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Test Results - 5 GHz

Turning to the 5 GHz band, we'll first look at downlink with 80 MHz channel width. Sorry that this plot is a little busy, but let's deconstruct it. First, the better AX router in this benchmark is the ASUS; it has slightly higher peak throughput than the NETGEAR RAX80. More importantly, its throughput falls less steeply, at least until 30 dB of attenuation.

RvR 5 GHz - 80 MHz - downlink

RvR 5 GHz - 80 MHz - downlink

So why the two plots for the NETGEAR R7800? This again required some detective work to explain why its throughput was significantly lower. This time, I traced it to HT 160 mode being enabled. When HT 160 was disabled, the R7800 behaved more like the draft AX routers. Since I did not have to do this for the other routers, including NETGEAR's RAX80, I'd say NETGEAR has some more work to do on transmit rate management.

For uplink, the NETGEAR R7800, both with and without HT 160 mode enabled, has throughput up near 600 Mbps, where it should be. But the ASUS again turns in the best performance for pretty much the entire benchmark attenuation range.

The low RAX80 throughput? This is caused by the same mechanism demonstrated in 2.4 GHz uplink. The plot below has been updated to show original and retested uplink results for the RAX80, as per the explanation above.

RETESTED RvR 5 GHz - 80 MHz - uplink

RETESTED RvR 5 GHz - 80 MHz - uplink

Which brings us to why you'd want to mess with buying a draft 11ax router at its most expensive and immature point in its life;160 MHz channel bandwidth. The downlink plot finally shows all three routers behaving as they should—sorta. The ASUS RT-AX88U again turns in the best showing at the higher signal levels (lower attenuation values). This time, however, its curve meets up with a competitor—the R7800—and then crosses under it until 33 dB of attenuation.

NETGEAR's draft AX RAX80 peak throughput is only slightly lower than the ASUS'. But its curve falls off more quickly and remains below both other routers' for most of the tested range.

RvR 5 GHz - 160 MHz - downlink

RvR 5 GHz - 160 MHz - downlink

For uplink, it's hard to call a winner. But the third place performer again seems to be the RAX80.

RvR 5 GHz - 160 MHz - uplink

RvR 5 GHz - 160 MHz - uplink

Is 160 MHz Worth It?

As I've said probably too many times already, 160 MHz channel bandwidth is the main benefit draft 11ax routers can provide right now, if you have the Intel AC 9260 in your notebook. So how much benefit is that wider channel? The downlink comparison plot uses the best result for the R7800 (with HT 160 mode disabled) as a reference. The best case (0 dB attenuation) throuhput gains are 32%, 41% and 43% for the R7800, RAX80 and RT-AX88U, respectively. And if you follow the curves down, that throughput advantage is sustained for the ASUS RT-AX88U (if you ignore the dip @ 18 dB attenuation) and NETGEAR R7800 out to around 24 dB attenuation.

80 MHz vs. 160 MHz - downlink

80 MHz vs. 160 MHz - downlink

For uplink, however, the plot shows there is little advantage to be had from the wider channel.

80 MHz vs. 160 MHz - uplink

80 MHz vs. 160 MHz - uplink

Closing Thoughts

As I said at the start, this is not the definitive word on the performance of the two first-to-market Broadcom-based draft Wi-Fi 6 routers. Since they are both based on the same key Broadcom devices, I'd expect any significant performance differences I've found to eventually be reduced to be inconsequential.

Meanwhile, device makers, router makers, the IEEE ax Working Group and myself have much more work to do. But if I were considering parting with the $400 it takes to bring one of these home right now, I'd come away unconvinced by anything I've shown in this report.

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