Amped Wireless RTA15
When it stormed into the 11ac scene in 2013, Amped Wireless sought to make a name for itself in the areas of performance and range, promising “up to three times greater coverage than standard 802.11ac routers.” The key explanation from Amped’s literature explains: “A high power 700mW dual band, 802.11ac Wi-Fi router, the RTA15 features three high gain, 5dBi antennas and ten total power amplifiers, the most ever used in an Amped Wireless Wi-Fi product. The amplifiers include two 2.4GHz 700mW amplifiers, four 5.0GHz 700mW, 2-Stage amplifiers, and four advanced, low noise amplifiers. The cutting-edge technology packed into the RTA15 gives it the ability to stream high quality media at faster speeds to multiple devices at once, with ease.”
The RTA15 provides a theoretical 300 Mb/s on its 2.4GHz band plus 867 Mb/s over its 5GHz radios, making it an AC1200-class product that still retails for $160. Realize that the RTA15 uses a 2x2 antenna array, so AC1200 is the best you’re going to see. Stepping up into a 3x3 array potentially lifts the 2.4/5 mix to 450/1300 Mb/s, which is why 3x3 dual-band routers commonly advertise being “AC1750.” Of course, AC1750 costs more, so we wanted to see if a souped-up AC1200 like the RTA15 could hold its own against AC1750 technology or whether it would suffer the same fate as our formerly reviewed 2x2 11ac disaster, Belkin’s AC1200 DB.
The darling of our prior round+up returns to see how it fares under harsher conditions. The AC66U was our clear victor under regular testing, leveraging its 3x3 array (AC1750) for most impressive results. We would love to pit a model like this against Asus' own four- and six-antenna routers someday to see if, when and how much diminishing returns set in as antenna counts (and prices) climb. For now, though, we’ll be content to see if our old assessments conducted with standard testing continue to hold up under these new, more challenging scenarios. As it is, the A66U still sells for $155 on Amazon.
While it delivered fair performance previously, we wanted the R6300 in this mix to see if Netgear’s 3x3 configuration might have some unexpected twists waiting in it. Now only $127, it would be a coup if this AC1750 router could pull a rabbit out of its hat, especially being one of the few models around with internal antennas. Note that Netgear’s follow-up, Nighthawk, reverts to using external antennas. There may be a lesson there.
Netgear Nighthawk R7000
If the R7000 uses a 3x3 antenna configuration, why does it advertise AC1900 rather than AC1750? The 5GHz spec still notes a top-end 1300 Mb/s throughput. However, the 2.4GHz side ratchets up to a theoretical 600 Mb/s if the client has matching “performance mode” support for 256-QAM. Our 3x3 802.11ac Asus client adapter (the PCE-AC68), one of the few client options available during our testing, only supports up to 64-QAM, so we missed this little perk. Even today, Intel’s top integrated 11ac client adapters for notebooks, the Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 and 7265, are 2x2 (AC1200) products, so we feel we’re still hitting near the top of current client capabilities. Other sites have examined AC1900 client performance and found it to be equivalent to AC1750 at best. Regardless, you will still pay a premium for the Nighthawk R7000 at $184.