GL.iNet Spitz AX review
Apr 14, 2023
Earlier this month I introduced the GL.iNet Spitz AX (aka GL-X3000NR) router with 2.5GbE, WiFi 6, and 5G NR cellular connectivity listing the specifications, doing an unboxing, and going through the initial setup. I’ve now received a new SIM card for testing and installed it into the router to continue the review.
After powering the router, the SIM card was detected and showed a 5G connection, but quickly fell back to 4G as can be seen with the cyan icon in the screenshot below.
Shortly after, I lost 4G data connectivity, and after a while, the modem was not detected at all. But after restarting the router, and clicking on the "Auto Setup" icon everything looked to be working fine and I was always on a 5G connection from "house 1".
You’ll notice an envelop icon on the top right corner of the interface for the SMS messages since the system can receive and send SMS messages. The user interface display the messages correctly even if they are in Thai language…
I also tried to send one from my phone to the router's phone number and it worked fine as well.
The reception of SMS messages is easy to test since the operator (TrueMove) will frequently spam their users with promotions even though this SIM card has a one-year plan…
I had less luck with sending SMS messages the first times I tried.
But then we figured out my SIM card did not include free SMS even between phones from the same network, so I topped up the SIM card, and could successfully send an SMS message from the router to my phone.
The router also supports SMS forwarding to an email or phone number.
I initially tried email forwarding with Gmail (business account), but there's no option to select OAuth2 like in Thunderbird, and authorization failed as reported in the log.
But I then switched to a Hotmail email address, it worked fine.
I had no such luck with phone forwarding, even after using two phones: one to send, one to receive. I can only think that because the modem failed to read the phone number from the SIM card as noted in the Spitz AX admin panel:
If you want the router to forward SMS to your cell phone, make sure your mobile network is available and supports sending SMS.
To avoid circularity, SMS forwarding will not be executed when the local number is entered here. Also, if the Modem does not read the number of your SIM card, SMS forwarding will not be executed.
But enough with SMS, let's test other features. First, I ran a Speedtest by Ookla with my Fiber-to-the-home broadband connection, as it will be useful for the rest of the review.
400 Mbps download and 400 Mbps upload as advertised by 3BB. All good. The SIM card that I purchased can reach a speed of up to 300 Mbps but has a limit of 70GB of data per month, so it's in theory almost as good as my fixed broadband connection, but in practice, I would not use it as the main interface and possibly think twice before enabling load balancing on a permanent basis.
The Spitz AX router is configured to use failover by default, so if I remove the WAN cable, the router will automatically switch to 5G.
You update the interface priorities between Ethernet, Repeater, Tethering, and Cellular.
The router successfully switched to 5G, but the performance is less than impressive with 13.22 Mbps and 21.73 Mbps in "house 1". If I repeat the test, the result is the same, and the 5G icon is shown in the admin panel.
But if we look at the Cells info tab we can see both LTE FDD and NR5G-SA are enabled, but the 4G connection has a 15 Mbps download and upload bandwidth limit, and the 5G connection has a lowly 3Mbps download bandwidth…
So let's move to another house ("House 2") that's around 300 meters from a base station, and it's like night and day…
With 270.39 Mbps we got close to the advertised 300 Mbps limit for the SIM card, and the upload is 55.11 Mbps.
If we look are the Cells Info tab from "House 2", 4G speeds are limited to 10 Mbps, but the download bandwidth for 5G has no such limit.
Let's run Speedtest on the fixed broadband connection in "House 2". I’m paying for 300/300Mbps, and got 338.78 Mbps download and 306.86 Mbps in the benchmark. So again, no issue here.
In that house, I’m at the point where 5G might be used as an alternative to a fiber connection since I’m paying the equivalent of around $110 per year for 300 Mbps Fiber-to-the-Home, and the 300 Mbps SIM card costs around $40 for one year, nearing in mind the 70GB limit per month.
