boomn4x4 wrote:I'm a software developer, so I know my way around computers... but I know MAYBE 2 things about wireless networking. At home, I am a pretty heavy wireless user. A laptop, a tablet, two cell phones, a thermostat, and Google TV. My biggest problem is streaming on my TV. If the network isn't being used much, I have no problem streaming HD movies via DLNA to my tv. However, if the network is being used by other devices, I occasionally have issues. On top of that, I cannot stream ANY internet content in HD, YouTube videos almost immediately downgrade themselves to standard definition.
I have been toying around with two solutions and haven't pulled the trigger on either. Buy a better router or hardwire the TV. Running a wire is the cheaper of the two, but will require a considerable amount of labor. I'd buy a router, but like I said, I don't know much about wireless networking, so I'm not confident that spending the money will fix anything.
Does anyone have any input on whether or not buying this router would be a good idea? Or will I simply be out of $50 and in the same position?
There are really 4 options. I've gone through all of them myself and I'll list with pro's and con's.
Option #1 - Wireless: Anything that supports 5ghz band (this router included) should be able to establish connections speeds high enough to stream at around 100mbps of real throughput. This is also possible on the 2.4ghz band if you live somewhere without overcrowding or interference on that band. Note that your routers (maybe this one if you buy it) AND your clients needs to support the 5ghz band, otherwise you'll be running on the 2.4ghz band.
If your clients (in your case, the TV, the thermostat, etc.) don't support the 5ghz band (or potentially don't even support wireless-N, like a PS3) you can create a wireless bridge between 2 routers (or a router and a specifically made wireless bridge device, which are typically as expensive if not moreso than a router... better off buying 2 of these Buffalo routers if you're going down this route). What this does is link the 2 routers at what usually ends up being a relatively high speed connection (routers have better antennae than, say, cell phones or laptops). Then you can plug in your other devices that don't support the 5ghz band or the wireless-n spec to the LAN ports of the secondary router. In this case, it's similar to connecting a switch to an ethernet cable connected to your routers, except the ethernet cable is replaced by the wireless connection. This is best done over 5ghz because there is less interference. I have gotten full 300mbps connections on a similar setup which should allow for 65-85mbps of actual throughput... more than enough for HDTV content in 1080p.
Your drop in wireless performance when multiple devices are connected could be due to a lot of things. Weak processing speed of your router, crowded bands (aka, lots of other wireless routers around on the same band... typically the case in apartment buildings on the 2.4ghz band), interference from other devices (bluetooth, microwaves, cordless phones), could all be the culprit. Or it could just be faulty hardware or firmware. The buffalo on sale here should be beefy enough to handle fairly good amounts of connections and throughput. I know me previous one (single-band version of this) had no problem with 3 laptops, 1 ps3, 1 xbox, 2 desktops, a file server, 4 cell phones, 2 tablets, and a wireless bridge into a ps3, a media pc, and a directv set top box. All this while gaming and downloading at high speeds. Note that this is probably due to the innovative QoS features you can get from the Gargoyle Router firmware (free, check here: http://www.gargoyle-router.com/index.php)
Note that 5ghz has several advantages: less prevalent, so less overcrowding; less interference from other household items (microwave, cordless phones, bluetooth); more channels, which leads to greater chance of a full 300mbps connection.
Option #2 - Wiring your house with ethernet... this is probably the most foolproof method, although can require a lot of labor and possibly be expensive (or impossible if you don't own your place or aren't otherwise allowed to put holes in the walls). If you're going this route, you'll want cat5e or cat6 everywhere so you can get gigabit speeds and be fairly future-proof. Note that you'll also need a router and devices that support gigabit ethernet. This one does, incidentally.
Option #3 - Powerline adapters... These run a network over the electrical wiring in your house. They are fairly easy to setup and the latest tech has pretty decent performance. Basically you plug one adapter into a power outlet, run an ethernet cable from that into your router, plug in another adapter elsewhere, and run an ethernet cable from that into the device you want to connect (which can be another router or switch). you can have multiple adapters throughout your house in different places and they will all connect to each other. Reliability can be an issue, though, on older wiring and of course they take up a power outlet (newer ones sometimes have passthrough). Also, I found that running certain kinds of devices (coffee grinder, mixer, etc.) can actually cause dropouts in the connection on powerline adapters, even if they are plugged into a different outlet somewhere else. This could have been due to my older wiring.
Option #4 - MoCA/Coax-ethernet adapters... These are similar to the idea of a powerline adapter, but they use existing coax wiring in your house. These are convenient because most houses are wired for coax anyway (coax = cable tv wiring). Verizon Fios actually uses this tech in their set top boxes and routers to establish a network connection from the set top boxes to the router. You just probably didn't realize it. These are a little pricier than the powerline adapters, but in my experience I've had better performance and better reliability and less interference (which makes sense of course because you aren't running nearly as many devices on your coax wiring as your electrical wiring... not to mention you probably aren't plugging and unplugging stuff all the time, causing fluctuations).
4 options: wireless, ethernet wiring (i.e. running ethernet cable through the walls), powerline wiring, Moca/coax wiring.
In order of performance: ethernet wiring, wireless, Moca, powerline
In order of ease of setup: powerline, moca, wireless, ethernet
In order of cost (low to high): powerline, wireless, moca, ethernet
A few last notes:
The best speeds you'll get with anything other than gigabit ethernet wiring are AT BEST 1/10th the speed of gigabit ethernet. You probably don't need all that speed though, to be honest, unless you're pushing around gigabytes or terabytes of data on the regular or have hundreds of devices.
The absolute easiest way to get a great connection is running an ethernet cable across the middle of the room. Incidentally, this also is the ugliest and probably the most dangerous (tripping, etc).
That's all for now. I'll check back here once more in case someone has any questions. I know all the ins and outs of all the options I listed above and would be happy to shed more light if someone wants to know.
As far as this router goes, I like Buffalo products and have had great success and reliability and performance with them in the past. I will say that this reliability typically comes after hours or days worth of tinkering and such. That said, if you just get this router and install gargoyle, you can enjoy the fruits of my laborious tinkering and experimentation without all the hassle.