I Have a Need, a Need for Download Speed
Thanks to Wendell from Level1Techs for his all of his help on this project and pointing us in the right direction!
A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to get a fiber internet connection installed at the PC Perspective office. Capable of 1Gbps download speeds and about 250Mbps upload, we were excited at the possibilities that laid ahead.
However, when you have access to a very fast internet connection, you begin to notice that the bottleneck has shifted from your connection to the servers on the other side of the content delivery networks (CDNs) that power the internet. While these CDNs have very fast links to the internet, they generally limit bandwidth so that there is more speed to go around to multiple people at the same time.
DL from Steam at 101 MB/s! So fast that the SSD is having trouble keeping up. Able to grab 30+ GB in under 5 mins. pic.twitter.com/ptHUyQVHJr
— Ryan Shrout (@ryanshrout) September 3, 2014
A look back at what once was
One of the services that we found would max out our connection was Steam. Since we download a lot of PC games at the office, it was a nice benefit to have an internet connection as fast as our NICs could handle, and that the Steam CDNs would serve us at our maximum potential. In fact, the bottleneck shifted over to storage performance, as the random writing nature of Steam thrashed our SSDs at the time.
By no stretch of the imagination is 60MB/s slow.. but what happened to our 100MB/s!
Unfortunately, this has ceased to remain the case. At some point, Steam downloads started getting slower on our same internet connection. Not only did storage utilization during a Steam download start to increase, but also CPU usage, pointing to a potential change in how Steam distributed their data. While downloads on our high-end systems fell to around 50-60MB/s, systems with less CPU horsepower started to see speeds fall to 20-30MB/s. All hope was lost for fast game downloads.. or was it?
Recently, Wendell from Level1Techs mentioned on Twitter that they were running a local Steam caching server on their network with great success. After some guidance from Wendell, we decided to tackle this project and see if it would help our specific scenario.
Subject: Networking | January 9, 2018 - 11:44 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Wireless-AC 1550, wireless, wi-fi, Rivet Networks, networking, killer, Intel, CES 2018, CES, 802.11ac Wave 2
For their new wireless adapter Rivet Networks has partnered with Intel, producing "the worlds fastest 2x2 11ac wireless networking adapter" in the Killer Wireless-AC 1550. This new adapter supports the 802.11ac Wave 2 standard and offers up to 1.73 Gbps throughput using 160 MHz channels.
"The first product to come out of Rivet Networks’ new partnership with Intel, the Killer™ Wireless-AC 1550 is the world’s fastest 2x2 11ac wireless networking adapter. The Killer Wireless-AC 1550 has been designed to combine the speed, intelligence, and control of Killer Networking products with the power and performance of the latest Intel wireless chipset. Delivering faster than gigabit Ethernet speeds along with the gaming functionality that gamers love, the Killer 1550 is the ideal wireless networking product for competitive gamers and performance users who demand the most from their computers."
Killer Networking lists these features for the Killer Wireless-AC 1550:
- Gigabit Wi-Fi Speeds: The Killer Wireless-AC 1550, featuring 160 MHz channel support, has a theoretical max throughput speed of 1.73Gbps when connected to a router that supports 160 MHz channels. This is faster than gigabit Ethernet and twice the speed of standard 2x2 11ac products.
- MU-MIMO Support: Killer 1550 includes full MU-MIMO (Multi-User-Multiple Input and Multiple-Output) support, which dramatically increases network efficiency by working with a MU-MIMO enabled access point. MU-MIMO allows wireless access points to support multiple transmissions at the same time, versus a single transmission at a time like normal access points. This creates additional efficiencies that can provide up to 60% faster download speeds, lower latency, and a better overall connection.
- Transmit Beamforming Technology: Killer 1550 also has Transmit Beamforming technology, which allows the Killer Wireless-AC 1550 to share location information directly to your wireless access point so that the access point can better direct its signals to you. This creates stronger wireless signals at all ranges and faster data transfers.
- Complete 802.11ac functionality: Supports dual band (2.4 GHz and 5GHz), IEEE standards-based 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and includes Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.
While the big news might be the Intel co-developed hardware, as this is a Killer Networking product the software is a big component in the overall experience. Options configurable via the Killer Control Panel include Advanced Stream Detect 2.0 for automated traffic prioritization for games and streaming, along with Lag and Latency Reduction Technology and Killer DoubleShot Pro support.
The first devices with the new Killer Wireless-AC 1550 adapter are being released this month.
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Storage, Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 03:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: CES, CES 2018, Elgato, dock, thunderbolt 3, adapter
Elgato is launching a smaller Thunderbolt 3 dock aptly named the Thunderbolt 3 Mini Dock to its family of docks (how many times can I use dock in one sentence?). The portable dock comes with a tail Thunderbolt 3 cable that is permanently attached and stows away into a groove on the bottom of the dock when not in use.
