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Wireless Reviews

Router / Wireless Stress

I didn't have enough computers to simultaneously run wired routing, all three radios and storage testing. So I dropped the low-band 5 GHz radio from this stress test and reassigned two computers to drive wired routing traffic from WAN to LAN. This means the remaining computer connected to the R8000 LAN is streaming traffic to both 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless clients.

The plot below starts the 2.4 GHz radio traffic first. At 20 seconds, WAN > LAN traffic is added, capped at 300 Mbps/sec. Then at the 30 second mark, 5 GHz traffic flow starts.

Not capping wired routing traffic tended to make both router and 5 GHz plot lines overlap and vary too much too tell them apart. Besides, isn't 300 Mbps wired downlink throughput enough?

The main interaction here is between the two radios, with the 2.4 GHz radio's throughput dropping when the 5 GHz radio's throughput spikes up. Routing doesn't seem to affect either.

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radios

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radios

Storage Interaction

My last stress test was to check for interaction with USB 3.0 storage. Routers with USB 3.0 ports must take care with internal design and shielding to prevent impairing 2.4 GHz radio performance (and vice-versa) when both are active.

The screenshot below shows a drag-and-drop filecopy of a single 1.15 GB Windows backup file from the computer connected to the R8000's LAN side to a WD Passport USB 3.0 drive shared by the R8000 as an NTFS formatted folder.

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - no other activity

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - no other activity

The next plot shows the same sequence as the previous plot above, but with the drag-and-drop started 60 seconds into the run. The only effect seems to be higher 5 GHz radio throughput variation. But that could just as easily be variation unrelated to the filecopy. The main point is there is no affect on 2.4 GHz throughput.

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radios, with USB 3.0 filecopy

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radios, with USB 3.0 filecopy

But filecopy throughput is affected with a 50%+ reduction.

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radio traffic

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - Router, 2.4 & 5 GHz radio traffic

I also ran a test to look at interaction between 2.4 GHz activity and storage filecopy only. The plot below shows no sign of interaction when the filecopy is started 30 seconds in.

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - 2.4 GHz radio, with USB 3.0 filecopy started @ 30 seconds

NETGEAR R8000 Stress Test - 2.4 GHz radio, with USB 3.0 filecopy started @ 30 seconds

Filecopy throughput, however, is again reduced, but not as much as before.

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - 2.4 GHz traffic only

Filecopy to USB 3.0 drive - 2.4 GHz traffic only

I'd say NETGEAR has done an excellent job of controlling USB 3.0 and 2.4 GHz radio interaction. But there is still work left in redirecting spare CPU power to storage.

Closing Thoughts

Wi-Fi has been around long enough that the "higher number on the box" should suck in only the most dewy-eyed buyers. So it should come as no surprise that the R8000 isn't likely to work miracles with your Wi-Fi range or boost throughput for individual clients. At its heart, the R8000 has the same Broadcom 3x3 AC radios that power the majority of AC1900 routers. So any range or throughput improvement will be modest, as our test results show.

The R8000's real promise is in improving total wireless throughput with mixes of client types. And here, the R8000 is a work in progress. NETGEAR chose to let the R8000 perform only a few tricks out of Broadcom's entire XStream technology catalog. So you might be better off manually assigning clients to its two 5 GHz radios, instead of using the very simple (and static) client assignment algorithms currently implemented.

Right now, NETGEAR has the AC3200 market all to itself, as ASUS has with AC2350 in the form of its RT-AC87. That situation isn't going to last much longer. (All I can say is that I'm going to have a very busy fall.) If I were you, I'd wait until there are a few other candidates to choose from in both classes. Your patience will be rewarded.

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