Zyxel Armor G5 Review: Cool but with Lots of Room for Improvement

Zyxel Armor G5 2
The Zyxel Armor G5 is one cool-looking Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Zyxel Armor G5 AX6000 12-Stream Multi-Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 Router (model NBG7815) is like a concept car. It has enough style and power to be a promising networking machine. It’s great to look at to boot.

On the inside, though, it’s lacking. Even severely so. Many common features available in other similarly-specced routers of its $350 price range are not there. On top of that, it’s quite buggy, especially the USB Application, which barely worked in my tests.

That said, if you’re looking for a Wi-Fi 6 router that has an eye-catching design and fast Wi-Fi performance, the new Armor G5 will deliver for the most part. There’s hope that it’ll get better over time via firmware updates, but for now, you’d be disappointed if you expected any more from it.

Zyxel Armor G5 AX6000 12-Stream Multi-Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 Router (NBG7815)

$349.99
7

Performance

8.0/10

Features

6.5/10

Ease of Use

7.0/10

Value

6.5/10

Pros

  • Fast Wi-Fi speeds
  • Two Multi-Gig network ports
  • Nice design

Cons

  • Overall buggy, especially the USB-related features
  • Severely lacking in features: Not mesh-ready, no Dual-WAN, no Link Aggregation, no QoS
  • Parental Control is a joke
  • Runs hot

Zyxel Armor G5: A work in progress with impressive hardware specs

The Armor G5 is the first Wi-Fi 6 router from Zyxel. So it’s a bit late to the game. It seems the networking vendor has tried to make it “worth the wait” by giving it a rather radical design and tons of high-end hardware specs.

A different look

The new routers come in a clamshell shape with rounded corners and edges all round. On top, it has a middle ledge running from the front to the back that dubs as a color-changing status light, somewhat a mini version of the one on the Asus RT-AX82U.

By default, this light is quite bright but you can use the web interface to dim it or turn it off completely which is always a good thing.

On the bottom, the router has a rounded base with a small footprint proportionally to its body. This base keeps the router about 1/3 of an inch from the ground to help with ventilation.

The problem is the base also causes the device to be a bit less stable, especially when you plug heavy network cables into its ports.

Zyxel Armor G5 11
The Zyxel Armor G5 comes with a 2.5Gbps WAN port and a 10Gbps LAN port.

Two multi-gig ports

And these ports are where it’s at. Located on the back of the router, they are proof Zyxel means business. The G5 is the second Wi-Fi 6 router with two multi-gig ports, after the Asus RT-AX89X.

Indeed, it has a 2.5Gbps WAN port and a 10Gbps LAN port. Note, though, these port only work as their designated roles. Unlike those from Asus or Netgear, you can’t change the G5’s network ports between the WAN and LAN functions via software. The Zyxel has no Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation, either.

Nonetheless, having these ports means the router can deliver faster-than-gigabit speeds on both WAN and LAN sides. That’s always an exciting bonus.

Other than that, it also has another four Gigabit LAN ports and a USB 3.0 port. This USB port plus the 10Gbps LAN port means you can rightfully expect the G5 to deliver crazy fast network-attached storage (NAS) speed when coupled with a portable drive.

Not to rain on your parade, the router didn’t turn out to be a viable mini NAS server in my testing – more below.

Zyxel Armor G5’s detail photos

Zyxel Armor G5 1
The Zyxel Armor G5’s retail box.

Zyxel Armor G5 14
The router comes with an power adapter that’ll work anywhere in the world.

Zyxel Armor G5 4
The Zyxel Armor G5 is a good-looking Wi-Fi 6 router. Note the ledge running on its top.

Zyxel Armor G5 15
That ledge works as an color-changing pulsing status light. You can dim or turn it off, however.

Zyxel Armor G5 5
For a high-end Wi-Fi 6 router, the Zyxel Armor G5 is relatively compact and light.

Zyxel Armor G5 3
it’s one of a few that comes with two multi-gig network ports to date, one of which is a 10Gbps LAN port.

Zyxel Armor G5 8
The Zyxel Armor G5’s base on its bottom is a little small for its size.

Zyxel Armor G5 10
The Zyxel Armor G5 looks good from behind, too.

Zyxel Armor G5 13

Zyxel Armor G5’s hardware specifications

The Armor G5 is the direct competitor to the Asus RT-AX88U or the Netgear RAX120 in terms of hardware specs. It does have the most flash memory (4GB) compared with the other two and is the only one with two multi-gig network ports.

The G5 is also the only one without eternal antennas. Instead, per Zyxel, it comes with 13 internal ones.

Simple setup process

Like most other Zyxel routers I’ve worked with, the G5 comes with a web interface that you can access via its default IP address which is 192.168.123.1. From a connected computer, point a browser to this address and everything is pretty much self-explanatory.

There’s a little extra step with the G5, however. During this initial setup process, you’ll be asked to create an account with My Zyxel Cloud, and there’s no way to avoid that.

Zyxel Armor G5 Login
You must create a MyZeyxelClound account before you can use the G5.

