I did not use the old extender test procedure, but instead created a new test suite using the Revision 10 wireless testbed. The new set of tests presents a much more comprehensive view of extender performance. Version 1.0.00.040 firmware was used for testing, following the same special process used to test NETGEAR's EX8000. If more of these tri-band extender beasties appear, I suspect I'll formalize the process and move the data to the Charts
The process summary is:
- Throughput vs. attenuation for all three radios (using Revision 10 process) in AP mode
- Extender backhaul throughput vs. range with Ethernet, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless extender connections
- OTA (Over The Air) test in worst case Kitchen location
Throughput vs. Attenuation
Since the RE9000 can function as a tri-band AP, I first tested throughput vs. attenuation performance (or rate vs. range, aka rvr), using the Revision 10 Throughput vs. Attenuation test with the RE9000 in the large octoScope test chamber with turntable.
The RE9000's 2.4 GHz radio was set to channel 6 and Auto (20/ 40 MHz) bandwidth. Keep in mind the octoScope Pal test client is limited to 20 MHz link rate, however. The RE9000's low band four-stream 5 GHz radio (Ch 36-48) was set to Channel 40 and Auto (20/40/80 MHz) bandwidth. The 5 GHz high-band two-stream radio (Ch 149-161) was set to Channel 149 and Auto (20/40/80 MHz) bandwidth.
Linksys RE9000 in chamber
2.4 GHz downlink shows the RE9000 and EX8000 are fairly evenly matched, with the Linksys having a slight advantage with the strongest signals, then falling below the NETGEAR as signal level reduces.
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 2.4 GHz down
2.4 GHz uplink shows the RE9000 with a more sustained advantage over the EX8000.
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 2.4 GHz up
To keep the plots uncluttered, I've separated 5 GHz results into two-stream and four-stream plots. 5 GHz downlink - 4 stream shows the NETGEAR beating the Linksys, except for the 0 dB measurement outlier.
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 5 GHz down - 4 stream
5 GHz uplink- 4 stream results show the MediaTek-based RE9000 doesn't suffer from the Qualcomm-based EX8000's disadvantage caused by our test method. As noted in the EX8000 review, increasing the number of iperf3 connections from the single connection used in the benchmark, increases uplink throughput to look more like downlink. (The iperf3 command line sets a 32 KByte buffer size with 2 MByte TCP window.)
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 5 GHz up - 4 stream
5 GHz downlink - 2 stream shows lower throughput for both products due to the lower link gain from 2 streams vs. 4. The EX8000 outperforms the RE9000, but disconnects 12 dB sooner.
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 5 GHz down - 2 stream
5 GHz uplink - 2 stream results shows the same throughput disadvantage for the NETGEAR as the 4 stream results.
Linksys RE9000 throughput vs. attenuation - 5 GHz up - 2 stream
Now that we know how good the RE9000 is as an AP, let's look at how it performs as an extender. As in the EX8000 review, the RE9000 was paired with a NETGEAR R7800 Nighthawk X4S, our top-ranked Qualcomm-based AC2600 class 4 stream MU-MIMO enabled router.
The basic approach was to place the R7800 in one octoScope RF chamber and the RE9000 in another. The two are connected via a programmable attenuator used to ramp down the signal between the two, simulating performance at different "distances". The EX8000 review has more test setup details if you're curious.
Here's the the RE9000 parked in an octoScope 18" chamber.
Linksys RE9000 in small octoScope chamber
Throughput between router and extender was measured with different connections to the RE9000: 2.4 GHz wireless, 5 GHz wireless and Gigabit Ethernet—with uplink and downlink traffic run in each case. One set of tests was run with the R7800's 5 GHz radio set to Channel 40, causing a four-stream backhaul connection; the other was with the R7800 set to Channel 149, resulting in a two-stream link. Each connection type was tested separately.
Keep in mind that the backhaul connection is never used for client traffic. So if Channel 40 (four stream) is used for backhaul, Channel 149 is used for client connection and vice-versa. In both cases, the octoScope Pal test client is configured as a 2x2 AC STA.
The first composite plot compares how client downlink throughput with a 5 GHz two-stream backhaul connection changed for each connection type, as the "distance" between R7800 and RE9000 increased, i.e. as attenuation increased. (Downlink is R7800 to RE9000; uplink is vice-versa.). The difference between the Ethernet and 5 GHz backhaul lines is fairly small, meaning that the RE9000 is pretty efficient in passing backhaul throughput along. 2.4 GHz throughput is obviously limited by the bandwidth of the client connection.
Linksys RE9000 backhaul vs. attenuation - downlink - 2 stream
The next plot compares throughput with the same setup, but with uplink traffic for each connection type. 2.4 GHz throughput is again limited by the lower bandwidth of that connection. Ethernet and 5 GHz throughput again track very closely.
Linksys RE9000 backhaul vs. attenuation - uplink - 2 stream
Next, the backhaul link switched to four-stream using Channel 40 and downlink throughput measured. Note the Ethernet-connected bandwidth increases even more at low attenuation values (higher signal levels), but the 5 GHz wireless connection can't follow because it's only a two-stream connection. 2.4 GHz is again limited to just below 140 Mbps maximum by the client connection bandwidth.
Linksys RE9000 backhaul vs. attenuation - downlink - 4 stream
Finally uplink with four-stream backhaul shows Ethernet bandwith maxing out around 600 Mbps, about 175 Mbps lower than downlink. However, it's still fast enough to not limit our two-stream 5 GHz test client and, again, much more than the 2.4 GHz client connection needs.
Linksys RE9000 backhaul vs. attenuation - uplink - 4 stream
The bottom line here is it appears the RE9000 has enough backhaul performance to handle two stream AC devices without choking off bandwidth. Keep in mind, however, that, unlike the EX8000, the RE9000 won't use the 2.4 GHz band for backhaul. This means you will have to place it closer to your base router.