Besides failover mode, GL.Inet Spitz AX router also supports "Load Balance" which uses "multiple interfaces at the same time to increase the total bandwidth of the router".
So that means that, in theory, I might be able to reach over 600 Mbps download speed by combining the fixed broadband connection and 5G in "House 2". Since Speedtest support "Multi connection", I thought I could use it to test load balancing on the router. But the results are quite disappointing. That was with Speedtest connecting to four servers.
So I decided to run Speedtest while downloading a Ubuntu 22.04 ISO from a server in Thailand.
We can clearly see Speedtest download and upload tests, and the Ubuntu 22.04 download carrying on after both tests in the screenshot above, but the speed was still well below 50 MB/s (400 Mbps), so the result is the same.
There was only around 1MB of downlink traffic on 5G while we moved several gigabytes of data… I tried to use my laptop and my phone to have two devices, but my phone only supports 2.4 GHz WiFi, and the top speed I got was 20 Mbps, so really suitable to test this.
I also tried running Speedtest on another laptop at the same time, but at no point, the speed was over 360 Mbps, and the 5G traffic in the admin panel was minimal, so it's unclear what may trigger the load balancing to work as expected. Maybe a large number of clients with sustained traffic would do.
During normal usage with the router connected to my modem router (5G not involved), I noticed some stability issues where some web pages would not load, and I had to refresh the page. I also had issues while watching videos in NewPipe with frequent buffering or the video stopping, something I do not usually experience when directly connected to my modem router. This happened in both houses. The firmware is still beta, so hopefully the stability issue will be resolved once the Spitz AX router ships to customers.
But it's now time to leave "House 2" and go back to "House 1", also known as the 2.5GbE and WiFi 6 networking house… So I decided to use the router in the car for the trip. The power socket supports 9V to 36V, and I initially wanted to use the cigarette lighter (12V), but the cable I had was not the right size for the Spitz AX router, so instead, I used a MAXOAK K2 laptop power bank. I first went with the 20V output port, but while the router boots up, it does not draw enough current, and the power bank automatically turns off. So I switched to 12V output, and I had no problem browsing the web from my phone over WiFi (using the 4G/5G cellular connection of the router).
That's until we reached a mountain area where there was no cellular data coverage. That's not a problem in the area without coverage, but I noticed the router would not automatically reconnect to the Internet, or at least not as fast as my phone, where I’d expect to have cellular data, and after a few minutes without Internet, I went to the admin panel to disconnect and reconnect by clicking on the "Auto Setup" button.
The connection was restored and I has no connection issues until reaching the house.
I then decided to use Radxa Rock5 Model B (aka Rock 5B) SBC to test the 2.5GbE port and WiFi 6 performance. I also connected a USB hard drive since I could see a network storage option in the Admin Panel.
I connected to the router over SSH using the root account and the Admin Panel password. When I typed iperf3, I was not installed. When I tried to install it through the Admin Panel it failed.
I then tried to run okpg update as recommended, but it failed, but strangely directly downloading the Packages.gz file with wget worked…
I noticed I was in "Load Balance", and switch to "Failover", and the command worked:
I’m not sure whether the mode selection has anything to do with this however… But I eventually just typed the following command to install iperf3 from the terminal
Let's start by testing the 2.5GbE WAN port of the GL.iNet Spitz AX with the one on the Radxa Rock 5B SBC.
2.35 Gbps is the best we can expect. Let's do that in reverse mode:
We can see some retransmissions, and the bitrate is a bit lower at 2.17 Gbps.
Finally, let's do that in full-duplex mode:
Overall the 2.5GbE port gets a pass, although the results are not quite as high as when I tested the Rock 5B with my laptop connected to a Realtek RTL8156BG USB 3.0 to 2.5GbE dongle.
