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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance - 2 Stream, 2.4 GHz

The 5th Gen AirPort Extreme is Wi-Fi Certified and properly comes up in 20 MHz bandwidth mode in 2.4 GHz on power-up and "wide channel" mode (40 MHz bandwidth) in 5 GHz. As noted earlier, 40 MHz channel bandwidth is locked out in the 2.4 GHz band.

Wi-Fi Certification is separate for Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and the 5th Gen AirPort doesn't have it and doesn't support WPS. So I manually had to set up WPA2 / AES secured connections on both radios to do all testing using the new four-location wireless test process. As noted earlier, testing was done using the latest 7.5.2 firmware loaded and the 5.5.3 AirPort Utility.

The Benchmark Summary shown in Figure 7 brings all the numbers into one handy place. Before you get too depressed at the wireless throughput numbers below, remember they are the average of the tests at all four test locations.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen  benchmark summary
Figure 7: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen benchmark summary

Let's first look at the performance differences between 4th and 5th gen products. The Performance Table in Figure 8 compares the 2.4 GHz band performance for the two generations. Uplink speed for the 5th generation isn't as high as seen in the 4th. But throughput in weaker test locations D and F is much improved in the latest model.

Highest 2.4 GHz band speed, however, is only 68 Mbps running downlink in the strongest signal test location A. Running simultaneous up and downlink tests in Location A yielded 82 Mbps of total throughput.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen performance summary - 2.4 GHz
Figure 8: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen performance summary - 2.4 GHz

This is to be expected, since the 4th generation results are from a test sample with improperly connected antennas. Looking back at Table 1 in the retest article shows that the 5th generation performance with lower level signals is much improved over the 4th generation.

The IxChariot plot in Figure 9 shows 2.4 GHz band downlink tests. You can see throughput ramps up at the start of the Location A and F tests--something I've seen before in Broadcom-based N products. I tried to eliminate this effect with multiple test runs, but couldn't. The effect is relatively brief, so doesn't lower the one-minute test average result too much.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink
Figure 9: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 2.4 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink

Here are links to the other 2.4 GHz plots for your reference:

5 GHz

Figure 10 shows a different story for the 5 GHz band. There, the general trend seems to be that the 4th generation AirPort Extreme turns in higher throughput results with stronger signals, although there are exceptions. As expected, the 5th generation AirPort Extreme was no more successful reaching into dead zone Location F than the 4th generation was.

Highest throughput measured for the 5th gen. was 85 Mbps in Location A, 40 MHz bandwidth, downlink. The simultaneous up and downlink test in 40 MHz bandwidth mode showed a top total throughput yield of 108 Mbps.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen performance summary - 2.4 GHz
Figure 10: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen performance summary - 5 GHz

The IxChariot 20 MHz mode downlink summary plot in Figure 11 shows both the ramp-up effect and some rather large throughput variation in the strongest signal location A. In general, however, thoughput was pretty steady, even with lower signal levels.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode, downlink
Figure 11: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode. downlink

Here are links to the other 5 GHz plots for your reference.

More Wireless

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