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Wireless routers


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#1 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 04:07 AM

The family finally decided to get a personal modem and router. We picked up the Arris SURFboard cable modem (16 download and 4 upload streams) and the Netgear AC1750 (R6400) router. Originally, we were going to get the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900, but Walmart didn't have it. Unfortunately, I later realized the R6400 model does not support beamforming for the 2.4 GHz band, so I might return it and get the R6700 model, which supports beamforming for both bands.

 

I am also curious about the R7000P model, which supports MIMO. Under what circumstances would MIMO support be useful? There are 7 people in the home, and everyone streams content via Netflix and other services. 1 or 2 people play the Playstation 4 online. 



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#2 smax013

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 09:40 AM

There are two types of MIMO...SU-MIMO (aka "single user") and MU-MIMO (aka "multi user"). Single user vs multi users is pretty much as it sounds. Single user can only support sending data to a single user at a time, while multi user can support sending data to multiple users at a time.

It is important to realize that while it seems like your router has been sending data to multiple users at a time, it has not really be doing it simultaneously...it very rapidly alternates between sending data to different users making it seem like all the users are simultaneously receiving data. Think of it like talking to a number of people with different conversations with different phones...it would be like you say one word to person one, switch to the next phone and say another word in that conversation, then the next person, and so on...in other words you cannot have multiple conversations on different phones all at the same time.

A router that support MU-MIMO CAN have "multiple simultaneous conversations on different phones at the same time", so to speak. In other words, it can simultaneously send data to multiple users at the same time. There are a couple of catches, as I understand it. The first is that both the router AND the devices need to support MU-MIMO. So, getting a router that supports MU-MIMO but then having no devices that support MU-MIMO does you no good. Second, MU-MIMO is only supported with 802.11ac (which also means only 5 GHz, I believe). Thus, any device that does not support 802.11ac will also no support MU-MIMO.

As to SU-MIMO, it does not directly support multiple users simultaneously, but it likely can still potentially help in scenarios with multiple users as it can speed up the connection. So, that little bit of data that is sent when it is a user's turn to get their data will happen faster, which then allows the router to move to sending the data to the next user quicker. But, then again, SU-MIMO still requires support on both the router and devices. As I understand it, many phones and tablets general do/did not support SU-MIMO as it requires more antennas and circuitry, etc. And as I understand it, not all SU-MIMOs from all manufacturer's played nice with other manufacturer's implementations of SU-MIMO as the MIMO specs in 802.11n were looser than the specs in 802.11ac (MU-MIMO supposedly has less of this problem). So, it is no guarantee that MIMO will always work as intended unless all the devices are using the same WiFi chipsets with the same implementation of MIMO.

And, in general, as kind of noted above, the router alone is not the only factor. What each device has as a WiFi chipset as well as other design aspects of those devices (i.e. location and design of antennas and how a grip might affect their signal...see issues in the past with iPhones and cellular signals) can dramatically affect what kind of throughput (aka "speed") it might be able to establish with the router. And, of course, there are the "environmental" factors such as possible sources of interference (mainly on the 2.4 GHz band), number of other WiFi networks, distance to router from device, etc. And, of course, there is the Internet speed, which based upon your other post should not be a issue for you as you appear to have 200 Mbps service...but the slower the overall service, the fewer people can use it to do things like stream video.

Don't know if that helps or not. Other might be able to offer some better thoughts.

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#3 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 02:50 PM

The R7000P model supports MU-MIMO. I was not aware that devices have to support it, too. This is something I will keep in mind. I thought MU-MIMO may be a good future-proof technology, but based on your response, this does not seem to be the case. It seems MU-MIMO technology is inconsistent as a result of a lack of an industry standard. Is this correct? 

 

Now that I understand more what MU-MIMO is, does it have practical applications in the real world? For example, would it make service interruptions less likely when two people are streaming ultra HD or even full HD content simultaneously?



#4 smax013

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 09:18 PM

The R7000P model supports MU-MIMO. I was not aware that devices have to support it, too. This is something I will keep in mind. I thought MU-MIMO may be a good future-proof technology, but based on your response, this does not seem to be the case.


