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Wireless How To

Introduction

NOTE!NOTE:
For wireless products tested after July 24, 2011, see this article.
For wireless products tested between June 19, 2008 and July 23 2011, see this article.
For wireless products tested between March 2007 and June 19, 2008, see this article.
For wireless products tested after October 1, 2003 to before November 2005, see this article.
For wireless products tested before October 1, 2003, see this article.

In late 2005, I moved into a new home and had to establish new test locations. Since this essentially wiped the slate clean in terms of being able to compare wireless test results going forward to those from my previous reviews, I also decided to establish new test methodology and add a scoring system.

My 3300 square foot two-level home is built on a hillside lot with 2x6 wood-frame exterior walls, 2x4 wood-frame sheetrock interior walls, and metal and metalized plastic ducting for the heating and air conditioning system. The Access Point (AP) or wireless router is placed on a four foot high non-metallic shelf away from metal cabinets and RF sources.

Figure 1 shows a simplified layout of the lower level and two of the five test locations.

Lower Level Test Locations

Figure 1: Lower Level Test Locations

Note that the Laundry, Utility, Storage and Crawl(space) areas are below grade, but the rest of the rooms on the lower level have daylight access. Figure 2 shows the upper level layout and the other three test locations.

Upper Level Test Locations

Figure 2: Upper Level Test Locations

The lower-level corner office is not the best location for placing a wireless router or access point for whole-house coverage, but serves the purpose well for pushing products to their limits. Note that the orientations of the icons for the AP and notebooks in Figures 1and 2 are significant. Unlike the previous test methodology that always pointed the client adapter antenna toward the AP under test, the notebook carrying the client adapter under test is now oriented as a user would naturally do in each location. Here are descriptions of the five test locations:

  • Location #1: AP and wireless client in same room, approximately 6 feet apart.

  • Location #2: Client in room on same level, approximately 45 feet away from AP. Two sheetrock walls between AP and Client.

  • Location #3: Client in upper level, approximately 25 feet away (direct path) from AP. One wood floor, sheetrock ceiling, no walls between AP and Client.

  • Location #4: Client on upper level, approximately 55 feet away (direct path) from AP. Two to three interior walls, one wood floor, one sheetrock ceiling and stainless-steel refrigerator, between AP and Client.

  • Location #5: Client on upper level, approximately 65 feet away (direct path) from AP. Four to five interior walls, one wood floor, one sheetrock ceiling, between AP and Client.

While you might think that Location 5 is the most difficult, Location 4 turned out to be the toughest. I suspect this is due to the combination of antenna orientation, stainless-steel clad appliances close by, and the desktop test location being sunken about 6 inches below an adjoining quartz-composite countertop.

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