Question a/b/g/n (2x2) vs a/b/g/n/ac (1x1) - which is better?

dino92

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Hello,
I've been considering buying new router which supports 5ghz, ac, beam foaming, MU MIMO and all that fancy stuff. However I've found out that my laptop's wireless network card can't connect to 5ghz network, as it's only 802.11b/g/n, while some other devices (like my phones) can.
Later I found in a forum which wireless network cards are compatible with my laptop, and out of all of them only 3 support 5ghz band:
● Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (1x1) WiFi (up to 433 Mbps)
with Bluetooth 4.0 combo
● Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260AN 802.11 a/b/g/n 2x2 WiFi + BT4.0 (up to 300 Mbps)
● BCM943228HM4L 802.11abgn 2x2 Wi-Fi Adapter and Broadcom Bluetooth 4.0 Adapter (up to 300 Mbps)

So basically it comes down to this:
Intel, a/b/g/n/ac (1x1), up to 433 Mbps
Intel, a/b/g/n (2x2), up to 300 Mbps
Broadcom, a/b/g/n (2x2), up to 300 Mbps

So the first one has ac, which is a plus, but has also 1x1, which is a minus, while the other don't support ac, but do have 2x2.

Which one you think is more important?

If second, would you give an edge to Intel or Broadcom?

Also, has anyone had any experience buying wireless network cards off of eBay and similar sites? I've found multiple of them, however I didn't see any reviews.


Thanks in advance,
Dino
 

dino92

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What is lacking in your current 2.4GHz connection?
What is it not doing?
Multiple reasons:
  1. I live in a house and all neighbor's WiFi's around me work on 2.4ghz, so the band spectrum is pretty congested. Also, my router stands pretty close to my wireless landline phone, which (being 2.4ghz device as well) also interferes with the signal.

  2. Speed: I have 50mbps internet, but my devices can only reach ~24 through WiFi. Hopefully 5 ghz network will speed that up.

  3. Last, but not least (in fact, this is the biggest reason): Every time I turn on Bluetooth on my laptop to connect to my wireless speakers, my WiFi disconnects. I googled everywhere how to solve that issue, but no luck. I know that both Bluetooth and standard WiFi work on 2.4ghz, but I wouldn't think they would interrupt each other that way. I mean, I can't stream music to my Bluetooth speakers, because I have to choose between stable internet connection and Bluetooth connection to my speakers, which is unacceptable. I'm pretty confident that if I had WiFi connected via 5.0ghz and Bluetooth via 2.4ghz there would be no cutting off the internet.
 

digitalgriffin

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Multiple reasons:
  1. I live in a house and all neighbor's WiFi's around me work on 2.4ghz, so the band spectrum is pretty congested. Also, my router stands pretty close to my wireless landline phone, which (being 2.4ghz device as well) also interferes with the signal.

  2. Speed: I have 50mbps internet, but my devices can only reach ~24 through WiFi. Hopefully 5 ghz network will speed that up.

  3. Last, but not least (in fact, this is the biggest reason): Every time I turn on Bluetooth on my laptop to connect to my wireless speakers, my WiFi disconnects. I googled everywhere how to solve that issue, but no luck. I know that both Bluetooth and standard WiFi work on 2.4ghz, but I wouldn't think they would interrupt each other that way. I mean, I can't stream music to my Bluetooth speakers, because I have to choose between stable internet connection and Bluetooth connection to my speakers, which is unacceptable. I'm pretty confident that if I had WiFi connected via 5.0ghz and Bluetooth via 2.4ghz there would be no cutting off the internet.
2x2 is usually inherently better.

There's a couple things to note here:

1. Your range with 5GHz will be considerably less before the signal falls off. Your speed limit might be affected by your range from the router. (It drops with distance) In this case, an Access Point might be your best enhancement. I tend to avoid repeaters as they cut throughput and increase ping lag. (Unless it's the Netgear EX7000 and only with netgear routers)

2. Use the WiFiAnalyzer (Android) by VREM Software. It's based on open source and tell you how many of your neighbors share the same channel. It also includes a signal strength meter which might clue you in as to why you are running so slow. Manually changing your channel might improve things.

