802.11g versus 802.11n
Originally posted February 16th, 2007, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
"FIVE TIMES FASTER"?
We mentioned in our preliminary report on Apple TV that it uses the new 802.11n wireless protocol. That's helpful when you are streaming video wirelessly instead of doing playback from the Apple TV's local storage. Though Apple TV may not excite everyone, the new Airport Extreme 802.11n Base Station should excite most Intel Mac users since "most new Macs" have the capability of transferring data wirelessly using 802.11n.
Though the maximum theoretical transfer rate of 802.11n is 540Mbit/s (or ten times faster than 802.11g), Apple has conservatively estimated that it is 5 times faster in the real world. We were curious to see how fast it was using one of our real world tests.
We installed the AirPort Extreme Update 2007-001 in our Mac Pro and MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo. Then we installed the 802.11n Enabler (from the CD included with the AirPort Extreme 802.11n Base Station). We had both the 802.11n and 802.11g versions of the Airport Extreme Base Station set up and ready to be the "go between."
We turned on File Sharing on the Mac Pro. Then from the MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo), we mounted the shared Mac Pro volume and copied a single 1GB file over the wireless network to the MacBook Pro, timing how long it took using our stopwatch.
We ran the test multiple times, switching between the 802.11g Base Station and the 802.11n Base Station. The 802.11n wireless setup completed the Finder Copy 3.8 times faster than the 802.11g setup. That's close enough to Apple's "5 times" rating that we are satisfied that they are not over-hyping this new technology.
A NEW FRUSTRATION FOR MANY MAC USERS
Unless you have one of the newest Intel Macs, you won't be able to take advantage of the 802.11n speed increase.
It's a shame that the new Airport Extreme 802.11n Base Station doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet. If it did, it would be easy to transfer data from a Mac without 802.11n support, fully taking advantage of the speed of 802.11n. However, this would probably increase the cost of the Base Station, though a "Pro" version wouldn't be a bad idea.
We have already received reports that third party 802.11n PC cards with the same chipset used by the 802.11n Base Station and 802.11n capable Intel Macs have been used successfully to bring 802.11n capability to PowerBooks, though it involved some hacking. Hopefully easy to use third party 802.11 products will appear soon for early Intel Macs (Core Duo) and PPC based Macs.
WHERE TO ORDER YOUR AIRPORT EXTREME 802.11n BASE STATION
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