Subject: General Tech, Networking | September 2, 2014 - 08:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nighthawk x4, netgear, mu-mimo, 802.11ac
Today, NETGEAR has announced the Nighthawk X4 802.11ac router. It is dual-band, with up to 1733 Mbps of bandwidth (four channels of 433 Mbps) on 5.0 GHz and up to 600 Mbps (three channels of 200 Mbps) on 2.4 GHz. Compared to the Nighthawk X6, released earlier in the year, the X4 is design for fewer users who demand more performance.
The first thing that stood out for me was its processor...s. The router contains two of them. Its main CPU is a dual-core Qualcomm
Snapdragon-based (Update - Sept 2nd @ 5:20pm EDT: "Snapdragon-based" is unclear and misleading. It has "Snapdragon DNA with dual Krait cores". It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, as mentioned in the following sentence.) ARM processor, clocked at 1.4 GHz. It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, so it is not directly comparable to an SoC from their mobile line-up. NETGEAR also added a second, dualcore processor, clocked at 500 MHz, that is dedicated to deal with WiFi-related tasks as an "offload".
The reason why I found this interesting was that, not too many years ago, routers did not advertise their processor and RAM. There was once a niche who would create their own routers out of old PCs and an x86-compatible firmware (like OpenWRT). The push was to cheap routers with high bandwidth ratings. When I asked NETGEAR at what point did the industry decide to take the internal hardware seriously, their response was that about 73% of customers are repeat buyers. They upgraded their router because they were not happy with the performance that they were getting. Users have changed. HD video is going to numerous devices all over the home at the same time as games and downloads do their thing. The extra performance is necessary to keep the potential bandwidth in line with its usage.
One feature about this router that NETGEAR was promoting is Dynamic QoS. Using the extra processing power, mentioned in the two paragraphs above, the device identifies applications and allocates bandwidth accordingly. One example that they gave is YouTube versus Netflix. While both stream, Netflix will only grab what it needs while YouTube will load as quickly as possible to buffer ahead. If resources are tight, and Netflix is attempting to coexist with YouTube at any given time, the router will throttle the YouTube stream to provide it with at least enough bandwidth to stream, but not buffer, like, ten times faster than real time and choke out Netflix into a lower bit rate. If necessary, it will also prioritize the larger screen (TV) with the higher bit rate Netflix connection, where it will be more noticeable (than the smaller screen of a tablet, for instance).
And yes, QoS has been present in routers for more than a dog's age. They claim that it is typically a feature that users turn on, dislike, then turn right back off again. They believe that their new implementation will actually win you over.
The router will also feature two USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA connection. It will allow networked PC backup to an external hard drive and streaming media (photos, music, and videos) to TVs by DLNA.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2350 (R7500) is available now for $279.99.
Subject: Networking | August 14, 2014 - 11:47 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wireless router, wave 2, rt-ac87u, rt-ac87r, qsr1000, mu-mimo, ASUS ROG, asus, 802.11ac
ASUS recently launched the RT-AC87U which is the first "wave 2" 802.11ac wireless router to support multi user MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology. Although the initial launch happened at the end of last month, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R (a variant exclusive to Best Buy) will finally be avaiable for purchase starting August 26th for around $279.99.
The RT-AC87U is a monster matte black router with four large external antennas and sleek fighter jet angles. I/O is mostly clustered on the rear of the router and includes four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one GbE WAN port, and one USB 2.0 port. In addition to the rear I/O, ASUS has positioned a USB 3.0 port on the front of the router (specifically the right corner of the front panel hidden behind a removeable rubber port cover).
On the wireless front, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R supports the latest 802.11ac and newer 256QAM (600Mbps) 802.11n specification as well as legacy 802.11g/b/a Wi-Fi networks. The router supports simultaneous dual band operation, which results in maximum throughput of 1.73 Gbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac band (4 x 433 Mbps streams) and 600 Mbps on the 2.4GHz 802.11n band.
The new and interesting bit about the RT-AC87 is the MU-MIMO support. MU-MIMO, which stands for Multi-User Multple Input Multiple Output, is the evolution of MIMO technology which debuted with wireless N routers. The ASUS router is able to use multiple anntennas to communicate with a client device to increase bandwidth. Beamforming is used to focus the signal in the direction of the client to get better range and a stronger signal for that specific client. MU-MIMO builds on this technology by allowing the router to track, beamform, and employ multiple transmit and recieve antennas to talk to multiple clients simultaneously. Previously, routers were limited to communicating with a single client at a time (see the diagram below for an example).
