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!
Subject: Networking | May 30, 2017 - 05:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wireless, wifi extender, wi-fi, Rivet Networks, network, msi, lan, Killer xTend, Killer Networking, gigabyte, Ethernet, computex 2017, computex
Rivet Networks has a new Killer Networking product, but it isn't a line of NICs or Wireless adapters; it's actually a combination of both interfaces (including a minimum of three Gigabit Ethernet ports) that combine to turn your PC into switch and a Wi-Fi extender. They call the new product Killer xTend, and Rivet Networks has partnered with MSI and GIGABYTE to bring the new technology to market.
"Killer xTend delivers powerful network extension capabilities to your computer by integrating a network switch that includes at least three Killer Ethernet ports and using a Killer Wireless-AC module as a Wi-Fi extender. This allows your computer to share its network access with other nearby wired and wireless devices with a strong, powerful network connection.
Consumers no longer need to mess with switches and network extenders that are expensive and difficult to configure. Instead, they can use Killer’s innovative new xTend Technology to connect devices such as gaming consoles, smart phones and tablets directly to their gaming PCs. Killer xTend keeps your games, voice, and video fast and smooth because high priority traffic on the Killer PC is prioritized above the traffic from connected devices. Killer xTend also delivers amazing speeds – with potential throughput up to 1 Gbps for each Killer E2500 plus another 867 Mbps for the Killer Wi-Fi module."
The first motherboard launching with Killer xTend is the MSI Z270 GODLIKE GAMING, with three Killer E2500 NICs and a Killer Wireless-AC 1535 module onboard.
"...the new GODLIKE adapts the Killer™ xTend technology as well and delivers powerful network extension capabilities by integrating a network switch that includes 3 Killer Ethernet ports and a Killer Wireless-AC module as a Wi-Fi extender. This allows the GODLIKE GAMING to provide the network access to other nearby wired and wireless devices with a strong, powerful network connection. Gamers no longer need to mess with switches and network extenders that are expensive and difficult to configure – instead they can use Killer’s innovative new xTend Technology to connect devices such as gaming consoles, smart phones, and tablets directly to your gaming PC. The Killer xTend keeps your games, voice, and video fast and smooth because high priority traffic on the Killer PC is prioritized above the traffic from connected devices. Killer xTend also delivers amazing throughput to your home – with potential throughput up to 1 Gbps for each Killer E2500 plus another 867 Mbps for the Killer Wi-Fi module."
GIGABYTE's AORUS Gaming Series will include Killer xTend, though no specific models were mentioned in the press release from Rivet Networks.
Full press release after the break.
Back in February we took a quick initial look at the eero Home Wi-Fi System, one of several new entrants in the burgeoning Mesh Networking industry. Like its competitors, eero's goal is to increase home Wi-Fi performance and coverage by switching from a system based upon a powerful standalone router to one which utilizes multiple lower power wireless base stations positioned throughout a home.
The idea is that these multiple wireless access points, which are configured to communicate with each other automatically via proprietary software, can not only increase the range of your home Wi-Fi network, but also reduce the burden of our ever-increasing number of wireless devices on any one single access point.
There are a number of mesh Wi-Fi systems already available from both established networking companies as well as industry newcomers, with more set for release this year. We don't have every system ready to test just yet, but join us as we take a look at three popular options to see if mesh networking performance lives up to the hype.
Subject: Networking, Storage | March 4, 2017 - 11:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: netgear, Intel, Avoton, recall
While this is more useful for our readers in the IT field, NETGEAR has issued a (non-urgent) recall on sixteen models of Rackmount NAS and Wireless Controller devices. It looks like the reason for this announcement is to maintain customer relations. They are planning to reach out to customers “over the next several months” to figure out a solution for them. Note the relaxed schedule.
The affected model numbers are:
- WC7500 Series:
- WC7500-10000S, WC7500-100INS, WC7500-100PRS, WB7520-10000S, WB7520-100NAS, WB7530-10000S, WB7530-100NAS
- WC7600 Series:
- WC7600-20000S, WC7600-200INS, WC7600-200PRS, WB7620-10000S, WB7620-100NAS, WB7630-10000S, WB7630-100NAS
The Register noticed that each of these devices contain Intel’s Avoton-based Atom processors. You may remember our coverage from last month, which also sourced The Register, that states these chips may fail to boot over time. NETGEAR is not blaming Intel for their recall, but gave The Register a wink and a nudge when pressed: “We’re not naming the vendor but it sounds as if you’ve done your research.”
Again, while this news applies to enterprise customers and it’s entirely possible that Intel (if it actually is the Avoton long-term failure issue) is privately supporting them, it’s good to see NETGEAR being honest and upfront. Problems will arise in the tech industry; often (albeit not always) what matters more is how they are repaired.