It would potentially be future-proof. Future proofing means it will work (or might work) well with or better with with future technology you might get. And that is the case with MU-MIMO. MU-MIMO is relatively new. As a result, not many devices support it...yet. But, that will likely change over time. My key point is that RIGHT NOW, it likely will not do you much good as your current devices that would connect to the router almost definitely do NOT support MU-MIMO.

It seems MU-MIMO technology is inconsistent as a result of a lack of an industry standard. Is this correct?


Nope. MU-MIMO is the result of an industry standard (i.e. the 802.11ac standard). And the 802.11ac standard is tighter than the 802.11n standard (at least as I understand it), so MU-MIMO implementations from different companies should more likely to play nice with each other. This might be due to you defining standard differently than how I am using it. For me, a standard is an approved document that outlines what is needed in order to achieve something (in this case the 802.11ac designation). Standards can be written loosely (i.e. allows for some wiggle room on how it in interpreted which might mean different people interpret it differently and thus implement it differently) or very tightly (i.e. does not really allow for wiggle room on how something is interpreted which means it is more likely to be implemented in the same manner).

To give an example from my world (in real life, I am a structural engineer who is also very good with computers), there is A36 (a structural steel standard) steel and A992 (a different standard) steel. A36 is a rather loose standard. It does specify things like acceptable minimum strength of steel and other things about the steel. It does not, however, specify a maximum strength of steel. A992, OTOH, does have specify a maximum strength of steel. Now, this might not seem like a big deal as one would think that stronger steel is always better and for your typical building in a non-seismic zone, it is not. But, when you get to seismic design, you need to know what your maximum strength of material is as seismic design is not just about strength, but also about something called ductility (basically the ability to absorb a lot of energy). The end point is that A992 is a tighter standard in many ways than A36, but in this particular case it is tighter when dealing with strength requirements. So, as a result, more steel samples might be able to satisfy A36 than A992.

Now, as I said, that may or may not help you understand what I mean by a loosely defined standard vs a tightly defined standard. It probably does not help at all with how loosely the standard might be would affect MIMO. For that, let me offer the example of language. Think of all the people who speak English. Now, some of them speak with an accent that is different than others. And some of those people might speak with a VERY HEAVY accent that is tough for many people who don't speak with that accent to understand. So, if you think of the English language as a "standard", then it would be a very loosely defined standard. And so if you have two people who are speaking with one having a VERY HEAVY accent that makes them hard to understand, some of what they are saying might be "lost" (so to speak). This would be kind of like that same thing with MIMO that is implemented slightly differently. Even thought both devices might be able to "speak" MIMO, if it is implemented differently enough, one might be "speaking with an accent" that is tough to understand, which then means that MIMO might not be working. Does that make sense?

Now, MU-MIMOs presence in device is "inconsistent" (i.e. not common) because it is a rather new technology that effectively just came on the scene in the last year or two. And like all new technologies, it takes a little while for it to become prevalent. It is more likely that you might end up seeing it in smaller devices like smartphones and tablets than SU-MIMO as I understand it is cheaper to implement than SU-MIMO and easier to fit into smaller devices than SU-MIMO (less hardware is required for it as I understand it).
 

Now that I understand more what MU-MIMO is, does it have practical applications in the real world? For example, would it make service interruptions less likely when two people are streaming ultra HD or even full HD content simultaneously?


Its practical application is that it would help with the situation you are dealing with. _IF_ all the devices connecting to a MU-MIMO router support MU-MIMO, then that router can truly serve up data simultaneously to multiple users means much less chance of interruptions, etc. But, again, this would require the devices that the users are watching videos (or doing other stuff) on all support MU-MIMO in addition to the router. This will NOT happen with most (if not all) currently owned devices as MU-MIMO is still relatively new and thus likely not supported on currently owned devices. But, more and more devices likely will support it in the future.

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#5 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 05:03 PM

So, there is a standard, but it is a loosely defined one, which is more likely to result in different companies implementing the technology differently; and this can lead to problems. However, the only way to really confirm how this affects devices in the real world is to test them. This is what I got from your analogies in your latest response and the following phrase:  

 

"So, it is no guarantee that MIMO will always work as intended unless all the devices are using the same WiFi chipsets with the same implementation of MIMO."

