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You are here: Central > Broadband Home Labs > Home Networking > Wi-Fi > Round Three Wi-Fi Tests
Created 3/10/2005

Round Three Wi-Fi Tests

Our Round Three testing in January through March 2005 compared the performance of standard 802.11g Wi-Fi both with earlier 11g implementations and with new MIMO equipment compatible with 802.11g. The new Belkin equipment is based on chips from Airgo Networks which we'll call "MIMO/11g".

These tests were intended to provide a realistic estimate of Wi-Fi throughput with a single access point at a reasonably optimum location near the center of the house and wireless devices used throughout the home. As in our earlier tests, we were especially interested in the falloff of performance in the "real world" of distance and obstacles.

We took measurements at 19 locations around our home to determine how throughput is degraded by distance, walls, floors and other obstacles. We used HONEST to measure the file transfer speed over two minutes. We took at least one sample at each location; when we took multiple samples, we averaged them. The access point was at the same location -- labelled AP on the diagram -- in approximately the center of the main floor of our house. See the test locations page for the location of each test.

We tested three access points in round 3We tested nine different two-node networks, each consisting of a Wi-Fi access point and a single notebook adapter. We used three access points: one with "MIMO/11g" and two based on standard 802.11g. We used three notebook adapters: one based on MIMO/11g, one on standard 802.11g, and the third a "tri-mode" unit (802.11a, 11b and 11g) used in 802.11g mode.

Belkin Pre-N Router has three MIMO antennasThe Belkin Wireless Pre-N Router looks very distinctive, with three antennas pointing straight up in front. These antennas, and the digital signal processing inside the box, are what differentiate MIMO from standard "diversity" antennas.

Wi-Fi Test Procedure describes our testing procedures. Detailed test results are provided below.

Summary

Here's a summary of what we found:

  • MIMO/11g showed impressive improvement in both throughput and range over standard 11g.
  • Standard 802.11g showed considerable throughput improvement over our earlier 11g tests.
  • Combining MIMO/11g with standard 11g worked but gave mixed results.
  • For the first time in our Wi-Fi testing, we feel that wireless video networking is on the horizon.

See below for our detailed conclusions.

Test Combinations

We tested nine different two-node networks, each consisting of a Wi-Fi access point and a single notebook adapter. The following table shows the equipment used for each test combination (MIMO indicates MIMO compatible with 802.11g):

TestTechnologyAccess PointNotebook Adapter
1MIMO-MIMOBelkin F5D8230-4 Wireless Pre-N RouterBelkin F5D8010 Pre-N Notebook Notebook Card
211g-MIMOLinksys WAP54G Wireless-G Access PointBelkin F5D8010 Pre-N Notebook Notebook Card
311g-MIMOSMC2870W EZ Connect™ g Wireless Ethernet BridgeBelkin F5D8010 Pre-N Notebook Notebook Card
4MIMO-11gBelkin F5D8230-4 Wireless Pre-N RouterLinksys WPC54G Wireless-G Notebook Adapter
511g-11gLinksys WAP54G Wireless-G Access PointLinksys WPC54G Wireless-G Notebook Adapter
611g-11gSMC2870W EZ Connect™ g Wireless Ethernet BridgeLinksys WPC54G Wireless-G Notebook Adapter
7MIMO-11gBelkin F5D8230-4 Wireless Pre-N RouterSMC2336W-AG Universal Wireless Cardbus Adapter
811g-11gLinksys WAP54G Wireless-G Access PointSMC2336W-AG Universal Wireless Cardbus Adapter
911g-11gSMC2870W EZ Connect™ g Wireless Ethernet BridgeSMC2336W-AG Universal Wireless Cardbus Adapter

Test Results

The following table shows the results of each test, expressed in Mbps, with averages for each pair of equipment we tested.

