EVEN BY THE fairly low standards of routers, the ZyXEL NBG6716 is pretty ugly. Its face is dominated by a seashell-inspired texture, apart from at the top-left corner where the status indicators are positioned. There’s a button on the side to turn off the indicators, which is a nice touch we don’t see often with routers. This is useful if you find the blinking lights a distraction.
The NBG6716 has no built-in modem, so you’ll need to plug a cable or fibre modem, or another router, into the Gigabit WAN port to get the internet up and running. There are four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and two USB ports for storage sharing. You can configure SMB, FTP or DLNA sharing, and you can enable read-only or read/write access, which is handy. There are also buttons for ejecting your connected storage drives on the router itself so you won’t need to dive into the web interface every time you want to disconnect, which is handy. You can’t use the USB ports to share a printer over your network, however.
The NBG6716 can operate simultaneously on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands; both are turned on and password-protected by default. The passwords are on the base of the router. You can turn wireless off using a switch on the side of the router, and there’s a WPS pairing button as well.
The web interface doesn’t have the cleanest design we’ve seen. It’s split into two modes: Easy and Expert. Easy restricts you to the most used settings such as Wireless Security, Firewall and Parental Control. Oddly, there’s only an on or off toggle for Parental Control, and you’ll need to go into Expert Mode to enable any actual rules. This mode provides access to more advanced features, including port forwarding, dynamic DNS and managing USB media sharing.
The router has a theoretical wireless throughput of 1,300Mbit/s on 5GHz and 450Mbit/s on the 2.4GHz band. When we started testing we encountered particularly poor speeds using our test laptop’s built-in 802.11n wireless. However, performance increased significantly after we updated the router’s firmware, so make sure you do this. On the 2.4GHz band we saw a poor 19.8Mbit/s at 10m and a better 13.1Mbit/s at 25m. Things improved on the 5GHz band. At 10m we saw 167.8Mbit/s, which is very fast, and 88.3Mbit/s at 25m is similarly impressive.
We also tested Zyxel’s NWD6605 802.11ac adaptor (£40 from www.dabs.com) with the router set to both 802.11n and 802.11ac modes on its 5GHz wireless network. In 802.11n mode we saw a super-fast 209.7Mbit/s at 10m, dropping to a still respectable 109.9Mbit/s at 25m. In 802.11ac mode we saw 256.3Mbit/s at 10m and 167.8Mbit/s at 25m; both excellent scores for a not particularly expensive router. The ZyXEL NBG6716 may be ugly, and its 2.4GHz performance is poor, but 802.11n 5GHz and 802.11ac speeds are strong. However, the D-Link DIR-868L is faster still, especially for 2.4GHz devices, and worth the extra £20.