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EA4200 vs. EA4500 vs. N66... which is best for HD media stream?

I now run a WRT160 router for my apartment, which doesn't seem to be able to consistently stream HD content over WiFi, so in the market for a new router to do this:

- Feed an apartment of 1400sq feet
- Feed various devices simultaneously, including iPad, iPhone, Win8 tablet, PC Media server, Sonos connect, Xbox, Apple TV, Receiver, Netflix on TV, and feed HD medias from media server to Receiver
- Maybe to be used in the future as backup storage

From my research, older EA4200v2 seems to be the fastest in N-band under 5GHz, while Asus N66 seems to be best for available ones and upgradeable, and EA4500 while slower than 4200, can be also be upgraded via firmware.

I would have 100% gone with N66, if it didn't need the antennas, as it's gonna go into a small box, hence looking to find and older EA4200v2, or maybe EA4500. Does anyone know if N66 works without the antennas? Or if the antennas are the main reason for good performance?

Lastly, EA6500 has really poor reviews, is it as bad as everyone says?
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  1. Best answer
    Good lucky getting any real solid numbers you can use. There are test sites that attempt to compare routers and you will find small differences between some but it really does not mean you will get those numbers. Someone living say in a college dorm is going to get very different number than someone living out on a rural farm. The interference from all your neighbors is going to make far more difference in you ability to use wireless than any difference in the routers. This is why you will find every router on the market with user reviews saying it is a piece of crap. What is being compared is peoples houses/environments not the routers themselves in many cases.

    5G generally has less interference because interfering signals have more difficulty passing into your house but they also have more difficulty passing though walls between rooms so the coverage on 5g tends to be much less.

    Generally well designed internal antenna will be just as good as external. It used to be a good trick to replace antenna with larger one in many cases exceeding the legal transmit power to get more range. Now with things like mimo where the interference pattern between the antenna is important it is much harder to make changes to antenna without having a impact on the mimo.

    I tend to like third party firmware because it give many more options but this does not mean it changes the speed or coverage. The vast majority of the function related to the wireless itself is handled by the firmware loaded into the radio chips. Even though you can get the source code and make changes to a lot of a router the code that is loaded to these radio chips is provided by the chipset manufacture as a binary. So you may be able to get a more current file for the radio chipset than the router manufacture provides but many times this file is exactly the same. Pretty much you can change the pretty screens that set the values the radios use but you can not actually change the code that runs on the radios.
  2. It's probably not gonna make much difference.

    It is going to depend on your source media (bitrate) and the obstructions that the signal must pass through to get from the router to the device.

    Unfortunately, 5Ghz signals drop off fast every time it passes through a wall. From personal experience, I won't consider the signal to be strong enough to transmit a reasonably high bitrate file after having to pass through about 3 walls/floors.

    What exactly is happening with your old WRT160? It may be something that no router can overcome. What you may want to consider is just getting another good router and then using one as a router and the other as a second, wired Access Point somewhere in the apartment. 1 inexpensive router and 1 inexpensive Access Point will almost always perform much, much better than trying to find the 1 magic router to cover everything.
  3. smitbret said:
    It's probably not gonna make much difference.

    It is going to depend on your source media (bitrate) and the obstructions that the signal must pass through to get from the router to the device.

    Unfortunately, 5Ghz signals drop off fast every time it passes through a wall. From personal experience, I won't consider the signal to be strong enough to transmit a reasonably high bitrate file after having to pass through about 3 walls/floors.

    What exactly is happening with your old WRT160? It may be something that no router can overcome. What you may want to consider is just getting another good router and then using one as a router and the other as a second, wired Access Point somewhere in the apartment. 1 inexpensive router and 1 inexpensive Access Point will almost always perform much, much better than trying to find the 1 magic router to cover everything.


    Well, my router doesn't have dual-band, nor 5GHz, and when I use it to project on Airplay, or to distribute media over Wifi, it hangs every few mins or so and then loses connection. I think I do need an upgrade.

    Now, I live in an apartment, so range shouldn't be as big of a deal, one floor, 1200 Sq. feet, and signal has to go through only a few drywalls depending on where the device is located... so short term range is more important.

    I guess what it comes down to is: (1) Do I need AC Wifi? , (2) Do I need a router that can be modded via firmware, (3) is there one router than just stands out and should be the right choice?
  4. 802.11ac will not buy you much if your equipment does not have 802.11ac nics to use it. The main reason to use third party firmware are for software features that factory firmware does not support. It does not change the radio coverage or the way the radio chips run. These are small binary files from the chipset manufacture that that are loaded into the radios and can not be changed...I really wish they could. You would have to compare the list of feature to the factory ones and decide. The more common ones people use it for is so they can use the device to support multiple subnets and use vlans and such.

    You can go over to small network builders site they have performance tests but even they admit there is no way to predict if you will similar results in your house. Pretty much as long as you stay with the large brand names you will get good support from the manufacture. If you are going to replace the firmware then it does not matter as much which brand. You can if you dig find routers like buffalo that use the exact same chips as some of the high end devices.
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