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Latency And File Transfer

Which Networking Technology Is Right For Your Home?
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Of course, streaming media is only one kind of data that gets used in the home. For gaming and other tasks, latency can be a significant performance factor. We measured this in a rather simple way, by running multiple ping instances at various times of day and reporting the slowest and fastest of all returned values. For example, the 5 GHz tests often usually reported back with <1 ms, but every so often we’d see a 5 ms number as conditions fluctuated. Ping won’t provide decimal results faster than 1 ms, so we represented “<1 ms” as 0.1 in our data, since it’s obviously impossible to have zero latency.

Without question, Gigabit Ethernet and Netgear’s 5 GHz kit rule the in-room test while the MoCA and powerline gear show some delay. Admittedly, 5 ms is pretty decent as far as delays go.

Statistically, the numbers in our distance test look almost identical, with 5 GHz WiFi showing no detectable latency increase, MoCA actually improving slightly, and powerline giving away only the barest of additional delays.

File transfer remains one of the biggest home LAN uses, so we amassed a 2GB collection of hundreds of miscellaneous files—everything from MP3s to Windows system files. Then we compressed this and added in even more files to reach a .zip file with a total 2GB size. A single 2GB file should take far less time to transfer than 2GB comprised of many files. But would the different connection technologies perform differently under these two transfer types? We ran this test set in our same-room configuration, pulling the files on and off of our Gigabit Netgear NAS box, in search of best-case feedback. We divided out the total transfer time to arrive at final Mb/s performance.

This is old school TCP work. With our single-file test, Gigabit blows away all comers at 230 Mb/s, but 5 GHz 802.11n surprisingly comes from behind to take a roughly 20% lead over MoCA. Powerline limps along at a mere 21.5 Mb/s, clearly suffering under this load type. With that said, powerline and Gigabit Ethernet both run here at about 1/3 of the raw TCP performance we saw in Zap. WiFi and MoCA only fall by about half—a curious difference.

Again, 5 GHz WiFi emerges as a successful underdog here, taking only a very small hit to throughput while Gigabit Ethernet got whacked in nearly half. MoCA also takes a significant step down, and powerline, already limping, drags along even more slowly. For more on why the transfer rates are dipping so low on Gigabit, check out "Dude, Where's My Bandwidth?"

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  • 4 Hide
    rebturtle , November 30, 2009 5:47 AM
    I'll be bookmarking this article for customers who tell me, "No, I don't want a wired LAN, I picked up this wireless router at WalMart....."
  • 7 Hide
    blackmancer , November 30, 2009 6:06 AM
    +1 wired ethernet connections all the time!!!!!!!!
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 30, 2009 6:25 AM
    I like the netgear floorplan "Stairs to go upstairs" ... great!

    And nice article btw. Imo I'd have put the first rant about netgear after the section detailing that you're using it, so it looks more like an explanation than an advertisement (page 1) though.
  • -2 Hide
    anamaniac , November 30, 2009 6:36 AM
    Thank you for the article.
    I decided to skip getting a switch (as I still want interent on all connected devices anyways), and grabbed a 2.4/5GHz 820.11n gigabit router...
    Has done well for me, just too bad my PSP can't use wireless N.

    I've been tempted (and almost did) put new holes in my walls to drag my cat6 cables around my house (I only grabbed cat6 over cat5e because of the colour of the cables at my shop, however I do somewhat regret it because cat5e is a lot more flexible).
  • -2 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 30, 2009 7:23 AM
    Q: can regular people like I download the zap benchmark software somewhere? I'm the guy being blamed if our corporate network in two towns breaks down, and lately I've been hammered for unstable wireless network and can't find any cause for this. Would like to see minimum performance for our access points (got about 40 meru aps with dual radio and a,b,g and n concurrently).
  • 2 Hide
    Spanky Deluxe , November 30, 2009 8:07 AM
    Gigabit ethernet throughout the house running through a gigabit switch in the garage here with 802.11g for the laptops until I get round to replacing the router we got with our broadband supplier with an Airport Extreme.

    Luckily the previous owner of the house was a network engineer and had left all the wiring throughout the house. I just hooked up a cheap second hand gigabit switch off eBay and have been loving it ever since.
  • -1 Hide
    NicNash , November 30, 2009 9:12 AM
    If you connect a power-line connector from a computer that is also connected to a wireless n network, to that router... will it use both adapters at same time? or whichever to provide best speed?

    weird thought.. but yea
  • -1 Hide
    NicNash , November 30, 2009 9:13 AM
    btw great article on these lesser known technologies. this article is worth its weight in gold to those who care
  • -1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 30, 2009 9:27 AM
    nicnashIf you connect a power-line connector from a computer that is also connected to a wireless n network, to that router... will it use both adapters at same time? or whichever to provide best speed? weird thought.. but yea

    Depending on the OS, but if you're running a standard microsoft os, it'll use whichever it detects a gateway on first. Has nothing to do with which is fastest or most reliable.

