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Zyxel NR5103E vs ZTE MC801A - What are the differences

There’s a new Three 5G Hub out, but like the last model it’s just called the Three 5G Hub, which can lead to some confusion.

You can only get the new one now, so if you’re buying the Three 5G Hub for the first time then you don’t really have a choice to make about Three's 5G home broadband, but if you’re considering an upgrade or just wondering what’s changed, this article is for you.

The current Three 5G Hub is a rebranded Zyxel NR5103E, while the previous model was a ZTE MC801A, and below we’ve detailed the key differences between these two devices.


The most immediately obvious change when comparing the specs lists of these two devices is their maximum speeds, with the latest Three 5G Hub (the Zyxel NR5103E) having a theoretical maximum download speed of 4.7Gbps, while the previous model has a theoretical maximum of 3.8Gbps.

Similarly, the theoretical maximum upload speed on the current model is 2.5Gbps, while on the previous one it’s 542Mbps. So for both downloads and uploads the new model is theoretically a lot faster.

However, in practice the differences won’t be so pronounced, as Three only claims to offer download speeds of up to 1Gbps on either device. It hasn’t specified the max real world upload speeds but they’re also sure to be lower than the theoretical maximums.

The extra headroom on the new model could help future proof it so you’ll potentially be able to tap into greater speeds as Three’s 5G network improves, but right now this difference is unlikely to have much impact.

Simultaneous connections

Arguably the most significant difference is how many devices each Hub can get online. With the latest Three 5G Hub – the Zyxel NR5103E - you can get up to 64 devices connected to the internet at once, but the previous one – the ZTE MC801A – could only get up to 30 devices online simultaneously.

For most people this still probably won’t actually be an issue – 30 devices is still enough to get numerous phones, tablets, computers, consoles, and smart home devices online at the same time. But if a huge number of your gadgets are web-connected – and you have a lot of them on at any one time – then support for 64 will help.

It will also just give you peace of mind, as no one wants to be worrying that their router won’t have the capacity to get something online.


Both the Zyxel NR5103E and the ZTE MC801A have two Ethernet ports, but while the Zyxel has four TS-9 antenna ports, the ZTE MC801A only has two. So the Zyxel has more tools to help you boost your signal if you’re in a poor signal area.


Look at these two devices side by side and it’s the design that will stand out first as being different, though ultimately, they’re basically both just white boxes with a tower-like design.

The Zyxel NR5103E has a black top and bottom, adding a bit of contrast, while the ZTE MC801A is curvier. You’ll also find the ZTE’s indicator lights on the front, while the Zyxel places them on the top.

As for the dimensions, the Zyxel NR5103E comes in at 132.5 x 134 x 230mm, while the ZTE MC801A is 70 x 124 x 182mm. So the ZTE does have the advantage of being a significantly more compact device.


Other than the things detailed above, the Zyxel NR5103E and the ZTE MC801A have largely the same specs, including support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi.

So the main differences then are the maximum theoretical speeds, the number of simultaneous connections, the number of antenna ports, and the design.

For everything but the design the Zyxel NR5103E is the clear winner – if arguably not in overly significant ways for the most part. Design meanwhile is more subjective, but due to its smaller footprint the ZTE MC801A arguably has the edge there.

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