Gigabit Wireless? Five 802.11ac Routers, Benchmarked

Broadcom: Insider Comments, Continued

Tom's Hardware: Is the 80 MHz limit in today’s routers enforced at the hardware level rather than in firmware? I’m sure people will want to hack their way to the higher speed if possible.

Broadcom: No, it’s not in firmware. The 80 MHz cap is currently done at the hardware level.

Tom's Hardware: With 802.11n, we had the potential for four spatial streams, and hardly anyone went past three. Now, with 11ac, we have a maximum potential for eight. Will we take advantage of it?

Broadcom: True, 11n supported up to four spatial streams. There weren’t many folks that implemented that. Broadcom did three, then two for the tablet space and one for mobile phones. Three was for high-end PCs and infrastructure. When you go to 11ac, yes, the standard supports up to eight. From what we’ve seen from our market analysis and customers, there’s an aesthetics angle. In North America and Europe, everybody loves sleek designs and embedded antennas. When you go to Asia, the more visible the antennas, the higher the perceived performance level of the device. I found that interesting from a cultural perspective. But what we’re hearing from customers is that their view in terms of trading cost and performance is three spatial streams is probably what the vast majority will want to deploy for infrastructure. And certainly, three spatial streams of 11ac over 11n will give you a 3x capability improvement. I don’t see strong interest in 11ac, at least at this point, for anything beyond that. Additional spatial streams might give you some incremental performance improvement, but you’re going to pay a significant cost premium for that.

Tom's Hardware: Look six months out and describe a common use scenario for 802.11ac and the bandwidth required behind it.

Broadcom: You know, AT&T U-verse has been a watershed launch event for this industry. You’ve seen the ads, maybe, where they have this wireless set-top box receiver out by the pool or wherever they want without having to worry about a cord being connected to it. Every one of the carriers we’ve spoken to is trying to move toward that. So you couple that with very high bandwidth, whole-home DVRs, wireless DVRs transmitting multiple programs simultaneously to different TVs. You’ve got these portable devices in the home with friends coming in or you wanting to share on a big screen. All these things take up bandwidth. So if you’re slicing and dicing today where, in the best case, you have maybe 300 to 400 Mb/s of throughput, when you’re talking about HD video streams, especially 3D, you’re anywhere from 10 to 25 Mb/s per stream. You quickly start consuming the capability of your home’s router. So moving to 11ac is going to let you share video, both at the consumer and carrier level.

  • 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.