Wi-Fi

Wireless ‘N’ worth the hype?


The world of wireless devices is moving fast and 802.11n or Wireless ‘N’ is the hottest new technology to hit the shelves. Everyone’s talking about ‘the next great leap in wireless technology’ and all of the big names in home networking are pushing their next-generation breakthrough solutions. Let’s forget about the fact that 802.11n is still only in the draft stages and hasn’t even been officially defined yet; what’s on offer and will you really notice the difference? Is the hype purely that--a marketing drive riding the 802.11n gravy train?

What are the claims being put forward by various producers of 802.11 draft n products?

Apple claim that due to multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology, 802.11n can perform up to five times faster and up to twice the range of 802.11g. There is of course the small print stating that actual performance may vary based on range, site conditions, and other factors.

Netgear quote the maximum speed of up to 300Mbps with the small print stating that this figure is derived from IEEE standard 802.11n specifications and actually throughput may vary. Netgear refrain from making any claims about increased range over 802.11g, simply saying that its ‘Rangemax Next’ product line provides maximum coverage and bandwidth. Another feature of Netgear’s 802.11n range of routers is their ‘Steady-Stream’ technology, which is claimed to offer a stable, constant connection perfect for streaming media applications. No more interruptions and freezes?

Belkin’s N1 range of wireless products are described as a breakthrough solution for larger homes or offices that have a wide area to cover and want to run high bandwidth applications. Belkin claim that speeds and range are greatly increased over 802.11g, but they do also say (in the small print) that the quoted rate is the physical data rate and that actually throughput will be lower. I think it’s pretty good of them to come right out with this rather than saying ‘may be’ or ‘could be’ lower.

Realistically, the theoretical throughput of 802.11n devices would be no more than 100Mbps which is still a considerable improvement over the 25Mbps of 802.11g. For a more in depth analysis of 802.11n’s capabilities, I would recommend taking a look at this paper by James M. Wilson of Intel I found it a worthwhile read.

So all of the big names in wireless networking are making the same claims—four to five times the speed of 802.11g devices with greater coverage and increased range. How do these claims stand up in the real world—real world conditions, which are always far from ‘ideal’ with a mixture of hardware from different manufacturers? Next week, I’m going to swap my 802.11g modem/access point for an 802.11n model and see how it fares. If you’ve already made the move, leave a comment or two and tell me whether you think it’s made any real difference to your wireless experience.

 

36 comments
Ribbleroo
Ribbleroo

I think it's also worth pointing out that performance will depend a lot on the type of wireless N router you get and whether you will be connecting with WiFi N and G devices. I reckon a good dual band simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5GHz router is the way to go as this article implies. http://wifin.net/2011/06/18/wifi-n-vs-g/

matthewdgates
matthewdgates

I currently have a Netgear RangeMax Wireless G router with MIMO. I have been looking into the N technology to see if it could benefit our home. We currently have two desktops (with rangemax g cards), two laptops, a wii, and home server sharing the network. We skype, stream HD movies, etc. I've never had a problem. The biggest thing I see highlighted by the "N crowed" is speed, range, and MIMO. My current router seems to be doing everything N advertises. I get a signal a couple doors down the street, 108mbps which out runs my 12mbps internet connection by a mile, and I have MIMO. I'm having trouble finding a good reason to switch out my G gear for N. If anyone can point out some obvious benefit that I am overlooking please do so. I'm all about better. Thanks.

chas2600
chas2600

I use the Netgear WNR3500 and the WN311B and the wireless card in my computer has had to be reinstalled 3 times now. I'm hoping it will work one day.

bkoury
bkoury

I bought a new laptop with Vista. My old router wasn't compatable so I bought a Buffalo G router (on Vista's compatabililty list). I have had nothing but problems connecting and staying connected. My kids were running XP on their laptops w/o any problems. I thought my problem was with Vista. My wife got a new Sony Vaio and has never had a problem. She is running Vista so I couldn't figure out why she connects and I can't. I connect fine everywhere but at home. I noticed her built-in card was b/g/n. Out of desperation I bought a Belkin USB N adapter. I have not lost my connection since and the thing is incredibly fast! With my old G, my download speed would start at about 80 kps and slow down to 30. With the N, the slowest it went was 178kps! That is with the G router!

