Guide to”N” from Tim Higgins

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Tim Higgins, who writes the definitive WiFi site has published an excellent guide to buying WiFi routers called How To Buy a Wireless Router: The Short Version. He notes that by the end of 2009, the 802.11n standard will be finalized.

He reviews the four major types of routers:

  • Single-band G
  • Single-band N
  • Dual-band, single-radio “N”
  • Dual-band, two-radio “N”

The two radio, dual band “N” router is best, explains Higgins. You can put your “N” clients on 5 GHz and your “G” clients on 2.4GHz.

The 5 GHz band has more non-overlapping channels than 2.4 GHz. While the 2.4 GHz band has only three usable channels out of 11, the 5 GHz band usually supports eight. With two (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) channels, “N” routers often run into channel conflicts on the 2.4GHz band.

Whenever there are G and N devices connected to the same N type router, they both will operate at slower speed, but only when both are active. So if you do a lot of long wireless downloads, file transfers or backups or watch a lot of online video via wireless connections, you will want to segregate G and N clients onto separate networks, for optimum performance of both types.

The easiest way to separate the client types, especially if you already have a G type router, is to add an N type router. Another way to separate the client types is to use a dual-band, dual-radio N router.

So when would a single-radio, dual-band N router be a good choice? Actually, not that often.

Higgins warns about buying non-standard “N150″ routers. They don’t use MIMO, they put “N” protocol elements on a single channel. “Single stream N technology” routers are marketed as “N150″ products, but single-stream clients are not draft 11n certifiable. Higgins advises people to stay away from single channel “N150″ products including Cisco/Linksys WRT120N, Cisco Linksys WRT110, NETGEAR WNR1000, D-Link DIR-600, and Belkin N150

As I have said before, these are a marketing experiment aimed at luring unsuspecting shoppers who think they are buying something that will make their G devices work faster and / or go farther (they will do neither). They are pitched as cheaper alternatives to real N routers, but, in the end they aren’t a good deal.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, September 7th, 2009 at 8:11 am .

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