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Beamforming: The Best WiFi You’ve Never Seen

Zap In 2.4 GHz, Average

All right, let’s get down to business. In location 1, with the client and APs practically kissing, we see very solid numbers across the board in our Zap 50% tests. I was actually a little surprised to see Ruckus pull so far ahead in location 1 because beamforming shouldn’t provide much benefit at very close distances. We see this evident in the twin Cisco scores, which show beamforming only giving a 2 Mbps boost.

Our next two distance tests fall near expectations. I’m not surprised that Ruckus won these tests, but I am surprised that Aruba lagged so far behind Cisco, even without beamforming enabled. Speaking of which, location 3 shows Cisco’s beamforming advantage, but it’s interesting that location 2 does not, perhaps indicating that the arrangement was closer to line-of-sight than I might have imagined.

Secluded off in that meeting room at location 4, Aruba drops off a cliff, failing to average even 5 Mbps. And again, if anything, Cisco’s beamforming appears to impair performance slightly. Very odd.

In location 5, it’s more of the same, although Ruckus finally shows some signs of weakening. Aruba can barely hold a connection at less than 1 Mbps, but Cisco does relatively well—especially with beamforming disabled.

Obviously, the throughput number you expect for bare-minimum acceptable performance will vary based on application. If you want to hold two HD streams, then you need at least 40 Mbps and preferably more for possible sporadic interference. At 2.4 GHz, none of these access points could handle this, but who would really set up a scenario like this in real life? As we continue, keep in mind that these tests are meant to prove or disprove the viability of WiFi beamforming, not necessarily to show how equipment should perform in a given situation.