Zyxel XMG3927-B50A Review and Test
For a while now Zyxel, have been making good quality reliable routers and networking hardware, however they only recently entered the G.fast and Wave 2 spec Wireless AC router market, a couple years after many other manufacturers had at least adapted the Wave 2 spec Wireless AC. This recently new addition released in 2019 is Zyxel’s flagship DSL CPE for use in consumer premises. This router is distributed as two variants, an ISP variant, which mainly KCOM (Hull) currently offer, and as a retail unit that you can buy from the likes of Ballicom and Amazon etc. If you buy from Amazon etc the router should be a retail variant and you can utilise Zyxel’s full support if you need it, however if the router came from your ISP, Zyxel will refuse to assist and you will need to speak to your ISP.
For some reason this Zyxel router doesn’t have much in the way of reviews and some technical specs than other manufacturers have been open to such what chipset is has etc, something which puzzled me.
However in a bid to fix that, I have put together this quick review and test, to fill in the gaps on the internet, provide a better understanding of this router, some of it’s capabilities, whether its any good and more importantly (well to me at least, what chipset it has). This router is available to buy for Ballicom International for around £165-£175, while expensive it may be worth all those pennies, keep reading to find out more.
Note: This review doesn’t include a teardown as of yet, I didn’t fancy pulling apart a new expensive router, so when I can acquire a cheap ISP model, I will update this article with a teardown.
Zyxel XMG3927-B50A specifications:
Broadcom BCM63138 1GHz ARM SOC Chipset
3×3 2.4Ghz MU-MIMO A/B/G/N Wireless
4×4 5GHz MU-MIMO A/N/AC Wireless (Wave 2 spec)
AC2400, 2.4GHz Max Speed = 600mbps, 5GHz Max Speed = 1733Mbps
7 x Wireless Antenna configuration
4 x RJ-45 Gigabit 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet LAN ports
1 x RJ-45 Gigabit 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet WAN port
1 x RJ-11 DSL Port
1 x USB 3.0 Port
WPS (Wireless Protected Setup Button)
WLAN On/Off Toggle switch
Detachable wireless settings card
Front Panel LED Status Indicators
Dimensions: 26cm width x 16.5cm height
Power Supply: 12V 2.5A
The Zyxel XMG3927-B50A takes on a new design and is white which makes much more appealing than other models Zyxel had previous made, making it more of a router that can be shown rather than those branded as ugly and hidden down the side of furniture etc. It has a chunky thick feel about it specially when viewed stood up above, reminds me a bit of those old Acer Aspire laptops from 2009 with the removable dedicated graphics cards. Upon opening the box, you get the standard set of stuff to get you going, 2x Microfilters, 1x RJ-11 DSL cable, 1x Ethernet cable and a power supply, quick start guide, and the router itself.
The router is well constructed, sturdy, and feels of good quality, it comes with detachable stand that can be used for both freestanding or wall mounting depending on environment. The stand also has a cable cut-out making it easier and much tidier to route cables through it rather than sprawling everywhere around the router. There is a pull out piece of card for the default wireless connection details for guests or other members in your home to use etc
The rear of the router has the usual set of ports you’d expect to find, from right to left is the: power switch, reset button, power input, WAN port for connecting external modems, Gigabit ethernet LAN ports 1-4, USB 3.0 Port and the DSL/G.Fast broadband port to connect to phone line. On the top of the router is a WPS button for quick wireless setup (I don’t recommend you use this due to security concerns), and the Wi-Fi toggle on and off switch.
One the front of the router you have from left to right: Power indicator, WAN/DSL indicator, Internet connection indicator, LAN activity indicator, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi activity and 5GHz Wi-Fi activity LEDs.
Upon plugging the router in, the startup process is fairly quick and will take no longer than roughly a minute to power up and be ready for use. The router is fairly cool in operation and made no noise.
Before I detail my testing part of the review, I should note, testing was done in a medium sized detached house with a small garden, with 4 users actively using the intent for streaming, and high bandwidth application etc. The connection was at the time of writing VDSL2 with a capped (banded) speed of 18Mbps down, and 4.99MBps up, on one of those problematic ECI fibre cabinets.
I tested this router both via the WAN port with a separate modem in bridge mode, and also via with the in built VDSL modem. I first tested this with the WAN port connection to an external Huawei HG612 Openreach VDSL modem and overall it seems to work well without issue, the throughput speed was great and multiple WiFi devices work well and can use the net at the same time as you would expect.
The connection remains stable even after few months of continuous use, so expect this router to work well with the WAN port. No initial config was needed it picked this up straight away when testing.