highside350
highside350

I just installed a Linksys Wireless-N router and notebook card and on Speakeasy I'm only getting 1.5-1.7 Mbps downloads (about 2 rooms from the router), and strangely, 2.2 Mbps uploads! Maybe a setup issue? My comcast modem gets up to 20 Mbps downloads on my desktop without the router, so this is not what I was expecting for the extra money I spent over Wireless-G with Speedboost. BTW, my friend is running Wireless-G, I believe without Speedboost, and from a room away he's getting 8 Mbps downloads.

gtm111
gtm111

I'm so happy with n. I could not figure out why my new dell (year old)laptop got signals every where and cards in my old laptops got weak or no signals. I didnt think some of the unknown signals could be "n" but further research showed that my internal dell card is "n". so I went and bought a cheap airlink $20 n card to try and bingo! not as good as the dell (internal antena?) but good free internet every where I go with my old laptops. I can only emagine better with a quality brand n device. n rocks.

PapaWhiskey
PapaWhiskey

I have researched wireless routers for six months, and as recent as 3/31/07. Though I read some positive reviews from end users, I read too many professional reviews that said to wait until the final draft of N is ratified. So on 3/31/07 I orderd a Linksys G-based SRX400 wireless router. Anything made using Pre-N, or Draft-N technology runs the risk of incompatibility with the ratified N products, and that's not a risk I want to take.

D-cat
D-cat

The major deal with the n spec is that it's greedy, and will totally trash your neighbors' existing b/g equipment bandwidth. See G. Ou's "How to jam your neighbor's wireless, legally." I have actually seen this happen, one day one of my clients' wireless network ceased functioning for no apparent reason. A quick scan revealed a new belkin pre-n router in the area.... actually, 50% of the time, that was the only router to show up in the list (and twice, as an interesting oddity), most of the time, nothing came in at all, forget seeing never mind connecting to his own router. The client's linksys G router was about 80' away w/ a line of sight to the offended workstation. Relocating a WiFi repeater helped another nearby workstation that was getting hiccups, but didn't do anything for his "corner office." I recommended he run a CAT5e cable, despite the distance; his connectivity was going to be better than he was currently getting. He did, and he's all set now, but what a PITA.

teligence
teligence

About a year ago (already!?!?) I made the leap from Netgear "g" to D-Link 634-M (108G MIMO). The primary justification was coverage - not speed. I immediately noticed a better (more consistent, stronger) signal even with the "g" cards in my family's notebooks. With the corresponding MIMO PC Card in the notebooks, the signal strength, coverage and stability went from "better" to "excellent". I would have given it an "outstanding" except that there were still a couple weak areas well within what I would classify as a "minimal coverage area" for a standard, wood-framed home. After a bit of additional sleuthing, I determined that these weak areas were greatly affected by the position of the laptop in reference to the router. Generally, when the exposed portion of the wireless PC card was pointing away from the router, the signal was weakest. (Makes a bit of sense, I guess.) A simple rotation of the laptop to orient the PC card TOWARD the router caused the signal strength to go from a range of 0-1 "bars" to 3-4 "bars". But, who wants to sit backwards on a sofa??? Next - I'm planning on setting up an ADDITIONAL access point at the opposite side of the house. This should eliminate ALL weak spots.

ciacob
ciacob

Im sorry but I found this article to be a waste of time. Why can't we just state facts and not have suck an opinion? Can you even have an opinion until you've used it? Not a qualified one thats for sure. You will always find it true, that even if your NIC is seeing 40Mbs speeds, your throughput, due to wireless overhead and signaling will be much lower. So the manufacturers warning was not just for 802.11n, it was for wireless in general. Please, if I could ask one thing, can we make these articles a bit more objective?

