Performance - Over The Air
The last test placed the R7800 in my downstairs office and the RE9000 in the upstairs living room. This setup is basically the same used in my original over-the-air mesh test process. Like the mesh process, I used the same kitchen location, one floor up and at the opposite end of my home; my worst-case scenario.
Test locationsI used a Dell XPS13 running Windows 10 Home 64 bit with a Dell Wireless 1820A Wi-Fi adapter as the test client. This is a 2x2 802.11ac adapter using a Broadcom BCM4350 client device. iperf3 was used to run traffic between a Windows 7 machine running iperf3 server connected to an R7800 LAN port and the XPS13. The RE9000 was set up with different extender SSIDs so I could associate the Dell where I wanted.
Tests were run uplink and downlink on both bands with the R7800 and RE9000 using Channel 149 for (2x2) and Channel 40 (4x4) for backhaul. The key for the plots is:
- Baseline - Measurement taken with XPS in same room, ~ 10 feet from R7800
- Remote No Ext - Measurement taken in Kitchen, associated with R7800
- Remote w/ Ext - Measurement takin in Kitchen, associated with RE9000
The 2.4 GHz downlink plot shows the RE9000 improves a 2.4 GHz client connection in the kitchen from a pretty slow 19 Mbps to better than you would get with the client parked right next to the R7800. As we saw above, the RE9000's 5 GHz backhaul link has more than enough bandwidth to support the 2.4 GHz connection.
RE9000 - OTA - 2.4 GHz downlink
2.4 GHz uplink results show similar throughput improvement vs. direct connection to the R7800 (Remote No Ext). Up and downlink Baseline and Remote No Ext. results were reused since the RE9000 was not involved in those measurements.
RE9000 - OTA - 2.4 GHz uplink
The 5 GHz client in the kitchen was able see the R7800's SSID, but could not connect. So there is no Remote No Ext value to compare. So with the RE9000 extending, the Kitchen 5 GHz downlink connection goes from 0 to 180 - 200 Mbps, which is enough to support multiple 4K HD streams.
RE9000 - OTA - 5 GHz downlink
Extended 5 GHz uplink throughput is slightly lower, but still respectable. The results show how you might not necessarily want to use the four-stream radio for backhaul. Since every environment and collection of clients is different, you may need to experiment to find what's right for you.
RE9000 - OTA - 5 GHz uplink
So is the RE9000 a better tri-band extender for less money than NETGEAR's EX8000? Let's start by comparing the average AP mode throughput of the three radios.
The 2.4 GHz results are averaged over a 48 dB range and 5 GHz results over 45 dB with missing measurements zero-filled to ensure a fair comparison. The downlink plot shows 2.4 GHz pretty much a wash, with the advantage going to the NETGEAR for both two and four-stream measurements.
Average AP mode downlink throughput comparison - RE9000 & EX8000
The EX8000's advantage disappears, however, for uplink, due to its inability to reach higher throughput when tested with only a single stream. The RE9000 also does slightly better for 2.4 GHz. So this comparison is a draw.
Average AP mode uplink throughput comparison - RE9000 & EX8000
Next comes backhaul performance, measured using a four-stream 5 GHz connection via Ethernet. Both results are averaged over a 48 dB range, with missing measurements zero-filled. It's clear the NETGEAR EX8000 holds the advantage here, as I'd expect given its Orbi heritage. Note the EX8000 doesn't suffer the 5 GHz uplink throughput drop we had when testing the client connection. Advantage, NETGEAR.
Backhaul comparison - RE9000 & EX8000
Finally, comparing the best case results from the over-the-air tests, we find the RE9000 with an advantage on downlink, but about equal on uplink for 2.4 GHz extension. Note these comparisons use the best results from the 2 and 4 stream backhaul runs for each product.
2.4 GHz OTA comparison - RE9000 & EX8000
5 GHz results are mixed; the RE9000 again has the advantage on downlink, but the EX8000 pulls ahead on uplink. So again, I call this comparison even.
5 GHz OTA comparison - RE9000 & EX8000
The RE9000's main weakness is that it won't work if it can't make a connection to the router being extended on 5 GHz. The EX8000 will. But if you're depending on 2.4 GHz to extend your network, you'll be limited to much lower bandwidth. In the end, you'll want to position any extender so it can take advantage of the higher bandwidth available from 802.11ac, which operates only in the 5 GHz band.
The bottom line is that Linksys has suceeded in producing a strong competitor to NETGEAR's EX8000, for $60 less. If you've been eyeing an EX8000, you should also consider the Linksys RE9000 and pocket the significant difference.