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Wireless Reviews

Inside

Updated 11/21/17: eero, Deco specs corrected
Updated 9/29/17: Section added

After the review posted, I had some time to open up everything except the Orbi Mini wallplug.

  eero Gen 2 Google Wi-Fi NETGEAR Orbi RBK40/30 TP-Link Deco M5
CPU Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC - Qualcomm IPQ4019
- STM32F072 32 bit ARM Cortex-M0
- Infineon STM9615 Trusted Platform Module
Qualcomm IPQ4019 Qualcomm IPQ4019
Switch QCA8072 QCA8075 QCA8075 QCA8072
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB 256 MB
Flash 4GB eMMC - 4 GB eMMC (IF5055?)
-4 MB Winbond 25Q64FV
4 GB 32 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks 85331-11 2 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY8530 2.4 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks 85303-11 2.4 GHz Front End (x2)
5 GHz radio - In IPQ4019
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY85717-11 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Qorvo PA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
5 GHz backhaul - QCA9886
- Skyworks 85736-11 5 GHz front end (x2)
N/A - QCA9886 2x2 5 GHz a/n/ac SoC
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
N/A
Bluetooth Silicon Labs EFR32MG Qualcomm 3003-CL3D (CSR102x?) CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC CSR 8811 Bluetooth 4.1
IoT In Silicon Labs EFR32MG - Silicon Labs EM3581 ZigBee / Thread SoC
- Skyworks SKY66109-11 2.4 GHz ZigBee front end
N/A N/A
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

It's obvious the designs are very similar, all using Qualcomm's quad-core IPQ4019 2x2 11ac Wi-Fi SoC. The largest variation, besides the number of 5 GHz radios, is in choice of 2.4 and 5 GHz power amplifiers/ integrated RF front ends. Google Wi-Fi was the first of this bunch to include a Thread/ZigBee radio for IoT functions. But it supports only Philips Hue bulbs at this point. eero Gen 2 hasn't enabled IoT support yet.

The gallery has board shots with commentary.

Testing

So now let's get to the fun stuff, how these puppies perform. I've already described the new Wi-Fi System test process and previewed some results. While testing this first group of products, I made a few process tweaks and added a capacity test to the suite. So if you read the test process article when it first published, you should read it again. Of course, all products were tested and/or retested using the final, updated process.

There is a lot of performance data produced by this new process, far more than my previous over-the-air process and way more than you'll get from any other publication. So as we go through the benchmarks, I'll try to explain which performance aspect each addresses.

Since Wi-Fi Systems take away user control of channel and bandwidth selection and operate with a single SSID for both bands, that's the way the process treats them. If a product chooses Channel 4 and 40 MHz bandwidth for its 2.4 GHz settings, that may be an odd choice, but that's the way it's tested. Let's begin.

Throughput vs. Attenuation (RvR)

We start with a look at how throughput varies with decreasing signal, commonly known as Rate vs. Range or RvR. This test is done on the root node, so is a best-case view and does not include any effects from backhaul links. Each of the following plots omits the Orbi RBK30 wall-plugged version because the tests were run on the router module only and used for both the RKB40 desktop and RBK30 wall-plug models. The Orbi wall-plug is the only case where the results shown could not be applied to the other modules in the system, since the are identical. (Even though the Orbi desktop router and satellite have different functions, they use the same hardware.)

The 2.4 GHz downlink plot reveals our first discovery; all this group of products except Google WiFi (GWiFi) use 40 MHz bandwidth mode in 2.4 GHz. I have very mixed feelings about not limiting the test client to operate with 20 MHz bandwidth in 2.4 GHz. I believe that is how the products will most often operate in the wild, if they properly follow 2.4 GHz coexistence rules and drop back to 20 MHz bandwidth mode if they detect another 2.4 GHz network operating on the same channel.

In our perfectly quiet chamber test environment, however, that's not going to happen. So unless a product explicitly limits 2.4 GHz operation to 20 MHz bandwidth—as GWiFi appears to do—it will be at a disadvantage in our tests, but may not be in the real world. So I'd like to hear from you. Do you see your devices operating at 40 MHz link rates in 2.4 GHz with your Wi-Fi System?

That being said, eero Gen 2 and Orbi have the highest average throughput, although both show lower throughput with low attenuation, a possible sign of problems dealing with higher signal levels. We'll come back to this in a bit.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz downlink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz downlink

For 2.4 GHz uplink, all products except GWiFi track together pretty well. eero Gen 2 once again shows some problems with strong signals.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz uplink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz uplink

With the 20 MHz bandwidth disadvantage out of the way, GWiFi shows it can track with the pack on 5 GHz downlink. But it and eero Gen 2 don't quite reach the throughput heights that Orbi and Deco do. I don't count that as a big disadvantage, however, since few devices will be sitting right next to the root node. More significant is that all four products track pretty well throughout the test range.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz downlink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz downlink

5 GHz uplink shows GWiFi starting strong, but disconnecting 12 dB before the TP-Link and 15 dB before Orbi.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz uplink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz uplink

The main takeaway from the RvR tests is the group is more alike than different, except for GWiFi's 20 MHz bandwidth limitation on 2.4 GHz.

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