Linksys and ZyXEL Update SMB Networking Switches and Gateways

Linksys and ZyXEL Update SMB Networking Switches and Gateways

Linksys and ZyXEL recently updated their product portfolio for SMB (small and medium business) networking gear. The updates came in the managed switches category for both companies. In addition, ZyXEL also introduced two new gateways.


Linksys had recently lost ground as a SMB market leader, but, after Cisco’s sale of the business unit to Belkin, things have been improving rapidly. Last month, they announced the Pro series wireless access point (LAPAC1750PRO) with support for cluster managment (handling multiple access points from a single interface) and a customizable branding portal. It also had dual GbE ports for increased throughput as well as redundancy. As with any AP in this market segment, the unit could be powered by PoE (Power over Ethernet). This 3×3 802.11ac AP was priced at $500.

However, the standout announcement came this month for their managed network switches. Usually, we see vendors putting out 24 and 48-port switches, but Linksys is introducing 28 and 52-port ones. There are four models: LGS528, LGS552, LGS528P and LGS552P. The P models come with PoE+ support (802.3at) and have a 30W power budget per port. The 52 port models come with two 10 GbE uplink ports (SFP+). The non-PoE+ models are priced at $550 and $850 for the 28 port and the 52 port versions,
while the PoE+ models are priced at $950 and $1300. Note that these switches support Layer 3 static routing also.


ZyXEL announced an update to the venerable GS2200 layer 2 managed switches yesterday in the GS2210 series. The updated internals reflect in lower maximum power consumption. The GS2210 also has a larger packet buffer. The lineup consists of 24-port and 48-port models with PoE (HP models) and without PoE support. Pricing for GS2210-24 comes in at $499 while the HP variant will come in at $799. The 48-port versions are priced at $1099 (GS2210-48) and $1349 (GS2210-48HP). I have been using the GS2200-24 24×7 at home for the last three years (not just as part of a testbed), and I have to say that the unit has been silent and reliable all through after initial setup.

A couple of Internet Access Gateways were also announced, targeting the hospitality market. The UAG5100 supports up to 800 concurrent devices with dual WAN capabilities and an integrated WLAN controller for managing up to 32 Wi-Fi APs. The UAG2100 supports up to 200 devices, has a built-in 802.11n AP and an integrated WLAN controller to manage up to 8 Wi-Fi APs. The firmware features of both units are geared towards monetization of Internet services as well as recording of user access information for auditing and security purposes.

Asus RT-AC87 AC2400 Router with Quantenna Chipset Set to Ship

Asus RT-AC87 AC2400 Router with Quantenna Chipset Set to Ship

Back at CES earlier this year, I had visited Quantenna and covered the announcement of their QSR1000 4×4 802.11ac MIMO chipset. It was announced that the Asus RT-AC87U would be the first QSR1000 enabled router to hit retail. Despite the announcement at CES, no availability date or price was announced.

Things are getting together now, and Asus and Quantenna have announced that the RT-AC87U is all set to ship (Best Buy actually has it for purchase right now). The router will retail for $270, an admittedly steep price, but one that should be seen in context with the Broadcom-XStream enabled Netgear R8000 that is shipping for $300. The router also seems to be a bit lacking in the I/O front, with only one USB 2.0 port apparently. [ Update: Some readers have mentioned that a USB 3.0 port is hidden beneath a flap in the front. ] That said, it is like that most of the power users who are going to purchase this already have a dedicated NAS device (and don’t need USB 3.0 or eSATA ports in their routers).

The RT-AC87U is a bit more future-proof with respect to Wi-Fi standards, thanks to it being the first shipping 802.11ac Wave 2 router. As part of the Wave 2 features, we get four spatial streams and support for MU-MIMO (we do need clients supporting it to get the full benefits). One of the most obvious benefits of going to Wave 2 is the 160 MHz-wide channel support, but, that is not part of the Quantenna QSR1000 chipset that is being used in the Asus RT-AC87U.

Obviously, technology moves at a rapid pace, and one can always wait for the next big thing. There is also talk online of Netgear releasing a Wave 2 router (Nighthawk X4) soon (the FCC details are already out), but official details are scarce. In effect, if readers are interested in hopping on to the Wave 2 bandwagon, the Asus RT-AC87U will be the first opportunity.

Netgear and Broadcom Rush Nighthawk X6 (R8000) 6-Stream 802.11ac Router to Market

Netgear and Broadcom Rush Nighthawk X6 (R8000) 6-Stream 802.11ac Router to Market

Netgear’s AC1900 router, the R7000 Nighthawk, has been well-received by the market. Since that launch, the 802.11ac market has seen a number of announcements from chipset vendors. While Qualcomm Atheros and Quantenna were busy launching 802.11ac Wave 2 silicon, Broadcom seemed to be lagging behind. In April, they launched 5G Wi-Fi XStream a six stream 802.11ac MIMO platform, which was essentially two discrete 3×3 802.11ac radios. SemiAccurate saw through the marketing talk and called it out for what it really was. Despite seeing Asus demonstrate a model at Computex, I assumed that devices based on the platform would appear in the market in late Q3 or Q4.

Netgear is springing a nice surprise by launching the Nighthawk X6 (R8000) with Broadcom’s 5G WiFi XStream platform today.

The R8000 is being marketed as a Tri-band router theoretically capable of delivering up to 3.2 Gbps of network throughput (600 Mbps in the 3×3 802.11n 2.4 GHz band, 1300 Mbps in the first 3×3 802.11ac 5 GHz band and another 1300 Mbps in the second 3×3 802.11ac 5 GHz band). The unit includes 6 antennae. Internally, the platform has the same host SoC as that of the R7000, the BCM4709 which sports a dual core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1 GHz. However, the radios have been updated to offload some of the workload, freeing up CPU cycles for other aspects. Netgear claims they are now able to get around 60 – 70 MBps over USB 3.0 (compared to 30 MBps in the R7000). The VPN client is also being talked up by Netgear in the R8000, signifying that it is going to perform substantially better than in the R7000. Like the R7000, the R8000 also comes with four GbE ports (in addition to the WAN port) and two USB ports (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0).

Netgear’s value adds on top of the 5G WiFi XStream platform include ‘Smart Connect’ – a feature through which client devices are allotted to a particular Wi-Fi channel depending on its characteristics and location – and load balancing – where newer clients are allotted a less busy channel if ‘Smart Connect’ decisions happen to overload one of the channels. Other aspects of Netgear’s firmware include a comprehensive network storage feature set (with DLNA & AirPlay support, along with backup to a shared USB drive). Netgear also seems to have brought in a variant of the snapshotting feature of the ReadyNAS lineup into this router as the ‘ReadySHARE VAULT’ backup solution for devices running Windows.

The product is available for pre-order today, and will ship in early July. It is priced at $300. Consumers with a large number of Wi-Fi devices might be tempted to upgrade to the R8000, particularly if they are yet to hop on to the 802.11ac bandwagon. On the other hand, users who already have a 802.11ac router (and paid the premium to buy into a first / second generation product) might find it hard to justify a $300 upgrade – particularly when the platform doesn’t have any of the important Wave 2 features such as MU-MIMO or 160 MHz usage with a single radio. Make no mistake, the R8000 does appear to solve problems arising from a large number of wireless clients in a practical manner. More importantly, it is available today (compared to Wave2 routers based on silicon from other vendors which are yet to hit the market). Is it worth the premium? That is for the market to decide. Readers, feel free to sound off in the comments section.