LocationTest 1Test 2Test 3Test 4Test 5Test 6Test 7Test 8Test 9
129.1914.6519.1515.9113.689.0815.3015.4313.38
237.2219.2219.0916.1415.9015.1114.5820.3817.68
337.4319.2617.7315.3517.3713.4116.3615.0711.91
418.516.4013.119.527.588.874.886.184.75
523.4012.2811.397.128.0811.386.823.785.01
626.985.9510.2710.308.458.528.497.887.94
734.7819.2118.7515.4013.3312.8314.2719.5812.22
832.8820.0019.5313.7616.7716.4415.4919.7917.37
931.1819.2218.8113.4116.2111.8516.1820.0618.71
1035.4419.8418.7916.8915.7418.4816.1720.2819.97
1134.8619.8219.3116.1721.1118.4717.1320.2719.94
1231.2217.5119.1713.3515.7815.9411.5514.0515.60
1333.6216.9019.2915.1115.4217.6813.4219.8019.19
1423.0613.6612.738.749.616.026.374.6310.44
1531.8219.2120.0813.7020.5018.1311.8619.5918.93
1616.7315.039.5111.3710.404.739.414.569.85
1728.3811.6615.887.707.8012.685.496.759.32
1831.5713.7817.219.229.2413.8010.547.8911.50
1914.569.3712.097.604.295.5210.893.959.64
Average29.1015.4216.4212.4613.0112.5811.8513.1513.33

The following table shows rhe throughput for each combination of access point and notebook adaptor technology. Of the nine tests, one was MIMO-MIMO, two 11g-MIMO, two MIMO-11g, and four 11g-11g.

LocationMIMO-MIMO11g-MIMOMIMO-11g11g-11g
129.1916.9015.6112.89
237.2219.1615.3617.27
337.4318.5015.8614.44
418.519.757.206.84
523.4011.846.977.06
626.988.119.408.20
734.7818.9814.8414.49
832.8819.7714.6317.59
931.1819.0214.8016.71
1035.4419.3216.5318.62
1134.8619.5716.6519.95
1231.2218.3412.4515.34
1333.6218.1014.2718.02
1423.0613.207.567.68
1531.8219.6512.7819.29
1616.7312.2710.397.39
1728.3813.776.609.14
1831.5715.509.8810.61
1914.5610.739.255.85
Average29.1015.9212.1613.02

Conclusions

We report our conclusions from completed tests of standard 802.11g and MIMO/11g access points and notebook adaptors. These conclusions are based on tests in only one house, with one sample of each product. There is no way of knowing how well other products in other homes will perform.

We are seeing a remarkable progression of improvements in "Wi-Fi" technology. Early MIMO enhancements show the same improvement over standard 11g--a throughput improvement of better than 2X--as the early 11g showed over 11b. The mature 11g implementations showed considerable improvement over the early 11g implementations tested in Round One--and some of those were the same devices with updated firmware or drivers. The newest MIMO devices provide high enough throughput and consistency to support video networking.

Specifically:

  • All combinations worked at all nineteen test locations--most obstructed by walls, floors and ducts, and one quite far from the access point through an outside wall. This is in contrast with earlier 802.11 and 802.11b equipment, which did not work at half the test locations.
  • MIMO/11g showed impressive improvement in both throughput and range over standard 11g. MIMO/11g throughput averaged 29 Mbps<, varying from 37 Mbps (with the notebook adapter a floor below the access point) to 17 Mbps at the worst point in the house and 15 Mbps at the worst point tested outside. This was more than twice the average throughput of 802.11g and more than three times at the more distant test points.
  • Standard 802.11g throughput averaged 13 Mbps, varying from an average maximum of about 20 Mbps (with the notebook adapter in the same room as the access point) down to about 6 Mbps at the furthest distance from the access point. This was a considerable improvement over the 9 Mbps in our earlier 11g tests, showing continued improvements in Wi-Fi technology.
  • Combining MIMO/11g with standard 11g gave mixed results. The MIMO/11g notebook adapter showed a 20% improvement over standard 11g, especially when further from the 11g access point. The MIMO/11g access point reduced average throughput by about 7% when used with standard 11g notebook adapters.
  • For the first time in our Wi-Fi testing, we feel that wireless video networking is on the horizon. With throughput of 17 Mbps at the worst point in the house, MIMO/11g could carry several channels of standard-definition television or a single channel of high-definition anywhere in a house. The Airgo chips support WMM, which allows video to have priority over data (see Wi-Fi Standards page for more on WMM and 802.11e). Since this technology can be viewed as a precursor to 802.11n, it strongly suggests that 11n will be able to carry multiple HD channels throughout the home.

Many products are now on the market with various forms of "accelerated 11g". We have tested only products based on the Airgo Networks chipset. We plan to test new products as they become available and update our reports and conclusions.


Next: HONEST: HOme NEtworking Speed Test