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Wireless Performance - more

The 5 GHz downlink benchmark provides our first real competitive look at AC1200 routers with Gigabit ports. In this matchup, the Broadcom-based TRENDnet clearly has the performance edge for both maximum throughput and range. The D-Link ranks in the middle for maximum throughput, due to the NETGEAR's 10/100 ports. But for range, the 850L ekes out only 3 Mbps at the 39 dB attenuation point used for range ranking vs. the NETGEAR's 39 Mbps.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The 5 GHz uplink plot shows a similar story, but with 11 Mbps at the range ranking point.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

I called out the DIR-868L for its large variation in performance among the four test runs with the router rotated 90° each time. I again found significant variation for the 850L in the 2.4 GHz tests, primarily running downlink as the composite plot below shows. It was tough to make a call on which is the best run, but I chose the 180° orientation mainly because it gave the highest results at 0 dB attenutation, which is used for wireless performance ranking. Unfortunately, throughput in this run tended to fall off faster than in the other orientations.

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz downlink - D-Link DIR-850L

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz downlink - D-Link DIR-850L

The uplink plot shows smoother runs that tended to balance around the average. But since the rule is to choose the same run (or average of the four) for up and downlink, the 180° run was again entered into the Charts database.

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz uplink - D-Link DIR-850L

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz uplink - D-Link DIR-850L

For 5 GHz, I ended up using the average of the four runs, even though downlink throughput in the 180° run was better through the midrange attenuations.

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz downlink - D-Link DIR-850L

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz downlink - D-Link DIR-850L

The run-to-run spread is wider running 5 GHz uplink.

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz uplink - D-Link DIR-850L

Four test runs - 2.4 GHz uplink - D-Link DIR-850L

Once again, the upshot is that D-Link's unusual antenna arrangement is perhaps more directional than the cylindrical format might suggest—at least when the router and client are very close together.

Closing Thoughts

Just as N600 routers are the current bread-and-butter of today's wireless routers, so will AC1200 be for tomorrow's. Since most AC clients will be 1x1 or 2x2, i.e. AC433 or AC867, AC1200's will provide best price performance. Companies are already focusing on this, being careful to bring AC1200 street prices in close to $100.

This first look at what Realtek draft 11ac silicon has to offer isn't that impressive. But it's not that bad either. Good enough, in fact, to rank the DIR-850L in the #2 spot for AC1200 class routers in our Router Ranker.

The summary below shows that the 850L's main weakness is 5 GHz range. But if the NETGEAR R6100 wasn't capped by its 10/100 ports, I suspect the D-Link would have come in at #3 for Routing throughput due to its severe throughput reduction in the simultaneous up/down tests.

D-Link DIR-850L Router Ranking Summary

D-Link DIR-850L Router Ranking Summary

Of the three AC1200 routers tested so far, I have to agree with the Ranker and suggest TRENDnet's TEW-811DRU. But we've only begun to scratch the surface of what is fast becoming a crowded field. If you don't have to buy right away, I'd wait to see what the other AC1200 routers we'll be testing soon bring to the party.

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