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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  • zephon85 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Any words on the impact of the different wifi adapters on notebook battery life? Would be quite good to know how much (if any) time you gain by using different wireless cards... Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I could be wrong but given the upper limit on mini-PCI and mini-PCIe power capacity, I'd assume differences between cards on the same interface would be negligible in the real world. You might be able to demonstrate small statistically significant differences between cards using large sample sizes and very rigorous, controlled testing, but that's an enormous amount of time and effort to show that card X yields 5-6 more minutes of battery runtime than card Y. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I'll cover the battery life question in the laptop review; I didn't actually take the time to perform those tests yet. I don't expect much of a difference, as WiFi adapters are usually pulling less than 250mW, but we'll see. Reply
  • Souka - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I'll put my $.02 in.

    Different cards have different drivers....each with their own defaul power settings.

    Unless all the various options are taken into account, it can be really hard to get a apples-2-apples comparison of power needs.

    But I agree to a point, the wi-fi power draw is really low compared to drive, memory, cpu, gpu, and LCD power needs.

    Kinda think of driving a car with the antenna up vs down.... yes it does make a difference, but not much.

    My $.02
    :)
    Reply
  • SquattingDog - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Just to post on this - Wireless being on or off can make a huge difference to battery life on notebooks - so some testing between cards could definitely be good. Eg on a Netbook I have (Asus n10jc), I typically get around 30 - 45min more battery life with wifi OFF.

    In saying that, since upgrading from a 54mbps wifi network to a 300mbps wifi network, I have seen no difference in battery usage on the machine (connects at 300Mbps now).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    True, but you're looking at a netbook that idles at around 7W. A reduction in power draw of .25W would be a lot more noticeable on that than on a full laptop that's drawing 12-15W minimum. Reply
  • Souka - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    with wi-fi on you may have a fair amount of network activity going on...which also increases the draw by the cpu/drive/mb/etc

    anyhow...good points all! :)
    Reply
  • philosofool - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Wireless networking isn't something I really keep up on, so I don't know much past the various 802.11 names. What, forexample, does 3x3:3 mean and why might I like that more than some other configuration? Reply
  • A5 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    From Page 1 of the review:

    "While we’re on the subject, let’s clarify what the MIMO numbers mean. When we’re talking about a 2x2:2 part, the first digit is the number of transmit chains, the second is the total number of receive chains, and the third is the total number of data streams supported. It’s possible to have a 3x3:2 device, for example, which would use the extra transmit and receive chains to improve SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio), but 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)."

    Theoretically, a 3x3:3 device offers 3x the bandwidth of a 1x1:1 device.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review, it looks like my bias against everything "killer" will have to be adjusted a bit. While I'm still not sure that the performance difference is terribly meaningful, neither is $20 in most laptops. Reply

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