Real-World 802.11ac Wi-Fi Testing: 7×6 Routers-x-Adapters Matrix. Part III. Results and Conclusions

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Now, we’re coming to the juiciest part of our three-part mini-series on real-world Wi-Fi testing – to RESULTS (for test setup, please refer to the first part on the routers-we-used and the second part on the adapters).

Cold Hard Data

5GHz Results

AC8260 Dn AC8260 Up ALFA Dn ALFA Up NET-DYN Dn NET-DYN Up AC3165 Dn AC3165 Up Kootek Dn Kootek Up Supremery Dn Supremery
Nighthawk X8 559,11 491,98 1,05 275,80 272,30 282,55 161,40 183,30 1,41 235,95 252,90 156,70
AirPort 394,45 305,70 77,45 50,55 312,90 306,55 148,20 107,50 76,80 46,55 148,80 284,70
ASUS-5300 612,48 460,00 1,87 260,16 431,85 441,85 159,80 182,90 0,53 201,50 170,90 143,60
ASUS-3200 578,57 362,08 2,18 213,89 334,30 453,70 170,30 184,50 3,30 189,30 25,00 134,50
ASUS-58U 204,50 387,91 1,90 260,00 356,10 476,00 184,40 184,50 174,50 157,90 221,30 128,80
WE 1326 423,79 293,72 210,94 276,73 325,53 291,58 159,40 163,40 180,15 158,05 25,00 134,90
Archer C2 224,50 231,25 195,81 237,09 215,85 258,55 168,90 182,30 107,35 151,74 140,40 101,00
Theoretical 867,00 867,00 867,00 867,00 867,00 867,00 433,00 433,00 433,00 433,00 433,00 433,00

All results are in MBit/sec; ‘Dn’ means ‘from router to adapter’, and ‘Up’ means ‘adapter to router’; as it was mentioned before – all the results are for a single TCP connection.

The same results can be seen in the following picture:

7x6 routers-x-adapters matrix. Test results @5GHz

2.4GHz Results

Similar data for 2.4 GHz look as follows:

AC8260 Dn AC8260 Up ALFA Dn ALFA Up NET-DYN Dn NET-DYN Up AC3165 Dn AC3165 Up Kootek Dn Kootek Up Supremery Dn Supremery
Nighthawk X8 111,71 96,76 1,60 98,21 104,5 95,75 47,2 45,2 1,86 43,05 26,1 54,6
AirPort 92,53 113,80 77,95 61,20 102,5 106,3 97,7 66,9 46,10 35,85 38,1 56,9
ASUS-5300 195,89 212,19 203,60 176,13 28,6 21,18 82,2 84,3 1,26 81,35 118,3 95,1
ASUS-3200 205,07 167,04 2,25 0,001 138,75 129,45 86,7 78,4 125,73 92,95 113,2 96,5
ASUS-58U 204,50 185,21 1,45 172,90 190,9 183,6 84,7 82,2 101,80 82,90 105,2 40,5
WE 1326 167,24 163,07 149,44 174,33 183,2 164,8 82,1 79,2 96,85 79,25 102,6 65,4
Archer C2 145,75 102,00 120,87 145,09 120,05 114,1 77,5 85,1 100,25 98,68 103,3 95,1
Theoretical 300,00 300,00 300,00 300,00 300,00 300,00 300,00 300,00 150,00 150,00 150,00 150,00

And graphical representation of the same thing can be seen on the following graph:

7x6 routers-x-adapters matrix. Test results @2.4GHz

1 not able to connect



Now, let’s try to make some generalizations and conclusions based on the data above. As usual, everything goes with a Big Fat Disclaimer(tm) that all the conclusions are based on a limited data set, and that the picture can change in the future, and that YMMV, etc. etc. Still, IMO the following can be said with more-or-less confidence:

