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ZyXEL NBG-419N Wireless N Home Router

ZyXEL NBG-419N Wireless N Home Router Box

Sections

Introduction
What you get for your money
Configuring the router
Port forwarding
Performance
Other features
Conclusion
Specifications
Photos

Introduction

The ZyXEL NBG-419N Wireless N Home Router is a wireless router supporting 802.11n wireless with Wi-Fi Protected Setup and four Ethernet ports. It does not include an ADSL modem so cannot be used directly with an ADSL connection, but can be used to add wireless to an existing home network or connected to a Virgin Media cable modem to allow you to share the connection with multiple computers. The router includes firewalling and some basic parental control features.

What you get for your money

Included in the box are:

ZyXEL NBG-419N Wireless N Home Router contents

The router is made of glossy white plastic and as noted above the router can be mounted on a wall, with two holes on the underside to hang it on. On the top of the case are lights for, from left to right:

ZyXEL NBG-419N Router LEDs

There is an unlabelled LED on the far right, possibly a leftover from another model with an ADSL status LED. The back of the router is fairly standard, with:

ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Ports

The one unusual feature on the back is a switch to enable or disable the wireless network on the router. The 2dBi antennae are detachable so could be replaced for better range if necessary.

Configuring the router

With the router reset to the defaults, IP addresses will be automatically issued so all that should be required is a network adapter (wired or wireless) of some type to connect to the router and that the operating system is configured to obtain an IP address automatically via DHCP.

One useful feature we noticed was that the default IP address, username and password and wireless SSID are all printed on a label on the underside of the router. This could be useful if you need to reset the router to the defaults and can't find the documentation. For reference, the defaults are: IP Address, 192.168.1.1; Username, blank; Password, 1234.

As mentioned, there is a Quick Start Guide which should be enough to get the router and any devices connected to the Internet. It does not cover any troubleshooting, though, and there is also no coverage of the procedure required to connect a new device to a Virgin Media cable modem - a shame, given users of such a device are the most likely audience for this router.

There is a Smart Setup Wizard which steps through the few steps needed to get the router connected:

One very nice feature is that the wizard suggests that the default password for the web interface is changed and also steps the user through setting up some security on the wireless LAN, which requires the passphrase has a minimum length.

Once all of that is done the default form of the web interface, "Easy Mode", shows a "network map" with the status of the Internet connection and with buttons to configure various aspects of the router:

NBG-419N Easy Map

One annoying issue which quickly became apparent is that not only is no record kept of whether the user previously selected the "Expert" configuration mode or remained in "Easy" mode but also the idle time-out is quite short (five minutes) with no obvious option to change either.

Port Forwarding

There is no option to forward ports in the "Easy Mode" of the router's web interface. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is running, however, so applications which support that can forward ports automatically. Otherwise the only option is to switch mode:

Port Forwarding

There are pre-filled options for DNS, FTP, HTTP/S, POP3, SMTP and telnet but no options for games or any other applications.

Performance

Wireless

To test throughput on the wireless network connection, a laptop with the Intel 5300 AGN wireless card was used with the iperf tool and the test repeated five times to derive an average.

Sitting close to the router, throughput averaged around 87Mbps. The test was run with WPA2 encryption enabled and a small (around 4Mbps/5%) increase is observable with this security turned off - although it would never be recommended to run with no security enabled!

From further away speeds dropped to an average of 57Mbps from the opposite side of a fairly average-sized house.

WAN-LAN

To test how well the router would perform with the current Virgin Media 50Mbps service or with any faster service the same system was set up with iperf passing traffic over the router's WAN interface through one of the router's switch ports.
The router was capable of passing traffic at 100Mbps, as fast as possible with the 10/100 switch ports, but the web interface became unresponsive.

The router has bandwidth management (QoS) exposed both in Easy and Expert modes. In easy mode the choice is a list of "network applications" which can be dragged to rearrange the priority the router will give their traffic. As shown, running the mouse pointer over a category shows some of the traffic types which are included in the category:

Bandwidth Management

However, enabling the feature limits throughput to 32Mbps, so the feature is no use on a service any faster than that. With the bandwidth management feature enabled, there is a button in Easy Mode to enable the "Game Engine". This feature rearranges the list of traffic types shown previously to put the "Game Console" group at the highest priority regardless of configuration.

In Expert mode there are more detailed options, for example to add custom applications to each group or to change the minimum bandwidth reserved for a given traffic classification.

Expert Bandwidth Management

Other features

The router has a content filter which simply blocks URLs which contain the keywords entered.

Also, the router can be set to disable the wireless network at certain times of day, under the guise of power saving. Equally this could be used as a form of parental control, disabling wireless access at night or suchlike.

Power Saving

In the same vein, although marketed as being "neighbour-friendly", the wireless power can be set at six steps from 10% to 100%. This will (significantly) reduce the range of the wireless network but should mean that neighbouring wireless networks see less interference. This feature is only made visible in Expert Mode, however, and hidden in the "Advanced" tab.

Conclusion

There are a lot of good things about the ZyXEL NBG-419N - not least its price (around £40). While there are a few niggles with the web interface the router's overall performance is creditable. It would have been nice to have had gigabit LAN ports, though, even with a slight increase in price but that aside it would be hard not to be impressed.

Specifications

LAN Four 10/100Mbps Ethernet
Wireless 802.11b/g and 802.11n, WEP and WPA/WPA2 supported
Dimensions 162 (W) x 115 (D) x 33 (H) millimetres (6.38 x 4.53 x 1.3 inches)

Photos

Please click on an image to see it in full resolution.

These images are also available in high-resolution here:

ZyXEL NBG-419N Box
ZyXEL NBG-419N Box Contents
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Front (top)
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Front
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router LEDs
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Ports
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Back
ZyXEL NBG-419N Router Underside
ZyXEL NBG-419N Circuit Board
ZyXEL NBG-419N Circuit Board

Stuart Swindells
20/04/2010