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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

The K3C is not Wi-Fi Certified. It was tested with the Revision 10 wireless test process loaded with 33.1.33.197 firmware. The router was reset to factory default, then set to Channel 6 and 40 MHz bandwidth for 2.4 GHz and Channel 40 and 80 MHz bandwidth for the 5 GHz radio. WPA2/AES encryption was used for all connections. The Revision 10 process still uses 20 MHz bandwidth for 2.4 GHz tests for throughput vs. range, but uses 40 MHz for peak throughput tests. These settings are enforced by the octoScope Pal test client.

The router body was centered on the test chamber turntable as shown in the photo below. The 0° position for the router had the front facing the chamber antennas. Although you see four chamber antennas in the photo, only the center two are used for throughput vs. attenuation testing, which is done with the Pal set to operate as a 2x2 AC device.

Phicomm K3C in test chamber

Phicomm K3C in test chamber

I'll be comparing the K3c against two other AC1900 class routers, D-Link's DIR-878 and the NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk. The D-Link is currently priced lower and the R7000 higher than the K3C.

The 2.4 GHz downlink profile shows the K3C with superior throughput for most of the test run, only joining the other two products from the 42 dB attenuation test onward.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz uplink shows the D-Link winning this benchmark, with highest throughput through the entire tested range and disconnecting 12 dB later.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz downlink clearly shows the K3C with much higher throughput with strong to medium signals and maintaining its edge with lowest signal levels, too.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz uplink again shows the K3C with best performance throughout the tested range.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For our peak wireless performance tests, the octoPals are configured as 4x4 AC devices and left to negotiate their best connection, with 10 dB of attenuation applied on 2.4 GHz. The latter is necessary so the 2.4 GHz octoPal isn't overloaded.

The octoScope Pal test client reported the maximum possible 2.4 GHz link rate of 600 Mbps for downlink, but 540 Mbps for uplink. For 5 GHz, both receive and transmit link rates were the 1300 Mbps maximum.

Test Description Phicomm K3C D-Link DIR-878 NETGEAR R7000
2.4 GHz Peak Downlink (Mbps) 459 562 220
2.4 GHz Peak Uplink (Mbps) 364 596 116
5 GHz Peak Downlink (Mbps) 887 841 929
5 GHz Peak Uplink (Mbps) 912 943 842
Table 3: Peak Wireless throughput

Keep in mind the DIR-878 is actually a four-stream AC2600 class router, but marketed (and priced) as a three-stream. Peak results are mainly for vendor bragging rights; they don't much matter in real-world use since they are seldom achieved.

Although the K3C is a three-stream router, Phicomm has decided to endow it with MU-MIMO powers. But I no longer MU-MIMO performance, which provides less potential advantage in three-stream products.

Closing Thoughts

The K3C ranked #3 out of 14 routers tested with the latest Revision 10 process, which is an impressive showing for a new-to-market vendor (at least in the U.S.) with new-to-market technology (Intel/Lantiq Wi-Fi). If we change the Router Ranker sort to ascending price, the K3C ($129) ends up second in the sort, right behind the #6 ranked D-Link DIR-878 ($120).

With Amazon's, uh, dynamic pricing model, however, this price disadvantage is fleeting. You'd best set a tracker if you're interested in buying the K3C, since Camelcamelcamel shows you could save big.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

Phicomm K3C price trend
(Graph credit Camelcamelcamel)

The K3C's Ranker Performance Summary shows the details behind the rank, which includes a good measure of #1 and #2 rankings. (Keep in mind any of the rankings can be ties with other products.)

Phicomm K3C Router Ranker Performance Summary

Phicomm K3C Router Ranker Performance Summary

The bottom line is that the K3C is a decently performing router, especially in 5 GHz, with adequate, but unexceptional routing features. So should you take a chance on a vendor who is just getting started in networking and the U.S specifically?

Well, there are plenty of very competitive products from better-known vendors at similar price points. So the real question is does the Phicomm K3C deliver a compelling enough value proposition? In the end, you'll need to decide for yourself.

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