Wifi is now at the heart of most homes, where connected objects and peripherals are increasingly numerous. The need for bandwidth and connectivity continues to grow, even in less tech-savvy homes. And too often, the home’s Internet service provider’s box does not provide stable and complete wifi coverage of the house or apartment in which it is located.
Solutions exist to avoid dead zones or flows flush with daisies. It starts with simple wifi repeaters sold for a few tens of euros. This is a good solution for homes that are not necessarily too large and where it is simply a matter of expanding the coverage area to an additional room. For more complex areas such as two-story houses, there are mesh systems made up of several boxes. Often offered at several hundred euros, they do not repeat the signal from the box but create a new one, in a mesh, which provides stronger coverage and support for the latest versions of the wifi standard.
A new protocol for more frequent tests
If we had eased the foot on the tests of wifi products in recent months, we have been actively resuming the task for a few weeks. The opportunity for us to set up a new test procedure that we wanted representative of current use. To do this, we test each repeater and mesh system in the same two-storey house. We have undertaken to place 5 measurement points, more or less distant from the Netgear RAX200 router which emits the wifi signal to be repeated for the repeaters.
We then use two computers, the first one serves as a starting point and is wired to the router with 2.5 Gb / s connectivity. The second computer is equipped with an Intel AX200 wireless card – a module that we will evolve as the wifi standard changes. We place the laptop successively on the 5 measuring points so as to record the speed achieved both in sending data and in reception.
There are two ways of looking at it then when it comes to performing throughput testing. The first approach is that pushed by the manufacturers of network products and consists in the use of a benchmark tool called iPerf3. This is executed in memory at a fairly low level and allows to obtain ideal results for the products tested, close to so-called theoretical tests. This data is not uninteresting but, it makes sense, does not obtain a result of real, current use.
The second way is that of common use, by simply copying a large file from one computer to another and recording the time required for the operation in order to present the result in the form of a bit rate. Windows working its own way and involving some choices when moving from one storage space to another, the result is lower, but it is much more realistic than that of iPerf3.
For our tests, we carry out both types of measurement in order to offer the full spectrum of flow measurement. The different results are weighted, so that the manual transfer has more influence on the debit score.
Obviously, we also measure the power consumption of the tested devices. Our procedure also leads us to take into consideration their practicality, their interface and their ease of commissioning. See you in the coming weeks to consult our various tests of wifi repeaters and other mesh systems.
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