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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance - 5 GHz

Figure 15 shows the IxChariot aggregate plot for all 5 GHz band downlink tests using 20 MHz channel width. I was disappointed to find that, despite the use of discrete 5 GHz amplifiers, the E4200 could not provide a reliable connection in my dead zone locations E and F. Throughput variation is again moderately low and generally free of large, long dropouts.

Cisco E4200 wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Figure 15: Cisco E4200 wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Best case 5 GHz performance was 79 Mbps running downlink in 40 MHz bandwidth mode, slightly lower than with the 2.4 GHz radio. But I measured only 90 Mbps total throughput in 40 MHz mode running simultaneous up and downlink tests, significantly less than the 2.4 GHz side.

Here are links to other IxChariot wireless test plots if you'd like to explore further:

Wireless Competitive

For a competitive comparison, I generated a Performance table, selecting the E3000, NETGEAR WNDR3700 and WNDR3700v2. Figure 16 shows the 2.4 GHz comparison. The E4200 doesn't win in each case. But if you look closely, you'll see it wins where it counts most.

I've never felt that highest throughput was the true measure of a router's worth. The high throughput game causes manufacturers to optimze designs around the wrong things and gives consumers false hope for good all-around performance.

Highest throughput is obtained only under strongest signal conditions, which usually means same or maybe next-room (with sheetrock wall) use. But if you have that setup, you're better off using Ethernet if you're trying to reliably stream high-def video.

No, the real measure of a good router can be found by looking at locations D, E and F, i.e. medium-low to low signal conditions. And except for a few cases, that is there the E4200 shines.

Wireless Competitive Comparison - 2.4 GHz

Figure 16: Wireless Competitive Comparison - 2.4 GHz

Figure 17 compares the same four routers in the 5 GHz band. Here the E4200 isn't as dominant, especially when compared to the original NETGEAR WNDR3700. But you soon won't be able to get that model and the v2 appears to have taken a step back in 5 GHz performance.

Wireless Competitive Comparison - 5 GHz

Figure 17: Wireless Competitive Comparison - 5 GHz

If you rerun the comparison chart omitting the original WNDR3700, then you see a very different story with the E4200 consistently beating the WNDR3700v2 in both bands, especially in the weaker signal location D.

Use the Wireless Charts to further compare and explore the E4200's performance.

Please note that I plan to come back and run the Total Wireless Bandwidth and Stress Tests I ran in the WNDR3700 and E3000 reviews. But I wanted to get at least most of the important results posted without further delay.

Closing Thoughts

It looks like Cisco has come up with a winner in the E4200 and it's is sure to kill off some demand for NETGEAR's WNDR3700 and even Cisco's own Linksys E3000, which I expect may start to be discounted in the coming months.

You'll be paying top price ($180) during the next few months while Best Buy is the exclusive retailer outside Cisco's own web store. Since you'll pay the same price in both places and Cisco offers free overnight shipping and 90 day returns with full refund, you'd be crazy to buy it from BB.

The E4200 is by no means perfect and lacks a few of the WNDR3700's features. And it seems to live up to its "Maximum Performance" moniker for 2.4 GHz performance. But if you're hoping that the E4200 will extend your 5 GHz WLAN coverage, you may be disappointed. To judge for yourself, though, why not just order one from Cisco and give it a shot?

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