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Wi-Fi System

These benchmarks measure up and downlink 2.4 and 5 GHz throughput at each system node, by "walking" the octoScope Pal dual-band test client from node to node. Since tests are made with 0 dB attenuation between the Pal test client and each system node, all measurements are best case. The only exception is that all 2.4 GHz tests were made with 9 dB of attenuation between node and Pal client to avoid overload, as previously discussed. In the following charts, A bars represent the root node, B bars the Hop 1 node and C bars the Hop 2 node.

The 2.4 GHz downlink chart shows very similar throughput for Nova on the root and Hop 1 nodes, most likely due to the high backhaul bandwidth between them. Nova outperforms GWiFi on all three benchmarks, but beats Deco only on the root and Hop 2 tests. GWiFi is a disadvantage in this test because it uses only 20 MHz bandwidth in 2.4 GHz.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz downlink

GWiFi's throughput improves for the uplink tests, but not enough to beat Nova. This time, Nova beats Deco on Hop 1 and Hop 2 tests.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 2.4 GHz uplink

5 GHz downlink results show the TP-Link beating both Nova and GWiFi, only just barely on the Hop 2 benchmark.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz downlink

5 GHz uplink is the weakest set of results for Nova, only beating GWiFi on the Hop 2 benchmark. The overall winner for this series of tests is obviously TP-Link's Deco.

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Wi-Fi System Performance - 5 GHz uplink

Capacity

Our Wi-Fi System capacity test uses three 2x2 AC clients, a 2.4 GHz client is connected to the root node and 5 GHz to the others. To avoid overload, 9 dB of attenuation was once again applied between the Pal and mode fot the 2.4 GHz Pal; 0 dB was used for both 5 GHz Pals. This test runs for 30 minutes to see if any attempts are made to balance throughput by throttling backhaul or client bandwidth so that more bandwidth is made available to the other.

The Capacity bar chart shows total throughput for the three test clients in each direction. Even with its very strong Hop 1 backhaul, Nova ranks relatively low in this benchmark, ending up in the lowest third of the results in both directions.

Wi-Fi System Capacity

Wi-Fi System Capacity

The capacity throughput vs. time plots usually provide some insight into the aggregated results. The Downlink plot clearly shows the root node 2.4 GHz connection getting the highest average throughput, averaging around 190 Mbps. Hop 1 throughput seems lower than it should be, given the 5 GHz client and high bandwidth Hop 1 backhaul. But since one 5 GHz radio must serve both fronthaul (client) and backhaul duties, something has to give. In this case, the Hop 1 connected client gets only an average of around 50 Mbps and the Hop 2 client about half that.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Downlink

Uplink, on the other hand, shows throughput distribution among the nodes more like I'd expect, with root node the highest averaging around 160 Mbps, Hop 1 averaging closer to 100 Mbps and Hop 2 eking out a paltry 15 Mbps or so.

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Wi-Fi System Capacity vs. time - Uplink

Closing Thoughts

Google has sold a lot of WiFi's by pricing aggressively at around $300 for a three-node system when competitors were $100 or $200 higher. Since then, everyone except Linksys (Velop) and eero has realized getting upwards of $450 for a three-node Wi-Fi System is a heavy lift and has moved pricing closer to the $300 that buyers seem more willing to spend.

So what happens when a company best known for really cheap routers enters a market dominated by much more expensive and better known competitors? With Tenda's Nova, I think we're finding out. Unlike Zyxel with its Multy X, Tenda knows it needs an edge to attract attention and, if it stays significantly below its competition, it's bound to move some product.

Of course, if you can't deliver performance, those Novas aren't going to stay sold for long. But even though it comes in at #9 in our Wi-Fi System Ranker, it outranks both Google WiFi (#10) and ASUS' Lyra (#11), which are both priced signficantly higher.

Before you jump on me for drawing that conclusion about Lyra based on my original testing, consider this. Once I got the heads up from ASUS that the Version 3.0.0.4.382.11464 Lyra firmware released in January was about as good as it was going to get, I ran a quick Hop 1 backhaul test as a quick performance check. When I got only 35 Mbps down and 42 Mbps up, I stopped right there and put it back on the shelf.

So if you've seen Nova on Amazon and have been curious whether a $130 Wi-Fi system can be any good, well, now you know.

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