Solved: Wireless N Centrino adapter vs. 802.11ac

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DKTaber

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If my Toshiba laptop has a Centrino Wireless N adapter, can I get more download speed from a router with the latest 802.11ac protocol. . . or does one have to have a Wireless AC adapter to take maximum advantage of an 802.11ac router?
 

TerryNet

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Maximum nominal bandwidth for 802.11n is 300 Mbps, and I suspect/guess that actual data throughput tops out at about half that.
 

zx10guy

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The max theoretical bandwidth for 802.11n is actually 450 Mbps. The number comes from the spec supporting 3 spatial streams in and out. Each spatial stream supports 150 Mbps. The reason why many people think 300 Mbps is the max throughput because most wireless adapters and wireless routers for SOHO only has support for 2x2 operation. At the enterprise level, 3x3 is very common.
 

zx10guy

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Getting back to the original question, the simple answer is yes, you need a .ac adapter to see the big benefits from a .ac wireless access point. The complex answer is you may see an improvement with your .n performance if there are many wireless clients on the same wireless network as you and some of them have a .ac adapter. It boils down to air time fairness and how long a particular wireless device (including the AP) occupies/holds the air space your wireless network is operating on while it transmits. The more wireless clients on your wireless network associated to a particular AP the greater the chances the airspace is going to be occupied; resulting in contention.
 

DKTaber

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Maximum nominal bandwidth for 802.11n is 300 Mbps, and I suspect/guess that actual data throughput tops out at about half that.
So are you saying that if the laptop's ADAPTER is a Wireless N, then the max theoretical Mbps it can take in is 300 and the max real-world is ~150? In other words, to take advantage of a "Buggati-type" 802.11ac router, I would have to buy a laptop with the latest 802.11ac adapter.

That generates another question: Are there any laptops or tablets today that have the 'ac' adapters. I understood that the 'ac' protocol is still in DRAFT, not final, so I would think manufacturers would stay away from the protocol until it's set in stone. Yes, no?
 

zx10guy

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So are you saying that if the laptop's ADAPTER is a Wireless N, then the max theoretical Mbps it can take in is 300 and the max real-world is ~150? In other words, to take advantage of a "Buggati-type" 802.11ac router, I would have to buy a laptop with the latest 802.11ac adapter.

That generates another question: Are there any laptops or tablets today that have the 'ac' adapters. I understood that the 'ac' protocol is still in DRAFT, not final, so I would think manufacturers would stay away from the protocol until it's set in stone. Yes, no?
See my post above concerning the discussion of theoretical maximums. With regards to what real world is your actual performance will always be less than what the theoreticals are. You won't get perfect RF between you and the AP. Encryption also has a play in your ultimate performance. And the hardware you're running the connection on; especially the AP. The AP has to deal with RF processing and if you layer encryption on it, you're going to see a drop. How much depends on the hardware.

There are devices out there with .ac already built in. My Samsung S5 has it. My iPad mini version 2/retina has it. My Dell Venue 11 Pro has it. If your laptop doesn't have .ac, you may be able to replace the internal wireless NIC or just buy a wireless USB NIC with .ac support. Also remember, the same rules apply with .ac in reference to spatial streams.

With regards to .ac in draft, that is no longer the case. The WiFi Alliance has been certifying .ac implementations. You can check their website to find out which manufacturers have gained this certification. When I last checked, Cisco and Aruba Networks were on the list. Also, the current standard is what is called phase 1. Phase 2 is coming out which adds additional features such as multi-user MIMO and more channels to increase the theoretical speed from 1.3 Gbps to....I forget.
 

Triple6

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Wireless-AC is actually getting pretty common, many of the new laptops we've sold lately have Wireless-AC adapters as do most new mobile phones and tablets.

Wireless is a mess to be honest. You can have wireless-N devices that can do 150Mbps, 300Mbps, or 450Mbps. you can also have wireless-N devices that do only 2.4Ghz frequencies, 5Ghz frequencies, or both. Then you start mixing manufacturers and speeds can be halved, the number of antennas, and channel widths/bonding, etc. all affect the connection speed. And that're before interface and distance issues.

Both my phone and and laptop connect well below my home router's 300Mbps maximum, 65Mbps and 72Mbps. For most people the question is does it really matter? Both those speeds are way faster than my internet connection, I have lots of surrounding wireless networks, and I don't need fast transfer between my mobile devices and other devices.

To get Wireless-AC speeds you must have wireless-AC hardware at both ends. You may also get significantly better speeds using 5Ghz instead of 2.4Ghz depending on what hardware you have and the interference in your area.
 

DKTaber

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It's gratifying to substantiate the information on .ac. I now know that getting a .ac modem would be of little benefit for my Toshiba or my wife's 2003 Compaq. I've also confirmed my long held belief that unless my ISP is delivering download speeds >150Mbps, there's little o4 nothing to be gained by having a .ac router. . . unless, of course, I get many more devices in the house, all running at the same time.

Thanks to everybody.
 
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