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Networking Wireless Networking

802.11ac WiFi Router Round-Up Tests Broadcom XStream Platform Performance (hothardware.com) 77

MojoKid writes: Wireless routers are going through somewhat of a renaissance right now, thanks to the arrival of the 802.11ac standard that is "three times as fast as wireless-N" and the proliferation of Internet-connected devices in our homes and pockets. AC is backward compatible with all previous standards, and whereas 802.11n was only able to pump out 450Mb/s of total bandwidth, 802.11ac is capable of transmitting at up to 1,300Mbps on a 5GHz channel. AC capability is only available on the 5GHz channel, which has fewer devices on it than a typical 2.4GHz channel. The trade-off is that 5GHz signals typically don't travel as far as those on the 2.4GHz channel.

However, 802.11ac makes up for it with a technology named Beamforming, which allows it to figure out where devices are located and amplify the signal in their direction instead of just broadcasting in all directions like 802.11n. Also, while 802.11n supports only four streams of data, 802.11ac supports up to eight streams on channels that are twice as wide. HotHardware's AC Router round-up takes a look at four flagship AC routers from ASUS, TRENDnet, D-Link and Netgear. All are AC3200 routers that use the new Broadcom XStream 5G platform. Netgear's Nighthawk X6 tends to offer the best balance of performance in various use cases. However, all models performed similarly, with subtle variances in design, features and pricing left to differentiate them from one another.

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802.11ac WiFi Router Round-Up Tests Broadcom XStream Platform Performance

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  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @01:20AM (#50723795) Homepage Journal

    Wireless routers are a security disaster. Public interface combined with the front door and back door to your network.

    Get access points. They don't run out of memory because they aren't doing all that routing and firewall stuff.
    Have a separate router.

    Don't mix to two. Just don't.

    • It is trivial to turn off the routing functionality, effectively configuring the router into AP.

      http://www.smallnetbuilder.com... [smallnetbuilder.com]

    • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2015 @01:47AM (#50723887)
      ...or buy one supported by https://openwrt.org/ [openwrt.org]
      • by Willuz ( 1246698 )
        Except that openwrt does not work reliably with any 802.11AC routers which are the entire topic of this article. This lends even more credit to the advice of separating the two since newer wireless protocols/chipsets take much longer to develop stable open source drivers. However, even a 5 year old router with DD-WRT can do a great job as a router up to 100Mb which is enough for nearly all home internet connections. So load an older but very stable router with DD-WRT then get a newer access point which c
    • I'll settle for a router / access point that keeps up with heavy use and doesn't magically slow down, randomly refuses connections, suddenly forgets about DHCP or stops passing on DHCP requests to the server, requiring a reboot to start working normally again. I've tried quite a few brands and models (including one with OpenWRT), and on the advice of someone who deals with networking equipment a lot, the best one I got is a cheap ass (€40) TP-Link model, which works very well but has a pitiful range.
    • Maybe I'm crazy, but it seemed like there was a time when pure access points got strangely expensive and "routers" were cheap.

      So I just bought a router and used one of the LAN ports as its uplink, avoiding the "WAN" port and all the routing functionality together. I already have a firewall/router elsewhere.

      The only downside I've seen of doing this is some of the devices I've used seem to have some of their ancillary functionality, like NTP, hardcoded to only use the WAN port for outgoing traffic.

      • by gmack ( 197796 )

        The Asus routers have a nice "AP mode" where NAT/DHCP gets turned off and NTP, updates etc just keep working. Contrast that with the latest Linksys models that reset their config if they can't access the internet through the WAN port to manage it's "cloud based management".

        These days I use nothing but Asus for myself and I advise customers to avoid Linksys..

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      I'm willing to pay upwards of $400 for an AP, and I really want one because I want to do VLANs, but I have yet to see a 6 antenna MU-MIMO 1700+ AP.

      Another issue that I realized is that I have a better chance of a home wireless router letting me install OpenWRT than an AP. One of the eventual changes to OpenWRT is per device wifi queues. Wifi is only fast because it supports batching, but the network stacks are so dumb that they only batch when there are 2 or more packets in a row destined for the same dev
    • I'm not sure I follow. Most home "routers" also have wifi capabilities. They allow you to connect to your ISPs modem, connect several LAN computers to the modem, as well as connect WiFi devices.

      How would your setup work? Do you have a LAN router that connects to the WAN modem, and then a separate AP for Wifi devices? That seems expensive, and not easy to maintain.

      • I'm not sure I follow. Most home "routers" also have wifi capabilities. They allow you to connect to your ISPs modem, connect several LAN computers to the modem, as well as connect WiFi devices.

        How would your setup work? Do you have a LAN router that connects to the WAN modem, and then a separate AP for Wifi devices? That seems expensive, and not easy to maintain.

