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Where Does Qualcomm's Hardware Make Sense?

Killer Wireless-N 1103 Review: Can Qualcomm Take On Centrino?
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We’ve seen the data. Now what can we derive from it?

Clearly, 5.0 GHz deserves more attention that it’s getting. Of course, if everybody hopped onto 5.0 GHz, we’d inevitably wind up with similar problems to what we have today with 2.4 GHz, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there. Our results show that 5.0 GHz generally enables higher throughput and lower latency compared to 2.4 GHz in a common, high-RF use environment. Moreover, with less interference, 5.0 GHz seems to enable greater distances between client and access point without loss of connectivity.

Cisco AE2500Cisco AE2500

As for our three adapters, there were many cases in which Cisco's USB option pulled its weight impressively well, although it still seems somewhat crippled in comparison to internal notebook adapters (and their more robust antenna setups), especially at distance.

Between Intel and Qualcomm, we expected a much closer race. Unfortunately, the Intel 6300 underperformed the AR9380-based option in many instances, often by a significant margin. We confess: we went into this story thinking that Qualcomm was blustering a bit. We’ve had too many years of vendors saying, “The secret sauce is there. It works. We’re better. Trust us.” This time, it was finally true. The Killer 1103 was stunning. It's just too bad you can't buy the card on its own.

Killer Wireless-N 1103 BKiller Wireless-N 1103 B

But let’s finish here by taking a step back and looking at the really big question: once you’re done looking at benchmark data, does the 1103 make a difference in the real world? Is it worth whatever price an integrator is going to charge to step up?

While there are no hard and fast rules about ping time requirements in gaming, I'm tickled pink to jump on a server in the 50 ms range. Below that, it's really hard to tell a difference. Technical improvements simply cease to be relevant. And in all of our GaNE testing, only one spike from Cisco (in Location 3) ever exceeded 50 ms.

Should this matter to you? Should you be worried that your adapter might be prone to similar or worse latency spikes—the kind of spikes to which Qualcomm (with its newest driver) seems immune? Maybe. That’s for you to decide.

If you only care about file transfers at near to moderate distances, then we don’t see a pronounced advantage to paying more money for Qualcomm's hardware. Even Cisco's USB-based adapter does decently if you’re not in too much of a hurry. But for applications where sustained, even performance is needed, such as video streaming, the Killer 1103 is the obviously more dependable choice, and it’s the new bar in wireless client adapters that other vendors need to surpass.

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    phamhlam , April 5, 2012 5:52 AM
    I wish they would build better PCI-Express WiFi Adapter. Some of us can't have a cable going through our house or have our computer sit next to the router.
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , April 5, 2012 5:44 AM
    Still not buying it.
  • 19 Hide
    phamhlam , April 5, 2012 5:52 AM
    I wish they would build better PCI-Express WiFi Adapter. Some of us can't have a cable going through our house or have our computer sit next to the router.
  • 0 Hide
    KelvinTy , April 5, 2012 9:44 AM
    I think if you have the lowest latency at your end and leave everything on the server and internet end. Then it would be a lot better, especially there is input lag from everything, monitor, mouse, keyboard, wireless card, router and internet...
  • 0 Hide
    reghir , April 5, 2012 11:58 AM
    There are 2 versions of the E4200 did you use version 1 or 2 as version 2 increases to 450Mbps on both bands and full spatial on its 3X3 streams?
  • 2 Hide
    MKBL , April 5, 2012 1:21 PM
    I hope TH will review on powerline Ethernet adapter against typical RJ45 and wifi. For the same reason as phalmhlam, my desktop is connected to router by a long cable running across floor, which bothers me and my family sometimes. I've been considering powerline ethernet, but I can't make decision between that and wireless-N, because I have no idea which one has better performance/price.
  • -5 Hide
    CaedenV , April 5, 2012 1:34 PM
    Great article! I learned quite a few things from it.

    I still think I will be waiting for 802.11ac before upgrading from G though.
  • 4 Hide
    jaylimo84 , April 5, 2012 1:34 PM
    M. Van Winkle,
    Thanks for this nice article.

    I own an Alienware M17xR3, with the Killer 1103.
    Upon installation, the driver was causing me issues (nothing big tho), and I decided to follow a forum recommendation and install the Atheros Osprey driver instead of Killer's.
    It seems the two card are identical apart from the name on it. (Maybe I am misleaded)

    It could be interesting to see if the Killer 1103 gets any improvement using the Killer driver vs. the vanilla Atheros drivers, and see if "years of working with the windows tcp stack" pays off. Or if your performance improvement is due to a good, but still normal card.
  • 1 Hide
    CaedenV , April 5, 2012 1:37 PM
    MKBLI hope TH will review on powerline Ethernet adapter against typical RJ45 and wifi. For the same reason as phalmhlam, my desktop is connected to router by a long cable running across floor, which bothers me and my family sometimes. I've been considering powerline ethernet, but I can't make decision between that and wireless-N, because I have no idea which one has better performance/price.