  • Hare pointing out:There is no such thing as 'the best router'; strictly speaking - you need to test each specific pair of (router,adapter) to get anywhere-reliable results.There is no such thing as “the best router”; strictly speaking – you need to test each specific pair of (router,adapter) to get anywhere-reliable results.
  • Our results for some of the adapters are better than those which were observed in [Winkle2013]; whether it indicates a difference in testing setups, or an overall improvement in Wi-Fi routers/adapters over these 4 years – is unclear, but being an optimist, I certainly hope for the latter <smile />.
    • It seems that we’ve got to the point when we can occasionally get to 50% (and sometimes even to 70%) of the theoretical bandwidth, which isn’t bad.
  • As long as we’re speaking about the trivial Wi-Fi network with laptops connected directly to routers – all 2×2 802.11ac/802.11n routers and above, are about the same. In particular, there is no obvious correlation between router price and measured speeds. Sure, it is a logical consequence of us using only 1×1 and 2×2 adapters, but as these adapters tend to dominate the laptop market by far, this choice of adapters is just a reflection of real-world realities. On the other hand, as soon as we get our clavicles on 3×3 laptop adapter – we’ll add it to the mix (but won’t add too many of them to avoid skewing the picture).
  • As for the adapters – they DO matter, and A LOT. Here, we can (still very tentatively at this point) observe the following properties:
    • built-in laptop adapters tend to outperform comparable USB adapters. In other words – think twice before buying 2×2 USB adapter to replace your 2×2 built-in adapter.
    • When speaking about the chipsets and manufacturers – there is a so-far-rather-clear hierarchy:
      • The best ones are those by Intel (AC****); however, AFAIK, Intel doesn’t produce USB-enabled Wi-Fi chips, so building a USB adapter on top of Intel chips is going to be expensive (and AFAIK, they don’t exist now).
      • Mediatek is IMO a “reasonable price/performance choice”. Also, it is “the best thing we can realistically get for USB” (in particular, NET-DYN is pretty good; the only its observed weak point was with AC-5300 on 2.4GHz, and even then @25MBit/s it wasn’t “atrocious”).
      • As for the Realtek – with that limited data we have now (and given those two Realtek adapters we’ve seen – Alfa and Kootek), I’d rather stay away from Realtek-based adapters. In 2017, connection speeds of 50kByte/s (yes, that’s KILO-bytes in the local network!) are not just “slow”, they’re “atrociously slow”.
      • NB: up to now, we didn’t test any Broadcom- or Qualcomm-based adapters (yet); my wild guess is that these should be good (at least on par with Intel) – but let’s see until we add some Broadcom- and/or Qualcomm-based adapters to the matrix.

Future Work

In the future, we hope to extend our matrix, so we have a better picture. In particular, over time we hope to add 1×1 router or two to the mix, and to extend our list of adapters (in particular, adding Killer and probably some 3×3 adapters are on our TODO-list, as well as, probably one more Realtek adapter to see whether the suggestion above stands).

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Cartoons by Sergey GordeevIRL from Gordeev Animation Graphics, Prague.

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  1. says

    The graphics would be much more interpretable if they were 2-d color blocks instead of 3-d bars.

    Also, I have one of the MediaTek USB adapters and I think the real advantage of it is range. With it I can connect to my WiFi from my treehouse and even detect the WiFi at the hospital from across Cayuga Lake.

    • "No Bugs" Hare says

      > The graphics would be much more interpretable if they were 2-d color blocks instead of 3-d bars.

      You should mean 2D blocks in 3D space, right (we have a function of 2D parameters, so our space is inherently 3D one)? We’ll see if we can easily make such graphics (and then – see whether it will look better). Overall, I doubt it can be made substantially better, but if it can – we’re all for it :-).

      > Also, I have one of the MediaTek USB adapters and I think the real advantage of it is range.

      Good point; adding to TODO list: test for, say, 50m in open (though it won’t happen until summer).

      And BTW, did you try directed antennas for your long-range connections (they have a potential to help A LOT)?

  2. Dan says

    Wow – very useful & information – the 2 two-dimensional graphs very expressievely convey a great deal of information.

    Thanks for doing all this testing & data collection, and thanks for writing it up and sharing it.

  3. Ed says

    Interesting, I think it is missing the Most important two, Qualcomm and Broadcom.

    But it is nice to know WiFi is improving. Cant wait to see 802.11ax, my guess is then we can ( hopefully ) finally drop the wire.

    • "No Bugs" Hare says

      Qualcomm and especially Broadcom clearly rule router-side, but as for laptop adapters – they’re not really popular 🙁 . We’re trying to get some, but it is not that easy (most of built-in adapters are Intel, and most of USB ones are either Mediatek, or (ouch!) Realtek). That being said, we do have access to Killer (I have to double-check, but probably it is Qualcomm) – and are certainly planning to add it to our matrix.

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