    Type route print in cmd if you want to see what it uses
  • 0 Hide
    ytoledano , November 30, 2009 10:13 AM
    Wired is king.
  • 0 Hide
    Ciuy , November 30, 2009 10:35 AM
    Gigabit Ethernet foreverr, why upgrade/strugle with connection types that perform slower ?? Today we need the best HD connection ever :D 

    wireless is and always will be sheeet !!!!
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2009 11:11 AM
    Great post. One small remark though, instead of naming it "Which Networking Technology Is Right For Your Home?" you might've named in "A Netgear commercial", since you talk more about Netgear, than the topic. Dlink and Cisco rule!
  • 0 Hide
    Tattysnuc , November 30, 2009 11:27 AM
    Any chance of a follow up guide on

    1. how to do the setup in software (Mac/Win 7/Vista/XP)
    2. Sharing files
    3. Streaming

    I'm in the process of setting up a Gigabit wired network around the house and I'm struggling to find any decent guides that take you trough the entire process, from selecting the hardware to streaming media.

  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 30, 2009 11:31 AM
    smoleGreat post. One small remark though, instead of naming it "Which Networking Technology Is Right For Your Home?" you might've named in "A Netgear commercial", since you talk more about Netgear, than the topic. Dlink and Cisco rule!

    You put dlink and cisco in the same sentence? imo you should be ashamed!
    If there's one thing I know for certain, then it is that nobody who wants something to work should buy dlink to get there!
    Once (2001) I built a complete infrastructure with dlink switches and wireless adapters. The APs didn't even last a year before I replaced them with some asus ones, and these got replaced by much better HP ones in 2005. And finally when I got a chance to replace the dlink junk with 4108 switches nobody even wanted the old ones! In the end I gave like 20 dlink switches with fiber modules away for free - it was cheaper than throwing them away!

    And over the years when people ask "My wireless connection sometimes doesn't work. When I restart my access point it works again. What can I do about it?" my answer is always "Is it Dlink?" and guess what - the answer has ALWAYS been yes.
    It's possibly the least reliable network gear you can aquire! I'm not particularily fond of netgears mediocre quality, but they're tons better than anything dlink can provide! By the way - buying expensive Dlink stuff doesn't make it more reliable either! I've had a DES-6000 (8 slot modular) break down because it became summer and the temperature reached 34C (have had HP switches enduring 57C without breaking down). And serveral of the DES-1226 although configured correctly with vlans would occasionally send all data to the first vlan until rebooted. You don't reboot network equipment! You just don't!

    As for cisco - it works, sure, but it's tons more expensive than any competing brand, and doesn't offer support for anything nobody else can. And on top of that it's slower than most other quality gear with the same feature sets.

  • -1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , November 30, 2009 11:35 AM
    TattysnucAny chance of a follow up guide on 1. how to do the setup in software (Mac/Win 7/Vista/XP)2. Sharing files3. StreamingI'm in the process of setting up a Gigabit wired network around the house and I'm struggling to find any decent guides that take you trough the entire process, from selecting the hardware to streaming media.


    And when you're at it do an article about (free) CMS system choices for hosting your web and storage servers at home. We live in a time where anybody can get 50Mbit for the same money a 2Mbit cost 5 years ago.

    Also an article about how ip trafic is routed and how dns servers really work would be cool - cisco is teaching a theory, but it isn't how things actually work in reallife. For instance many isp's provide a link where the 'network number' is the client pc, and the 'broadcast address' is the gateway ; according to cisco this shouldn't work, but it does.
  • 0 Hide
    saint19 , November 30, 2009 11:35 AM
    +1 wired ethernet connection. For my, is the best option till my ISP rise the speed of my connection.
  • -4 Hide
    tommysch , November 30, 2009 11:44 AM
    Going wireless for gaming is like buying a MAC over a PC. Its all hype and the look-at-me-im-so-cool thing.
  • -1 Hide
    fausto , November 30, 2009 12:34 PM
    OK, i've been wanting wired ethernet at home for a while and this just makes me want it even more.

    Anyone knows of any good tutorials on wiring the house? making the holes on the wall and running the wiring?
  • -1 Hide
    fausto , November 30, 2009 12:38 PM
    nicnashIf you connect a power-line connector from a computer that is also connected to a wireless n network, to that router... will it use both adapters at same time? or whichever to provide best speed? weird thought.. but yea


    no it would not, you would have to choose which network connection you want to use between the 2. but it provides a backup if your main one is down.
  • -1 Hide
    ravewulf , November 30, 2009 12:50 PM
    Definitely a combo of Gig-E and Wireless n.

    My laptop already has Wireless n, now I just need a new motherboard* for my desktop with gigabit ethernet and a new router
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