Living the Mesh Life
Mesh networking is the current hot topic when it comes to Wi-Fi. Breaking from the trend of increasingly powerful standalone Wi-Fi routers that has dominated the home networking scene over the past few years, mesh networking solutions aim to provide wider and more even Wi-Fi coverage in your home or office through a system of multiple self-configuring and self-managing hotspots. In theory, this approach not only provides better wireless coverage overall, it also makes the setup and maintenance of a Wi-Fi network easier for novice and experienced users alike.
Multiple companies have recently launched Wi-Fi mesh systems, including familiar names such as Google, Netgear, and Linksys. But this new approach to networking has also attracted newcomers, including San Francisco-based eero, one of the first companies to launch a consumer-targeted Wi-Fi mesh platform. eero loaned us their primary product, the 3-piece eero Home WiFi System, and we've spent a few weeks testing it as our home router.
This review is the first part of a series of articles looking at Wi-Fi mesh systems, and it will focus on the capabilities and user experience of the eero Home WiFi System. Future articles will compare eero to other mesh platforms and traditional standalone routers, and look at comparative wireless performance and coverage.
Box Contents & Technical Specifications
As mentioned, we're looking at the 3-pack eero Home WiFi System (hereafter referred to simply as "eero"), a bundle that gives you everything you need to get your home or office up and running with a Wi-Fi mesh system. The box includes three eeros, three power adapters, and a 2-foot Ethernet cable.
Each eero device is identical in terms of design and capability, measuring in at 4.75 inches wide, 4.75 inches deep, and 1.34 inches tall. They each feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a single USB 2.0 port (currently restricted to diagnostic use only), and are powered by two 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi radios capable of supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. In addition, an eero network supports WPA2 Personal encryption, static IPs, manual DNS, IP reservations and port forwarding, and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP).
Subject: Networking | January 6, 2017 - 07:02 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: router, iot, internet of things, bitdefender, 802.11ac
A couple of years ago, Bitdefender released the Bitdefender BOX, which was a router designed for security that was aimed at home users. They are taking another shot at it for this year’s CES with the second-generation Bitdefender BOX. It is now running on a 1.2 GHz, dual-core ARM Cortex A9 SoC, backed with 1GB of RAM.
The goal is to have a security-conscious company stand between all of your internet-of-things devices, allowing your TVs, security cameras, and whatever else to function without being a foothold for malicious actors.
Pricing and availability has not yet been finalized, but PCWorld cites a spokesperson for the company that expects the device to sell for $199 USD with a $99/year subscription. If the service is the same as the first-generation device, and I understand the product page correctly, then this subscription also provides a license to their TotalSecurity antivirus as well.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Networking | January 4, 2017 - 07:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wifi, router, mesh, hivespot, hivedot, gigabit router, asus, 802.11ac
ASUS has just announced the HiveSpot and HiveDot Mesh WiFi systems, which both combine multiple access points into a single network. Any individual node could be configured as either a router or a repeater, but the system is designed around one acting as a router and the rest, repeaters. The main difference between the two models is the higher-end set, the HiveSpot, utilize an extra, 5 GHz band, running 867 megabit, that’s dedicated to communication between the access points.
Because of this, the HiveSpot is listed as AC2134 while the HiveDot is AC1300, but devices that connect to this network will see two, 650 megabit bands in either case. What the HiveSpot will get you is higher performance (and maybe stability) should multiple devices be communicating with different nodes at the same time. With the HiveDot, the routers will be sharing the same bandwidth as the devices connecting to them.
ASUS wasn’t too clear about pricing in their press release, but CNet is reporting that they will be sold in bundles of three, which is the minimum for the mesh network. Three HiveSpot devices will carry an MSRP of $399 USD, while three HiveDots, $299. In other words, it will cost you $100 if you want the high-bandwidth, dedicated link between the nodes.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 3, 2017 - 03:01 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wireless keyboard, Smart Storage, smart home, Smart Assistant, Lenovo, connected, CES 2017, CES, Alexa, 500 Multimedia Controller
Lenovo is announcing a trio of new connected devices beginning with the Amazon Alexa-powered Smart Assistant.
“The Lenovo Smart Assistant with Amazon Alexa is like having your own digital assistant at home. Featuring Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, this voice-controlled high-definition speaker with far field microphones, is there to lend a hand whenever you need it. Want to know what the morning traffic is like? Forgot to order that book from Amazon? Longing to hear your favorite playlist? Simply ask Alexa. She has all the answers to help simplify your life. What’s more, she can even help remotely with the Amazon Alexa App, which is free to download for Android and iOS.”
The Smart Assistant offers high definition sound with a speaker system that combines a 5W treble and 10W bass speaker, and the Harman Kardon Edition takes this further with a ported design for enhanced sound.
