More on Why 802.11n is Essential for Your Home Wi-Fi

In a post I did the other day titled The Time is Now to Go to 802.11n Wi-Fi, I made the point that many people who aren’t switching to Draft-N Wi-Fi because the standard isn’t ratified yet should go ahead and do so, because performance is much better and the upgrade costs very little. Several readers weighed in disagreeing, saying that what most people do on a home network doesn’t come close to saturating an 802.11g router, and the speed of your Internet connection is the real performance generator, so there’s no point.

In this post, I’ll cover in more depth why I’ve found the upgrade so worthwhile, and cover some other points worth remembering about getting the best possible performance from your home wireless network.

The proposed 802.11n standard, and Draft-N products, introduce an entirely new approach to how the antennas work in Wi-Fi routers and access points: Mutliple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas. MIMO allows the use of multiple antennas at both the transmission end and receiver end of wireless communications. In performance tests done by numerous labs, MIMO antennas provide both higher data throughput and improved range as compared to previous generation antennas.

Now, I can see the point some readers make about how many web workers aren’t involved with applications that are going to call for maximum throughput, but some of us are. For example, many web workers increasingly work with video while roaming on a home network, and that’s where I can really tell the performance difference between 802.11n and 802.11g.

Also, radio is inherently weird technology,and some readers here have probably had the experience of slightly adjusting the location of a router or access point, and then noticed the performance difference after the slight adjustment. The range you get with MIMO antennas is unquestionably better than what the 802.11g-based antennas provided. I know this from doing simple tests like taking my wireless notebook outside and moving in and out of range.

Finally, in a previous post I did on home Wi-Fi networks, I was surprised by how many readers use only a router for their wireless networks. In most cases, you can buy an access point to go with your router for about $60, it requires essentially no setup, and acts as a useful repeater that extends your range and improves your performance. If you’re not using 802.11n, and you’re using just a router, I think you’ll be surprised by how much better your Wi-Fi network works if you make a couple of inexpensive upgrades.

Have you noticed a performance difference after switching from 802.11g to 802.11n?


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