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Wireless Reviews

Multy X AC3000 Tri-Band Whole Home WiFi Mesh System
At a glance
ProductZyxel Multy X AC3000 Tri-Band Whole Home WiFi Mesh System (WSQ50)   [Website]
SummaryTri-band Wi-Fi system with dual-stream dual-band client connect and four-stream 5 GHz backhaul radio. Similar design to original NETGEAR Orbi.
Pros• Costs about the same as Orbi
• Has dedicated 4x4 5 GHz backhaul radio
• Doesn't use different router and satellite hardware
• Node steering and band steering supported
Cons• Costs about the same as Orbi
• Ethernet backhaul not supported
• Doesn't support multi-hop
• No QoS

Introduction

While we wait for the new mesh/distributed Wi-Fi systems introduced at CES 2018 by ASUS and D-Link to ship, I'm going to look at a product Zyxel released late last year into a market that is largely dominated by NETGEAR's Orbi on the high end and Google's Wi-Fi on the low.

The Multy X AC3000 Tri-Band WiFi System is basically a copy of NETGEAR's original RBK50 AC3000 class Orbi. While other companies have come out with three radio "tri-band" Wi-Fi systems, Zyxel is the only one to copy Orbi's dedicated four-stream 5 GHz backhaul radio. Everyone else has stuck with two-stream backhaul. But Zyxel has made a key departure from the Orbi playbook in using only one hardware module vs. Orbi's dedicated router/satellite design.

With its 9.3" x 7.0" x 2.0" (236 x 178 x 51.5 mm) footprint, Multy X has a footprint more like a conventional router than a typical Wi-Fi System node. Unlike Orbi, Multy X is designed to sit flat on a table or shelf. No brackets are provided to make it stand up and there are no mounting slots on the bottom for wall/ceiling mounting.

There are four gigabit Ethernet ports (one for WAN, three for LAN), power port and USB 2.0 port on the rear. The USB port is inoperable at this point. Like most other Wi-Fi systems, there's a Bluetooth radio and iOS and Android apps for setup and management. There is no web GUI.

Rear panel callouts

Rear panel callouts

There is one multicolor LED on the top that uses the colors and blink patterns described in the graphic below to indicate status.

LED color decoder

LED color decoder

Inside

Zyxel still has the FCC photos under wraps for another month or so. So I opened one up after testing for a look. Heatsink plates cover the bottom and top of the board. The photo below shows the assembly removed from the case, with a clear view of all 9 antennas that I've identified with callouts.

Multy X antennas

Multy X antennas

The next photo, with heatsinks and RF can tops removed, shows the two stream 2.4 and 5 GHz client facing radios provided by a Qualcomm IPQ4019 SoC. The dedicated four-stream 5 GHz backhaul radio (QCA9984) is at photo right.

Multy X board top

Multy X board top

The bottom view shows the 512 MB of RAM.

Multy X board bottom

Multy X board bottom

The table compares Multy X's key components against the RBK50 NETGEAR Orbi. The designs use the same components, except for the RF power amps and front ends. I wasn't able to pry off the RF can over the Bluetooth 4.1 radio. But I'm guessing it's the commonly used CSR8111.

  Zyxel Multy X NETGEAR Orbi
CPU Qualcomm IPQ4019
Qualcomm IPQ4019
Switch/Ethernet QCA8075 QCA8075
RAM 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 4 GB eMMC 4 GB eMMC
2.4 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY85809-11 Dual-band front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x2)
5 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks 85736-11 5 GHz Front End (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- RFMD/Qorvo RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
Bluetooth - QCA9984
- Skyworks 85405-11 5 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9984
- RFMD/Qorvo RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x4)
ZigBee CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC (guess) CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

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