface vs Nebula
The first way is to use it as a standalone access point(s) via the local web interface.
In this case, you need to manage each unit individually — there’s no way to handle multiple units in one place or make them work together as a mesh system. They will work as individual Wi-Fi broadcasters, and all that applies.
That said, this way is suitable for those using just a single unit, and it can be challenging — it requires a certain level of networking know-how.
That’s because since the WAX630S is not a router, it doesn’t have a default IP address. Instead, it gets one from your existing network’s router. So to access its interface, you must first figure this IP address out.
After that, things are relatively self-explanatory: from a connected computer, navigate a browser to the AP’s current local IP address and log in with the default credentials — admin for the username and 1234 for the password.
Lots and lots of settings
The WAX630S has lots of settings. Virtually anything you want to do with an access point, you’ll find in this AP.
For an advanced business network, that’s great. But for a home, even one with lots of networking needs, the WAX630S can be too much.
The good news is you don’t have to mess with all the settings. Instead, pick the default profiles, and you’re good to go. And the mobile Nebula mobile app will make things much less intimidating.
And that brings us to the second way to use the access point.
Excellent mobile app
The second, also the recommended, way to manage the WAX630S is via the Nebula Control Center (NCC). It’s part of Zyxel’s cloud-based vendor-assisted network management. You sign up for a Zyxel account and associate the access point(s) with it.
But overall, NCC is similar to Netgear’s Insight. It allows for managing your network from anywhere globally via a web portal and a mobile app.
And also similar to Insight, Nebula includes a few service tiers, called Packs, including the free Base Pack — the Plus and Pro packs cost $12 and $30 per year per device. (Netgear’s removed the free tier of Insight in early 2021.)
According to this chart, the Base Pack is enough for most use cases and what I used for this review.
If you have already set up a WAX630S via the local web interface, you must reset it — via the reset button on its underside — before it works with the Nebula Control Center.
To go back to the local web interface, you must remove the device from NCC and reset it again.
Zyxel Nebula includes a mobile app of the same name that makes settings up and using the WAX630S much easier compared to the local web interface. You can use the app to scan the QR code on the back of the hardware to add it to the account.
You can do that with one or many access points and manage them all in a single mesh network. I tried it with two WAX630S units, and the entire process took about 20 minutes to get a new mesh system up and running with basic Wi-Fi settings.
The app doesn’t offer access to all settings of the system. And that’s a good thing considering the daunting amount of settings mentioned above. But if you want to configure your network to the max, NCC also has a cloud-based web interface.
Comprehensive but slitlghtly sluggish Nebula cloud-based management
The NCC’s web interface is much more comprehensive than the local one and now includes many mesh-related functions where you can use multiple access points as a single seamless network.
I didn’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of what NCC has to offer, but the gist is you can do a lot with it — more than any home or small office would ever need.
The screenshots below will give you some ideas. It’s overall quite excellent.
However, the cloud-based web interface wasn’t always rosy during my testing. It was sluggish at times, and many changes would take up to a few minutes to take effect. At times it just stayed there with the hourglass, and I had to refresh the page.
But it wasn’t bad enough to cause serious concern. One important thing we tend to overlook: Going the Nebula route means you won’t be able to manage the Wi-Fi network when there’s no Internet.
Nebula Control Center via screenshots
ZyXel WAX630S: Relaible coverage, decent throughput speeds
I tested two WAX63S units in all possible ways, including using them both as a mesh system. And I was happy with their coverage and reliability.
During more than a week of testing, we had no issue with disconnections or weak signals. My ball park estimate is that each unit can handle some 2000 ft2 (186 m2) of space, give or take
It’s always hard to pinpoint exactly the coverage. But I’d say the WAX630S delivers the type of range on par with what one might expect from a broadcaster of its physical size. Your mileage will vary, though.
What I wasn’t too happy with were the sustained throughput speeds. I expected more because of the AP’s 2.5Gbps uplink port and its 160MHz channel width support.
As it turned out, though, no matter what channel width you use, be it the 160MHz or 80Mhz, the AP always had ceiling speeds of 2400Mbps, which means real-world rates are much lowered.
Nonetheless, I was hoping it would be higher than on the chart. The AP was not slow. In fact, it was among the fastest I’ve tested among its peers. But for the cost and the specs, it should have been faster.
Reliable performance, excellent coverage
2.5 Gbps PoE network port, extra Gigabit port
Nice design, ready to amount
Local web interface, free cloud-based management
Expensive yet doesn’t include a power adapter or PoE injector
Sustained throughput speeds could use some big improvement, daunting amount of features
Nebula Control Center requires a login account and is sluggish at times and the local web interface is lacking
With too much on the feature front yet a bit shy on the performance, the ZyXel WAX630S is an interesting access point that will make many satisfied but only a few, if at all, happy.
If you’re looking for a reliable way to blanket a large wired home, it’s a relatively safe bet — still waiting for the price to come down. And if you’re into Gigabit-class performance or Multi-Gig, keep looking.