Multi-User MIMO will benefit those users that choose to connect the majority of their networked devices via Wi-Fi. However, the technology will be especially noticeable in areas flooded with various Wi-Fi networks such as apartments. According to Matthew Gast of Aerohive Networks, MU-MIMO will allow all wireless clients to get an acceptable data rate in crowded wireless areas at the expense of being able to deliver the highest data rate to a single client device. Especially when competing Wi-Fi networks are involved and fighting for channels, MU-MIMO will shine at keeping devices connected and talking to the access point.
ASUS has chosen the Quantenna QSR100 chipset to handle the 802.11ac duties while a Broadcom BCM4709 chipset handles the 256QAM wireless N bands. Additionally, the RT-AC87 routers have 128MB of flash memory and 256MB of DDR3 RAM. According to ASUS, the router draws slightly over 45W.
On the software side of things, ASUS has chosen its own ASUSWRT firmware which includes parental controls, Time Machine backup support, VPN support, security software from TrendMicro (AiProtection), and AiCloud 2.0. USB support includes storage sharing as well as 3G/4G cellular modem internet connectivity.
In all, the ASUS RT-AC87U looks to be new home router champion packing quite a bit of hardware and leading the charge of Wave 2 802.11ac wireless routers. This all comes at a cost, however. The RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R will be available on August 26 with a MSRP of $269.99 and e-tail prices currently around $279.99.
For all the nitty-gritty details, check out this ASUS PCDIY blog post!
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt
Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.
Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.
While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".
Subject: Networking | March 12, 2014 - 07:56 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: router, trendnet, gigabit router, gigabit ethernet, ac1900, 802.11ac, 256 qam, networking
Trendnet has launched a new 802.11ac wireless router called the TEW-919DRU. The new dual band router supports speeds up to 1300 Mbps on the 802.11ac network and 600 Mbps on the 2.4GB 802.11n network.
The router is powered by an undisclosed ARM chip clocked at 1GHz and uses six internal 6 dBi antennas along with beamforming technology to increase stability and range. Trendnet includes five RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet ports (four LAN, one WAN), one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. Users can simultaneously run an 802.11ac Wi-Fi network and an 802.11n Wi-Fi network. Further, users can add an additional guest Wi-Fi network on each 2.4GHz and 5GHz band as well as multiple SSIDs.
Trendnet also touts that the TEW-818DRU comes with a pre-encrypted Wi-Fi network that is setup out of the box with strong encryption; which is a great feature to see. Unfortunately, the benefits of the out-of-the-box Wi-Fi encryption is undermined by the default support of WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) which has been shown to be insecure. Hopefully new firmware will make WPS opt-in rather than opt-out (if it is indeed possible to truly disable on this model) to get the security nod.
The new 'AC1900' TEW-818DRU wireless router will be available this month with an MSRP of $259.99 and 3 year manufacturer warranty.
Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 15, 2014 - 02:27 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, pc game streaming
In-Home Streaming could be the feature most likely to kick-off SteamOS adoption. This functionality brings existing PCs to televisions without requiring the user to actually bring the box to their living room. Likewise, to justify purchasing a SteamOS behemoth, it seems likely to me that Valve will allow streaming back to Steam client from Steam Machines.
Video Credit: Devin Watson (Youtube)
Obviously the catalog of Windows games is the most obvious usage for In-Home Streaming but, in some years, maintaining just one high-end computer might dominate.
We will soon find out more about how it works. Valve has just allowed the first wave of development partners (and apparently many others) to the In-Home Streaming closed beta. Youtube videos are already beginning to leak out, or not-leak out depending on the NDA if one exists, which show it in action. The video, embedded above, is of a Lenovo T410 with an Intel Core i5 and integrated graphics streaming DayZ over Wireless-G. It looks pretty good at, they claim, without any noticeable lag.
The floodgates are open. Now, we wait with our umbrellas.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Networking, Processors, Mobile | October 19, 2013 - 01:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, p5600, MIPS, imagination
Imagination Technologies, a company known for its PowerVR graphics IP, has unleashed its first Warrior P-series MIPS CPU core. The new MIPS core is called the P5600 and is a 32-bit core based on the MIPS Release 5 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture).
