Zyxel’s SCR-50AXE Router: blazing fast and free security too

August 21, 2023
4 mins read
Start

Summary

Zyxel SCR-50AXE Router

PAT PILCHER finds a router that offers the kind of blazing-fast Wi-Fi 6E performance and cloud-based free security service he expects.

$378

A while I wrote about the wonders of using a good security appliance to keep all your smart home and other internet-connected gear safe and, more recently, I’ve also drooled over the latest super-fast 6Ghz Wi-Fi routers that use the new 802.11axe standard. Wouldn’t it be great if the two were brought together?

The tame geeks at Zyxel must have had the same thinking cap on as me because they’ve come up with the SCR-50AXE router, which offers Wi-Fi 6E and has chunky subscription-free security capabilities (More about these later).

The SCR 50AXE is cloud-managed, which means that you use a browser and the internet to log into Zyxel’s Nebula service to configure the router and to get the good oil on what is what with your network. Is the hype around Wi-Fi 6E and cloud-based security warranted?

The Zyxel breaks the mould when it comes to its design. Where many similarly priced routers look like cyber insects that have flipped onto their backs and died, its case sports a rounded design lacking in the usual multitude of antennas, and it’s done in a white matte finish on the sides, with a red frame through its midriff. There’s also a stand in the box so it can be oriented vertically to take up less space and be wall mounted. Its clean design means it’ll blend in with the décor of most homes.

As you’d expect from most routers, the SCR 50AXE has many indicator LEDs on its front. Around its back are four LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port, and a Power socket. While I’d like to see a multi-gigabit WAN port making the most of its Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, using Gigabit was a decision to keep costs reasonable.

Tucked away inside is a dual-core Qualcomm ARM Cortex-A53 processor that’s clocked at 1GHz plus a generous 1GB of RAM, meaning the SCR 50AXE had enough grunt to handle all 92+ smart home, game consoles, notebooks, phones, robots and other wireless gear connected to it without having a melt-down.

As a tri-band router, the SCR 50AXE can (in theory) on the 5 and 6GHz band deliver a throughput of 2,402Mbps, with 574Mbps on 2.4 GHz. Mileage will vary depending on your distance from the router, how many neighbours use the same Wi-Fi channel and the number of gadgets using the network.

This came into play with its 6GHz capabilities. Where the 2.4GHz and 5GHZ bands are hobbled by my neighbour’s Wi-Fi networks, next to no one nearby is using Wi-Fi 6E, which translated into super speedy performance when testing with my MacBook and Galaxy Z Fold 4, which both delivered blazing speeds. While I would have liked to connect my Evo Windows 11 notebook, there needed to be more 6E driver support. Here’s hoping future updates fix this, as it’s a proper PITA (pain in the ass).

Coverage with 6Ghz is smaller than with 2.4Ghz or even 5Ghz, but that’s a good thing in that the limited coverage of the higher frequencies meant less RF interference from neighbouring networks that also happened to use the 6Ghz band.

One nifty feature I also found was support for 802.11k/v Assisted roaming and 802.11r Fast Roaming. This is useful when paired with other Zyxel access points, as it will give a seamless roaming experience between routers. In the same room as the router, with a 6E capable device, I was pulling 700Mbps to 830Mbps. From the other end of the house, however, performance dropped to 9-25Mbps. Copying large files to my network drive was super quick. With 2.4 and 5Ghz, coverage was a pleasant surprise; my whole house and a good chunk of our quarter-acre property also had Wi-Fi coverage.

General:

 

Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.

 

The big difference between the SCR 50AXE and other routers I’ve previously reviewed is that the SCR 50AXE is cloud managed. It doesn’t have a dedicated web interface for configuring it offline. Although it is possible to check its status via its IP address, there are no configuration options. With the SCR 50 AXE connected, I downloaded Zyxel’s Nebula app (you can configure it via a web browser). After connecting Ethernet from my fibre ONT to the WAN port and a bit of finessing, I entered my router serial number and MAC address to register it with the cloud service and was good to go.

An interesting side note was that while tweaking settings on most routers usually takes seconds to apply, the SCR 50AXE is cloud-connected, so any changes made also need to use Zyxel’s servers. This can take anything from a few seconds to 3-5 minutes.

By default, the SCR 50AXE has some solid threat management capabilities baked in. This includes Ransomware/Malware Prevention, Intrusion and Dark Web blockers, and Stop Mail Fraud and phishing options. Even better still, a Block Ads function proved incredibly handy for de-cluttering and speeding up my browsing experience. Other security functions, such as Traffic Management/Content filtering, require a paid subscription. Still, considering what you get for free, there really isn’t much to complain about. While Zyxel has made the cloud interface as intuitive as possible, many of its options are really aimed at network-savvy folk. For power users, a paid subscription can get them what Zyxel has branded as the Pro Pack, which further extends control over the many security capabilities of the SCR 50AXE to include real-time threat intelligence and other useful stuff. The big selling point here is that while you have to pay an ongoing subscription for even basic protection with most other network widgets/routers that I’d previously reviewed, the SCR50AXE offers similar functionality for free, which is nothing to sneeze at.

With super quick Wi-Fi 6E support and despite a lack of a multi-gigabit WAN connection, the 5AXE is still blazingly fast. As long as you’re okay with mastering its cloud-connected nature, it’s an excellent offering that will hopefully spur other router manufacturers to match its free security capabilities.

https://www.zyxel.com/global/en/products/next-gen-firewall/secure-cloud-managed-router-with-axe5400-wifi-6e-scr-50axe

 

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Give a little to support Witchdoctor's quest to save high quality independent journalism. It's easy and painless! Just donate $5 or $10 to our PressPatron account by clicking on the button below.

Witchdoctor straight to your inbox every 2nd week

Authors

Advance Paris - Designed with French flair. Amplifiers, Streamers, CD players and more www.pqimports.co.nz
Previous Story

Matthew Bannister goes to the movies

Next Story

Old Man Shouts At Cloud #1 – Countdown’s fabulous new security measures

Latest from Internet

Nest, mesh and forget

Desirous of blinding-fast internet speed and no blind spots in your home? PAT PILCHER thinks Google’s new Nest Wi-Fi Pro might be the answer.
Go toTop