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TEST: Zyxel 5G NR Portable Router – mobile 5g router with good range

Summary

Expert rating

Benefits

  • Stable short response times.
  • Fast wifi with good range.
  • Handy touch screen.
  • Compact format.

Disadvantages

  • Somewhat short battery life.
  • The next step in mobile speed.
  • No bonus features.

Opinion

Zyxel’s router is a handy little box that doesn’t make any obvious mistakes, but doesn’t convince as much as a couple of the competition. It delivers Wi-Fi above expectations, but lags behind in mobile performance and battery life.
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Tested product: Zyxel 5G NR Portable Router
Award: SEK 5,127 at ComputerSalg.

Zyxel’s first mobile 5g router has the very descriptive name 5G NR Portable Router. You can also find it in stores under the model number NR2101. It was one of the first mobile 5g routers to hit stores last winter, and has a price tag of around SEK 5,500 in most places you can get it.

The router is very similar to D-Link’s DWR-2101 that we also tested, they have the same external shape, the same external connections and placement of the sim card slot and battery, the same 2.4 inch touchscreen as the main interface, and as far as we can see the same hardware under the hood.

It simply appears to be a router built by a third-party manufacturer that both vendors then put their own design and on and adapt software to.

It’s a compact box compared to other competing 5g modems, with dimensions like a larger bar of soap and with gently rounded edges, great for slipping into a jacket pocket or almost unnoticed in a computer bag.

Sim cards feed into a holder under its removable back cover where you can also replace the battery. A large ethernet port on one long side and a small usb c port on the other are the router’s only external connections.

Much is familiar

Interface and management are almost identical between this and D-Link’s router. That in and of itself is only positive, as it is stylish and easy to navigate, with short steps to the most important information and settings. The Zyxel has a different home page on the touchscreen menu that gives it a better overview of certain details such as signal strength and data rates.

Otherwise, they have exactly the same interface and as far as we can see the same functionality; mobile connection sharing via wifi, usb or ethernet, but no other extras. However, it has differences to D-Link’s router on a handful of points. For example, you get a charging adapter, which is missing from D-Link’s package, but in return you have to do without the nice table stand that D-Link sends with it.

Zyxel 5G NR Portable Router sim card
To insert the SIM card, lift off the entire back cover.

The exterior design is more pared down and anonymous here, with matte black plastic surfaces all around. Here, too, you can connect with an IP number to a web interface for more detailed settings, but unlike D-Link, we don’t find a mobile app for Zyxel’s router. For the vast majority of users, however, it is unnecessary, as it certainly has pre-configured Wi-Fi and for most operators it is just a matter of plugging in the SIM card and driving.

Underperforms a bit

Performance-wise, the two routers on paper should also be identical. But this is where the Zyxel falls behind, with 15 to 20 percent slower download speeds overall and occasional shorter dips in speed. Measurements of mobile connectivity are capricious, but the results are consistent across multiple measurement occasions, so that may be a factor to keep in mind. However, the response times are excellently short, the mobile connection is stable without signal loss when we move around town, and the Wi-Fi performance, range and capacity of the small box impresses.

It also seems to draw more power. We get about ten hours of operating time, which is also what Zyxel promises. It’s not a big difference to the 12-13 hours that D-Link and Netgear deliver with their routers, but could be a reason to pack an extra power bank if you’re going to be out for a long time.

Zyxel web interface
Via the web interface, you can easily access all detailed settings.

We suspect that the differences between them may have to do with firmware, as the D-Link router has a slightly fresher one. So hopefully there are opportunities to tweak the results. And they are not bad. So if you get hold of Zyxel’s router at a good price, it is not a failed purchase.

Specifications

Product name: Zyxel 5G NR Portable Router
Tested: April 2021
Manufacturer: Zyxel
Model number: NR2101
Modem type: 4g (cat 20/13), 5g (sub 6)
Wifi type: Wi-Fi 6, 2.4 + 5 GHz
Wifi capability: 574 + 1,200 Mbit/s
Security: wpa, wpa2, wpa3, wps.
Connections: Gigabit ethernet lan, usb 3 type c (charging and internet sharing)
Measured speed, 5 GHz wifi to ethernet: 799 Mbit/s
Measured speed, 5 GHz wifi to 5g: 395 Mbit/s down, 40 Mbit/s up
Range, wifi: About 20 meters on 5 GHz, about 30 meters on 2.4 GHz
Battery: 5300 mAh, approx. 10h surfing time
Admin interface: Touch screen, web
Size: 11.9 x 7.2 x 2.4 cm
Weight: 235 grams
Award: SEK 5,127 at ComputerSalg.

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