Cisco/Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Obstructed Performance

Moving to our obstructed testing with the router at the other end of the house, we shifted locations. (If you must know, my wife wasn’t particularly pleased about the mess in our upstairs bedroom. Sorry!) This test location is actually very useful for me as the router is located in my office while I’m testing the laptops in my living room—right next to my HTPC. While the Linksys E4200 appears to do a lot better than the Netgear in our obstructed tests, we’re no longer testing on different floors and the results aren’t directly comparable (though the laptops are still about 40 feet from the router with a couple walls in between). We hope to do additional wireless testing in the near future (assuming there’s a demand for it) where we will try to provide a better view of performance using the same antennae, but for now let’s see how the cards do with an obstructed signal and the potential to use a 5GHz radio.

Connection rates are interesting to discuss as well. Realtek drops to 58Mbps, again about half of what it seemed to get with the Netgear router. The Intel 1030 maintains a relatively consistent 144Mbps connection. The ASUS K53E with a 6230 chip ranges from around 78 to 180Mbps, the Clevo Intel 6230 laptop maintains a relatively consistent 130-144Mbps, and the Intel 6300 connection speed ranges from around 130 to 180Mbps. As mentioned earlier, the Atheros and Bigfoot drivers apparently don’t pass real-time network data rate information along to Windows, so both were steady—the Atheros shows 130Mbps and the Bigfoot shows a constant 300Mbps, though it’s clear from the results that they’re dropping to lower data rates because of interference.

Windows File Copy - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

Windows File Copy - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

NTttcp Throughput - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

NTttcp Throughput - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

Netperf Throughput - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

Netperf Throughput - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

GaNE Latency - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

GaNE Latency - Cisco 4200 Obstructed

While the Bigfoot 1102 victory wasn’t quite as clear in our ideal test scenario with the Linksys router, its obstructed performance is once again at the top of the charts. The only test where it drops to second is against the Intel 6300 for the large file copy. Balance that against NTttcp performance that’s around 20% higher than the 6300 and Netperf results that are more than double that of the closest competitor. Latency is also much lower than the competition, and the only card that comes close—Realtek’s 8188CE—only had a single spatial stream to contend with. Copying lots of smaller files gives Bigfoot another major victory, with throughput almost double that of the 6300.

With a less than ideal signal location, the lack of 5GHz support doesn’t hurt the Atheros card as much. It typically comes in ahead of both 6230 laptops and takes about half of the categories against the Intel 6300. However, even though the results look decent, in the real world you’re much better off with a chipset that can support 5GHz radios. Go to any convention and you’ll find the 2.4GHz spectrum is completely saturated; you need to find a 5GHz hotspot if you’re going to have a chance at getting your signal through (at least until everyone else starts using 5GHz radios as well). That brings us to our next topic: signal range.

Cisco/Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Ideal Performance Testing Signal Range
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  • DesktopMan - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    What's the reason for the big difference with these results: http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-r...

    Anyone know?
    Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Probably different laptops. This review is unfortunatly not very good because if I'm reading the first couple pages correctly, he used different laptops for each card. Contrary to his earlier experience, most laptops will accept any wifi card you wish. I swapped in a 6300 in my Dell a year ago and it works great.

    They need to establish a baseline testing platform to isolate the perf between the cards. Testing them all on different laptops invalidates the test. Hard drives, CPU's, memory speed, etc can have a *huge* impact on wifi performance, especially for file copy type operations. And the range test is completely irrelevant as everyone has their own way of routing the antennas up through the lid.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    For wireless, the storage actually matters almost not at all. I swapped in an HDD to one of the laptops and ran the two file copy tests. The HDD was withing 1 second of the SSD for the large file, and within 3 seconds on the small files. On GbE, HDD vs. SSD is a huge disparity, but with WiFi topping out at <30MBps it really doesn't matter much. The WiFi latency appears to be almost as bad as the HDD latency for seek operations.

