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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  • neothe0ne - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    "And Dell, Asus, Acer, and Sony all do the same thing."

    Are you sure about that? I was under the impression HP and Lenovo were alone in the industry with the WLAN whitelist. And anyway, Dell does offer the Intel Centrino 6230 on the XPS 15 now, unlike HP's dv6 which is stuck in budget-tier Intel WiFi Link 1000 land.
    Reply
  • cjl - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    Dell, at least in their Alienware products, definitely does not whitelist. After reading this article, I got one of the Killer 1102 cards for my M11xR2 (which comes with a rather terrible card by default, and there were no upgrade options offered), and it works just fine. I popped it in, installed the drivers, and everything has been working great since. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Hello,

    -Thanks for the article, but did you tested those adapters with or without any security/encryption/password protection scheme? I mean WEP or WPA/WPA2 - I think encryption put some overhead in the throughput.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    All testing was done with WPA2 AES. Most modern cards do fine with that, though a few years back it was sometimes slower IIRC. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    -Okay, thanks for the clarification. :) Reply
  • Yummer72 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the informative review.

    I wonder if Bigfoot will continue to have an advantage if the "WLAN Optimizer" program was used with the other WiFi cards?

    http://www.martin-majowski.de/wlanoptimizer/

    I have personally seen significantly improved performance and the elimination of "lag spikes" (QuakeLive) with this software tweak.

    Any comments?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    I'll give that a try; it could very well remove the spikes, leaving the primary advantage as the lower base latency. Reply
  • bhima - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    You should review that 95% color gamut matte screen in that Mythlogic ;) Reply
  • loopingz - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    First of all thanks for highlighting that I can change my wifi adaptator on my laptop. Mine is always frozing during transfert in windows (linux is fine).

    Second thanks for helping me choosing the good one.

    I hesitate now between intel 6300 for range, correct performance and price, and the 110 2/3 for pure performance.
    May be best of two worlds intel 6300 in the eeepc that travel a lot and bigfoot in the main home laptop.

    Can I recycle a my old wifi card or a new one using an antenna and puting it in my desktop computer?

    I will give try to Wlanoptimizer too because watching movie from the raid5 nas still not perfect (router linksys e3k).

    Thanks for the good job.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, August 11, 2011 - link

    "Wireless networking also tends to need more overhead for error checking and interference losses, and there’s a question of whether the streams are linearly independent enough to get higher throughput, orientation, directionality of signal, etc. Even though you might connect at 450Mbps or 300Mbps, you’ll never actually reach anywhere near that level of throughput. In our testing, the highest throughput we ever saw was around 75% utilization of the available bandwidth, and that was on a 300Mbps connection."

    This is not a useful description of the situation. The nominal speed of a connection (ie the MCS index) already includes error correction overhead --- that's why you see a range of bit-rates, with the same parameters (modulation, number of streams, bandwidth) --- these different bit-rates correspond to different levels of error correction, from the strongest (1/2 coding rate) to the weakest (5/6).

    It is also unlikely that corrupt packets and the retransmission (what you are calling "interference losses", though in your environment noise is likely more relevant than interference) are substantial --- both ends aggressively modify the MCS index to get the best throughput, and try to keep the number of corrupt packets low.

    The real issue is the MAC --- the negotiations over who next gets airtime. This used to be a big deal with wired ethernet as well, of course, but it went away with switches around the time we all moved to 100TX. The basic 802.11n MAC does not rely on any real co-ordination, just on timing windows and retries, and it wastes a phenomenal amount of time. 802.11e improves the situation somewhat (I expect all the systems that get 75% efficiency are using 802.11e, otherwise they'd see around 50% efficiency), but it's still not perfect.
    What one really wants is a central arbiter (like in a cell system) that hands out time slots, with very specific rules about who can talk when. For reasons I don't understand, 802.11 has been very resistant to adding such a MAC protocol (802.11e has elements of this, but does not go full-hog), but I would not be surprised if we finally see such as part of the 802.11n successor --- it's just such an obvious place to pick up some improvement. The real problem is that to do it right you have to give up backward compatibility, and no-one wants to do that. At least if we'd had it in 802.11n, then we'd be part way to a better world (people could switch it on once all their g equipment died, eg at home).
    Reply

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