3. Make sure your current NIC supports the packet size of the router and vice versa. (Typically 1500 bytes for ethernet but up to 64K for TCP/IP over wireless)
 

kanewolf

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MU-MIMO, and most of the other "fancy stuff" won't improve your WIFI significantly. There are lots of articles on it, but here is a good article on why it is hype rather than help...
Get a basic AC-1900 dual band wireless router. Something like an Asus RT-AC68U or Netgear 7000.

Use the "Router Ranker" over at smallnetbuilder. You can save some significant money by not buying router hype.

And you may be better off with powerline network adapters and a wired connection, than ANY WIFI implementation.
 

dino92

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Thank you for your replies,

MU-MIMO, and most of the other "fancy stuff" won't improve your WIFI significantly...
Yeah, I figured those "fancy stuff" wouldn't make much improvement, that's why I sarcastically called them like that. But any improvement is a good thing if you don't overpay it. The main thing for me was a router with good signal and 5ghz network, because soon I might be going to some smaller apartment where 5ghz band could really come in handy. Also, I want WiFi and Bluetooth on my laptop to be working at the same time, and currently I see no other solutions than running WiFi on 5ghz band while Bluetooth is at 2.4ghz.


Get a basic AC-1900 dual band wireless router. Something like an Asus RT-AC68U or Netgear 7000.
Unfortunately they both aren't available in my region, and are out of my budget. I planned to spend not more than $50 on a router at this moment. I already went with Tenda AC6, it's inside my budget, has all the things I need, and has some good Broadcom internals, and the reviews are good. Here where I live the choice of routers and their prices aren't that great (especially compared to Western market), so I went with what we have here.
I bought it today, set it up, tested it out, and now I have the same speeds via WiFi as my brother, who is connected directly to modem/router combo sitting in his room via LAN cable (44/8Mbps, which is a solid jump from 24/5 I was getting my previous router, an ancient TP-Link TL-WR340G). We pay for 50/8, so that's as close as it can be.


Use the "Router Ranker" over at smallnetbuilder. You can save some significant money by not buying router hype.
Thanks for Router Ranker, I was searching for a similar tool online, but couldn't find it. I went through it quickly, and the similar problem as I wrote above: majority of them are either not available here where I live, or are out of my budget. Next time I'm ought to do some serious shopping, I will definitely use it.


And you may be better off with powerline network adapters and a wired connection, than ANY WIFI implementation.
Unfortunately I'm very much aware of that. However, the problem is my room and the Ethernet cable aren't anywhere close to each other in order for me to have router in my room, so I'm stuck with using laptop and a router which is relatively close (around 4m in straight line), but has 2-3 walls in between.


2x2 is usually inherently better.
I read that on some other places too. My one concern is whether that 2x2 applies to both 2.4ghz and 5ghz bands, or only one of them (either 2.4 or 5)? Because if it applies to only 2.4, then it's of not much use to me, because the laptop would spend majority of its time connected to 5ghz network. However if it does apply to both, than it's better, especially because my router has MU-MIMO capability, and maybe it won't be of use now, but it's a form of futureproofing I guess.


1. Your range with 5GHz will be considerably less before the signal falls off. Your speed limit might be affected by your range from the router. (It drops with distance) In this case, an Access Point might be your best enhancement. I tend to avoid repeaters as they cut throughput and increase ping lag. (Unless it's the Netgear EX7000 and only with netgear routers)
Yep, the signal is slightly worse for 5ghz network, but still good (around -60db on my phone). 2.4ghz's range is so good that I had to reduce the power of the antennas, because I've made the bandwidth wider and I don't wanna be the "bad neighbour".