Using the single 40 Gbps connection provided by Thunderbolt 3, the Mini Dock offers up display outputs, USB 3.1, and network ports including:
- DisplayPort 1.2 (4k60)
- HDMI 2.0 (4k60 and HDCP 2.2)
- RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps UASP and 0.9A of power).
Users will need a newer laptop or desktop with Thunderbolt running Mac OS Sierra 10.12 or Window 10 operating systems or newer. The compact dock will be available in the sping with as yet unanounced pricing. It should be cheaper than Elgatos larger docks (currently their Thunderbolt 3 Dock is $291) though since it is not powered and offers fewer ports.
As notebooks continue to get thinner, these docks (along with ones based on USB Type-C) are going to become more useful in getting the most out of our faster mobile hardware.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more CES news as it develops!
Subject: Networking | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM | Jim Tanous
Tagged: smart speaker, router, mesh network, mesh, asus lyra, asus, 802.11ax
ASUS today announced new products in its Lyra brand of connected devices. The Lyra Voice is a multi-featured device that acts as both an 802.11ac mesh Wi-Fi hub as well as a voice assistant-enabled stereo speaker.
The networking side of the Lyra Voice integrates with ASUS's existing Lyra mesh networking system with a tri-band AC2200-class radio, while the personal assistant side relies on integration with Amazon Alexa, allowing users to play music, check the weather, control smart devices around the home, and all of the other Alexa-enabled capabilities.
For those looking for networking without the personal assistant features, the ASUS Lyra Trio is a dual-band, multi-hub mesh Wi-Fi system that features a design with unique antenna placement to increase wireless range and speed.
Both the Lyra Trio and Voice can be used together to form a home mesh network and are controlled and configured via the ASUS Lyra mobile app. Detailed technical specifications for both products are not yet available.
Finally, ASUS didn't forget about its traditional RT-series of wireless routers. The company also announced the RT-AX88U, an 802.11ax router with maximum throughput of up to 6000Mbps. The RT-AX88U also includes 8 Gigabit LAN ports for wired connections, and utilizes MU-MIMO technology to provide maximum performance to all connected devices.
Like the Lyra products, detailed technical specifications for the RT-AX88U are not yet available. All three products are expected to be available in the first half of the year, with pricing to be revealed closer to launch.
Subject: Networking | December 28, 2017 - 05:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: just delivered, google wifi, google
While our house isn’t particularly large, there were quite a few wireless dead zones with our previous setup. For several months now, we’ve been patching it with a Linksys wireless extender that we move around the house to extend the network in a single direction. That had a few drawbacks, and the signal wasn’t too strong to begin with, but it worked okay.
Out with the old, and in with the new.
4x Google Wifi routers + 1x Cisco 8-port Gigabit switch
I’ve now picked up a three-pack and a one-pack of Google Wifi devices, after having it recommended to me by some coworkers in my software development job (and a Boxing Week sale at BestBuy Canada). The internet comes in from the basement, so I figured that one on each floor (roughly in a vertical line) and a fourth near the deck (with rough line of sight to the middle one) would provide optimal coverage. Each Google Wifi device can only drive a single wired device, so I opened a Cisco gigabit switch that I purchased several years ago to increase that to seven.
Setup was quite easy – just plug the first one in and follow the directions on the Google Wifi app. One step will ask you how many more hotspots you have, excluding the one connected to the internet modem. I answered three, so it asked me to set them up one at a time. I needed to scan the QR code on the first of the three pack, and the QR code on the fourth (which came from the one-pack).
Yeah, I totally need to clean up these wires...
... some day.
When it was all done, everything had internet except the wired devices; that was automatically resolved by the Windows networking troubleshooter, though, so it wasn’t really a problem. Now, as I walk around the house, I see the Wi-Fi drop for an instant (seems like literally a second or two) and reconnect as it chooses a new access point. I suppose this could be annoying if you’re on a Skype chat and walking from room-to-room. The wired devices are getting the full 125/10 that my internet provides, so that’s good.
One interesting note is that, while I have the option to prioritize devices using my phone, there doesn’t seem to be a “permanently prioritize this device until further notice” option. All I can select is one hour, two hours, or four hours. Seems like an odd omission, but I almost never use prioritization in real-world scenarios anyway.
Subject: Networking | November 7, 2017 - 10:00 PM | Jim Tanous
Tagged: wi-fi, vpn, ubiquiti, networking, mesh, Amplifi HD, amplifi
Earlier this year we took a look at the AmpliFi HD Home Wi-Fi System as part of our review of mesh wireless network devices. AmpliFi is the consumer-targeted brand of enterprise-focused Ubiquiti Networks, and while we preferred the eero Mesh Wi-Fi System in our initial look, the AmpliFi HD still offered great performance and some unique features. Today, AmpliFi is introducing a new member of its networking family called AmpliFi Teleport, a "plug-and-play" device that provides a secure connection to users' home networks from anywhere.
