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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance - Competitive Comparison

Since I tested the Trendnet and original D-Link products using the Azimuth method, I can't directly compare it with the SMC. But given the poor performance of the Ralink-based client card, I don't think that my testing with the SMC client properly reflects the 14-N's real performance.

To check this, I threw a D-Link DWA-652 cardbus card, which uses an Atheros 3T3R chipset, into my notebook and did a quick walkaround test starting at location D and going to E and F. Figure 13 shows the results in downlink and Figure 14 running uplink.

Location D-F walkaround - D-Link DWA-652 client, 20 MHz mode, downlink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 13: Location D-F walkaround - D-Link DWA-652 client, 20 MHz mode, downlink

The main takaways from this quick test are the higher downlink throughput in Location D (40-50 Mbps) than the 21 Mbps average measured with the SMC card. The uplink of around 15 Mbps, however, was only slightly higher than the SMC card's 13 Mbps.

The more significant result with the D-Link card, however, was low but usable throughput in even Locations E and F, moreso for downlink than up. But even running uplink, a connection was still maintained and traffic was passed in all locations.

Location D-F walkaround - D-Link DWA-652 client, 20 MHz mode, uplink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 14: Location D-F walkaround - D-Link DWA-652 client, 20 MHz mode, uplink

The bottom line of all this is that I think SMC's SMCWCB-N2 Ralink-based notebook card is a poor selection for the 14-N and significantly reduces delivered speed and range.

Use the Wireless Charts to generate other comparisons.

Closing Thoughts

If a product is going to be a clone of a better-known brand, it needs to bring something to the table to attract buyers. Somtime it's availability or maybe a unique feature. But most often it's price.

In SMC's case, it has taken the "unique feature" route with the SMCWGBR14-N, with the multi-function print and scanner server. But while the print server feature worked, I didn't have any luck with the scanner sharing.

I was surprised, however, that SMC is not trying to lead, or at least be competitive on price. In fact, the 14-N is the highest priced of the three products, as shown in Table 2 below. Note that I have removed a few way-above-range prices for the D-Link and Trendnet products, but in included all SMC's vendors, whose prices are more tightly grouped.

Product Price Range
(13 Oct 2008)
TEW-633GR $90 - $109
DIR-655 $92 - $129
SMCWGBR14-N $129 - $152
Table 1: Router performance comparison

To sum up, when you pair the 14-N with a decent client , preferably Atheros-based, I would expect its wireless performance to be the same as the Trendnet TEW-633GR, because the two are really the same OEM'd product.

But with a higher price than the market leading DIR-655, riskier thermal design (no heatsinks or thermal pads on the CPU or gigabit Ethernet switch) and more limited availability, I'm afraid that the SMCWGBR14-N really doesn't provide any reason to recommend it over its better known or less-expensive alternatives.

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