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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance - more

For the throughput vs. attenuation plots, I'll be comparing all four three-stream NETGEAR routers, i.e. the R7000, R7000P, R8000 and R8000P. For 2.4 GHz downlink throughput only the R7000P breaks from the pack with much lower throughput under stronger signal conditions.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For 2.4 GHz uplink, all four routers are essentially the same.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz downlink is more interesting, showing each router is unique. The 7000P fares best in this test, which is curious since it uses the same BCM4365E as the R8000P. Each line in the plot below is the average of two test runs and there was not much variation between the two runs for each product. It's a bit difficult to see, but there is a definite plateau in the R8000P's curve between the 21 & 27 dB attenuation tests. The 8000P never reaches the maximum throughput that the other three routers achieve.

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The 5 GHz uplink plot shows the P's and originals tracking very closely until around 12 dB attenuation, then spreading out just a tad.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The upshot is the R8000P's weakest wireless spot is 5 GHz downlink.

Peak Wireless Throughput

For our peak wireless performance tests, the octoScope Pals 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 Pal isn't overloaded.

The R8000P doesn't do that great in the 2.4 GHz peak benchmarks, landing in the middle for downlink and third from bottom on uplink.

2.4 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

2.4 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

The 5 GHz peak benchmarks again show the R8000P almost running dead last in both directions. Oddly, the R7000P, which uses the same radio, does much better in both directions. These results are mostly of interest to folks who will be using a pair of 8000Ps as wireless bridges.

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

I did not test MU-MIMO, because it doesn't benefit most people or Smart Connect, because previous tests have shown that the feature either can't or doesn't influence how devices connect in order to optimize total throughput.

Closing Thoughts

To pull everything together, it's always good to look at the Router Ranker, which shows the R8000P at #5 and the R8000 at #9. The Performance summary for each shown below shows the P earns the higher rank due to higher 2.4 GHz range, 5 GHz average and peak throughput and range and routing performance, the latter being its most commanding lead. And although it doesn't count in ranking, don't forget the P's much improved storage throughput.

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

5 GHz Peak Wireless Throughput comparison

But is the P really worth the extra $40? Hard to say. Most people won't notice the routing performance difference and both the P and original have weaknesses in wireless performance.

The more significant question is whether you can really benefit from a tri-band router in the first place. If we've learned anything in the past few years, it's that client devices are the boss when it comes to both roaming and band steering. Routers mess with client decisions at their peril, risking being seen as flaky if they choose to battle with client connection decisions. In the end, many users end up disabling smart connect, setting different SSIDs and trying to manage client connections on their own. Whether or not their decisions result in the intended total bandwidth optimization is something only careful experimentation can tell, and most folks will never attempt to do.

A better bang for your buck is probably to look to a two-radio four stream router (AC2600/AC3150 class). The extra stream helps improve receive gain and boost throughput in medium signal locations and even maybe help eke out a bit more useful throughput as signals fade to black. Something like the damn cheap D-Link DIR-878—a DIR-882 clone, AC 4x4 router masquerading as a 3x3—could be a much better buy.

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