 

I'm aware that I won't benefit from MU-MIMO now because my devices probably don't support it, but I thought it may be worth investing in for the future. This way I won't need to get a new router that supports MU-MIMO when I get new devices that also support it. However, I don't think I'm going to go that route. Even as new devices that support MU-MIMO become available, it'll probably be longer before I get them. The R7000P, which supports MU-MIMO, would cost an additional $80 currently. But MU-MIMO is certainly something I will look for in my next router. 



#6 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 05:24 PM

Interference aside, how much truth is there to the 2.4 GHz band being more suited to longer ranges and transmission through solid objects, e.g. walls, than the 5 GHz band? 



#7 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 05:31 PM

Also, what advantages does a better processor in a wireless router provide? Is it relevant to transmission strength and speed? 



#8 smax013

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 08:24 PM

So, there is a standard, but it is a loosely defined one, which is more likely to result in different companies implementing the technology differently; and this can lead to problems. However, the only way to really confirm how this affects devices in the real world is to test them. This is what I got from your analogies in your latest response and the following phrase:  
 
"So, it is no guarantee that MIMO will always work as intended unless all the devices are using the same WiFi chipsets with the same implementation of MIMO."


Yes, more or less. My understanding is that the 802.11n standard was looser when it comes to MIMO, but 802.11ac is tighter. If my understanding is correct, then that would mean that 802.11ac hardware from different manufacturers (whether SU-MIMO or MU-MIMO) should "play better together".
 

I'm aware that I won't benefit from MU-MIMO now because my devices probably don't support it, but I thought it may be worth investing in for the future. This way I won't need to get a new router that supports MU-MIMO when I get new devices that also support it. However, I don't think I'm going to go that route. Even as new devices that support MU-MIMO become available, it'll probably be longer before I get them. The R7000P, which supports MU-MIMO, would cost an additional $80 currently. But MU-MIMO is certainly something I will look for in my next router.


It all kind of depends on how long you think a router might last you. In my personal experience, routers seem to last about 3 to 5 years (this is even ignoring the poor design of the Apple Time Capsule that I had two routers ago that died an early death due to insufficient cooling of the power supply).

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#9 smax013

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 08:33 PM

Interference aside, how much truth is there to the 2.4 GHz band being more suited to longer ranges and transmission through solid objects, e.g. walls, than the 5 GHz band?


This is true. 2.4 GHz signals will go farther and penetrate objects (such as walls) better than 5 GHz, but 5 GHZ will allow for overall greater speeds and will have less potential interference. This is nominally assuming other factors don't "change the equation" (i.e. if a 5 GHz transceiver is much more powerful than the 2.4 GHz, then it is possible that the 5 GHz signal might go further...i.e. the power of the transmission is another factor).

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#10 smax013

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 08:35 PM

Also, what advantages does a better processor in a wireless router provide? Is it relevant to transmission strength and speed?


The main advantage is that it likely can handle more connections better than a slower processor or one with fewer cores. It is much like the CPU in your computer. The faster it is able to process task and potentially be able to handle more tasks due to more cores, the easier it is able to handle more connections.

You might read look at this page for a little more info:

http://blog.dlink.com/4-reasons-processing-power-matters/

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#11 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 07 April 2017 - 10:27 PM

The link was helpful. We ended up keeping the R6400 in the end. At the moment, I am considering which WiFi adapter to get. I'm using an old D-Link that is limited to 802.11g. This one seems like a good choice: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018TX8IDA/ref=psdc_13983791_t2_B01G8IPLD8

 

It's inexpensive, it's one of the few WiFi adapters that indicates support for beamforming. It has a 5dBi omni-directional dual-band antenna. I figure an external antenna would be better than an internal one, particularly for an old desktop. Unfortunately, Linux support seems to be hit or miss. 

 

There is also this one: https://www.amazon.com/Martha-Wireless-Adapter-600Mbps-802-11ac/dp/B06VS9S6G9/ref=sr_1_29?ie=UTF8&qid=1491620854&sr=8-29&keywords=wifi+adapter+beamforming

 

This one claims to support Linux. However, I'm not thrilled about having to import it. 



#12 smax013

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 07:37 PM

I figure an external antenna would be better than an internal one, particularly for an old desktop.


