By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2006-04-24 Print this article Print

During tests, we found Linksys draft 802.11n gear to be the fastest wireless equipment at short distances that weve seen to date, besting even a pair of products based on Airgos Gen 3 True MIMO chip set. With a maximum theoretical link rate of 270M bps, Linksys WRT300N router and WPC300N notebook adapter combined to top out at 112.17M bps of real full-duplex traffic.

In comparison, our previous wireless throughput champion, the NetGear RangeMax 240 (WPNT834)—which is based on Airgos Gen 3 True MIMO chip set—could only get up to 104.53M bps in the same test. We also found that not all products based on the Airgo technology are created equal, as the ASUS 240 MIMO Series Router couldnt come close to the performance we saw with the RangeMax.

Airgos Gen 3 boosts performance but doesnt play nice with WLANs. Click here to read eWEEK Labs tech analysis.
To measure performance, we used iPerf 1.7.0, a free bandwidth measurement tool from the Distributed Application Support Team of the National Laboratory for Applied Network Research. We used this tool to measure total bandwidth, half-duplex performance for uploads and downloads, and bandwidth performance at various distances.

In our upload/download tests, we noted that Linksys draft 802.11n products excelled particularly with wireless clients uploading data to the wired side of the network, but the unidirectional traffic numbers were ultimately bottlenecked by the routers 10/100M-bps Fast Ethernet switch, which cant move as much half-duplex traffic as the WRT300Ns wireless networking components. We found that a single WPC300N-based wireless client could upload an impressive 91.6M bps (in comparison, we could move 94.5M bps of half-duplex traffic between wired clients), but it could download only 81.57M bps.

In our experience, wireless-enabled systems are more likely to need to download large amounts of data than to upload them, so wed prefer to see those numbers reversed.

In our range tests, Linksys products did not fare nearly as well, however. Starting at 50 feet (which included 20 feet of elevation and a few walls), the draft 802.11n performance lagged considerably when compared with the Airgo products we tested against.

With the WRT300N, Linksys introduces a new form factor for its router family. Its about an inch less wide than the older WRV54G. It also has three antennas, like Linksys WRT54GX4 MIMO router, but the WRT300Ns middle antenna is a flat paddle. (As we confirmed when we pried it apart, the WPC300N notebook adapter has three integrated antennas.)

We tested the Linksys router running the latest firmware, v0.92.4, which presents the same familiar configuration pages weve seen with Linksys products during the last couple of years.

True MIMO Generation 3 was voted one of 2005s best enterprise products by eWEEK Labs. To read more, click here. However, we did notice a few screens of interest.

Under the Wireless tab, we configured the router to use wide channels—Linksys way of describing 40MHz channels—for the wireless link. We could select only from among channels 3 through 9 for the wide channel, further limiting our options in the 2.4GHz band.

We could set a 20MHz channel within our wide channel for use with legacy clients. For instance, when we selected channel 9 for our wide channel, we could select either channel 7 or channel 11 for the 20MHz channel.

The WRT300N offers up-to-date wireless security, supporting both the enterprise and personal versions of WPA (WiFi Protected Access) and WPA2. For some mysterious reason, however, Linksys chooses to use the terms "PSK" and "PSK2" (as in PSK2 Enterprise and PSK2 Personal), which could certainly lead to confusion in a class of product already rife with acronyms.

We also noted that the routers help system needs an update, as the various pages have not yet been updated with information specific to dealing with the new radio parameters.

Next Page: Labs looks ahead.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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