Essentially a zero-configuration hardware-based VPN, the Teleport is linked with a user's AmpliFi account, which automatically creates a secure connection to the user's AmpliFi HD Wi-Fi System at home. Users take the small (75.85mm x 43mm x 39mm) Teleport device with them on the road, plug it in and connect it to the public Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and then connect their personal devices to the Teleport.
This provides a secure connection for private Internet traffic, but also allows access to local resources on the home network, including NAS devices, file shares, and home automation products. AmpliFi also touts that this would allow users to view their local streaming content even in locations where it would otherwise be unavailable -- e.g., watching U.S. Netflix shows while overseas, or streaming your favorite sports team while in a city where the game is blacked out.
In addition to traveling, AmpliFi notes that those with multiple homes or a vacation cottage could also benefit from Teleport, as it would allow you to share the same network resources and media streaming access regardless of location. In any case, a device like Teleport is still reliant on the speed and quality of your home and remote Internet connections, so there may be cases where network speeds are so low that it makes the device useless. That, of course, is a factor that would plague any network-dependent service or device, so while it's not a mark against the Teleport, it's something to keep in mind.
Teleport's features, while incredibly useful, are of course familiar to those experienced with VPNs and other secure remote connection methods. In terms of overall functionality, the AmpliFi Teleport isn't offering anything new here. The benefit, therefore, is its simple setup and configuration. Users don't need to setup and run a VPN on their home hardware, subscribe to a third party VPN service, or know anything about encryption protocols, firewall configuration, or network tunneling. They simply need to plug the Teleport into power, follow the connection guide, and that's it -- they're up and running with a secure connection to their home network.
You'll pay for this convenience, however, as the Teleport isn't cheap. It's launching today on Kickstarter with "early bird" pricing of $199, which will get you the Teleport device and the required AmpliFi HD router. A second round of early purchasers will see that price increase to $229, while final pricing is $269. Again, that's just for the Teleport and the router. A kit including two AmpliFi mesh access points is $399. There's no word on standalone pricing for the Teleport device only for those who already have an AmpliFi mesh network at home.
Regardless of the package, once you have the hardware there's no extra cost or subscription fee to use the Teleport, so frequent travelers might find the system worth it when compared to some other subscription-based VPN services.
The AmpliFi Teleport is expected to ship to early purchasers in December. We don't have the hardware in hand yet for performance testing, but AmpliFi has promised to loan us review samples as the product gets closer to shipping. Check out the Teleport Kickstarter page and AmpliFi's website for more information.
Subject: General Tech, Networking | July 12, 2017 - 01:21 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: RT-AC1900P, asus, wireless router
If you are more interested in quick wireless networking than you are in upgrading to a 10Gbps wired network then perhaps this review over at The Tech Report will catch your fancy. It is similar in design and size to the RT-AC68U, at 6.2x8.6x3.2" but it hides some upgrades inside. The processor has been upgraded to a dual core Broadcom BCM4709C0 running at 1.4 GHz and the internal memory has been doubled to 256MB though the radio remains the same with rated transfers of 600 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 1300 Mbps on the 5GHz band. Testing showed some improvements compared to the previous model when it came to range and broadcasting through obstacles, with some increase in transfer speeds as well. Check it out here.
"Asus' RT-AC1900P carries on the legacy of the company's popular RT-N66U "Dark Knight" router. This time around, the unit comes armed with an 802.11ac radio for faster performance on the 5GHz band. We fired up this router in our crowded wireless airspace to see whether it can stand above the rest."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Tech Giants Rally Today in Support of Net Neutrality @ Slashdot
- Hackers able to turbo-charge DJI drones way beyond what's legal @ The Register
- Intel eyes AMD's Epyc with launch of Skylake-based 'Purley' Xeon processors @ The Inquirer
- It's July 2017 – and your expensive HoloLens can be pwned over Wi-Fi @ The Register
- 24 Cores and the Mouse Won't Move: Engineer Diagnoses Windows 10 Bug @ Slashdot
- If at first you don't succeed, you're Microsoft pushing its magical white space broadband @ The Register
- Stop the clocks. Windows Phone is dead @ The Inquirer
To say that the consumer wired networking market has stagnated has been an understatement. While we've seen generational improvements on NICs from companies like Intel, and companies like Rivet trying to add their own unique spin on things with their Killer products, the basic idea has remained mostly unchanged.
And for its time, Gigabit networking was an amazing thing. In the era of hard drive-based storage as your only option, 100 MB/s seemed like a great data transfer speed for your home network — who could want more?
