The recent introduction of our Hardware Router Charts has generally met with reader approval. However, not everyone was happy with the performance of at least one the top-rated routers. You can read the Forumz thread starting here, but the short story is that the D-Link DGL-4300 seemed to severly limit upload throughput when used with the eMule P2P file sharing application.
The jury is still out as to whether the problem is in the router itself, or due to ISP bandwidth throttling. But the discussion raised a valid question about our current router test methodology. The current method uses a combination of Ixia's Qcheck and IxChariot applications, and tests upload (LAN-WAN) and download (WAN-LAN) throughput, response time and UDP streaming performance separately using two computers on a private LAN.
The P2P Contenders
While this test accurately tests the best-case performance of a router, it has its weaknesses. The most basic weakness is that it doesn't reflect how a router responds to the simultaneous up and download traffic that routers see in real life. And the 500 kbps rate used in our UDP Streaming test doesn't reflect the performance requirements of IPTV and other video streaming applications that are becoming increasingly important consumer broadband applications.
But more to the point of this article is that our current methods don't test whether the products can handle the dozens of simultaneous up and download connections used by gaming and peer-to-peer file sharing applications. So I set out to both devise a test to gauge P2P performance and see how a collection of routers from the top of our chart would hold up under it.