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Wireless Performance - more

The 5 GHz downlink profiles show a clear pattern for both up and downlink. The worst performer in the group is the NETGEAR R6300, which starts out lower than the others and stays that way throughout the entire tested attenuation range. The ASUS RT-AC66U takes the middle road to end up with still 55 Mbps of throughput at the maximum 45 dB attenuation.

Both newer AC1900 router track together pretty well as attenuation rises above 24 dB, with both products still producing more than 100 Mbps of throughput at 45 dB maximum attenuation. This means both should produce better 5 GHz range than their AC1750 class siblings.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The 5 GHz uplink plot shows the AC68U with significantly higher throughput at low attenuation, except for the 0 dB point that we use for throughput ranking. But throughput steps down at 15 dB of attenuation then tracks closely with the R7000 for the rest of the test run.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The bottom line is that both the RT-AC68U and R7000 should provide a nice increase in 5 GHz range over their AC1750 brethren for both uplink and downlink. 2.4 GHz is more difficult to call. You might see better range running downlink and even uplink. But I suspect you'll definitely detect a reduction in 2.4 GHz speed at high to moderate signal levels that will more strongly influence your wireless experience.

Wireless Performance - AC1900

Since NETGEAR sent a second R7000 configured as a bridge so that I could experience the wonder of 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz, I ran some quick open-air tests. I kept the R7000 in the upper test chamber with the door open and put the second R7000 configured as a client (non WDS) bridge on the floor. This put them about 6 feet from each other.

I also shut off all other 2.4 GHz networks in the house to give the two R7000's the best chance at getting a 600 Mbps link. But since the R7000 doesn't provide any way to see the link rate (or signal strength, or show the possible networks to connect to) in its wireless bridge settings, I had no way of knowing the rate it actually connected at.

Truth be told, I initially tried to run tests with the PCE-AC68 card that ASUS also sent. But despite multiple attempts, I could never get a link rate above the 450 Mbps seen for AC1750 products (and N900 too). Broadcom confirmed that the current PCE-AC68 driver doesn't enable TurboQAM by default. So test runs over the full signal range will have to wait until ASUS provides an updated driver.

After confirming that the routing R7000's 2.4 GHz radio was set to its Up to 600 Mbps mode, I ran tests between the two R7000s and also the R7000 router and the PCE-AC68 card. For the latter tests, I pulled the test computer out of its lower test chamber and connected the card's antennas.

The IxChariot plot below compares the downlink results obtained by the two methods. Since the PCE-AC68 card was acting like an AC1750 client, the plot shows an almost 2X throughput improvement from an (I assume) 600 Mbps link-rate connection and a 450 Mbps link rate connection.

2.4 GHz 600 Mbps link test - downlink

2.4 GHz 600 Mbps link test - downlink

Uplink results were a puzzle, however. This time the 450 Mbps link rate PCE-AC68 connection provided slightly higher throughput than the R7000 bridge.

2.4 GHz 600 Mbps link test - uplink

2.4 GHz 600 Mbps link test - uplink

I shared these results with NETGEAR and they said they have obtained 400+ Mbps throughput in their RF-tight test chamber running an R7000 router to R7000 bridge tests. They thought the computers used in the test could be limiting throughput as well as the physical setup.

Closing Thoughts

With only two AC1900 routers to show, the Router Ranker results are pretty uninteresting. But for the record, they show the NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk in the #1 position and the ASUS RT-AC68U as number 2.

AC1900 is mainly a marketing ploy to make you feel like you are getting something extra for the higher price you'll pay. And extra you will pay because you'll need two of whatever you buy to get that magic 600 Mbps link rate. But your chances of getting 600 Mbps are even lower due to other factors I'll cover in another article that will post in the next day or so.

Even with these preliminary results, I don't recommend buying either of these products if you already have an AC router. At $200 or more, you're paying at least $40 more than you have to for an AC1750 class router that, for all practical purposes, is going to be just as good.

But if you simply must have one, I'd have to say the NETGEAR is the better choice. But that's mainly because its (slightly) faster processor has more power to handle heavier simultaneous routing, wireless and storage loads, with significantly higher storage performance being the real benefit for your $200.

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