gorenjc
gorenjc

When you have a simple building with 2 or 3 walls, have you tried to make a WiFi network to work with laptops around. Acer, FSC or HP laptops using standard integrated 54b/g adapters. I? we tried cheap and expensive. Changing to newer technology like range extend, buster and MIMO every time is slightly better and better but not good. No go OK, let?s try the new Pre-N I?ve adopted Netgear Pre-N WNR834B model (no external antenna). I was finally satisfied! Comparing to previous installed Linksys WRV200 2-3x the indoor radius. If you move the laptops indoor: changing rooms, walls or opening/closing doors the signal is still excellent. (good strength and no loss or reconnecting occurred) You want the office, home, house net to work for sure, invest in a good Pre N or N router first! You have other experience please comment!

HardFlash
HardFlash

I've had a Belkin Pre-N router and access cards for my wife's PC across the house and my portable since 11/2004. The differene in speed over G is not discernable (perhaps because I don't typically use full bandwidth), but the range/coverage is significantly better. The "remote" PC in my wife's office is only 50' or so away, but there are three walls (including two exterior walls) between my PC and hers. Before Pre-N, we would regularly lose the wireless connection. Since installing it, we haven't had one break. Since my (Dell 1150) portable's USB port failed, I've had to use the card slot for USB adapters and haven't been able to use the Pre-N card I bought for it. Consequently, I still have connection problems around the house since my portable's internal wireless is G. The lessons are (1)no improvement in range unless both ends are N and (2) don't buy Dell portables until they fix the (widespread) USB port failure problem.

glen.kathler
glen.kathler

With the Linksys version 1 equipment. WRT300N and WPC300N nothing we could do in the Lab achieved any better actual throughput than the standard 802.11g Gearat about 22 Mb/s. So at this point no noticeable differences. In a few weeks we will put the version 2 equipment through its paces.

maderman
maderman

I had trouble with my 802.11g home network reaching all my systems from the basement to the second floor. Based on claims of better performance I gave "n" a try. It works like a charm throughout the house with no problems and to date no problems with the neighbors who run "g" networks. So far I'm sold.

MGP2
MGP2

In December, I switched from the DLink DI-634M router and DWL-G650M card to the DIR-655 router and DWA-652 card, and I'm thrilled with the improvement. The only thing I find disappointing is that DLink never seems willing to send their equipment to technical reporters conducting comparative testing so they can see how they stack up against the competition. While I know I'm not getting the 300Mbps in throughput that's shown by the icon in my notification tray, it would be nice to know what actual throughput is achievable in comparison to the other vendors' products.

Albert Frankenstein
Albert Frankenstein

I have installed two 'n' systems, and in one case we were seeing wired connection speed of 180, and now with 'n' wireless the same computer is seeing 220. Pretty impressive.

CorporateLackie
CorporateLackie

I have not had time/$$$ to do a lot of experimentation but I have found WIDE variation in range between brands and models of routers. As an example the Belkin Pre-N (gray box) has far superior range to the newer Belkin N-1 (black) box.

jp
jp

Longer. Well at least untill the gear can do "what it says on the tin". I've been following the "n" for a while and read that manufacturers started putting products to market before the "n" spec was fully ratified (well ...at least in the EU). It never pays to be an early adopter of new hardware/software. Any answer in short... no, not worth the hype ..... yet.

caruso.richard
caruso.richard

After installing 2 Linksys Wireless-N routers replacing 2 Linksys Wireless-11g routers on two different systems it appears the claims are highly exaggerated. DEFINITELY NOT WORTH THE HYPE!

highside350
highside350

Ok, just as someone here suggested, I set the router to Wireless-N only, changed to wide band 40Mhz (from 20Mhz) and added a secondary channel. The download speed doesn't seem to be very consistent yet, but I got a bunch of 15Mbps tests and just now got nearly 19. I'm upstairs from the router right now.

