Crossing over to 2.4 GHz 802.11n in the same-room tests, we have more weirdness. For once, Belkin does not have the lowest number on the chart. Whereas AirLive, Asus, and Buffalo are do a respectable job of not letting throughput drop under 50 Mb/s, Linksys and Netgear both have instances where they bottom out at 5 Mb/s. Even Belkin manages a fractional improvement over that. Sure, Belkin has the worst average, but we’re looking under every rock for good news at this point. Because we’re working with 802.11n, we should be dealing with a level playing field stocked with vendors handling a fully mature and refined technology. So it’s interesting to see AirLive edge past a respected name like Buffalo and fully trounce Linksys and Netgear. Only Asus manages to keep the small upstart in second place (by a gaping margin).
With our UDP chart, we see the throughput numbers shift relative to TCP. AirLive and Asus nudge down a bit while Buffalo, Linksys, and Netgear all edge up. Since Linksys stands out as the chart’s highest outlier, let’s take a look at that.
Pretty telling, right? The top spike on this chart is almost five times higher than the clearly visible average line. Just as disturbing are the many dips into the sub-20 Mb/s range. Keep in mind that this is a same-room test. We are left acknowledging that there is a fair amount of ambient noise and unpredictability in our test environment, but, at the same time, it’s a fairly average suburban scenario, and this is what routers need to cope with in the real world. We find the fact that Linksys and Netgear struggle here disturbing.
Now for the cross-house 11ac test with TCP traffic. Again, we see Belkin failing to connect, and AirLive finally manages to walk off a cliff. In fact, here’s what life looks like at the bottom of that cliff:
The good news is that AirLive managed to transmit all 100 IxChariot test records. The bad news is that most of those records came in two bursts, like flashbulbs in the dark, and the rest of the time saw almost no throughput. AirLive aside, we’re very impressed with the TCP results for our remaining competitors, although Linksys does noticeably lag behind the other three. With an average of roughly 180 Mb/s for Asus, Buffalo, and Netgear, this compares very well with the approximately 240 Mb/s averaged by those three in our similar close-distance test. A 25% throughput loss under such difficult conditions is actually phenomenal.
UDP across the house 11ac is definitely slower under 802.11ac, but still very usable and reliable in most cases. Netgear now turns in a stable performance with the best minimum throughput rate on the chart. Asus wins on the average number, but look at the deeper test chart:
For a long-distance test through flooring and walls, Asus’s stability here is outstanding. We only see one major blip, and we’re guessing that some random bit of ambient interference clobbered throughput for an instant, and the router responded by boosting power to compensate. When positive ambient conditions returned, the router dropped power back to normal levels. That’s a guess, but no matter what, this chart illustrates the Asus product’s ability to hold an 802.11ac signal with excellent stability and respond very quickly to adverse conditions.
I have a dual-band router (Netgear N600). I also purchased a couple of dual-band client USB adapters Linksys AE2500 or something to that effect.
So the USB adapter works fine for a desktop, but having that crap sticking out the side of a laptop, netbook or tablet? Busted in 10 minutes. I hooked one up to my netbook and fried it within a couple of weeks because I'm a Netbook in bed guy. You wouldn't think it could get so hot from a USB port but it does.
So the reality is that you have all these devices that can't be upgraded to dual-band and enjoy very little if any benefit from the new-fangled dual-band router.
The other beef I have with routers is that they're terrible with the way they split up bandwidth between multiple devices. Instead of responsively reassigning bandwidth to the device that needs it, the router continues to reserve a major slice for a device that I'm not using.
If you live in an apartment building, it's actually rather rude to use the full 300Mbps capacity of the wireless N band, since you may well succeed in effectively shutting your neighbor down. There's so much happening in the 2.4GHz band nowadays, it's unreal. Your own cordless keyboards/mice/controllers etc can malfunction from being unable to get a packet in edgewise.
For these dual-band routers to be really useful, we need manufacturers of smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbook and such to build dual-band clients into them because adding the functionality with some sort of dongle just doesn't work.
I'll give ac a year or two before I jump on it...
Exactly. The 'client' adapter they used if anyone didn't catch it was a Cisco/Linksys router-sized device. Not practical by any means. It'd be totally insane to make any product recommendations prior to real client adapters being available, or more accurately, embedded ones are available. I think a wireless salesman wrote this article.