        That is exactly how WiFi was designed from day 1. As APs connected to a LAN.

        WiFi Routers came later.

  • So which ones are well-supported (actually functional and stable) by OpenWRT? The bandwidth will be nice, but dealing with factory firmware isn't worth it.

    • by flink ( 18449 )

      The ASUS router ships with a custom version of DD-WRT, and you can always put the stock version on there. Not sure about OpenWRT support though.

      • by Algan ( 20532 )

        Actually the Asus router comes with their own firmware called AsusWRT, which is licensed under GPL. There's at least one hobbyist derivative by the name AsusWRT Merlin. Asus has been known to cooperate with Merlin by providing them with beta versions and by pulling patches into their mainline firmware. Third party firmwares such as Tomato or DD-WRT can also be installed. The factory firmware isn't too bad as of now, but if you're the kind that likes to mod routers, Asus is a pretty good choice

        • by flink ( 18449 )

          Ah OK, I thought AsusWRT was DD-WRT-derived. My mistake. Anyway, when I was researching routers I chose the ASUS RT-AC68U based on it being amicable to flashing with other firmware. The out of the box stuff is pretty good though, and so far I haven't felt the need to tinker with it yet.

    • by naris ( 830549 )

      TFA answers that question for DD-WRT:

      Trendnet router fared in our wireless testing. It's also the only router in this test to openly support the DD-WRT open source firmware (though builds are available for all of the others), which could seal the deal for many folks reading this. The other routers here do have support from the DD-WRT communnity as well, though they don't "officially" support it.

      One would think OpenWRT would be similar, but it does not appear to be so as none of them show up in the list o

  • Since our "Broadband" is delivered by a doped slug with a man carrying a red flag walking in front of it, I doubt we will notice the difference.

    802.11b is comfortably faster than our "Borat_band".

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      I guess your cable company hasn't upgraded to DOCSIS 3 yet? Because even first generation head ends running in 4x4 mode support 152/108, the new DOCSIS 3.1 spec supports speeds in the ten gigabit per second range. The few markets served by FTTH can also get 10Gbps speeds through 10G-PON, it's just sad that it's not available nationwide since we paid AT&T 10's of billions to build that next generation network.

    • Not everyone lives up here in Canada. Some people DO actually have decent Internet speeds.
  • At least in the US, this serves absolutely no purpose, since even plain ol' 802.11g/a beats anything short of FTTP.

    Hell, I even use a pretty kickass home media server, and streaming a 1080p Blu-Ray rip only sucks down around 20-30MBps on average (peaks at 54, IIRC). 802.11n can handle 5-10 of those simultaneously without breaking a sweat.

    I don't mean to sound like "640k should be enough for anyone" - I love new toys - But we need to address the bigger problem with getting the bits to our door before we
    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      Backups over WiFi that are bottlenecked by my NAS disk write speed are worth the investment in 802.11ac.

      Downloading from the net at the same time and simultaneously watching a HD movie streaming to my TV without hitting WiFi bandwidth constraints is something I don't even think about.

      It's good, I benefit from it supporting way higher throughput than my WAN connection and it's also nice knowing it supports the full 160Mbps I get over WAN too.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      I guess your cable company hasn't upgraded to DOCSIS 3 yet? Because even first generation head ends running in 4x4 mode support 152/108, the new DOCSIS 3.1 spec supports speeds in the ten gigabit per second range.

    • But we need to address the bigger problem with getting the bits to our door before we worry about how fast the bits actually move around inside our houses.

      1. I've been using the Xbox One streaming to my laptop, which will now work in 1080p, but getting it to work on my 802.11n has been problematic. Plugging into my 1g wired connection solves it.

      2. While, in theory, 802.11n should allow HD streaming between devices on my WLAN, the issue is that I'm in a moderate density area (1/4 acre lots. Not an apartment, but not in the woods), and I can see around 10-20 SSIDs nearby. The more everyone switches to 802.11ac, the less time each access point will be using a ch

    • A WRT54G can't keep up with a 50Mbps connection. Oh it'll come fairly close, meaning it can handle anything less than that, but it won't reach 50Mbps. Now a N model, sure, it can keep up.

    • by waTeim ( 2818975 )
      As for me, 60/6 currently expected to upgrade to 300/20 on Nov 3; Time Warner. Google fiber later. For now ASUS 802.11ac hand-me-down is sufficient (not always downstairs). What's going on with your pathetic bandwidth, do you live in some rural area or something? LEO satellite will take care of that... not this year.
  • Hams know that a good antenna system backed by a marginal radio will always beat a great radio on a garbage antenna. Good to know that rule applies for wireless as well. My move to an AC router meant that my 2.4 ghz signal is now maxed out in the whole house, and the 5 ghz signal, which used to work in two rooms only, now covers the whole house like my old router on 2.4.

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