Next we have Lenovo’s Smart Storage, which provides up to 6 TB of connected storage over a wireless (or wired) home network.
“Despite this remote storage center’s compact size, the Lenovo Smart Storage comes with a big challenge: How will you and your family fill it? Capable of storing up to 6 TB of photos, movies, and other digital files, this dual-band WiFi storage system can connect wirelessly to almost any smart device you own, worldwide. You’ll maintain absolute administrative control, ensuring your data and content are secure and safe—and with Auto Sync enabled, your data will back-up automatically when within WiFi range. DLNA support also ensures you’ll be able to enjoy your movies and music on any device, anytime.”
Finally we have the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, which combines a compact keyboard and touchpad in a small wireless control device for the living room.
“Want to browse the web from your couch? Or turn on your favorite playlist from the dining table? We’ve got you covered with the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller. It’s not only a mouse and keyboard in one, it’s also a remote control optimized for your Windows operating system. With an ergonomic design and up to 8 months battery life, the versatile Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller will make your life easier.”
The controller is designed for Windows PCs (support for Windows 7 through 10), and uses a nano USB dongle for its 2.4 GHz wireless connection. The touchpad DPI is adjustable for user preference, and the unit offers up to 8 months of battery life from a pair of AAA batteries. At 5.71 x 3.37 x 0.74 inches (and 141 grams) this is a pretty small device, but certainly larger than some of the smart TV remote keyboards certain models have shipped with.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Networking, Mobile | October 17, 2016 - 11:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Snapdragon X50, snapdragon, qualcomm, modem, mobile, mmWave, LTE, cellular, 5G
Qualcomm has officially unveiled the development of a new 5G modem with the Snapdragon X50, which targets OEMs and early 5G development. The X50 supports milimeter wave (mmWave) technology initially, and rather than replace existing LTE solutions the X50 is designed to work alongside LTE modems integrated into Snapdragon SoCs, for a seamless handoff between 5G and 4G networks.
"The Snapdragon X50 5G modem will initially support operation in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band. It will employ Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques, which facilitates robust and sustained mobile broadband communications in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments. With 800 MHz bandwidth support, the Snapdragon X50 5G modem is designed to support peak download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.
Designed to be used for multi-mode 4G/5G mobile broadband, as well as fixed wireless broadband devices, the Snapdragon X50 5G modem can be paired with a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processor with an integrated Gigabit LTE modem and interwork cohesively via dual-connectivity. Gigabit LTE will become an essential pillar for the 5G mobile experience, as it can provide a wide coverage layer for nascent 5G networks."
Ratification of an official “5G” standard has not taken place, but Qualcomm hopes to position itself at the forefront of its development. The mmWave technology (which is explained in this video) is only one part of the puzzle:
"Work has begun on defining, standardizing and designing the new OFDM-based 5G New Radio (NR) as part of the global 3GPP standard. 5G NR is being designed to support a wide variation of device-types, services and deployments. It is also being designed to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum bands and regulatory paradigms."
(More information is available on Qualcomm's 5G Technologies page.)
The Snapdragon X50 modem is set to begin sampling to OEMs in the second half of 2017, with the first half of 2018 projected for the first commercial products featuring the new modem.
Subject: General Tech, Networking | October 12, 2016 - 04:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, XG-U2008, unmanaged switch, 10 gigabit
Planning an upgrade to your network or looking to build one that will last into the next generation of NICs? ASUS has just made an unmanaged 10 gigabit switch available at a price far below the average asking price of the devices currently on the market. $250 is still a steep investment for a switch but is less than half of the competitions, albeit without the management features found on those switches. The LEDs on the front will glow amber if the cable you use is not up to the new standard, otherwise expect green for go. It will support Jumbo Frames of up to 16 KB just like the more expensive models. It is a compact 9.44x4.92x1.06", so you should easily be able to find a home for it. PR below the snazzy product shot, technical details from ASUS here.
Fremont, CA (October 10th, 2016) -- Outside the enterprise market, the transition from Gigabit to 10-Gigabit Ethernet has been rather slow. While there are growing small-business and prosumer demands for the additional bandwidth that 10G networking provides, the cost of entry is high. Until now, the availability of compliant devices has been limited to enterprise-class products that are built with corporate networks in mind, with pricing for 10-Gigabit switches starting at $800. That certainly isn’t expensive by corporate standards, but for the rest of us, it relegates adoption to cases of absolute necessity and the upper echelon of enthusiasts.
While it’s advisable to plan ahead and overprovision your network for scalability, paying extra money for ports or features that you’ll never use doesn’t make sense. So, there’s a clear need for 10G networking devices that are suitably tailored for the small business, prosumer, and enthusiast markets. Cue the ASUS XG-U2008, an unmanaged 10G networking switch available for only $249.99.