802.11n Draft 2 devices for the SOHO market are substantially better than Draft 1 equipment according to recent testing by NetworkWorld and Farpoint Group. NetworkWorld and Farpoint Group used their testing of Draft 1 devices last year as the reference point on which they based their conclusions.The 802.11n Draft 1 test results were published in this August 7, 2006 NetworkWorld article and were not very inspiring:
"We found a disappointingly broad range of variability in throughput and generally poor interoperability among so-called "Draft 1-compliant" products-not an entirely unexpected result given the lack of any form of third-party interoperability certification."
Products used in the 802.11n Draft 2 tests had to meet two pre-requisites-have at least one Gigabit Ethernet port and have received the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Draft N certification. In an October 1, 2007 NetworkWorld article, C.J. Mathias gives a break down of the test results along with optimistic support for Draft 2 equipment:
"This year's products-representing the latest from Belkin, D-Link, Linksys, Netgear and SMC-with a few exceptions, did much better in the interoperability department, and we occasionally saw performance better than the best of last year's crop."
The Wi-Fi Alliance appears to have made a difference with the Draft 2 devices' performance. Improved interoperability between vendors was mentioned as being paramount to the "across the board" improvement. The time may now be right to buy 802.11n devices. "Overall, it's clear the WLAN industry is making progress," wrote Mathias, "And there's no good reason not to go with 802.11n today."
Michael Kassner is currently a systems manager for an international company. Together with his son, he runs MKassner Net, a small IT publication consultancy.