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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance - 2.4 GHz

This product has been retested. See this review.

For testing, I used an approach similar to that used to test the TRENDNet TEW-680MB and TEW-687GA, i.e. pairing it with a suitable router from the same manufacturer. In this case that was an ASUS RT-N66U Dark Knight, with firmware upgraded to 3.0.0.3.162, the most current posted at the time of this review. The EA-N66 itself was also upgraded to the most current firmware posted for download, version 1.0.1.6d.

All testing was done with the EA-N66 set to its default Bridge mode with its default setting of 20/40 MHz mode and with a WPA2/AES connection to the RT-N66U. As is our practice, 2.4 GHz tests used Channel 1 and 5 GHz tests used Channel 36. Because the wireless mode can't be changed on the adapter, I switched the router between 20 MHz and 40 MHz modes for the respective tests. I otherwise followed our current wireless test process, testing in Locations A, C, D and F.

The only other dual-band three-stream adapter I have in the Wireless database is the TRENDnet TEW-680MB, so that's what I put into Wireless Performance tables for comparison. Keep in mind, that each adapter was tested with a different router, so the results aren't directly comparable. Still, the comparison provides a look at how two different three-stream N routers and matching bridges compare.

The 2. 4 GHz Wireless Performance Table below shows the ASUS gear winning most of the comparisons. Pay particularly close attention to the lower signal Location D and F tests. Especially in the weakest signal location F, the ASUS RT-N66U / EA-N66 pairing simply blows away the combination of TRENDnet TEW-692GR and TEW-680MB with 63 Mbps of throughput in Location F running uplink.

Wireless Performance Table - 2.4 GHz

Wireless Performance Table - 2.4 GHz

In fact, the EA-N66 seems to prefer running uplink to the RT-N66U, almost always turning in higher throughput than running downlink.

As is usually the case with three-stream N products, running more than one test stream at a time produced higher total throughput. I measured 107 Mbps running simultaneous up and downlink tests in 20 MHz mode and 171 Mbps in 40 MHz mode. I was able to goose this up to 221 Mbps when I ran two pair of up/down tests simultaneously.

The IxChariot aggregate plot below shows all 2.4 GHz band downlink tests using 20 MHz channel width. Throughput is moderately well-behaved in this plot. But note the ramp-up at the start of the Location F test and slight throughput decrease at the end of the Location A test. You'll see these effects again in the other plots linked below.

ASUS EA-N66U to ASUS RT-N66U wireless throughput - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode

ASUS EA-N66U to ASUS RT-N66U wireless throughput - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode

But if you click through the other plots linked below, you'll see that smooth throughput isn't the EA-N66 / RT-N66U's forte. And when you look at the simultaneous up/down tests, you'll see that equal up/down throughput isn't either.

Wireless Performance-5GHz

The 5 GHz Wireless Performance Table below again shows the ASUS router/bridge pair maintaining a wide performance gain over the TRENDNet, especially at the lower signal locations D and F. Yes, I said Location F. I was very pleased to see that the EA-N66 not only remained connected to the RT-N66U in the test location where other 5 GHz gear dares not go, but did it in style. I have never seen such high throughput in the 5 GHz band from any other 802.11n products I have tested. And Location D performance is pretty damned good, too!

Wireless Performance Table - 5 GHz

Wireless Performance Table - 5 GHz

The uplink vs. downlink preference is still there in the 5 GHz band, as is higher throughput as more test streams are added. I measured 137 Mbps running simultaneous up and downlink tests in 20 MHz mode and 209 Mbps in 40 MHz mode, both higher than measured in 2.4 GHz. The four-stream test was about the same, however, at 225 Mbps total throughput.

The composite IxChariot aggregate plot for 5 GHz band downlink tests using 20 MHz channel width is below and once again shows a tendency for bouncy throughput.

ASUS EA-N66U to ASUS RT-N66U wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode

ASUS EA-N66U to ASUS RT-N66U wireless throughput - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode

The other 5 GHz IxChariot wireless test plots linked below show effects similar to those found in the 2.4 GHz plots.

Closing Thoughts

Simply put, if you are looking for the highest performance three-stream 802.11n router / bridge pair, look no further than the ASUS RT-N66U Dark Knight and EA-N66 Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. Although they don't produce the steadiest throughput that I've seen, the combination of the two should provide the widest coverage of anything else you can buy today in not only 2.4 GHz, but 5 GHz, too.

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