At first, as you can see from the screenshot above, I assumed that’d mean you can, later on, manage the router via the mycloud.zyxel.com from anywhere in the world, but it didn’t turn out to be the case.

When I logged in, the G5 wasn’t attached to the account, and there seems to be no mobile app for it, either — more below. So maybe that was how Zyxel intended for the G5, but for some reason, it just didn’t happen yet.

(I did test the router before its official release date, but the company insisted that it was a final product, however.)

Nonetheless, after creating an account — you can also use Google or Facebook account for that — I could log in the router’s interface, locally, just like the case of any standard router.

But yes, the requirement for the online account was quite pointless, at least in my experience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since that means there’s no privacy risk.

Buggy

If that myZyxelCloud account issue above has any indication that’d be the fact the G5 seems like a work in progress. Some areas can be buggy.

Zyxel Armor G5 Front page
The Zyxel Armor G5 comes with a simple web interface that’s quite responsive and easy to use.

For example, the router seemed to have difficulty updating its firmware to the latest version. After a lengthy “updating” process, it restarted with the old version. I had to repeat the process some 5 times for the update to go through.

Another issue the router’s USB port didn’t recognize most of my portable drives, and I have many of them. Sometimes it wouldn’t even boot up successfully when with a drive connected.

Even with the drive that worked, I couldn’t work on the storage feature for more than a few minutes before it appeared disconnected. It was quite frustrating.

Finally, the Zyxel Armor, which I assumed to be the router’s app, is extremely buggy. It won’t even launch on my Pixel 3 XL. All I saw is a message that reads, “The service is unreachable, please try again later.” It’s worth noting that Zyxel has many apps for home networking, and none worked in my trials.

Spartan feature set

Other than the buggy USB port, the Armor G5 also has VPN and Parental Control. The former can be useful for those traveling frequently or want their home part of a remote network.

The Parental Control feature proved to be misleading. That’s because it’s simply a feature that blocks access to the Internet to a (group of) connected clients based on a schedule. There’s no way to block access to certain content types or a specific website. So it’s not much of a parental control tool.

Other than that, the G5 doesn’t have much else to offer. It has no QoS, no game-related or online protection features, despite having “Armor” in its name.

As for common settings, the G5 includes a standard set. The router supports Dynamic DNS, IP reservation, and port forwarding. You can also choose to manage it via the Internet via remote management.

Zyxel Armor G5’s performance

In all, the Armor G5 seemed like a work in progress in my testing. But it did prove to be a good router where it matters: The Wi-Fi performance.

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi

Indeed, I tested it over a weak and had no issue with its Wi-Fi connections. The router had about the same range as the Asus RT-AX82U, so if you live in a house of around 1,800 ft2 (167 m2), chances are it can cover every corner.

Zyxel Armer G5 Wi Fi 6 Clients

As for throughputs, the router supported the venerable 160 MHz channel width quite well and my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients could connect at 2.4Gbps at a close range. As a result, it proved to be quite a formidable contender among high-end Wi-Fi 6 routers.

Zyxel Armer G5 Wi Fi 5 Clients

Thanks to the 10Gbps network port, the G5 is among those that can deliver faster-than-Gigabit wireless connections when working with high-end 5GHz clients. And it worked well with Wi-Fi 5 clients, too, as well as 2.4Ghz ones.

Zyxel Armer G5 2 4Ghz Clients

The Armor G5 did run quite hot in my testing. It wasn’t hot enough to cause concern but sure was hotter than any other I’ve tested. It doesn’t seem to have an internal fan, which might be part of the reason. It’s recommended that you leave it in an open space, which you should do anyway for the best Wi-Fi performance.

Due to the USB port issue mentioned above, I couldn’t test the Armor G5’s NAS feature fully. The router never finished a test without the portable drive disconnecting midway. After a couple of days trying different drives, I gave up. It was disappointing.

Zyxel Armor G5 USB Appliation
The Zyxel Armor G5’s web interface gives no information about the connected portable drive. You’d have no idea if the drive is recognized or not, neither can you make any changes to it.

However, during these failed tests, it showed quite fast write speed of some 150 MB/s via a 10Gbps wired connection. Hopefully, the router will get more stable via future firmware updates. Until then, it’s a good idea not to count on its USB-based NAS feature.

Conclusion

Zyxel Armor G5 AX6000 12-Stream Multi-Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 Router is not ready for prime time. It proved to be a work in progress in my testing.

On the one hand, it has quite impressive hardware. On the other, the firmware is either too buggy or too lacking. So the router fails to deliver its full potential.

While G5 can still be an impressive Wi-Fi machine as is, it’s a good idea to wait for a better firmware release before getting yourself one. Though this new router might work out today, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t check out these alternatives instead.

READ NOW:  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2020: Pick One for your Home!

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2 thoughts on “Zyxel Armor G5 Review: Cool but with Lots of Room for Improvement”

  1. Are you sure there is no internal fan in this router? The filings with the FCC do show an internal fan in the internal images as part of the filing.

    Reply
    • I’m not super sure, Matt. But I tried to listen and there was no sound at all. Or maybe the fan was never triggered during my testing.

      Reply

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