I then tested the router via its own built in VDSL modem to see if there is was and difference and see how it performed. I must say at this point my VDSL sync speeds had recently been lowered and capped due to a rather bad thunderstorm over us last August, which generated a hell of a load of ES and SES errors, which Openreach’s FTTC DLM (Dynamic line Management) saw as instability and had capped the line 18mbps down. Upon plugging in the router I got the 18mbps down and 5mbps up as expected, the attainable figures where lower than other routers I’ve tested, however I don’t think there is much in it to be concerned about. Some of the stats mainly the attenuation are not updated/calculated correctly in the web gui for the router, meaning some of the readings may be inaccurate when checking, I’d recommend using SSH to double check them (more on this in a future article). Like with the WAN it seems to work well without issue, the throughput speed was great and multiple WiFi devices work well and can use the net at the same time as you would expect.
Before using this router via the built in VDSL modem you will need to set it up to use with your ISP’s settings. In my case its TalkTalk, however your ISP will have its own guidance on how to set up your own router on their network.
DNS resolution works ok, and websites load fairly quick, however if you were to do a nslookup (DNS lookup) command for a website from your Windows device (assuming you have one) then you might get a odd result back. This is because the router forwards the DNS request to the ISP’s DNS server so in my case on TalkTalk, when I did any request I’d get a random IP of advertising server TalkTalk use each time. To fix this edit the broadband connection type in admin web gui, and change to static DNS on the connection, and use a good external DNS server of your choice, some good examples are CloudFlares own 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52, alternatively you could use Google’s DNS server 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 respectively, many other choices are available too.
The Wi-Fi range seems to be fairly good, and is quite stable no dropouts or reduction in signal strength that was noticed. The 5GHz band reach the top of the 1st floor, and seemed be maintained constantly though on the odd occasion it did drop briefly. 2.4GHz worked well and the range was great, spanning the house, and in the garden as well, even my smartphone hangs the 2.4ghz signal upstairs which is rare.
The Wi-Fi also support Zyxel Mesh system which allows multiple nodes/repeaters to be placed round your house for an even good Wi-Fi signal. It does this via built in hidden wireless network, though I have noticed, this does not fully switch off even if you turn it off in the web admin interface.
Zyxel devices are generally better quality routers, and are common more amongst people who want a good quality router that just works, and with more IT/networking advanced ISP’s with a lower customer base, thus able to provide better support and kit. Zyxel devices are also common among those who would like to find out more details about the state of their broadband connection in more depth than there standard ISP router. Due to better quality and more options in terms of viewing and monitoring your broadband connection, they can be used with the likes of monitoring facility dslstats over SSH and or telnet, or you can manually retrieve the stats via SSH and telnet to see the full details of your broadband connection, and this router is no exceptions and can fully support that. Unfortunately I do not have a setup for dslstats so I will not be detailing that in this review. I will however in future article show you how to retrieve more advanced line statistics from your Zyxel device and what these mean.
As Zyxel devices are sold either as retail or via ISP handout meaning firmware support is a bit varied. If your Zyxel router is an ISP or retail device, you can retrieve standard vanilla retail firmware from here: https://shorturl.at/bBHU8, however remember that for retail devices the firmware update process is manual, its not automatically updated like ISP routers, so you are responsible to keep the router updated. For the ISP version of this router, alternatively you can ask your ISP if there is any updates available for your device. However that being said if a new version is out an you need it to fix a vulnerability you will not be able to ask Zyxel for the firmware, as your router is an ISP model, so if your ISP doesn’t have the firmware, your stuck too.
Having used this router for around a year and half now, I have had very little issues at all with it and rarely have to intervene or reboot it. You do get the odd issue where you have to reboot it but this is rare (twice I’ve had too) and occurs with pretty much all routers. Zyxel has since released some new firmware which has fixed the web admin interface bugs and few other slight issues. I mentioned previously above that the router attainable sync was lower that other routers, now that my sync speed is back to 22.39Mbps down and 5mbps up, the attainable is pretty much the same as other routers maybe slightly lower. As before the Wi-Fi has been strong no issues and the router basically works well 24/7 and easily handles 4 people and multiple internet dependent devices using the internet simultaneously.
The web interface for the router is very good, is much the same as many other modern Zyxel routers such as the VMG3925-B10B and VMG1312-B10D. It looks nice and sleek and you can customise the theme of button colours to make it more personal which is nice touch, in my case I picked blue. The web interface has a lot of advanced features, and has full Broadcom line monitoring statistics (screenshot below). To login to the web interface, you will need to navigate to http://192.168.1.1 in a browser of your choice, and enter the username password printed on the Wi-Fi setting pull out card, or behind that on the rear of the router.
The Zyxel XMG3927-B50A is an excellent router, it is incredibly stable, and just works for months on end with no issues, no maintenance required or faffing around rebooting it because the WiFi has broken etc. It has a good amount of features via the web interface which you can customise to suit your needs.
If your after a stable router that actually does what its supposed to, or to replace one of those ISP routers such as the TalkTalk super routers etc, along with having solid Wi-Fi, you can leave it without intervening, and can handle multiple simultaneous connections solidly, then I’d recommend buying the router. It’s expensive but after years of testing routers and finding one that works and doesn’t have a myriad of issues etc, this is best router I’ve found and works great even a year and half on.