Zyxel Multy X AC3000 full review
The latest addition to the crowded mesh networking market is Zyxel, with its attractively designed Multy X. The low-profile white design might stand out, but Zyxel’s approach with the Multy is fairly straightforward, providing a kit with two identical Wi-Fi routers that can be placed in separate locations and then linked together in order to provide more comprehensive and reliable Wi-Fi coverage than you can get from a single, conventional router.
In common with most of its rivals the Multy doesn’t include a modem for internet connection, so you’ll still have to connect it to the existing modem or router that provides your internet access.
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Zyxel Multy X price and UK availability
You can’t buy the Multy direct from Zyxel in the UK, but the two-piece kit reviewed here is available on Amazon for £299 ($328.63 at Amazon.com), which is relatively expensive compared to a number of similar, two-piece mesh devices.
There’s no option to buy a three-piece kit for larger homes, although you can buy additional Multy routers on their own for £169.
To be fair, Zyxel does claim that this two-piece kit can cover homes up to 5000 sq.ft (464m2), which can still match the coverage offered by some three-piece mesh systems, such as the TP-Link Deco. Even so, the Multy might still be an expensive case of overkill for many smaller flats and apartments.
Zyxel Multy X design and features
The Multy may be one of the more expensive mesh networking systems, but it packs in plenty of useful features to help justify that price. The Multy kit consists of two identical routers, each of which offers tri-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with a total speed of 3Gbps.
One of the 5GHz bands is used as a ‘backhaul’ that connects the two routers together, running at 1733Mbps, leaving the remaining 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to provide combined speeds of up to 1266Mbps for your computers and other devices.
Inside the routers there are nine separate antennae to provide MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output), and each router also includes three Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections.
There’s a separate ethernet/WAN port for connecting to your existing modem or router for internet access, and a USB 2.0 port for sharing a printer or hard drive on your network (which, at this price, ought to be USB 3.0).
The Multy X is also the first router we’ve come across that works with the Amazon Alexa voice-assistant, so you can just say “Alexa, turn off the internet” when you want to get the kids round the table at dinner time.
Getting started with Zyxel Multy X
The Multy doesn’t make the best of first impressions. There’s no manual or documentation included in the box, just a printed label that tells you to download the Multy app from Google Play or the App Store (and no IP address provided for more advanced users who might prefer to use a web browser setup).
That wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the app had guided us smoothly through the installation process, but we did encounter some problems setting up the two routers.
Like many mesh routers, the Multy initially uses Bluetooth to connect to its app on your smartphone or tablet, and that allows the app to configure the first router and set up the new Multy network for you.
But while the iOS app on our iPad did prompt us to turn on Bluetooth, it wouldn’t recognise the Bluetooth connection and wouldn’t allow us to proceed with the installation. We had to switch back and forth between the Multy app and our Bluetooth settings panel a couple of times before the app finally allowed us to continue.
We also had problems adding the second Multy to the new network. Pressing the ‘Add Multy’ button in the app simply took us back to the beginning to reinstall the first router again, so we had to look around on the Zyxel website for an FAQ that explained how to add a second router.
Even then, the app told us that we needed to reset the second router before we could continue (which left us hunting around for a paper-clip that we could insert into the slot for the Reset button).
Thankfully, the app and the routers did work well once we got past those initial hurdles, but Zyxel still needs to provide better documentation and a less temperamental app for home users who may not have too much experience with routers and networking jargon.
Most of the features in the app are fairly straightforward to use, including a handy speed-test and diagnostic mode, the ability to quickly set up a guest network, or to configure the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands as either separate networks or a combined network with a single name.
The lack of documentation did cause problems with the parental controls, though, which were barely mentioned in the app, causing us to head off to the Zyxel web site in search of help once more.
Zyxel Multy X performance
It was a relief, after those frustrations, to find that the Multy performs very well indeed. Devices in the same room as the first Multy (connected to our existing BT router) recorded impressive average speeds of 500Mbps. Performance in our back office - that normally struggles to get any Wi-Fi signal at all – was also impressive, at around 150Mbps.
Our only minor complaint here is that the new Multy network runs separately from your existing Wi-Fi network, which means that devices such as a NAS drive that are connected to your existing router won’t be available via the Multy unless you physically connect them to the Multy instead.
Zyxel says that it is working on a software update that will provide a ‘bridge’ mode that can combine the new Multy network with your existing network, but that may not be available until some time in the new year.
Zyxel Multy X AC3000: Specs
- Mesh networking kit includes two routers Interfaces: 3x Gigabit Ethernet (per router), 1x WAN (per router), 1x USB 2.0 (per router) Wifi – tri-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/2x 5.0GHz) Dimensions (HxWxD): 51.5x236x178mm, 0.86kg