Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

ZyXEL NXC-8160 - ZyXEL NXC-8160

The controller offer a basic web management interface, which opens with a rundown on, the status of its PoE LAN ports, both radios, and which ports have active APs attached to them. Deployment really is very simple as you determine what wireless services are provided and you can choose from 802.11a, b and b/g operations. Select a channel and the data rates for it and activate rate adaptation if you wish. SSIDs are created next and for each one you associate a radio with it and pick from WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption and add RADIUS server authentication if required. This is where the controller shines as it enables you to advertise multiple SSIDs in the same area with each one providing different services. SSID masking can be enabled, you can stop clients on one SSID from seeing those on another and also implement VLAN membership.

Monitoring really is a weak point as the web interface doesn't provide any information about the clients associated with the APs. To gather this information you need to activate the controller's Syslog service but even this isn't particularly enlightening. We pointed the controller at a system running the Kiwi Syslog server where we were able to see our wireless clients along with their MAC address but nothing else of any value.

The NXC-8160 is designed to work with ZyXEL's NWA-8500 lightweight APs. (£276 inc. VAT).
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To test the roaming feature we loaded up a Fujitsu Siemens LifeBook with a TRENDnet 802.11n wireless PC Card. We configured our test SSID with 802.11b/g services along WPA-PSK encryption and had no problems logging on. Our domain controller's DHCP server happily handed out an IP address and we were able to access the LAN and Internet. We then set the laptop up to Ping the domain controller continuously and went for a wander round the offices. As we moved away from the AP in the lab we saw signal strength drop to around 25 per cent after which we were automatically switched to the next one. At no time did the wireless client complain and the Ping test only recorded a couple of timeouts at worst as we were moved from one AP to another. As far as we were concerned our roaming was, indeed, quite seamless.

Verdict

We were very impressed with the NXC-8160 during testing as it makes wireless network deployment an absolute cake-walk. Monitoring facilities are almost non-existent and considering the APs are total lightweights we would have expected them to be more competitively priced but your clients will be able to wander freely under their umbrella with no loss of services.

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