If you’re in the market for an affordable Wi-Fi 6 router, ZTE’s AX3000 Pro ($89) is definitely worth a look. This dual-band router doesn’t offer any multi-gig WAN/LAN or USB ports, nor does it come with age-based parental controls or network security software. But it delivered fast throughput scores in our performance tests and supports 160MHz channel transmissions and WAN aggregation. On the basis of those basic strengths, it earns an Editors’ Choice award among budget Wi-Fi 6 routers.
Design and Features
The AX3000 Pro features a white wedge-shaped enclosure that measures 1.4 by 9.6 by 5.1 inches (HWD) and has four nonremovable, adjustable antennas. The front of the router features a small LED indicator that blinks red at startup and solid red when internet connectivity is lost. It blinks white while WPS is active and is solid white when the router is connected to the internet.
The rear panel offers two 1GbE WAN/LAN ports and two 1GbE LAN ports. As mentioned, there are no USB ports nor any multi-gig WAN/LAN ports, but you can aggregate the two 1GbE ports to create a single high-speed WAN connection. Joining the WAN/LAN ports are a power port and a WPS button, and the reset button is on the bottom of the router.
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Equipped with a dual-core Qualcomm CPU, the AX3000 Pro supports all Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technologies including Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) transmissions, WPA3 encryption, 160MHz channel transmissions, MU-MIMO data streaming, and direct-to-client signal beamforming. It also supports Easy Mesh, which lets you create a mesh network using other compatible devices.
As an AX3000 router, the ZTE can hit maximum theoretical speeds of up to 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz radio band and 2,402Mbps on the 5GHz radio band. The AX3000 Pro lacks the age-based parental controls and network security software that you get with the TP-Link Archer AX50, but it does offer very basic parental controls that let you set access-time limits.
You can control the router using a web-based management console or the ZTE Link mobile app for iOS and Android devices. Both are easy to use, but you’ll have to use the mobile app to assign time limits and the web console to configure advanced settings such as port forwarding, port mapping, and domain filtering.
The mobile app opens to a Routers screen that tells you the router’s status (connected or not) and how many devices are currently connected. Two tiles in the middle of the screen are used for setting up a mesh network and optimizing the network respectively. (The router scans for and switches to the best available Wi-Fi channels.) Here you can also see how the router is connected to the internet (cable or satellite) and its tested uplink and downlink speeds.
At the bottom of the screen are buttons labeled Routers, Connected, Toolkit, and Me. The first takes you back to the opening screen from wherever you are in the app, while the Connected button opens a screen where you can view which clients are currently connected, how long they’ve been connected, and whether they’re wired or wireless. Tap any client to view details including the MAC and IP address and to set access-time limits.
The Toolkit button opens a screen where you can configure Wi-Fi and guest Wi-Fi settings, run network diagnostics, perform a network sped test, schedule automatic restarts, automatically turn off Wi-Fi at a specified time, disable the LED indicator, and test signal strength to help with router placement. The Me button offers links to the web console, as well as help and feedback links.
Installation and Performance
I had the ZTE AX3000 Pro up and running in no time. I switched off my modem, connected the router to it, and powered up both devices. I opened a web browser on a desktop PC connected to the router and entered 192.168.18.1 in the address bar to open the ZTE login page. I entered the password from a sticker on the base of the router, selected Dynamic IP, disabled Single SSID in order to test both radio bands, and entered a password. After a quick firmware update, the installation was complete.
The AX3000 Pro turns in impressive scores in our throughput performance tests. Its 127Mbps in the 2.4GHz close proximity test practically ties the Rock Space AX1800 RSD0619 and handily beats the TP-Link Archer AX50 (109Mbps) and D-Link AX1500 R15 (78Mbps). In the 30-foot test, the ZTE manages 44Mbps, topping the TP-Link (42Mbps) and the D-Link (24Mbps) but trailing the Rock Space (53Mbps).
The AX3000 Pro’s 5GHz performance is outstanding. The router’s 925Mbps in the close-proximity test is significantly faster than the Rock Space AX1800 RSD0619 (614Mbps), the TP-Link Archer AX50 (689Mbps), and the D-Link AX1500 R15 (614Mbps). Similarly, the AX3000 Pro’s score of 334Mbps in the 30-foot test leads the pack by a wide margin.
We use an Ekahau Sidekick(Opens in a new window) Wi-Fi diagnostic device and Ekahau’s Survey mobile app to generate heat maps that illustrate the router’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz signal strength in our test home. (Ekahau is owned by PCMag’s parent company, Ziff Davis.) The circle on the heat map represents the location of the router, and the colors represent signal strength. Dark green indicates the strongest signal and dark yellow a weaker signal. Both maps (the 5GHz map is below) show the AX3000 Pro does a relatively good job of delivering acceptable Wi-Fi throughout most of our test home, though the 2.4GHz signal becomes a bit weaker in the far corner of the bedroom and in the den, while the 5GHz signal falters in the garage.
Verdict: Basic Wi-Fi 6 on a Budget
Looking for multi-gig ports, USB connectivity, network security software, or robust parental controls? The ZTE AX3000 Pro is not for you. Want to upgrade your network with speedy Wi-Fi 6 on the cheap? Look no further. This ZTE router delivered some of the fastest 5GHz throughput we’ve seen from an under-$100 device, and its 2.4GHz performance was solid, too. It’s not often that you get this level of performance as well as 160MHz channels and WAN aggregation in a budget router. That’s enough to earn the AX3000 Pro an Editors’ Choice award as an affordable, no-nonsense Wi-Fi 6 router.
The Bottom Line
The ZTE AX3000 Pro is an affordable Wi-Fi 6 router that offers solid performance for the money.
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