In case you’re wondering why we’re reviewing an 802.11n router when the first 802.11ac routers have already reached the market, we have several reasons. First and foremost, the latter didn’t make it to the Lab in time for our print deadline. Secondly, the IEEE isn’t expected to formally ratify the 802.11ac standard until early 2013. The 802.11ac routers on the market today are based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, so there’s a remote chance they could be rendered obsolete when the standard is finalized.
Yes, there are 802.11ac routers on the market, but they’re based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, and the Wi-Fi Alliance did not have a certification program in place at press time.
EnGenius Technologies announced at CES today a new line of 802.11n Wi-Fi router that the company claims are optimized for range and bandwidth-intensive consumer applications, such as VoIP calls, videoconferencing and media streaming. One of the features we find most interesting is something that router manufacturers seem to be moving away from: detachable—and therefore upgradeable—antennas.
We took a look at the Ooma Telo recently, and found that this almost free VoIP service was a great solution for penny pinchers. Ooma’s Telo bay station connects to your home network and offers nearly unlimited calls, and all you have to pay is a few bucks in taxes. Today, Ooma has announced the system is getting a refresh with a new wireless adapter and free Bluetooth capability.
Marvel on Monday introduced its Avastar 88W8764 wireless chip. According to Marvell, this is the first ever 802.11n, 4x4 single-die solution, which the company plans to market for use in enterprise access points, service provider gateways, high performance home routers, media and mobile servers, Digital TVs (DTVs), and set-top boxes.
"Wi-Fi has become the critical common link in today's mobile communications as users now expect and demand seamless, high-performance, robust and secure connectivity, zero latency and crystal clear communication between all their connected devices no matter where they go," said Weili Dai, Co-Founder of Marvell. "Marvell has a proven track record as the world leader in Wi-Fi for enterprise, consumer and mobile applications delivering robust, high performance and high bandwidth, highly secure and seamless wireless connectivity. I believe Marvell's groundbreaking 802.11n 4x4 Wi-Fi solution will fundamentally change the wireless landscape and truly enable the entire spectrum of always-on consumer products."
The new Avastar chips sports four independent transmit-receive RF chains with support for three Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) spatial streams for up to 450Mbps data rates, Marvell says.
No word yet on when the 4x4 part will start to show up in shipping devices.
Wilocity and Atheros Communications today announced a partnership to build tri-band wireless solutions that will operate on the 2.4-, 5.0,- and 60GHz frequency bands. Wilocity has been developing 60GHz technology for three years. Atheros is a major player in the dual-band IEEE 802.11n chipset market.
Both companies have seats on the WiGig Alliance’s board of directors and contributed to the draft standard for wireless networking using the 60GHz frequency band the alliance announced on May 10. The alliance is also contributing ideas to the IEEE Task Group AD, which is working on the IEEE 802.11ad but it’s not taking any chances that the standards body will move quickly enough to enable standardized 60GHz products to reach retail shelves on a timely basis.
Trendnet can legitimately claim bragging rights for being the first company to bring a three-stream IEEE 802.11n router to market. Unfortunately, our first impressions of the TEW-691GR are not all that positive. While we never expected this router to deliver actual throughput of 450Mb/s (just as we never expect the far more common two-stream routers to deliver actual throughput of 300Mb/s), its sparse feature set and bipolar real-world performance left us unimpressed.
As you'll see from the benchmark charts, the TEW-691GR proved to be very fast, but only when our wireless client was in relatively close proximity. Trendnet recommends reviewers use a notebook equipped with Intel’s integrated Intel WiFi Link 5300 adapter, because you can’t buy a three-stream USB Wi-Fi adapter today. But since we can’t expect readers to buy a notebook based solely on which wireless network adapter is inside, we elected to stick with the TEW-664UB USB adapter that Trendnet provided.
Just bought a brand-spankin’ new dual-band router? Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard, Binky; your new toy just might be outclassed as soon as the end of this year by the first generation of tri-band devices with wireless radios operating on the 2.4-, 5.0-, and 60GHz frequencies. These could be the first networking products capable moving bits around your house at supremely fast speeds and cooking a pizza at the same time.
We’re just kidding about the pizza, but wireless routers operating on the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band do promise to deliver data throughput as high as 7Gb/sec. The IEEE Task Group AD (TGad for short; not to be confused with “teabag”) is busy developing a standard—IEEE 802.11ad—but the companies hoping to sell actual products based on this new technology aren’t taking any chances that the famously methodical international standards body might take the same long winding road they did with 802.11n. They formed a trade group—the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig)— in May 2009, and the alliance announced its own first-draft standard today.
Geeks like us invariably get sucked into providing tech support for less tech-savvy friends and family. You know the drill: “Hey, Mike. I just bought this new [insert tech product], but [insert problem]. Can you help me?” Fortunately, there’s a burgeoning class of tech products designed not for us geeks, but for geeks like us to recommend to friends and family. Cisco's’ new line of Valet Wireless Hotspots fits neatly in that category.
Mvix USA builds an extensive line of home-theater PCs, so when we saw the massive antenna on its Solido USB Wi-Fi adapter, we assumed it would outperform any adapter we’ve tested in Maximum PC Lab North’s media room. As it turned out, performance only equaled the best. Where this device excels is at range.
If you’re looking for an adapter to stream media from the 5GHz radio on your dual-band router, you can quit reading now because the Solido operates on the more common 2.4GHz band only. It is, however, compatible with 802.11b, g, and n routers. If your client PC is located in an entertainment center, you’ll want to be aware that the Solido’s antenna is 6.7 inches tall; but if you’re doing that, you’ve probably left plenty of vertical space for ventilation anyway.
Belkin, apparently inspired by the "explosion of multimedia content," is adding app support to its new wireless routers, the company announced on Wednesday.
"In a recent IDC survey, 72 percent of respondents own a digital still camera and use it at least once a month in the home," Belkin said. "As such, we can expect that more people will want to share their photos and videos in more places."
Belkin's detective work didn't stop there, and the company cited a Forrester study in which the digital music market has grown to $3 billion in the U.S. in 2008. Looking to capitalize on all this, Belkin's "Surf, Share, Play, and Play Max Wireless Routers" will offer a variety of apps, including Music Mover, which lets users play their entire music library on smart devices.
But it's not all about fun play. The Print Genie app allows uses to wirelessly print from any computer on the network, while the Memory Safe app performs automatic backups of photos and files to an external drive (sold separately, of course). Other apps include:
Self Healing: Automatically detect and resolve network problems
Music Labeler: Automatically identifies and labels tracks with correct title, artist, and genre
Daily DJ: Provides personalized playlists from your music library based on your mood
Torrent Genie: Downloads large media files whether your PC is on or off
Bit Boost: Prioritizes traffic on your network for video, gaming, and VoIP
Not all apps are available on all routers. Look for the new line to be made available in April starting at $50.