Comparison tests: MBP wireless versus MB wireless - AP Grapher

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by rjp, May 21, 2008.

  1. rjp macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2008
    #1
    Many people have mentioned that thier macbook pro's wireless is not as good as that of the regular old macbook, but nobody has posted any numbers as far as I could tell so I thought it would be helpful to post mine.

    I own both a new MB and MBP (penryn). I was wondering for some time why the MB seems to have better wifi performance than the MBP. Yesterday I found out. I downloaded the application AP Grapher which measures the signal, noise, and throughput of all detectable wireless links to both macs and ran some tests.

    You can get AP Grapher from Apple here:
    http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/internet_utilities/apgrapher.html

    I have two wireless routers. One is a Netgear 802.11g and the other is an Airport Express 802.11n. In all tests the two macs were side by side approximately 12 feet from the Netgear and 20 feet from the Airport Express. The test was conducted inside my house.

    For the first test I put the Airport Express in 802.11g compatible mode at 2.4 GHz. As you can see from the screen shots, the MBP received much less signal from both routers. Compared to the MB, the MBP saw 15 dB less signal from the Airport Express, and 7 dB less from the Netgear. Since every 3 dB represents a doubling of the signal strength this means that at in the case of the -15 dB drop the MBP is seeing only 1/32nd the amount of signal the MB is. No wonder it doesn't work as well out on the porch! Even at this signal level both macs were able to maintain the 54 mbps "g" link most of the time.

    In the second experiment I switched the Airport express to 802.11n mode 2.4 GHz. I also included the color guide so you can see what each of the colors corresponds to in the graphs. I forgot this in the first set. In this test you can see that compared to the MB, the MBP received 6 dB less signal from the Airport Express, and 10dB less from the Netgear (which was still at 802.11g). But what is more interesting, the MB was able to maintain a 65 mbps link on the "n" whereas the MBP was only able to maintain a 26 mbps link from the same router.

    Conclusion: The MBP wireless (WiFi) performance is significantly worse than that of the MB in identical situations using both Apple and Netgear routers. The received signal strength is about 7-15 dB lower on the MBP. This will significantly effect the range, throughput and reliability of the link.

    Some say this performance drop on the MBP is due to the aluminum case. I am not sure, but it stinks.

    I am thinking of selling the MBP now since range is important to me. I doubt this can be fixed with SW. Are the MB Air's any better?

    Thanks for any comments.

    Rich

    NOTE: The plots are labled so you can tell which is MB and which is MBP if you click on them, but the ones on the left should be the MB in any case. The performance at 5GHz (not shown here) was even more in favor of the MB.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. bart rijksen macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2008
    #2
    the wireless is in the screen, under where it says "MacBook Pro" and it isn't aluminum. Did you run the tests with the iSight facing the router, because otherwise the signal might have been weaker, because the back of the screen is aluminum, and will reflect some of the signals.
     
  3. PDE macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2005
    #3
    The tests completely affirm what I've seen with my girlfriend's macbook vs my macbook pro - she consistently has far more networks available in her wifi list than I do on my MBP. The MBP does suck in terms of wireless range....unfortunately that's the price we pay for beauty. Not sure about the MBA, but I assume it's somewhere in between?
     
  4. wchong macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2006
    Location:
    Miami, Fl
    #4
    mbp is meant to be attached to the desk with an ethernet cable :eek:
     
  5. rjp thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2008
    #5
    I realize you jest, but I sure wish I knew how poor the wireless was before purchasing a new MBP. Portability is obviously the most important feature in any laptop. And wireless connectivity is one of the most critical abilities for being portable.

    I first bought a MB. It was a work of art - beautiful, functional, dependable. (still have it)

    I thought If I paid twice as much and got a MBP it would be twice as good.
    Hahahahahaha! Boy is the joke on me! How I am aching my belly laughing at this marvelous joke. How quickly are this fool and his money parted...

    Can I just take the aluminum case off and wrap it in a plastic bag! Hey wireless macmonster in the coffehouse. Run! Run! Run!

    Oh well, back to sanity.
     
  6. Bobioden macrumors 68000

    Bobioden

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2007
    Location:
    Denver
    #6
    Just how noticeable is the difference? Does the MB run THAT much faster wirelessly than the MBP?
     
  7. wchong macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2006
    Location:
    Miami, Fl
    #7
    from previous reports, it's not that one runs faster than the other, but rather one gets better connectivity than the other (mbp may lose signal more frequently or take longer to acquire one)
     
  8. Bobioden macrumors 68000

    Bobioden

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2007
    Location:
    Denver
    #8
    Ahhh, thanks for clearing that up. Because I could not tell the difference between the MPB, and the MB I had.
     
  9. elmz macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    #9
    Sorry to hear that, I've never had any issues with wireless signal strength myself. I think the difference is with the aluminum casing vs plastic casing...
     
  10. rjp thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2008
    #10
    There is definitely a speed difference, but you may not notice it until you get to the fringe of the reception area. For example, on an 802.11g network the max speed I get when I'm 15-20 feet from the router is 54mbps. I can usually achieve this on both the MB and MBP. When I walk out on the porch The MB can still maintain 54mbps but the MBP drops to about 36. When I walk to the end of the porch the MB has dropped to 11mbps and the MBP to 5mbps. I have a 6mbps cable modem, so at this point the modem is capable of going faster than the WiFi and the MBP starts to feel sluggish when web browsing. If I walk out on the lawn the MB drops to 5mbps and the MBP is either at 1mbps or drops signal completely. This is a very important distance for "borrowing" your neighbor's wifi;-) Only MB can do it at this range.
     
  11. Dry Rot macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2009
    Location:
    Australia
    #11
    *BUMP*

    Have been using AP Grapher on a G4 iBook.

    Curiously, the values you get on an old Mac like mine are sharply different to those on a Macbook Pro.

    From the AP Grapher help page:

    "Signal strength (in dBm) of access point. Note that older computers may report positive values while most newer ones will show negative. In all cases, higher numbers (farther from negative infinity) are better. For example, on an old PowerBook a decent signal might be +90 while on a newer one it might be -25."

    So it seems to me that the indicated signal strength is not in dBm as the help page says - is this correct? And if the value isn't dBm, what is it?

    Any help and clarifications would be appreciated.
     

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