Gigabit Wireless? Five 802.11ac Routers, Benchmarked

Broadcom: Insider Comments, Continued

Tom's Hardware: Broadcom has its silicon. Are we going to see other vendors share your enthusiasm for such an industry-unified approach?

Broadcom: From a market adoption perspective, we’re the only ones with a product today that’s shipping. We’ve been in production since May, and we’re seeing very strong adoption across the board. As of June, the first PCs with embedded 5G Wi-Fi were being launched, particularly from Asus at Computex. We expect that by early 2013, you’ll see some of the high-end electronics platforms, like TVs, launching with 11ac integrated. Within the first quarter, we’ll have multiple phones being launched into production with 11ac.

Tom's Hardware: Some people might still be leery of jumping on 11ac without a finished standard in place. We remember the incompatibility debacle from the days of 11g Turbo, Pre-N, Draft N, and so on.

Broadcom: Also, after the 11n battle, no one felt like a victor. So when it was time to look at the 11ac standard, every vendor made a conscious effort not to have a repeat of that mistake. Very early on, the 11ac spec gelled much more cleanly than anything that ever happened with 11n. So we’re in the final draft stages. 11ac will be ratified in Q1, and very few changes have been implemented. The different constituents converged very quickly. Where we think there will be some variances, they’ll be minor, and the expectation across the board is that they’ll be easily addressed through minor software updates. It’s not going to be driving any hardware changes. I can’t say it’s zero probability, but it’s as close to zero as anyone could claim. I think we’re very safe.

Tom's Hardware: These wider 5.0 GHz channels give us a little cause for concern. We’ve got 11ac specifying up to 160 MHz while 11n was already causing some issues at 40 MHz. Should we be worried?

Broadcom: The work has gone into making sure that 11ac doesn’t impact [5.0 GHz devices] significantly. Now, you can’t avoid the fact that as you go from 40 to 80 to 160 MHz channel bandwidth you’re gonna be using up more of the spectrum. At some point, you’re going to have a limited number of channels that you can take advantage of with those higher bandwidths. So yeah, there are ways to step back from 160 MHz to narrower channel bandwidths, but physics is going to prevent multiple 160 MHz channel bandwidth clients in the same location operating in a very high number. But the adoption we’re seeing today has 80 MHz channel bandwidth as the baseline people want to run with. 160 may apply in longer-term applications, but it’s not something we’re seeing very high demand for today.

Also, from a standards perspective, 80 MHz is mandatory and 160 MHz is not. And for what we’re doing now, 80 is sufficient. As you look at current router options, you’re going to find you’re locked into 80. People are being much more conservative in their deployment, more metered in their approach. They want to make sure there’s a successful roll-out before they take the next turn of the crank.

  • The Scion of Balance
    Do the graphs really meant Mb/s? If so, isn't it still very slow?
  • boulbox
    Well, i can't wait until i can make my router give wifi all the way to my to my work area.(only a few blocks away)
  • I've tested both the R6300 and the RT-AC66U in my home. The R6300 beats it hands down. The average homes won't have the traffic that your artificial software creates. Even your tests show that R6300 in 5ghz mode is faster. People will buy these for gaming and HD movie viewing and the R6300 has better range as well. I've paired my R6300 with an ASUS PCE-AC66 desktop wireless AC adapter and I can acheive 30 MB/S (megabytes) to my HTPC in a 2 story house. That's an insane speed. The RT-AC66U only managed about 15 to 18 MB/s. Also make sure the R6300 has the latest firmware, which is V1.0.2.38_1.0.33. But in conclusion, the R6300 and the RT-AC66U are like a SRT Viper and ZR1 Vette. They are both great pieces of hardware to fit most users needs. Get the ASUS If you got a ton of traffic and a lot of 2.4 ghz devices. Grab the R6300 if you are looking for a friendly setup, max speed, and max range.
  • fwupow
    Man it sure sucks when you type a long comment and it gets vaporized cuz you weren't logged in.
  • DeusAres
    I'd be happy with a 2Mb/s connection. It'd be better than this horrible 512 Kb/s connection I have now. At least then, I may actually be able to watch youtube vids in 360p.
  • fwupow
    Here's the gist of what I typed before it was rudely vaporized.

    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.
  • memadmax
    I was a 802.11g and n "adoption" tester....

    Never again...

    I'll give ac a year or two before I jump on it...
  • SteelCity1981
    my wireless N produces 300 Megabits which would equal around 37 Megabytes. My highspeed internet doesn't come cloe to reaching 37 megabytes and i don't transfer tons of files wirelesly and my wi-fi rangs is pretty good .So i'm perfectly fine with my 300MB N wireless router right now. Besides that none of my devices spport ac anyhow so it would get bottlenecked from reaching its full potential.
  • Kaldor
    What were they using for a wireless network adapter on the client side?
  • chuckchurch
    iknowhowtofixit"Folks, the time to start your 802.11ac adoption is now."I think this review proved that it is time to wait for 2nd generation wireless AC routers to appear before rushing to purchase.
    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.