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Wireless Reviews

The Test

But what I really wanted to know was how using the combination of NBG318S and PLA450 stacked up against the other wireless performance improvement approaches I have looked at. So I went back through my past reviews to find products that I had tested in my home's five test locations. I then gathered the throughput test data, which was all taken using IxChariot, into a spreadsheet and created the summary chart shown in Figure 5.

Here are the other contenders:

  •  EnGenius EUB-362 EXT - A "high power" 802.11b/g USB adapter tested with a Linksys WRT54G wireless router [reviewed].
  • Edimax BR6504n - Draft 2.0 802.11n router using Ralink's 2T3R chipset [reviewed].
  • Zyxel PLA400 - HomePlug AV Ethernet adapters [reviewed]

Throughput comparison
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: Throughput comparison

Yeah, I know that the PLA-400 isn't a wireless solution. But I included it to look at the throughput via the powerline connection, so that I could see if that was a throughput choke point.

Also note, as the insert in Figure 5 notes, data for the wireless products (Edimax and Engenius) is downlink only, where the powerline performance data is total transmit / receive. This doesn't skew the results, since you're seeing the total available throughput in each case.

The results in Figure 5 are pretty interesting and show that the best solution for providing the highest throughput to my Location 4 and 5 Wi-Fi dead zones is the HomePlug AV connection. In its worst case, throughput dropped only to ~23 Mbps, which could handle multiple standard definition video streams and at least one uncompressed HD stream.

If you go by the Total Average columns, then the Edimax draft 802.11n router delivered the next best performance. But if you look at the individual location results, you can see that Location 4 and 5 throughput was unusable. So, in reality, that draft 11n product provided no benefit in my Wi-Fi trouble spots.

The Engenius "high power" 11g adapter and the Zyxel EBG318S / PLA450 combo came out neck-and-neck for total average throughput. But again, you need to look at the individual Location results for the real story. Low performance in Location 2 brought down the combo's average throughput, but it actually provided decent throughput in both Locations 4 and 5 at around 14 Mbps each. And since the Engenius adapter's throughput was half of the Zyxel combo's in Location 5, the advantage goes to the Zyxel combo.

One other "dead zone killer" I've tested is the Pepwave Surf AP200 [reviewed] This is an 802.11b/g repeater-type range extender. I didn't include it in the charts, however, because my test method wasn't consistent with the one used for the other products.

But if you check the review, you'll see that the best case throughput I was able to provide to my test notebook parked in test Location 4 was just shy of 9 Mbps, which is pretty much its best-case throughput. (There's about a 60% throughput penalty due to the overhead imposed by using a single radio to receive and retransmit.)

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