Group test: 12 dual-band routers reviewed

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There are several interesting things to note from the figures this month. The most telling is that three-stream 802.11n routers don’t seem to have heralded universal improvements in speed.

True, the three-stream (450Mbits/sec) routers in this Labs all have raw speed in abundance, and in general they’re quicker than their two-stream (300Mbits/sec) counterparts. At close range, the three-stream routers occupy most of the top speed slots. The single-band Buffalo three-stream router is top of the 2.4GHz charts, with a speed of 19.5MB/sec.

However, an advantage isn’t guaranteed. In fact, the fastest router over 5GHz is the humble 300Mbits/sec Asus RT-N56U, which also placed near the top in the close-range 2.4GHz test and both long-range 5GHz and 2.4GHz tests.
Of course, this has no bearing on how quick USB sharing is. Here the RT-N56U again shines, with a significant lead over all the other routers.

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View from the Labs



The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a discrepancy between this year’s performance figures and last year’s routers Labs.

First, we’ve moved from expressing performance in megabits per second to megabytes per second. This makes it easier to understand how fast a router is. Take the ASUS RT-N56U, for instance: in 5GHz mode at close range, it transferred our large test files from the router to our wireless laptop at an average of 24MB/ sec. It’s a small jump to work out how long, say, a 1GB file will take to download. It’s a shade under 43 seconds in this case, in case you don’t have a calculator handy.

But we’ve also had a change in test equipment forced upon us. Our trusty test laptop, a Lenovo W500, shuffled off this mortal coil. In its place, we’ve instituted a Gateway NO50, another business machine with the same 3x3 antenna configuration and wireless chipset – an Intel WiFi Link 5300.

You might think there wouldn’t be much difference, but there is. In the last Labs, the best speed we achieved over 2.4GHz at distance was around 8MB/sec; this time the fastest hit an average of 5.6MB/sec. Over 5GHz the gulf is even more marked, with average speeds hitting 6MB/sec last time and now struggling to breach the 3MB/sec barrier. This is almost certainly down to the placement of antennae in our new laptop.

In Labs, where every router is tested using the same equipment, this isn’t a problem, but it illustrates the need to improve hardware at both ends of the connection. Getting the best wireless router is important, and there’s a great selection of hardware to choose from here, but neglect your laptop hardware at your peril.

There are several interesting things to note from the figures this month. The most telling is that three-stream 802.11n routers don’t seem to have heralded universal improvements in speed.

True, the three-stream (450Mbits/sec) routers in this Labs all have raw speed in abundance, and in general they’re quicker than their two-stream (300Mbits/sec) counterparts. At close range, the three-stream routers occupy most of the top speed slots. The single-band Buffalo three-stream router is top of the 2.4GHz charts, with a speed of 19.5MB/sec.

However, an advantage isn’t guaranteed. In fact, the fastest router over 5GHz is the humble 300Mbits/sec Asus RT-N56U, which also placed near the top in the close-range 2.4GHz test and both long-range 5GHz and 2.4GHz tests.
Of course, this has no bearing on how quick USB sharing is. Here the RT-N56U again shines, with a significant lead over all the other routers.

Looking for the reviews of the 12 routers? They're in the sidebar at the start of this story (scroll up).


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This Group Test appeared in the Jan, 2012 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

See more about:  dualband  |  routers  |  homenetworking  |  cisco  |  dlink  |  netgear
 
 

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