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802.11ac Wi-Fi Router Testing: Interference And Workloads

How We Tested

Test Hardware: Client #1
ProcessorsAMD FX-8150 (Zambezi) 3.6GHz (18 * 200MHz), Socket AM3+, 8MB Shared L3, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled
MotherboardAsus Crosshair V Formula (Socket AM3+) AMD 990FX/SB950 Chipset, BIOS 1703
MemoryG.Skill 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600, F3-12800CL9Q2-32GBZL @ DDR3-1600 at 1.5V
StoragePatriot Wildfire 256GB, SATA 6Gb/s
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB
Power SupplyPC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 850W
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Professional 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst Release 12.10
Test Hardware: Client #2 (Asus N56V Notebook)
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-3720QM (Ivy Bridge) 2.6GHz (26 * 100MHz), LGA 2011, 12MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Turbo Boost enabled, Power-savings enabled
MemoryHyundai 8GB (2 x 4GB) PC3-12800, HMT351S6CFR8C-PB @ 1.5V
StorageSeagate ST9750420AS 750GB, SATA 3Gb/s
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GT 630M
Power SupplyAsus ADP-120ZB
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Professional 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverNvidia Driver 290.47

Test Hardware: Server (Unmodeled AMD Prototype Sample)
ProcessorsAMD A10-4600M (Trinity) 2.3GHz (23 * 100MHz), Socket FS1r2, 2 x 2MB Shared L2, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled
MotherboardTBD
MemoryMicron 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333, 8KTF25664HZ-1G4M1 @ 1.35V
StorageSamsung 830 128GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7660G
Power SupplyTBD
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst Release 12.10

We conducted three basic tests. First, we created a 2GB folder containing hundreds of MP3, EXE and stray work document files. This was used to test transfer throughput speeds in both directions. Next, we turned to the networking test module in PassMark’s PerformanceTest 8 suite. Our primary performance focus, as usual, rested on Ixia’s IxChariot. Specifically, we ran two of IxChariot’s built-in scripts. Unless otherwise noted, we transferred 100 records with the High-Performance TCP Throughput script and 1000 records with the UDP Throughput script.

We will further explain the tests as we go in the following pages, but first a word about selecting a “winner” for each benchmark. In many cases, we did not pick the fastest time as the automatic victor. When it comes to network traffic, especially the wireless traffic so often used for media streaming, you actually care more about the slowest time than the fastest. It doesn’t matter how fast your data is coming in when all you’re trying to do is maintain 30 frames per second. But if your stream throughput drops to the point that you begin to drop frames or pause to buffer, then you’ve got a real problem. Our bias was to weight results toward average sustained throughput. In cases where two average scores were very close, though, we generally let the slowest recorded speed influence our decision.

  • jacobian
    In "How we tested" you didn't specify what kind of wi-fi hardware the test clients had. Was it PCIe or USB network adapter? What kind of MIMO setup, e.g. 3x3 or 2x2?

    Reply
  • chimera201
    I would like to see tear-down of routers to see the components for making a guess at longevity.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    This was a much better test setup, and a really interesting read. Only complaint was that the nighthawk may have an unfair advantage in the interferance tests compared to the other units as it went up against the 66U instead of another nighthawk. Perhaps you could dig up a 5GHz N router to act as a standard interference device next time? Or find a cheap AC router? It would make it a much better apples-to-apples comparison.

    At any rate, great article! I will certainly send this to my more tech-savvy friends who are looking to upgrade from N right now. I have the 66U in my own home and this seems to be spot-on which what I experience relating to distance and obstructions. It is not necessarily the fastest router on the market, but it is nice an consistent which has merits.
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    Home router security is so poor, I wouldn't even think of using one. Let me guess, they all have WPS, right? HUGE security hole that nobody ha made one little tiny step in fixing, and is "featured" on nearly every home router.
    Reply
  • Larry Litmanen
    I use to have constant WiFi issues, one day i went out and got the best router i could, still had issues. Calling them for support was hell, 45 minutes on the phone just to be told "Sorry sir but there's nothing wrong with our router, your internet is down".

    I found out that my cable/internet company provides a free router, they hooked it up..............no issues since. Heck they just gave me a free AC router that can be controlled from internet.

    I will not be buying any more routers.
    Reply
  • @dgingeri, I've never seen a router that didn't have the option to disable WPS. And WPS is better than nothing for non-technical people.

    Cool article.
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    15852608 said:
    @dgingeri, I've never seen a router that didn't have the option to disable WPS. And WPS is better than nothing for non-technical people.

    Cool article.

    WPS can't be turned disabled by software. That's the big problem with it. My last two routers and one AP got hacked through WPS, even though it was disabled in software. That's when I learned that it doesn't actually get turned off. The only way to protect against the WPS security hole is if the software running the router or AP doesn't support WPS. This can be done by either getting an AP or router without that feature (quite difficult and rather expensive) or putting an opensource software on your router that doesn't have support for WPS (more difficult, but somewhat less expensive.)

    As for "better than nothing for non-technical people", that's pretty much asinine. That's like saying "someone can't operate the key, so we'll leave this side door open."
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    15852434 said:
    I use to have constant WiFi issues, one day i went out and got the best router i could, still had issues. Calling them for support was hell, 45 minutes on the phone just to be told "Sorry sir but there's nothing wrong with our router, your internet is down".

    I found out that my cable/internet company provides a free router, they hooked it up..............no issues since. Heck they just gave me a free AC router that can be controlled from internet.

    I will not be buying any more routers.

    Did you know the ISP free routers have a back door for support purposes. They couldn't support them if they didn't have that back door. The big problem with that is that every support person, and former support person, for that company knows that back door. A vengeful or malicious former employee could easily hack into any customer's router and insert tracking software or "listen in" on the internet traffic, capturing all your passwords. They also have other massive security holes. ISPs patch their router firmware for bugs or security holes even less often than home router manufacturers. They aren't safe.

    Reply
  • liquidpower
    this is the most important part of the Client how could you not included it?
    In "How we tested" you didn't specify what kind of wi-fi hardware the test clients had. Was it PCIe or USB network adapter? What kind of MIMO setup, e.g. 3x3 or 2x2?
    Reply
  • bikeracer4487
    So in the "Performance without Encryption" section, in the very first test you test how long it takes to copy a 2GB folder, with the results measured in seconds. The AC66U wins with the lowest time, and the R6300 having the SLOWEST time...and yet you wrote this: "The exception is the R6300, which takes a 10% to 20% jump. This is a strong enough leap to propel it into first place in our test. Could it be that the R6300 is in fact a far more capable speedster being held back by encryption processing? Or is it just luck and variable ambient test conditions?"
    Reply