Introducing Amped Wireless

The world is full of technology companies, with plenty of long time players as well as smaller newcomers. There are so many facets of the industry to cover that it’s basically impossible to know everyone, so when Amped Wireless sent us an email I must admit that other than having seen a couple of their products on Newegg, I knew essentially nothing about them. Let’s start with a bit of background information, for those of you who might be in a similar state. While I wasn’t particularly familiar with Amped Wireless, it’s worth noting that their products are now available at many retail outlets, as well as the big online sources like Amazon and Newegg. You can find Amped Wireless devices at Staples, Best Buy, Walmart, Fry’s, Office Depot, etc. and they are now working to extend into Canada.

Amped Wireless was created three years ago as a sub-company of Newo Corporation, which was created around five years back by Jason Owen and offered some interesting computer peripherals (e.g. a personal USB fridge to keep your soda cold). Today, the Newo Corp website redirects to Amped Wireless, so it looks like that’s now the primary focus. Mr. Owen serves as the CEO for Amped Wireless, with a background in the wireless networking industry that goes back over a decade; he teamed up with a colleague with a similar background in order to focus on long range WiFi products and “do it correctly”.

Besides setting out to create better long range wireless devices, Amped also wants to make sure that customer service is a high priority; there will be no outsourcing of support to another country, and all customer support is US based and trained in-house. Unlike the support side of the equation, engineering is a different story. Amped Wireless has teamed up with engineering resources in Taiwan (and only Taiwan—they mentioned that controlling quality in some other areas can be very difficult), and they have a small team of around 20 that’s split about 50-50 doing work on the software/firmware and hardware aspects of their products.

Their very first product to hit the market came out about eighteen months ago, the SR150 wireless repeater. There really aren’t many wireless repeaters on the market, and they wanted to target that niche and create something that would be easy to configure for people that don’t know much about wireless networking. The product proved to be a success, helping users to extend their wireless coverage to difficult to reach locations—especially for users of all-in-one cable/DSL modem/router boxes that have very poor wireless range. After the initial product launch, they received a lot of feedback from customers who wanted to simply skip the repeater aspect and go straight to Amped for a wireless router; that led to the launch of their first router back in September 2011.

That brings us to today’s reviews. We have Amped Wireless’ latest and greatest R20000G router, SR20000G repeater, and the UA2000 directional wireless adapter. Like most wireless companies, Amped states that their products work best when used with each other, but we had no difficulties using the router with other adapters, or the UA2000 with various routers. The SR20000G also worked fine in general, with a minor problem encountered with one of our test routers (more on that later). We’ll start with a look at the R20000G router, then check out the SR20000G repeater, and finally look at the UA2000 adapter. Once we’ve covered those areas, we’ll wrap up with some performance investigations using several different products and see how the various devices actual work in practice.

Amped Wireless R20000G Router
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  • blindbox - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Just to add. For people like me, I won't even be looking at these. All I look at is the hardware specs, whether the device is Atheros or not, and whether it's flashable to OpenWrt or otherwise. Any of these conditions that are not met and it's just another device to me.

    That said, <shamelessplug>TP-Link WR1043ND FTW</shamelessplug>
    Reply
  • dgingeri - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    These are out of date as soon as they are released. the new WD routers exceed these on features all the way across the board. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    You do realize that comparing features that are on papers to determine which router is "better" is asking for problems, right? On paper, the R20000G and Belkin N600 are "identical", but in practice they're anything but. I wouldn't even venture to declare something as being "better" without some practical testing from a reputable source. You'll also note that if you're just after maximum performance within close proximity, even as a 2x2:2 router there are cases where Amped's previous R10000G tops the performance charts (http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/lanwan/router-chart... Reply
  • Blark - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Engadget put them through their test labs also and it worked great for them.... http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/06/amped-wireless-...

    I bought a R200000G after reading the review and compared it to my Linksys EA4500. The amped product goes roughly 50-70 feet past the furthest spot I used to be able to go on the Linksys router. The Linksys router how ever provided faster throughput from 0-30 feet. I would take the range over soup close speed any day as I had dead spots before.

    Tried their SR10000 also and it works well for us.
    Reply
  • 996GT2 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    How does this wireless adapter compare to the gold standard Alfa AWUS036H in terms of range?

    For those who don't know about the Alfa: http://www.amazon.com/Alfa-AWUS036H-Wireless-Long-...
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    "One simple solution for the modem/router users would be to simply disable the wireless functionality and connect via Ethernet to the modem/router—assuming there’s at least one Ethernet port. That requires a certain amount of technical savvy of course—something I could do, but not something I would recommend to, say, my siblings or parents."

    Having tried to do this sort of setup for my parents a year ago I completely agree. It worked well for about 6mo until the ISP pushed a firmware update to their box which trashed the customization settings I'd applied to make it work with the old neatgear router I was using for the wifi. I eventually ended up having to drive out to fix things in person. The only good thing to come out of the debacle was that their boxes new firmware replaced the hard coded wifi SSID value with a textbox; allowing me to retire the netgear without having to reconfigure the wifi settings on everyone's devices. Wifi speed is uniformly bad across the house; but 3MB DSL is slow enough it doesn't matter much.
    Reply
  • WeaselITB - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Wow, Jarred, thanks for the awesome and lengthy review / comparison! I can't even fathom the amount of work this took!

