PROS / Compatible with most versions of Windows. Two year limited warranty.
CONS / Adapter operates only in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Throughput is limited to 150Mbps.
VERDICT / While likely adequate for most users, we suggest considering higher ranked products.
As a wireless adapter conforming to the Wi-Fi n standard, the ZyXEL NWD270N will deliver data over a greater range and at faster speeds than was possible with previous wireless protocols. It also features a rather low price and generous warranty compared to most other devices in the category. Detracting from its benefits are the fact that is doesn’t operate in the 5GHz frequency range and data throughput is limited to 150Mbps, which is only half of that offered by most competitive products. To see side-by-side comparisons and objective reviews of other products in this category, check out our wireless adapter review site.
Data Transfer Performance
The current benchmark for Wi-Fi devices, the wireless n standard, provides for single or dual band operation. More basic devices transmit and receive information in only the 2.4GHz range of frequencies, as is the case with the ZyXEL NWD270N. There are a couple of notable drawbacks to this limitation. Most significantly for most users is the potential for interference. The 2.4GHz range is crowded with numerous wireless devices including those that use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and radio frequency remote controls such as those employed by wireless toys. The range is also susceptible to interference from common household appliances, particularly microwave ovens.
While the 2.4GHz band is capable of transferring high bandwidth data like streaming high definition video programming and voice applications like internet phone calling, it is far less capable of this tasking than is the 5GHz range. Additionally, maximum data throughput for the ZyXEL is limited to 150Mbps under ideal circumstances. This doesn’t compare very favorably to the 300Mbps that is available for most products in this review site.
That said, the device offers the Wi-Fi Multimedia feature, WMM, which allows for the prioritization of network traffic. This will go a long way toward assigning the correct priority to data so that the most time sensitive information gets though without interference from that which is less important. The device also uses MIMO technology, Multiple-input/Multiple-output to maximize effective range and to drastically reduce dead spots compared to previous wireless products.
Security is among the most important features of a wireless network. It’s critical to keep unauthorized users from exploiting the Wi-Fi connection to the internet and, probably more critically, to protect one’s private information. The ZyXEL wireless adapter uses several layers of protection to accomplish these tasks. Most basic of these is Wired Equivalent Privacy, a still-valuable but flawed holdover from first generation Wi-Fi products. More importantly, two iterations of Wi-Fi Protected Access, WPA and WPA2, are employed. WPA keeps communications over a wireless network private using the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol, TKIP. The most significant encryption protocol is added with WPA2 and is known as Advanced Encryption Standard. To date, there is no known incident of AES encryption having been broken by hackers.
Ease of Use
The adapter is equipped with Wi-Fi Protected Setup functionality. Using this allows for secure pairing of the adapter with a WPS compliant wireless router by simply pushing a button on the adapter, then on the router. Alternatively, the connection can be made by entering a pass code common to the adapter and router.
Installation software is included and its setup wizard is simple to follow. The device is compatible with Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista as well as Mac OS X. Not all drivers are included on all versions of the CD but they are available for download from the manufacturer’s website.
Help & Support
ZyXEL offers customer support by email as well as a toll-free telephone number. Phone support is available weekdays from 8 AM until 5 PM, Pacific Time. The website offers an extensive knowledge base, articles and access to manuals and drivers.
Despite some noted limitations, the ZyXEL NWD270N wireless USB adapter offers good connectivity for a home or small office environment. Lacking the 5GHz frequency band and the 150Mbps data throughput limitations suggest that, for many consumers, considering a more highly rated product in this review would be advisable.