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Wi-Fi Router Charts

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Conclusions

Afterburner should be out shortly in Buffalo Tech's 125Mbps product, but other Broadcom customers - most notably Linksys - are mum on their plans to pump up the throughput of their 11g product lines.

GlobespanVirata would say only that the first Nitro XM-enabled products would be out this quarter, but declined to say from which of their customers. My guess is that SMC or D-Link would be first, but both companies have already introduced (Atheros-based) products with the 108Mbps number proudly displayed. NETGEAR also seems content to lead the Super-G charge, having introduced a new Atheros-fueled multimedia router at CES.

All of this begs the question of how much confusion the poor consumer can stand. Although the Wi-Fi mark was supposed to be the guiding light for confused wireless networking product buyers, it seems to be running the risk of becoming somewhat irrelevant. Many companies aren't bothering to submit products for certification, and when they do, the detailed Wi-Fi approval box (with the check marks) is relegated to the back of the product box.

Instead, all the major consumer companies have developed their own system of wireless product marking to attempt to make it clear to the consumer what it is that they're buying. But with 11, 22, 44, 54, 108, 125, 140 (and ya gotta love D-Link's "15x" attempt at consumer guidance) to choose from, will anyone less than an industry expert be able to sort it all out?

My advice?

  • It's too early to call a winner in the "enhanced 802.11g" race. If you must buy the 100Mbps+ hype that the networking vendors are selling, buy stuff from the same manufacturer. Implementations are immature and changing rapidly and it's more likely than not that even products with the same "starburst" on the box won't work properly together.

  • Don't count on wireless as the only distribution strategy for any home. I'm in the process of building a new home and you can be sure that I'll have regular CAT5, two RG 6 or 59 coax and a phone line run to any location where I'll be doing serious video watching!

  • Stop chasing throughput alone and concentrate on range vs. throughput if you really want the best performing products. Unfortunately, manufacturers won't help you in sorting this out. You'll need to check newsgroups, product reviews and knowledgeable friends for help.

  • If you're serious about wireless video streaming, give 11a a shot. Better yet, get dual-band gear to give you the most flexibility, including the ability to separate data and multimedia traffic into different bands. Unfortunately, manufacturers still need to add dual-band USB 2.0 adapters and wireless-to-Ethernet adapters to their catalogs to make this possible on the client end

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