    That directional antenna actually sounds like a good solution for the family room HTPC/HDTV that I was considering, but kept rejecting since I didn't have a way to get wire there ...
    Reply
  • gstrickler - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    2.4GHz testing "in the real world" is challenging because of channel overlap and poor deployment of channel usage. 40MHz operation makes it even worse. First, you have to understand that 802.11B/G/N don't use a single 5MHz channel, they use a 22MHz wide band centered on one channel. That means they need 5 channel spacing between to be interference free, however, in reality, the signals are so week at the edges that 4 channel spacing works with essentially no impairment. In the USA it has been common to use channels 1, 6, and 11, because the USA only allows full power operation on channels 1-11. However, that allocation never allows for 40MHz operation without interference because the secondary channel must be +/- 4 channels, meaning the secondary must be at 5 (1 primary), 2 or 10 (6 primary), or 7 (11 primary). In each case, the secondary is 1 channel away from another commonly used channel, resulting is significant interference.

    It's better to share the same channel as another router than to be only 1 channel away, that is the worst possible configuration. If the routers are within about 50ft (16m) of each other, even being 2 channels away will almost certainly cause interference. With his 40MHz tests using 11+7, any nearby routers on channel 6 would be likely to cause interference.

    Jarred didn't indicate what channels are in use by his neighbors, nor how strong those signals were (at the router and at the laptop), so there may have been interference affecting his tests. Throwing out the outliers as he did helps minimize those, but without such information, I can't make much use of the test results.

    A short guide to channel allocation in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi:
    It's been common practice to use those same channels in most countries despite the fact that most countries allow full power operation on 13 channels. In most countries, the ideal allocation is to use channels 1, 5, 9, and 13 only, never use other channels. This allows 4 20MHz channels, and allows 40MHz channels while minimizing interference. If you're operating a router in a country that allows 13 full power channels (most of the world outside North America), use this 1, 5, 9, 13 channel allocation. Even if your router doesn't allow setting channel 13 (some firmware restricts you to 11 channels even in other countries), stick with channels 1, 5, 9 so you don't cause problems for those using 1, 5, 9, 13.

    Back to the USA and Canada, rather than 1, 6, 11, a better channel allocation (with the possible exception of some high density office environments, and even those might benefit from this configuration) is to use channels 1, 4, 8, and 11, exclusively, with 40MHz operation supported only on 4+8 (and 8+4). That's only 3 channels minimum separation, but when there is 30+ft and/or walls between the routers, 3 channel separation is shows sufficient attenuation at 3 channels that interference is minor, typically resulting in no more than 10% performance degradation even when both routers are simultaneously transmitting, and often shows no degradation.

    The problem is that many routers default to (or auto-select) channel 6 or channels other than 1, 4, 8, & 11. Using channels 4 or 8 with a nearby router on channel 6 may cause interference for both. Which leaves 3 options for the USA, Canada, and any other country with fewer than 13 full power channels:

    1. Coordinate with your neighbors and get everyone to exclusively use channels 1, 4, 8, and 11, with any 40MHz operation exclusively on 4&8. This is the best option for 99% of installations. Even if you can see some other routers on channel 6, but with weak signals, this may be the best option.

    2. If that's not possible, and channel 6 is in use, use channels 1, 6, 11 exclusively and do not use 40MHz channels at all. This may be best in large, open offices/halls where there are 3 or more routers within ~100ft and no walls between them, but you should still try #1 first.

    3. Finally, if you must use 40MHz in an area where Channel 6 is in use and can't be changed, use 5GHz if possible. If that's not possible use channels 4 & 8 for 40MHz, and locate your router as far as possible from any routers using channel 6. There are some other compromise channel options, but they're dependent upon which channels are in use and the relative signal strength, and they add to the problem for other users, so I can't recommend them, and they should only be configured by someone who thoroughly understands Wi-Fi channel allocation, interference, and the local Wi-Fi environment.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the post -- there's a lot of good information for people not familiar with WiFi. I'm actually aware of most of this stuff, but obviously there's only so much you can cover/rehash each time we do a wireless article. While I didn't provide it directly, you can get some idea of the channels in use in my neighborhood from this image:
    http://images.anandtech.com/galleries/2111/Amped%2...

    I used channels 11+7 for testing, as channel 1 is in use by my next door neighbor (and 3 is used by another neighbor two houses away -- bad choice, I know). Thankfully, there are no networks in the 6-11 range that are near my house. In terms of RSSI, I believe the signal strength from the other channel 11 networks in the area was something like -85dBm (or worse), and the same goes for the channel 6 network, so my choice is mostly free of interference.

    I used channel 161 for 5GHz, but that's not nearly as important as there's very little traffic on that spectrum.
    Reply
  • gstrickler - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Thanks Jarred, that gives some credence to your tests.

    Now, go change your neighbor's router off channel 3, get him drunk first if necessary. :)

    Yes, 5GHz is comparatively open, more channels, less usage, and always at 4 channel spacing. The main issue to deal with in 5GHz is that there are 2 or 3 different power levels allowed depending upon the frequency, so some have better range than others. Unfortunately, I can't locate the details right now, although some routers will list them as hi/low power.
    Reply

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