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MIMO Face-Off

Introduction

About a year ago in Do Extended-range WLAN technologies deliver? I looked at three products representing three technologies that claimed to deliver higher speed and extended range to folks putting together home wireless LANs. Among those technologies was Airgo Networks' True MIMO, which was represented by Belkin's "Pre-N" router and card and which beat the other two products hands-down.

The objects of our attention

Since then, a flurry of products with the apparently alluring "MIMO" (Multiple Input Multiple Output) term somehow incorporated into their names has hit retail shelves. Yes, folks, MIMO has become the "new black" (at least in the consumer WLAN world) and purveyors of consumer WLAN gear hope that you'll once again dig deep into your wallets to drink the latest Kool-Aid, that really, really, this-time-for-sure, honest-and-truly, will cure those wireless dead spots that we all have around our homes.

This time I assembled eight sets of wireless routers and adapters that are marketed as using some form of MIMO, and one non-MIMO product that promises improved wireless performance and extended range and set out to compare their performance. But instead of using outdoor testing to simiply see which product goes the farthest, this time I used indoor testing - since that's how most buyers use wireless gear.

I also developed a new scoring system that takes into account both speed and variation in throughput, since wireless LANs are being increasingly used for time-sensitive gaming and multimedia streaming chores in addition to less time-critical web browsing, email and file transfer applications. The change in location, test methodology and scoring produced some interesting, and in some cases, unexpected results. Let's first meet the products.