Now that we've moved well into the era of flash-based storage technologies capable of upwards of 3 GB/s transfer speeds, and even high capacity hard drives hitting the 200 MB/s category, Gigabit networking is a frustrating bottleneck when trying to move files from PC to PC.
For the enterprise market, there has been a solution to this for a long time. 10 Gigabit networking has been available in enterprise equipment for over 10 years, and even old news with even faster specifications like 40 and 100 Gbps interfaces available.
So why then are consumers mostly stuck at 1Gbps? As is the case with most enterprise technologies, the cost for 10 Gigabit equipment is still at a high premium compared to it's slower sibling. In fact, we've only just started to see enterprise-level 10 Gigabit NICs integrated on consumer motherboards, like the ASUS X99-E 10G WS at a staggering $650 price point.
However, there is hope. Companies like Aquantia are starting to aggressively push down the price point of 10 Gigabit networking, which brings us to the product we are taking a look at today — the ASUS XG-C100C 10 Gigabit Network Adapter.
It feels like forever that we've been hearing about 802.11ad. For years it's been an up-and-coming technology, seeing some releases in devices like Dell's WiGig-powered wireless docking stations for Latitude notebooks.
However, with the release of the first wave of 802.11ad routers earlier this year from Netgear and TP-Link there has been new attention drawn to more traditional networking applications for it. This was compounded with the announcement of a plethora of X299-chipset based motherboards at Computex, with some integrating 802.11ad radios.
That brings us to today, where we have the ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe motherboard, which we used in our Skylake-X review. This almost $500 motherboard is the first device we've had our hands on which features both 802.11ac and 802.11ad networking, which presented a great opportunity to get experience with WiGig. With promises of wireless transfer speeds up to 4.6Gbps how could we not?
For our router, we decided to go with the Netgear Nighthawk X10. While the TP-Link and Netgear options appear to share the same model radio for 802.11ad usage, the Netgear has a port for 10 Gigabit networking, something necessary to test the full bandwidth promises of 802.11ad from a wired connection to a wireless client.
The Nighthawk X10 is a beast of a router (with a $500 price tag to match) in its own right, but today we are solely focusing on it for 802.11ad testing.
Making things a bit complicated, the Nighthawk X10's 10GbE port utilizes an SFP+ connector, and the 10GbE NIC on our test server, with the ASUS X99‑E‑10G WS motherboard, uses an RJ45 connection for its 10 Gigabit port. In order to remedy this in a manner where we could still move the router away from the test client to test the range, we used a Netgear ProSAFE XS716E 10GigE switch as the go-between.
Essentially, it works like this. We are connecting the Nighthawk X10 to the ProSAFE switch through a SFP+ cable, and then to the test server through 10GBase-T. The 802.11ad client is of course connected wirelessly to the Nighthawk X10.
On the software side, we are using the tried and true iPerf3. You run this software in server mode on the host machine and connect to that machine through the same piece of software in client mode. In this case, we are running iPerf with 10 parallel clients, over a 30-second period which is then averaged to get the resulting bandwidth of the connection.
There are two main takeaways from this chart - the maximum bandwidth comparison to 802.11ac, and the scaling of 802.11ad with distance.
First, it's impressive to see such high bandwidth over a wireless connection. In a world where the vast majority of the Ethernet connections are still limited to 1Gbps, seeing up to 2.2Gbps over a wireless connection is very promising.
However, when you take a look at the bandwidth drops as we move the router and client further and further away, we start to see some of the main issues with 802.11ad.
Instead of using more traditional frequency ranges like 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz like we've seen from Wi-Fi for so many years, 802.11ad uses frequency in the unlicensed 60GHz spectrum. Without getting too technical about RF technology, essentially this means that 802.11ad is capable of extremely high bandwidth rates, but cannot penetrate walls with line of sight between devices being ideal. In our testing, we even found that the given orientation of the router made a big difference. Rotating the router 180 degrees allowed us to connect or not in some scenarios.
As you can see, the drop off in bandwidth for the 802.11ad connection between our test locations 15 feet away from the client and 35 feet away from the client was quite stark.
That being said, taking another look at our results you can see that in all cases the 802.11ad connection is faster than the 802.11ac results, which is good. For the promised applications of 802.11ad where the device and router are in the same room of reasonable size, WiGig seems to be delivering most of what is promised.
It is likely we won't see high adoption rates of 802.11ad for networking computers. The range limitations are just too stark to be a solution that works for most homes. However, I do think WiGig has a lot of promise to replace cables in other situations. We've seen notebook docks utilizing WiGig and there has been a lot of buzz about VR headsets utilizing WiGig for wireless connectivity to gaming PCs.
802.11ad networking is in its infancy, so this is all subject to change. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for continuing news on 802.11ad and other wireless technologies!