The P5600 CPU core can perform 128-bit SIMD computations, provide hardware accelerated virtualization, and access up to a 1TB of memory via virtual addressing. While the MIPS 5 ISA provides for 64-bit calculations, the P5600 core is 32-bit only and does not include the extra 64-bit portions of the ISA.
The MIPS P5600 core can scale up to 2GHz in clockspeed when used in chips built on TSMC's 28nm HPM manufacturing process (according to Imagination Technologies). Further, the Warrior P5600 core can be used in processors and SoCs. As many as six CPU cores can be combined and managed by a coherence manager and given access to up to 8MB of shared L2 cache. Imagination Technologies is aiming processors containing the P5600 cores at mobile devices, networking appliances (routers, hardware firewalls, switches, et al), and micro-servers.
A configuration of multiple P5600 cores with L2 cache.
I first saw a story on the P5600 over at the Tech Report, and found it interesting that Imagination Technologies was developing a MIPS processor aimed at mobile devices. It does make sense to see a MIPS CPU from the company as it owns the MIPS intellectual property. Also, a CPU core is a logical step for a company with a large graphics IP and GPU portfolio. Developing its own MIPS CPU core would allow it to put together an SoC with its own CPU and GPU components. With that said, I found it interesting that the P5600 CPU core was being aimed at the mobile space, where ARM processors currently dominate. ARM is working to increase performance while Intel is working to bring its powerhouse x86 architecture to the ultra low power mobile space. Needless to say, it is a highly competitive market and Imagination Technologies new CPU core is sure to have a difficult time establishing itself in that space of consumer smartphone and tablet SoCs. Fortunately, mobile chips are not the only processors Imagination Technologies is aiming the P5600 at. It is also offering up the MIPS Series 5 compatible core for use in processors powering networking equipment and very low power servers and business appliances where the MIPS architecture is more commonplace.
In any event, I'm interested to see what else IT has in store for its MIPS IP and where the Warrior series goes from here!
More information on the MIPS 5600 core can be found here.
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile | August 6, 2013 - 04:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Surface RT, microsoft
It has been a month, to the day, since I picked on Windows RT for being more locked down than a Nintendo console. Devices, including Microsoft's own Surface RT, did not allow USB to Ethernet dongles for wired internet access. Compared to the Wii, that is quite pathetic.
Certain users have been able to use adapters until apparently, according to Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft helped ensure they are broke as intended. They are also demanding hardware manufacturers, who otherwise could support the operating system, to withhold drivers from their customers.
If you were one of those people who managed to get an Ethernet dongle working with your ARM-based Surface RT, you've probably since discovered that it no longer works.
I did not see any confirmation of Microsoft disabling any drivers so, bare in mind, I might have just misunderstood the above quote. Apparently, though, the issue arises from Connected Standby conflicts with those dongles.
But that does not mean Microsoft will continue to prevent Ethernet dongles.
According to the same article from Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is quietly working on a fix for the issue. They are currently working, along with hardware manufacturers, on creating devices which can support the instant-on, instant-off feature. The cynic in me, of course, wonders if Microsoft will be first to market with the, albeit rumored, corrected peripheral.
Personally, I feel that a consumer who purchases one of your devices should be allowed to install hardware understanding the tradeoff. It would not be too difficult to pop up a warning, "Your USB device is not compatible with Connected Standby; the feature will resume when your accessory is removed".
Just another advantage for truly personal PCs.
Subject: General Tech, Networking | August 1, 2013 - 09:43 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, killer, Intel, 802.11n
Another BigFoot sighting...
PCWorld compared an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 to a Qualcomm Killer Wireless-N 1202 using two distinct benchmarks. The first of the tests, a ping and jitter assessment written by Qualcomm, claimed a significant win (2ms vs Intel's 4-8ms) for Killer between laptop and router. The second test measured bandwidth where Qualcomm matched or sometimes doubled Intel's performance except in close range 5GHz scenarios; Intel won, in those cases, by about a factor of two.
Of course, a difference of 2-to-6ms is low for online games. I would imagine those who are genuinely concerned about latency, especially during a LAN Party, would not settle for any form of wireless solution much less plan ahead for it. That could be just my perspective, however; I almost never consider Wi-Fi adapters because I will immediately hunt for an Ethernet jack.
That said, Qualcomm is apparently selling these adapters for prices very comparable to Intel. According to these benchmarks, grains of salt added to taste, Killer would not be a downgrade for a gaming device and should be considered if presented to you. The only time it clearly lost is high speed data transfers at 5GHz less than 10 feet away.