    Indeed, it is an issue. I ended up wiring the house through the HVAC ducts, which is a terrible idea (breaks all sorts of building codes), but better than drilling holes all throughout the house only to move to wireless within the next 5-10 years.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 5, 2012 2:20 PM
    The Killer 1103 *IS* available for purchase. Check Amazon... $55 shipped.
  • 0 Hide
    XmortisX , April 5, 2012 2:25 PM
    I would like to try this out. If they can make a good pci-e/pci version of this card then definitely would try to push it with my clients. Even though we may get more labor hours for running wires the convenience and idea of avoiding HVAC ducts building codes makes this appealing.
  • 1 Hide
    maxinexus , April 5, 2012 2:29 PM
    Cool, but if I can't buy it for my laptop what is the point?
  • 1 Hide
    scook9 , April 5, 2012 3:01 PM
    For those who want better wireless for their desktop, get one of these and install the laptop card in it

    http://www.amazon.com/Express-Wireless-Adapter-Antennas-miniPCI-E/dp/B005JTEREW
  • -1 Hide
    jaquith , April 5, 2012 3:01 PM
    There are so many variables what "10', 20' and 60'" means that it is totally impossible to use any wireless benching short of a line-of-sight and unobstructed. Show me a house, short of a mansion, with a 60' line of sight. Further, I've lived in an old house where the frigging walls are solid plaster with wire mesh, and getting a 'usable' signal through a couple of walls was a miracle.

    Most folks are running their wireless through several partitioned walls and 20'~30'. The key variable is what's in the walls and how much interference you're running across.

    I our current and new house we have a centralized switch and CAT-6 distribution, PowerLine, and (2) Access Points 802.11a/b/g/n. That said, there's NO FRIGGING way I'm going to transfer a 2GB file through the air even though I 'can' -- Flash Drive or NIC. In our house every work area, TV, and bedroom has wired CAT-6 so the majority of WiFi is for our Phones and tablets (e.g. iPhone & iPad).

    Further, IF you're using any form of wireless for a Desktop you need to run to the store and either use CAT-5e/6 as your first choice and/or $60~$110 and get a pair of PowerLine. Some of the new Router/Switches/WiFi adapters are including PowerLine built-in.

    Lastly, very few Notebooks have the option to accept a half-mini PCIe Card.
  • 1 Hide
    dvanburen , April 5, 2012 3:10 PM
    Something seems wrong. During the LoS transfer test you get only 9MB/s. I can get 16.6MB/s with a 2.2GB file from my M6600 w/Intel 6300 to a Linksys E3000 w/DD-WRT over 2.4 GHz. Granted, I am about 7ft LoS vs. 10, but that shouldn't drop you to FastEthernet speeds. Are you absolutely sure you had a GB uplink from the router to the PC? If not then most of these results are skewed.
  • 2 Hide
    dvanburen , April 5, 2012 3:55 PM
    Two more results, this time I timed them and moved the laptop to about 9ft. LoS.

    3.63GB EXE - 4:06s | 3905548288 Bytes | 15.14MB/s
    2.14GB ZIP - 2:23.8s | 2306882779 Bytes | 15.30 MB/s

    These are just Drag and Drop via Explorer.
  • 6 Hide
    scook9 , April 5, 2012 4:21 PM
    jaquithThere are so many variables what "10', 20' and 60'" means that it is totally impossible to use any wireless benching short of a line-of-sight and unobstructed. Show me a house, short of a mansion, with a 60' line of sight. Further, I've lived in an old house where the frigging walls are solid plaster with wire mesh, and getting a 'usable' signal through a couple of walls was a miracle.Most folks are running their wireless through several partitioned walls and 20'~30'. The key variable is what's in the walls and how much interference you're running across. I our current and new house we have a centralized switch and CAT-6 distribution, PowerLine, and (2) Access Points 802.11a/b/g/n. That said, there's NO FRIGGING way I'm going to transfer a 2GB file through the air even though I 'can' -- Flash Drive or NIC. In our house every work area, TV, and bedroom has wired CAT-6 so the majority of WiFi is for our Phones and tablets (e.g. iPhone & iPad). Further, IF you're using any form of wireless for a Desktop you need to run to the store and either use CAT-5e/6 as your first choice and/or $60~$110 and get a pair of PowerLine. Some of the new Router/Switches/WiFi adapters are including PowerLine built-in. Lastly, very few Notebooks have the option to accept a half-mini PCIe Card.

