Ruckus Wireless 7811
Last summer, we took a long look at the beamforming technology Ruckus Wireless employs in its Wi-Fi products. Ever since, we’ve been curious to see how the consumer version of this technology would play out in a competitive arena. After all, the skeptic in the backs of our heads kept wondering, “If Ruckus beamforming is consistently as amazing as we saw first-hand, why hasn’t it swept the planet and blown every other vendor off the map?” Perhaps this would be our chance to find an answer.
The 7811 ($154.81 at www.geminicomputersinc.com) is the only item in this roundup that is not a router. It’s an access point. So a lot of our discussion about QoS and storage features and all the rest simply doesn’t apply here. The only reason we’re including it is to investigate a possible higher-performance alternative to the usual 802.11n router choices.
To be fair, though, we have to give a caveat and qualify what Ruckus thinks of as quality. To reuse Ruckus’s phrase, the company is a lot more interested in raising the performance floor than raising the ceiling. Ruckus wants to enable high-def, wireless streaming video, a notoriously difficult application from a quality of service standpoint. Achieving the 20 to 40 Mb/s necessary for a HD stream isn’t hard, even in the 2.4 GHz band, but keeping it there is. Achieving fast, sustained wireless throughput is like trying to calculate your taxes in a room full of hungry toddlers.
Beamforming should help to block out all of that background chaos and provide concentrated, elevated throughput, plus it should allow for longer signal reception through obstacles. Ruckus opted to make the product 5.0 GHz-only to help minimize interference even further. In general, we know that 5.0 GHz tends not to have the distance reach of 2.4 GHz, but beamforming helps overcome this to the degree that Ruckus states the 7811 should be able to provide coverage throughout a 4,000-square foot home.
Note that we used Ruckus’s 7111 client bridge. This isn’t your usual USB dongle. The 7111 looks very similar to the taco-shaped 7811 AP, complete with AC adapter and 10/100 Ethernet port. The bridge’s form factor may not be convenient in some settings, especially on a notebook, but remember that it was designed for home theater deployment. At the same time, being restricted to 5.0 GHz may exclude compatibility with some of your existing clients. Proceed accordingly.