By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2006-07-23 Print this article Print

A Look Ahead

With the 802.11n standard in flux and lots of work still to be done to improve interoperability within the current draft standard, owners of draft 802.11n products can expect to find frequent updates and revisions of both client drivers and router firmware on their vendors Web sites during the next few months. As such, users should pay close attention to code availability, as interoperability, throughput and distance performance can vary greatly depending on the code revision on both ends of the connection.

Near the end of our test cycle, Belkin provided us with beta versions of both its client driver (Version and router firmware (1.01.17). With the beta code, we noted slight throughput performance gains at shorter distances—a 6 percent boost, to about 105M bps at 40 feet—but significant improvement at longer distances—almost a 175 percent performance gain, up to 31M bps. (See "Belkin shipping code vs. beta" chart, Page 36).

Interoperability results changed dramatically with the beta code as well—some better, others worse (much worse).

With the beta firmware, the Belkin N1 Wireless Routers wireless throughput spiked to almost 120M bps when using either of the Broadcom-based adapters, but the performance was highly irregular and unreliable. As we sat watching either adapters client monitoring software, we noted that the link-rate cycle went from 54M to 300M bps and back again, even with the laptop stationary at a short distance and with no environmental interference sources detected by our spectrum analyzer. Depending on the channel we allocated the link on, we were just as likely to get 7M bps or not be able to pass traffic at all.

With the upgraded Belkin client connected to our Linksys Wireless-N Router, we found that performance worsened, from 87.6M bps down to about 67M bps—not good, but not nearly as bad as when we tried to connect to the Buffalo Nfiniti Router. In that case, our client machine consistently coughed up a Blue Screen of Death rife with NDIS (Network Driver Interface Specification) error warnings.

Just after we concluded testing, Linksys released an updated driver, Version This latest version promises improved performance and upgrades the client to a WiFi-certified state—allowing Linksys to start using the WPA/WPA2 naming conventions for its security settings instead of the baffling nomenclature we complained of in our initial look at the product.

Buffalo also briefly released a beta firmware revision for its Nfiniti Router in early July, but the code was removed from the Web site before we could test it.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

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 magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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