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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

The WAP321 is Wi-Fi Certified and defaults to the 2.4 GHz band in 20 MHz bandwidth mode on power-up. Even though Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is supported, it is disabled by default. As noted earlier, WPS configuration is more complicated that on consumer routers. But even though I followed all the configuration rules, I could not get it to enable.

So I had to manually configure the AP with WPA2/AES security before running tests using our standard wireless test process, using Channel 1 for the 2.4 GHz band and Channel 36 for the 5 GHz band. As is now our standard, I used an Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 in a Lenovo x220i notebook running Win 7 Home Premium as the test client. I left all other controls to their defaults, which included no QoS features enagaged.

Because the WAP321 is not a router, you'll find it in the Wireless Charts, not the Router Charts. I don't test that many non-routing wireless products, so I included both single and dual-band products in the comparison charts in Figures 11 and 12.

Most people are focused on downlink performance, so that's what I charted. Figure 11 shows the WAP321 doing quite well for throughput averaged over all four test locations, taking the top spot for access point devices with 45 Mbps. Although not shown, the WAP321 didn't do quite as well for 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode uplink, averaging only 30 Mbps, about 10 Mbps lower than the top-performer, D-Link's DAP-2553.

Wireless performance comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Figure 11: Wireless performance comparison - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Switching over to 5 GHz, the WAP321 again took the top spot with 58 Mbps of average throughput across only three test locations. Like most all other products I've tested, the WAP321 failed to even be detected when I moved to my most difficult test location F.

Wireless performance comparison - 5 GHz, 40 MHz mode, downlink

Figure 12: Wireless performance comparison - 5 GHz, 40 MHz mode, downlink

Note that I showed the 40 MHz bandwidth mode 5 GHz test, since that's what people typically use in an attempt to get maximum bandwidth for video streaming. Switching to uplink in the same band and mode again produced significantly lower results of only 39 Mbps.

As noted earlier, I don't have many access points to compare the WAP321 with and even fewer dual-band models. But I pulled the recently retested single band EnGenius EAP-300 into the Performance Table in Figure 13, since it was tested with the same Intel 6300 client and would provide the best apples-apples comparison.

Although this compares only 2.4 GHz band performance, you can see the WAP321's stronger 20 MHz mode performance, both up and downlink. But the data summary also shows that the WAP321 doesn't pick up a lot of bandwidth for single client tests when switching to 40 MHz bandwidth mode.

Wireless Performance Table

Figure 13: Wireless Performance Table

It seems you need to use multiple clients to get higher aggregate bandwidth. The simultaneous up/downlink tests for 2.4 GHz moved from 78 to 110 Mbps in 2.4 GHz and 64 to 96 Mbps in 5 GHz.

Throughput stability looked pretty good as shown in the IxChariot plot in Figure 14.

IxChariot plot - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz, downlink

Figure 14: IxChariot plot - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz, downlink

Curiously, the only plots that didn't show the big dropouts were for the simultaneous up/downlink tests. These turned in total throughput of 56 Mbps for 20 MHz bandwidth mode and 87 Mbps for 40 MHz, with nary a dropout.

Here are links to the other 2.4 GHz plots for your reference:

Closing Thoughts

It looks like Cisco has come up with a fully-featured small-biz access point that they should sell a lot of, even priced around $225. About the only thing missing is a simple and inexpensive cloud-based management option, which I suspect Cisco's OnPlus Service isn't.

If you can live with single-band and want to save some $, you can check out the WAP121, which is about $100 cheaper. While you'll gain a bundled 12V power supply, you'll give up the Captive Portal feature and four SSID's too, however.

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