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

I don't know if I'd really call it a 'risk'. Worst case you need to buy some new gear in two years time, so what, maybe $200? Best case you would be able to get a firmware update for nothing and be up to date with the final 802.11n standard. Swimming in a swamp full of alligators; that's a risk :)

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

Who said I haven't used it? Take a look at my latest post; I've been playing with it for the past few weeks... As for opinion well everybody has an opinion and they are entitled to have it. If we stuck to the facts, the facts and nothing but the facts at all times it would be a pretty boring world (just my opinion, some ubber-geeks may not agree)!

teligence
teligence

If it was objective only, then you wouldn't have the privilege of your prior rant. Read what's useful to you, try ignoring what's not, get off your soapbox, and let others share their experiences - as was requested by the creator of this thread!

dougwadley
dougwadley

Similar experience here with Belkin models The best feature of this 802.11n + MIMO combination in both models was its excellent performance over a really rough and large mix of 802.11a/b/g devices. It eliminated all the "dead spots" and didn't bust everyone down to the lowest common denominator. I suspect the MIMO implementation is the key here rather than 'N'. Absolutely sold on these.

CHaynes
CHaynes

Strange that you come to a conclusion without even trying it! I have moved from Linksys G kit (which required signal boosters all over the place just to get it to work) to Netgear RangeMax Next and I have to say that it really rocks. Great stable speeds at 270Mbps on all computers, no repeaters, browsing the internet on one system doesn't affect others very much (under G I found that is one computer was downloading a large file you may as well go and drink coffee on other systems until it finished) downloading. All in all hugely successful IMHO - and yes I know it is in draft but it has solved my network problems in one go. Oh and yes I live in Europe and the network in in building constructed from Limestone and concrete!

pivert
pivert

in europe it's tradition to build a home that lasts a 100 years, so many installations just fail because of the concrete, bricks and iron in the construction. my current advise is: in the same room: go ahead, if you want to go through walls: forget it. i hope N will do better. the other standards fail. and why have a 100mb to access the internet at... 2 or 3mb (in most cases)

toddbartimole
toddbartimole

Are your networked computers equipped with -N- wireless cards? You would have to have not only an -N- router but an N wireless adapter on the computer itself to notice any difference.

pshannonwatts
pshannonwatts

I too changed from Linksys G to Linksys N and found much improvment. Living in a Log Home I need all the help/speed/distance I can get

jack.gray
jack.gray

I have installed 2 D-Link N wireless routers in separte locations and they certainly give greater signla strength a more throughput which is a blessing considering i find most of the other D-Link products especially in the 802 11g range pretty average. Would rather use linksys or netgear at the level.

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

Thanks, I couldn't agree more. I wish I could devote more time to participating in these threads as I really find it interesting to hear other's viewpoints and opinions; regardless of whether I share the same opinion or not.

CorporateLackie
CorporateLackie

I was suprised as I figured the N would be the same as the Pre-N in terms of range, and just match the "standards" for N protocol. The are still advertising MIMO for the N router but .... it is sure not as good.... Jim

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

I guess, I mean we all use wifi in Europe! The old access points were useless as the signal couldn't effectively penetrate more then one solid wall. The newer ranges are much better, I've had good results with Netgear 'RangeMax' and 'RangeMax Next'. I never do understand why people in the US build 'paper' houses in areas known to be plagued by tornadoes and hurricanes. Sure it's cheap but not when you have to rebuild it every few years and the insurance won't pay out! If I decided to move there I'd make sure my house was built from solid iron (may have some problems with wifi and cell phones, lol).

ITEngineerGuy
ITEngineerGuy

Unless you are looking for possible increased range or coverage then why switch to N? My cable internet provider boasts speeds up to 10Mbps so why do I need 300 unless I have a home network doing file sharing or playing games with multiple PC's. My two cents for what its worth because I haven't tried N and don't plan on it as long as I get good performance from G.

night.skywatcher
night.skywatcher

Took some 'tweaking' to get the performance as spec'd. You have to set the router to only use 'N' and ignore 'G' to make it rock. Flawless, stable, and easy. Highly recommended.

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