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Wireless Reviews

Features - Wireless

People tend to like expensive top-of-line routers to have plenty of knobs to twiddle, especially when it comes to wireless settings. So at $300 and with two 5 GHz radios that are supposed to "intelligently choose the best 5 GHz band for your dual-band device", you might expect simple and advanced settings screens.

Smart Connect concept

Smart Connect concept

Nope. The only Smart Connect control you get is an on/off switch. Check the box and the only thing you can adjust on the 5GHz-2 radio is the primary channel. Everything else is copied from the 5GHz-1 radio settings.

Basic Wireless Settings for Smart Connect

Basic Wireless Settings for Smart Connect

Advanced Wireless settings are limited to what you see below. The 2.4 GHz settings are not shown but are the same as the 5 GHz. The lone advanced control is the implicit Beamforming enable. Standard 802.11ac "explicit" beamforming is enabled by default and can't be disabled. As with the R7000, there is no transmit power adjust and no controls to limit link rates or set specific b, g or n operating modes or compatibility features. And while the latest R7000 firmware added an Airtime Fairness control, the R8000 doesn't have that either.

5 GHz Advanced Wireless settings

5 GHz Advanced Wireless settings

The bigger omission, however, is the lack of any wireless bridging features; no WDS and no client bridge like the R7000 has. So if you were thinking of trying to bond the two 5 GHz radios into a single wireless bridge, forget it.

Another important 5 GHz "feature" is that each radio is limited to a subset of channels. 5GHz-1 supports only channels 36, 40, 44 and 48 and 5GHz-2 supports only channels 149, 153, 157 and 161. This is due to the filtering and other design tweaks required to keep the two radios from overloading each other.

On the plus side, both "Home" and "Enterprise" (RADIUS) wireless security is supported.

Storage Performance

Broadcom said it has paid a lot of attention to storage performance in the XStream architecture. With wireless duties handed off to dedicated processors (and RAM) in each wireless radio, all the main BCM4709 processor has to do for wireless is shuttle Ethernet packets to and from the radios. This should leave it plenty of processing power for storage and internet sharing.

I used the standard Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station [SATDOCKU3SEF] with a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive to test file copy performance. I formatted the drive with FAT32 and NTFS and tested both USB 2.0 and 3.0 performance.

Table 2 summarizes USB 2.0 performance and includes competitive top-of-line routers and NETGEAR's R7000. Results show with-the-pack performance, which is not surprising given that the speeds indicate limiting by the USB 2.0 bus itself. The FAT32 outlier results isn't a fluke. I reran the test and got virtually the same result.

  NETGEAR R8000 NETGEAR R7000 Linksys WRT1900AC ASUS RT-AC68U
Processor Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A Marvell MV78230 Broadcom BCM4708A
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 18.5 24.8 28.7 11.8
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 28.9 27.8 31.0 24.0
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 27.2 27.9 30.1 23.7
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 29.0 27.9 30.8 24.2
Table 2: File copy throughput - USB 2.0 (MBytes/sec)

Switching to USB 3.0 results, it looks like most of the claimed performance boost is on reads vs. writes by about a 2-to-1 margin. So Linksys' WRT1900AC remains the storage performance leader for now.

  NETGEAR R8000 NETGEAR R7000 Linksys WRT1900AC ASUS RT-AC68U
Processor Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A Marvell MV78230 Broadcom BCM4708A
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 31.9 33.4 61.1 11.7*
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 73.9 57.4 76.5 21.6*
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 39.3 36.8 66.7 23.6*
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 73.5 57.7 75.1 24.3*
Table 3: File copy throughput - USB 3.0 (MBytes/sec)
* = "Reducing USB 3.0 interference" setting enabled

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