Wireless Networks (802.11n draft2)

Wireless networks have been around for sometime, and I have had it for years as it makes it easier to take my notebook with me around the house.

I have the first generation of the Apple Macbook Pro's which does not come with a [stag]802.11n[/stag] card, which have been annoying me for a while, so last saturday I finally got around to get the 'MacPro 802.11n upgrade kit' which one can get from any Apple Service Center for around รข‚¬50. Then the next thing to get was a Wireless Access Point which could do 802.11n, I decided to get an Apple [stag]Airport Extreme[/stag] which have both 3(4) Gigabit ports, and one can attache a USB disk which can be shared on the network.

Well so far so good, only problem was that the only shop in town who had one of these was MediaMarkt (for Americans, MediaMarkt is an European version of BestBuy), and to my surprise it was a restock which they where selling for the full price, but a hardware reset, and a bit of playing around with the Airport Tool it was working.... now it where the fun starts.

First the wireless range both with 2.4GhZ and 5GhZ is nothing to write home about, as a fact it incredible bad, but with a bit of fiddling (2.4GhZ, 130mbit/s..) helped a bit, but still it cannot compete with my homebuild AP which is running Leaf Linux on a PCengines WRAP board.

There are a few not so positive discussions on the Apple Discussion Board, which points out that connections are lost, the AP resets it self, and so on. So I did the following test; start a copy of a 1GB files with finder, and in terminal start another copy of a 600MB file with scp, and bingo lockup, and no matter what I did could bring it back to life. Needless to say I returned the Airport, and got my money back.

Then I thought, someone must have produced a Wireless AP supporting 802.11n which is working and have a decent wireless range. So after I got my money back, I had a look around and decided to pick up a Netgear WNR834B, got it setup, and did my test, with the wireless range, and yes better than the Apple Airport Express, but still nothing really to write home about (especially not when one reads the marketing material Netgear puts up about the 802.11n range). So next point was to do my copy again, well I never got further than using Finder to copy before I lost my connection.

So my conclusion about 802.11n is that;

  • It's fast - when it works one get around 7.7MB/s which is about 3 times faster than with 802.11g

  • It's not stable, most vendors have based their AP/Routers on 802.11n Draft 2, which means that it's still not a standard.

  • Having a 802.11n wireless card in your notebook, could be a good thing as it could look like the range is better than having 802.11g (only), but that is for other people to look into.

Well I'm back using 802.11g which 'only' gives me 2.4MB/s which is actually quite reasonable, but it would be nice to get something which is close to 100Mb/s....


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