Seriously, Ethernet, keep one in your laptop bag. Magic.
If curious about a purchase, check out the benchmarks (or just skip 802.11n and look for 802.11ac or .11ad equipment); if curious for entertainment, check out Ryan's review of the original, wired, Killer NIC.
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | July 6, 2013 - 03:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows rt, Surface RT, reverse-consolitis
It is a good thing that Windows RT is not always online, because you would be pretty screwed if you did not have access to a wireless network. To compensate for a lack of ethernet, users can typically plug in a USB to wired internet dongle; this is even possible with consoles such as the Wii. Microsoft makes one such accessory for their line of Surface tablets.
Wow, if only my PC was as open as my console...
Paul Thurrott even tried a handful of third-party adapters to similar, depressing, results on both Windows RT RTM. While the ability to attach your device to a wired high-speed internet jack is niche nowadays, mostly for users of HD video conferencing and certain hotels, it highlights the gigantic problem with Windows RT and other consumer tablet OSes: there will be some things you wish that your device did that it simply will not be able to do.
Computex 2013: ASUS Keynote -- Transformer Pad Infinity, FonePad Note, MEMO Pad HD7, VivoPC, Router RT-AC68U, Transformer Book Trio
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 04:20 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, asus
ASUS wants to kick off Computex with a barrage of product announcements. Seriously, there were 6 products announced in the span of 20 minutes with no two product from the same category. Devices range from tablets and convertibles to routers and mice.
The company started off with the new Transformer Pad Infinity. This updates their line of separable hybrid laptop/tablets with NVIDIA Tegra 4.
- NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
- 2560x1600 10.1-inch display
- USB 3.0, Bluetooth, 4K out via HDMI
- 6MP (I think, could be 16MP) rear, 1.2 MP front cameras
Up next was the FonePad Note. A page from Samsung's playbook, both in name and in functionality, the FonePad is a 6" phone with a stylus pen. Coming off our recent Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 story, this device will also be powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 SoC. These could be the start of many high-profile design wins for Intel.
- Intel Atom Z2560 SoC
- 2GB RAM
- 6" 1080p SuperIPS+ display, thin border
- 8MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Front-facing stereo speakers
- Stylus Pen
And then we get the MEMO Pad HD7. This 7-inch 1280x800 HD tablet is designed to be cheap. It will be available for $149 in 16GB capacity for America, and a smaller $129 8GB version for emerging markets.
- ARM Cortex A7 quad-core SoC
- 7-inch 1280x800 HD IPS display (10-point multitouch)
- 5MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Bluetooth, GPS, stereo speakers
- (starting at?) 16GB ($149) USA, 8GB ($129) emerging markets
We briefly leave mobile devices to head towards a desktop computer. The VivoPC is designed to be easily upgraded, "Just lift the lid and replace the harddrive and memory". This is being positioned as a home theater PC running Windows 8. We currently have no further specifications.
- It's got a lid?
And of course, with the discussion of an 802.11ac device we clearly need to move on to routers. The ASUS Router RT-AC68U, while a slight bit literal of a name, is supposedly the first dual-band 802.11ac Router. I am not exactly sure what the second band would be, but I am only the messenger. Regardless, this router is apparently capable of performance up to 1.9 Gigabits per second.
And then we cannot have all of these HTPC devices without an input method, can we? Enter the ASUS VivoMouse. This device allows you to more comfortably control your PC from your couch, as far as I can tell.
Last, but with a bang, ASUS announced the Transformer Book Trio. As you can guess, the Trio name comes from its three form factors being wrapped up into a single product: it's a notebook, a tablet, and a desktop PC. Do not worry, I will not make an iPhone announcement keynote joke; that one has already been well overplayed.
The trick is that the Trio is actually two fully functional computers with one running Android and the other Window 8. Both devices are powered by an x86 Intel-based processor, however: the main PC runs a Core i7-4500U processor and the tablet runs an Atom Z2580.
A main selling feature is that, when base is separated from screen, both devices are simultaneously useable. If you attach the base to an external monitor it will function like a desktop PC.
- Intel Core i7-4500U (base), Intel Atom Z2580 (tablet)
- Full HD multitouch IPS display
- Windows 8 (base), Android Jelly Bean (screen)
- 1TB HDD (base), 64GB flash (screen)
- Fully compatible with Google Play and Windows Stores
Well, that's it. We will probably have a bit more analysis coming up soon. But, for now, I need to get off of Taipei time.