PcMag: Fastest Wireless Routers (MIMO Technology)

Fastest Wireless Routers (MIMO Technology)


By Oliver Kaven

The Fastest category is made up of MIMO routers. MIMO, however, is neither a feature nor a chipset; it's not even a clearly defined technology. MIMO stands for Multiple Input, Multiple Output, and it is a key concept for a forthcoming Wi-Fi standard called 802.11n. Equipment manufacturers interpret MIMO in several different ways.

Airgo Networks' "True MIMO" uses multiple unique signals sent in the same channel (signals holding different data)-a technique called spatial multiplexing-and achieves impressive results. You need Airgo's equipment on both the sending and receiving ends, but your network remains open to standard 802.11g clients.

Atheros has another take, with its AR5005VL chipset. Like Airgo's solution, Atheros's uses multiple transmitters and receivers on both ends, but sends the same data signal along multiple paths. Unfortunately, it didn't perform to our expectations.

Finally, there's Video54's BeamFlex technology. BeamFlex uses seven antennas in the router and smart switching technology to detect and choose the best performing pattern from among 127 possible combinations. Its results on our tests, however, weren't as impressive as those achieved by Airgo-based products-especially at long distances.

We recommend, therefore, that if you choose MIMO, you pick a product based on the Airgo chipset for the best performance and backward compatibility with 802.11g clients. But who should choose MIMO? At this point, we'd recommend it only for those people who are already taxing Fast and Faster routers to their limit, and people who just have to have the newest devices. Others would do better to wait until the 802.11n standard devices become available.

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