Asus RT-N11 EZ Wireless Router

Router reviews are very few and far between. When you do manage to find one, they are very sparse in content with little or no testing included. This has often left me, and no doubt many others, frustrated when choosing a new router, so I made a conscious decision to write this review today as I would like to read it: Straight, to the point from an 'average Joe' enthusiast's perspective. I don't claim to be a networking wizard, nor do I profess to have the most in depth knowledge on routers. I do however, have plenty of empty Nurofen packets which are testament to the headaches they have caused me in the years of using them. So hopefully you will find this review a little more useful and honest than the usual drab around at the moment.

Asus are a leading producer of high quality wireless devices and have recently released the latest addition to their wireless line-up, the RT-N11 EZ Wireless N Router.

As this is the first Asus router we have reviewed at OC3D, the RT-N11 will be setting the benchmark so to speak and thus my only basis for comparing its features and ease of use will be my own Netgear DG834GT router - a very popular router in many respects. The Netgear is not wireless N capable as it uses the 'g' standard. However, the RT-N11 is wireless N capable so hopefully this will be a useful review for those looking to either change their current router or upgrade to the latest IEEE 802.11N standard.

Before we progress to the RT-N11, let me first give you a little history of the networking standards which have progressed to where we are today.

A lesson in wireless

IEEE 802.11 is the wireless standard used by the IEEE Standards Association. 802.11 divides each of the bands (wireless N for example) into channels. As an example 2.4 - 2.4835 GHz band is divided into channels with a width of 22Mhz each spaced only 5 MHz apart, with channel 1 centered at 2241 and 13 on 2472. As well as positioning the frequency of each channel, 802.11 also sets the permitted power across each channel. The consequence of this is that some routers can only use every fourth or fifth channel without overlapping the adjacent ones. For example, the UK would typically best utilize channels 1, 5, 9 and 13. Although other channels can obviously be used, the strength of each channel may not be as good as the ones suggested due to these channels not overlapping each other.

Originally 1 Mbit/s and 2Mbit/s standards were introduced in 1997 and were the original versions of the legacy standard 802.11 with a maximum indoor range of 20m. Times, as we all know, never stand still and in 1999, 802.11a and 802.11b were released. While the 'a' standard had a much higher throughput, the higher 5Ghz band it used meant its range was severely affected by walls, doors and obstructions. 802.11b rapidly became the accepted standard of use by wireless LAN applications due to its 'massive' range of 38 metres. June 2003, however, saw yet another increase in throughput and as the 802.11g standard introduced an indoor range matching that of wireless 'b'. Wireless 'g' is, in its most basic form, a collaboration of both the 'a' and 'b' standards, taking the higher throughput of the 'a' standard but having the range of the 'b' standard. So then this brings us to the 802.11n standard. Operating at the 5ghz frequency with a 300Mbit/s data rate and a possible range of up to 70m, it was the answer to everyone's prayers and a direct evolution of the previous standards.

The N standard, as you can read above, has built on the previous standards but also added very useful features such as MIMO (multiple-input Multiple -output). MIMO uses multiple antennas to improve the system performance and therefore both its range and throughput. MIMO can also recover lost signals much better than the previous standards by using multipath signals. The drawback of using multipath signals is that older a, b, and g standards can interfere with this feature. 'Channel Bonding' is yet another feature of the N standard, where two separate non-overlapping channels can be used to transmit data. Rather than be limited to 20Mhz, MIMO allows a double transfer rate of 40Mhz. So with both a wider bandwidth and MIMO technology, 802.11N is a very powerful yet budget conscious solution to the current line up of standards.


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