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Wireless Performance - 3 Stream, 5 GHz

The 4th Generation AirPort Extreme didn't officially support three-stream N and I wasn't set up to test three-stream either. So let's compare the Gen 5 to other current three-stream capable routers like, say, the Cisco Linksys E4200 and NETGEAR WNDR4000, both of which use also use the Broadcom BCM4331.

I haven't been that impressed by three-stream N to date. My tests using an Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 client show minor throughput gains only with in-the-same-room signal levels. Once you get down to even medium signal levels, it seems that three-stream performance gains basically disappear. Check out Three Stream N Performance: A First Look and Three Stream N Performance: Two More for the details.

Since both the competitors support three-stream N on their 5 GHz radios only, I'll compare 5 GHz 40 MHz bandwidth mode, since that's the way people with three-stream capable clients will tend to run anyway. The new radar plot in Figure 12 shows the Gen 5 evenly matched in Locations A and C, but significantly slower in weaker signal location D.

Radar plot comparison, 5 GHz, 3 stream, 40 MHz mode, downstream
Figure 12: Radar plot comparison, 5 GHz, 3 stream, 40 MHz mode, downstream

For uplink, Figure 13 shows the Gen 5 again turning in the weakest performance, this time with single-digit Location D throughput.

Radar plot comparison, 5 GHz, 3 stream, 40 MHz mode, upstream
Figure 13: Radar plot comparison, 5 GHz, 3 stream, 40 MHz mode, upstream

Figure 14 provides a peek at the IxChariot plot for three-stream 5 GHz, 40 MHz mode downlink.

Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 5 GHz, 40 MHz mode, downlink
Figure 14: Apple AirPort Extreme 5th Gen IxChariot summary - 5 GHz, 20 MHz mode. downlink

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

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