    While I appreciate and sympathize with the remark about plaster walls, the bolded statement is just flat out wrong. Half height cards are the standard now. Intel does not even offer the 6200 or 6300 cards in full height
  • 0 Hide
    pacioli , April 5, 2012 5:01 PM
    Lol. I have CAT5e running from one corner of my house to the other. At each corner I have a Dual-Band router/bridge pumping out Wi-fi with the same ID/Pass combo. No matter where I am in my place I am being bathed in wireless waves of internets. I also have a Cat5e running to the switch in the entertainment center to hook up all my web enabled goodies.
  • 3 Hide
    blazorthon , April 5, 2012 5:20 PM
    MKBLI hope TH will review on powerline Ethernet adapter against typical RJ45 and wifi. For the same reason as phalmhlam, my desktop is connected to router by a long cable running across floor, which bothers me and my family sometimes. I've been considering powerline ethernet, but I can't make decision between that and wireless-N, because I have no idea which one has better performance/price.


    If you want high speed, get 500Mb power line. It will beat out the wireless easily, unless you have some serious problem with your electrical wiring.

    dvanburenSomething seems wrong. During the LoS transfer test you get only 9MB/s. I can get 16.6MB/s with a 2.2GB file from my M6600 w/Intel 6300 to a Linksys E3000 w/DD-WRT over 2.4 GHz. Granted, I am about 7ft LoS vs. 10, but that shouldn't drop you to FastEthernet speeds. Are you absolutely sure you had a GB uplink from the router to the PC? If not then most of these results are skewed.


    DD-WRT is the answer there. It slaughters the stock firmware in all routers. Tomato does too.

    jaquithThere are so many variables what "10', 20' and 60'" means that it is totally impossible to use any wireless benching short of a line-of-sight and unobstructed. Show me a house, short of a mansion, with a 60' line of sight. Further, I've lived in an old house where the frigging walls are solid plaster with wire mesh, and getting a 'usable' signal through a couple of walls was a miracle.Most folks are running their wireless through several partitioned walls and 20'~30'. The key variable is what's in the walls and how much interference you're running across. I our current and new house we have a centralized switch and CAT-6 distribution, PowerLine, and (2) Access Points 802.11a/b/g/n. That said, there's NO FRIGGING way I'm going to transfer a 2GB file through the air even though I 'can' -- Flash Drive or NIC. In our house every work area, TV, and bedroom has wired CAT-6 so the majority of WiFi is for our Phones and tablets (e.g. iPhone & iPad). Further, IF you're using any form of wireless for a Desktop you need to run to the store and either use CAT-5e/6 as your first choice and/or $60~$110 and get a pair of PowerLine. Some of the new Router/Switches/WiFi adapters are including PowerLine built-in. Lastly, very few Notebooks have the option to accept a half-mini PCIe Card.


    Even my four year old Gateway M-1624 has TWO half-mini PCIe card slots for wireless cards and such. Most notebook computers nowadays have at least one such slot. In fact, almost all modern notebook computers have at least one such slot. Many have more than one.
  • 0 Hide
    dvanburen , April 5, 2012 6:20 PM
    blazorthon.DD-WRT is the answer there. It slaughters the stock firmware in all routers. Tomato does too.


    I can't help but think of the connection to the PC. 9MB/s just screams FastEthernet. I could understand DD-WRT contributing to a 10% or even 20% increase in perfomance, but we are talking a 60% to 70% difference in performance.
  • -3 Hide
    jaquith , April 5, 2012 6:45 PM
    Quote:
    While I appreciate and sympathize with the remark about plaster walls, the bolded statement is just flat out wrong. Half height cards are the standard now. Intel does not even offer the 6200 or 6300 cards in full height

    Quote:
    my four year old Gateway M-1624 has TWO half-mini PCIe card slots for wireless cards and such. Most notebook computers nowadays have at least one such slot. In fact, almost all modern notebook computers have at least one such slot. Many have more than one.

    I have both X58's and an X79 with 6-core CPUs and an HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation, but my no means is any of that 'typical' nor does it by any stretch of the imagination represent the Majority. Operative word Majority.

    Most Notebook's either have their WiFi (or other forms of wireless) - Integrated or Non-User replaceable or accessible.

    Sure, 'some' Notebooks have ALL sorts of options and user configurable add-ons. Again, the majority simply do not.
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