It depends on the "use scenario" (i.e. if the computer will always be operated rather close to the router, then an internal antenna likely would be fine), but I agree that generally having an external antenna is the better choice.

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#13 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 15 April 2017 - 03:04 PM

That addresses my concern about a wireless networking adapter with an internal antenna that I recently discovered: 

 

https://www.amazon.com/DONNAES-Wireless-Adapter-1200Mbps-10-6-10-11/dp/B06WLGPX8B/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492283499&sr=8-1&keywords=ac+wifi+adapter

 

This adapter supports speeds up to 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band unlike the others that support speeds up to 150 Mbps. This covers my 200 Mbps connection although I probably won't get that speed anyway. What caught my eye is that it supposedly supports Linux although there are no details about this. But the desktop is on the second floor, so it might benefit from an adapter with an external antenna. 

 

Another adapter claims to have a high-end RTL 8811AU chip. Are there certain chips I should look for when choosing an adapter? 

 

Also, what advantages does a 5dBi antenna have over a 2 dBi one? 



#14 smax013

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 01:53 AM

That addresses my concern about a wireless networking adapter with an internal antenna that I recently discovered: 
 
https://www.amazon.com/DONNAES-Wireless-Adapter-1200Mbps-10-6-10-11/dp/B06WLGPX8B/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492283499&sr=8-1&keywords=ac+wifi+adapter
 
This adapter supports speeds up to 300 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band unlike the others that support speeds up to 150 Mbps. This covers my 200 Mbps connection although I probably won't get that speed anyway. What caught my eye is that it supposedly supports Linux although there are no details about this. But the desktop is on the second floor, so it might benefit from an adapter with an external antenna.


Keep in mind that getting speeds beyond 150 Mbps (the maximum theoretical throughput, aka "speed", of 802.11n with a single antenna and no channel bonding) for 802.11n (802.11ac technically only operates on the 5 GHz band, so any 2.4 GHz operation that you are using is in effect still using 802.11n as 802.11ac is backwards compatible with 802.11n/g/b/a) requires "special" features such as MIMO or channel bonding. And as I said before, those special features need to be support on both the router AND the device connecting to the router. So, if the device connecting to the router does not support channel bonding (combining two 20 MHz "channels" into a single 40 MHz channel), then you are likely not going to get above 150 Mbps (going from theoretical 150 Mbps to 300 Mbps is typically due to channel bonding). You can read more about it here:

https://www.lifewire.com/get-300-mbps-speed-on-802-11n-network-818267 
 
 
 

Another adapter claims to have a high-end RTL 8811AU chip. Are there certain chips I should look for when choosing an adapter?




Potentially, but if there are, then that is outside my knowledge.
 
 

Also, what advantages does a 5dBi antenna have over a 2 dBi one?


That is the antenna "gain"...effectively a measure of the antenna signal strength. The higher the gain of the antenna, the more powerful the signal. But, as you increase the gain/power of an antenna, it becomes more directional.

Edited by smax013, 18 April 2017 - 01:54 AM.

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#15 Dark Magician Girl

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 02:10 PM

The takeaway from this seems to be that each wireless channel is 20 MHz wide and limited to a theoretical throughput of 150 Mbps. In order to achieve higher theoretical throughput (300 Mbps, 450 Mbps, and 600 Mbps), multiple channels are combined, or bonded. Is this how 802.11ac achieves a theoretical throughput of 1300 Mbps plus? 

 

I found this link after looking for a more in-depth description of directional and omni-directional. 

 

There is an illustration of antenna radiation at the bottom of the page. According to the illustration, the higher the DBI rating the further the distance on a horizontal plane, but also reduced vertical distance. In contrast, the lower the DBI rating the further the vertical distance, but also reduced horizontal distance. Therefore, a USB wireless adapter might benefit from a lower DBI rating if it is located, for example, on a different floor of a home, right? 

 

USB wireless adapters with external antenna usually pivot. What if I point a USB wireless adapter with a 5 DBI antenna downward (the router is located below) and towards the router? Would this make up for a 5 DBI antenna's reduced vertical coverage? 


Edited by Dark Magician Girl, 20 April 2017 - 02:22 PM.





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