I tested the ESR9850 with 1.1.0 firmware (126.96.36.199 kernel and 188.8.131.52 apps, specifically). Table 1 summarizes the results of the N9850's routing tests (described here), which are quite impressive. These speeds beat the NETGEAR WNDR3700 handily and put the ESR9850 in second place in the Router Throughput charts behind D-Link's DIR-685.
|Test Description||Throughput - (Mbps)|
|WAN - LAN||619.3|
|LAN - WAN||640.0|
Table 1: Routing throughput
Figure 4 shows the IxChariot aggregate plot for WAN to LAN, LAN to WAN and simultaneous routing throughput tests, which shows very steady throughput in both directions.
Figure 4: EnGenius ESR9850 routing throughput
Since my Simultaneous connection test is limited to 200 connections, I could come nowhere near verifying EnGenius' claim of 19,000 sessions. But they said they'd send me test results that verify their claim, and I'll post them when I receive them.
EnGenius sent along a tool developed by Taiwanese developer Matrix21 that they used to confirm their 19,000 simultaneous session claim. The tool consists of server and client .exe files that are run on Windows systems connected to the WAN and LAN sides of the router under test.
The client tool opens multiple UDP sessions using consecutive port numbers and increments an on-screen counter for each session opened. When the client no longer receives a response from the server program, the on-screen count is taken as the maximum simultaneous session count.
Figure 4a: Maximum simultaneous session test result
Figure 4a shows the result for the test that I ran on the 9850. The session count of 19,722 confirms EnGenius' claims.
Looks like I finally have a tool to replace the IxChariot method that I've been using for the Router Charts Maximum Simultaneous session test, which is limited to only 200 sessions. I'll start to use this new tool immediately, even though it's going to throw the Simultaneous Sessions chart way out of whack!
I used our standard open air test method described here to test the 9850's wireless performance. Testing was done using our standard wireless test client, an Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN mini-PCIe card in a Dell Mini 12 running WinXP Home SP3 and version 184.108.40.206 of the Intel drivers. I left all client-side defaults in place except for enabling throughput enhancement (packet bursting).
The 9850 was loaded with 1.1.0 firmware (220.127.116.11 kernel and 18.104.22.168 apps, specifically). All factory default settings were left in place, except setting channel 1 for the 2.4 GHz band.
I also ran checks with WEP 128, WPA / TKIP and WPA2 / AES wireless security modes and found that the router properly limited link rates to 54 Mbps when using WEP and WPA / TKIP. I also ran a WPS test using the PIN mode supported by the Intel client. It completed successfully on the first try, setting up a WPA2 / AES connection.
Figure 5 shows the IxChariot aggregate plot for all 2.4 GHz band downlink tests using 20 MHz channel width. Throughput variation is about par with most other products, with some good-sized throughput dropouts in evidence in some of the tests.
Figure 5: EnGenius ESR9850 wireless throughput - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink
The 9850's Ralink-based radio does pretty well with a strong to medium signal, turning in a peak speed of 90.1 Mbps running downlink in 40 MHz bandwidth mode. But the connection was kind of iffy in my toughest test locations E and F, which produce the weakest signal levels. While I was able to get a connection in both 20 and 40 MHz bandwidth modes, speeds weren't as fast or reliable as I've seen with other products, such as the ASUS RT-N13U.
For a competitive comparison, I generated a Performance table selecting a few other single-band N routers at the top of the wireless charts, i.e. D-Link DIR-655 [A4], Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH and ASUS RT-N13U. While the Buffalo and ASUS may not be as popular as the D-Link, they are better performers.
Figure 6: Wireless Competitive Comparison
In this comparison group, the ASUS RT-N13U outshines the 9850, which is surprising since they both use the RaLink RT3052 SoC. But it appears that ASUS has tweaked their design for slightly better wireless performance and much lower routing throughput (it tops out at only 93 Mbps with its 10/100 switch), while EnGenius went for the routing gusto.
Use the Wireless Charts to further compare and explore the 9850's performance.
I'm glad I went against my standing policy of reviewing only Wi-Fi Certified wireless products. Because EnGenius has produced a nice wireless router at a comparatively low price. It's got a good feature set, including up and downlink bandwidth controls, multiple SSIDs with connection controls that can be set to allow Internet-only guest access and more routing speed than most buyers will know what to do with. And at a price closer to $50 than $100, it's a pretty good deal.
I'll probably be looking at some more of their products, notably the simultaneous dual-band version of the 9850, the ESR-7750. I also want to check out their implementation that allows a WDS connection to be secured by both WPA / TKIP and WPA2 / AES! This is rarely seen, since WPA requires a key rotation that isn't normally WDS friendly. But EnGenius said they have a proprietary implementation and I'd really like to see if it works.