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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

• "Signal Quality" readings are from the SMC Client utility
• Testing was done in a WinXP Home Dell Inspiron 4100 laptop, using an SMC2655W AP as test partner
• Details of how we test can be found here.

The main reason folks will be looking to buy the 2532W-B is to fix some problem they have with WLAN range, speed, or both. Figure 3 shows the results of my usual indoor four location test, which looks very nice, indeed. I used an SMC2655W, which has a peak output power of 17.5 dBm (56mW) - typical of 802.11b APs, if not slightly higher powered.

SMC2532WB : Four condition throughput

Figure 3: SMC2532W-B Four location throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

I then ran the same tests with a Linksys WPC11V3 card, the current incarnation of its plain-ol' 802.11b card. It has a peak output power of 11.8dBM (15mW), less than one-tenth that of the SMC card. Figure 4 tells the tale.

Linksys WPC11V3 : Four condition throughput

Figure 4: Linksys WPC11V3 Four location throughput
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

No, I didn't screw up and use the same data for both plots. What you see is that transmit power alone may not make a significant performance difference. In this case, both combinations of card and AP have enough power to yield essentially the same performance in my test environment.

Since my usual indoor tests weren't showing any difference, I took to the outdoors to produce the results shown in Figure 5.

SMC2532W-B vs. Linksys WPC11V3 max range 'spin test'

Figure 5: SMC2532W-B vs. Linksys WPC11V3 max range "spin test"
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

After doing some walks around my yard, I came upon a simple test that could demonstrate the value of higher power, but also the effect of antenna orientation. I left the Access Point in my office in the lower level of my home, which is built on a sloping lot. This means that the signal had to travel through a couple of interior walls, a ceiling, and one exterior wall before hitting the great outdoors. I moved to a point about 150 feet from the AP, and started a Chariot run. Holding my notebook level, I then slowly turned around 360°, continuously changing the orientation of the client card's antenna to the AP while Chariot plotted the throughput.

The results show that under long-range conditions, the higher power of SMC's card did make a difference, especially in peak throughput. But it also shows that I could cause huge swings in results simply by changing the way that the card and AP's antenna were oriented to each other. But you already knew that anyway, didn't you?

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