Now let's connect the Rock 5B with the 5GHz SSID on the Spitz AX router, move it around 1 meter from the router, turn off other WiFi routers that may create interferences, and test WiFi performance with iperf3:
848 Mbps is excellent! Let's try in the other direction:
563 Mbps is slower, but it's still slightly better than when I tested the Rock 5B with the Xiaomi Mi AX6000 router, and what I really like is that the performance looks quite stable throughout the test in either direction, while I often see a lot of variability with WiFi testing.
If we go to APPLICATIONS->Network Storage, we’ll find all four partitions from my review hard drive with EXT-4, exFAT, and NTFS mounted successfully, but not the BTRFS partition. I then enabled Samba for testing and set up a network share. Other options for network storage include WebDAV, DLNA, FTP, and NFS.
At first, I could not find the SAMBA Share because I had forgotten to click on"Apply" after enabling SAMBA in the Admin Panel. But once this was done GL-X3000 showed up in the list of servers…
I could connect to use with the username and password defined in the Admin Panel, and browse the files, but my first attempt at copy a file ended up with a "Broken pipe" error.
A second try ended up with the same error. My laptop was connected to the Spitz AX router through Ethernet (LAN port) and WiFi, and this may have caused some issues. After turning off WiFi on my laptop, I could copy a file at about 41 MB/s which is normal for a drive connected to a USB 2.0 port.
I then turned off Ethernet, and turn on WiFi, connected to the 5 GHz WiFi network (my laptop supports WiFi 5 only), and I could copy another large file at about 25MB/s, but not completely as it ended with another Broken pipe error after copying around 30% of the file… The Spitz AX router is about 50cm from a Xiaomi Mi AX6000 router, so I turned off the latter just in case, and gave a few tries. It turns out it does not matter, and the SAMBA transfer over WiFi failed again after several attempts copying between 32MB and 182.50MB out of a 2.0GB file before getting the Broken pipe error.
I’ll stop my testing of the GL.iNet Spitz AX (GL-X3000NR) here, but note there are many other features like VPN (WireGuard, OpenVPN, and Tor) and Adguard Home as I tested with GL.iNet Brume 2 router, plus some new features I did not notice in other routers from the company such as the Beryl AX I reviewed in January namely
Somebody also asked me how noisy is the fan, and the answer is in most cases, it's not triggered.
But you can also adjust the trigger temperature, at 75°C by default, and I changed that to 70C to trigger the fan…
The user interface first showed the fan turning at 960 RPM, then up to 2790 RPM, but at no time I could hear it. I could not feel any airflow either, so it looks like the fan in my sample is not working…
I downloaded a 5GB file over WiFi 6 successfully during that test.
GL.Inet Spitz AX 5G NR and WiFi 6 router, also known as GL-X3000NR, is a promising OpenWrt router bringing fixed broadband-like speeds through 5G NR (depending on where you live see House 1 vs House 2 in the review) with Failover and Load Balance modes so you can always get networking connectivity even if your main broadband connection goes down, or combined fixed broadband and 5G bandwidth for extra performance. It also includes plenty of features such as VPN (WireGuard, OpenVPN, ToR), support for network shares through its USB 2.0 port, Home Adguard to get rid of ads and tracking, and support for services such as ZeroTier and Tailscale.
5G, WiFi 6, and 2.5GbE performance did not disappoint, but the beta firmware still has some issues, notably with stability as I had to refresh web pages or video streaming stopped from time to time when connected to the router. The modem did not automatically reconnect when driving a car in a zone without coverage and entering a city, I had to go to the Admin Panel and manually reconnected. I was also unable to transfer a file using SAMBA through a USB hard drive connected to the router over WiFi, albeit it worked fine over Ethernet. The company sent several samples to beta testers, so hopefully, all those issues will be improved upon soon enough.
I’d like to thank GL.iNet for sending the Spitz AX router (GL-X3000NR model) for review/beta testing. It can be pre-ordered for $415 with free shipping until the end of May 2023. If you don't need 5G, the 4G LTE model (GL-X3000C16) sells for 313 with free shipping during the pre-order period (same link).
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.
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