    But you're right: the different laptops all make it hard to to apples-to-apples, and depending on vendor swapping in a different WiFi card may or may not work. The real issue for me was lack of time; I kept going back and forth between devices as I discovered a potential issue with one of the results. Now that I'm more comfortable with what WiFi testing entails, I'm hoping (not right now, but maybe in a couple months) to go through and test a bunch of cards in a single laptop, as well as in a PCI-E x1 desktop adapter.
    Reply
  • endrebjorsvik - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    This puzzles me as well. The last couple of days I have been struggling with getting decent performance from my own setup. I have a Netgear WNDR3700v2 and a Lenovo X220 fitted with i5-2520M and Intel 6300 3x3 and running W7. A HP ProLiant ML110 G6 with GbE and 4x2TB RAID-Z is serving the test-files.
    According to smallnetbuilder.com, the WNDR3700v2 ( http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-r... ) should be faster than WNR3500L ( http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-r... ), so my setup should at least be as fast as Jarred's Netgear-Intel6300-Ideal-result (154 Mb/s).
    I have tried both 2,4 and 5 GHz with both 20 and 40 MHz BW and with both stock and open firmware (dd-wrt), but I don't even get to 90 Mb/s (Windows file transfer tops out at 11 MB/s = 88 Mb/s, and usually stays below 10 MB/s). The distance between the router and laptop is ~6 feet, and I have tried every possible position of the router (different antenna directions). The laptop lid is open (~90 degrees).

    So I wonder if you (Jarred) came across any mindblowing tricks that increased the throughput dramatically? Or was the Netgear-Intel6300-combo just plug'n'play?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 21, 2011 - link

    What are you copying from? 11MB/s max sounds like you've got the Ethernet side hooked up to a 100Mb port, or else you're doing a transfer from one wireless PC to another? In that case, you'd be doing 22MB/s of wireless traffic, which would be pretty good considering collisions and such. Reply
  • ss284 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    It would have been really great if a recent macbook's wireless throughput was tested. I believe all the recent refreshes have the same broadcom based wireless adapter. Reply
  • xdrol - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    "the number of streams cannot be more than the larger of the transmit/receive chains (so 2x2:3 isn’t possible, but 2x3:3 is)"

    No it is not. It cannot be more than the SMALLER of the two. But the transmit and receive antennas are on a different device, so a given device could support more than it's Tx/Rx antennas, but only in the other direction (where it does have more antennas).

    As for specifying what 1 given device can do, then there are actually 4 different numbers, 3 are not enough:
    - The number of Tx antennas (a)
    - The number of spatial streams to be received (<=a)
    - The number of Rx antennas (b)
    - The number of spatial streams to be transmitted (<=b)

    As WiFi is a symmetrical system, the Tx and Rx features of a device are usually the same (read: I'm yet to see any that differ) - unlike e.g. LTE, where the usual MIMO currently is only downlink, but not uplink (it has different PHY for uplink anyway).

    In the example, the 2x3:3 is valid only if you meant it has 2 Tx antennas, 3 Rx antennas, and it can RECEIVE 3 spatial streams. As it has only 2 antennas, the maximum outbound spatial streams is 2.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    That's technically right, and we do mention that the Intel 1030 can do two streams on Rx and one on Tx, but I've seen very few routers actually support an asymmetrical MIMO scheme like that. Even the intel card for example always only shows 1 stream being used for Tx and Rx, so in practice really it should be symmetrical.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • James5mith - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Maybe I'm used to living in smaller places, but 60 feet from your front door to the router? That seems a bit extreme. Is the router in the attic, and the front door in the basement corner of the house or something? Reply
  • James5mith - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Actually, more to the point, if it's 60 ft to your front door, then your google maps view shows the Intel 6300 making it nearly 500 ft from the router in the Cisco 2.4GHz test. You stated it was 200 ft. Reply

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