2. Use the WiFiAnalyzer (Android) by VREM Software. It's based on open source and tell you how many of your neighbors share the same channel. It also includes a signal strength meter which might clue you in as to why you are running so slow. Manually changing your channel might improve things.
I do have WiFi Analyzer already installed for a long time. Not by VREM, but the one in the Play Store (by farproc). It gets the job done for me.


3. Make sure your current NIC supports the packet size of the router and vice versa. (Typically 1500 bytes for ethernet but up to 64K for TCP/IP over wireless)
.

They most probably do, as they are relatively common components. Not sure whether your 3. was in response to my 3. because I see no mention of Bluetooth interference (which is what's bothering me, the rest of the network is working just fine, I guess).
 
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kanewolf

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Unfortunately I'm very much aware of that. However, the problem is my room and the Ethernet cable aren't anywhere close to each other in order for me to have router in my room, so I'm stuck with using laptop and a router which is relatively close (around 4m in straight line), but has 2-3 walls in between.
Powerline networking uses the power plugs in your home plus short ethernet cables as bridges. This Tom's article is old but provides the basics.
 

dino92

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Powerline networking uses the power plugs in your home plus short ethernet cables as bridges. This Tom's article is old but provides the basics.
Oh, that thing.
I saw that few years ago, but never thought about implementing one for some reason. I remember reading that some people were having issues with it, so I never really took it seriously.
Even if I had an Ethernet cable in my room, I prefer using laptop in my lap on the bed and having cable connected to it is kinda tangly and messy. However, if I had a choice to connect it when I'm sitting at the table, and have router in my own room, that would be awesome.
Thanks a lot! I'll definitely check the article out.
 
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kanewolf

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Oh, that thing.
I saw that few years ago, but never thought about implementing one for some reason. I remember reading that some people were having issues with it, so I never really took it seriously.
Even if I had an Ethernet cable in my room, I prefer using laptop in my lap on the bed and having cable connected to it is kinda tangly and messy. However, if I had a choice to connect it when I'm sitting at the table, and have router in my own room, that would be awesome.
Thanks a lot! I'll definitely check the article out.
Powerline has improved significantly with the latest version, known as AV2 MIMO. You can use it in place of an ethernet cable, and put your new 5Ghz WIFI source in your room. Granted that adds the cost of the powerline hardware to the WIFI source, but it may provide you with the best implementation.
 
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dino92

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Powerline has improved significantly with the latest version, known as AV2 MIMO. You can use it in place of an ethernet cable, and put your new 5Ghz WIFI source in your room. Granted that adds the cost of the powerline hardware to the WIFI source, but it may provide you with the best implementation.
I will be moving soon to my place anyways and then I will build up my home network from ground up, and will definitely consider using Powerline. I'm wondering why isn't it more popular, it seems to be both super practical and easy to set up.

One more question regarding NIC:
Yesterday I opened my laptop's bottom cover and I saw that my laptop only has one antenna cable connected to my wireless network card. There are standard "Main" and "Aux" connectors, but only "Main" is being used. If I understand well, the "Main" is connected to WiFi+Bluetooth combo antenna, and second one (if it existed) would be connected to secondary antenna which is only for WiFi (this post helped me with some vital information).
  1. Does that mean that I can't fully utilize 2x2 network wireless card, because I don't have secondary (aux) antenna in my laptop?
  2. Could this be the reason why my Bluetooth and WiFi have problems working at the same time? Maybe if I had two antennas, the main one would switch to Bluetooth only, and second one would be used for WiFi? Could be possible that now because the same antenna is used for same thing, that makes them interfere with each other, since they are on the same frequency?
  3. Even if I upgraded to 5ghz card, is it possible that the antenna can't "catch" 5ghz signal? And if yes, is there a way to find that out before getting new NIC (like reading some label printed on it which would discover its specs or something similar)?
 
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