Wireless 802.11 A/C -- Upgrade or no?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by nope7308, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. nope7308 macrumors 65816

    nope7308

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    #1
    Should I upgrade the wireless adapter in my desktop computer to 802.11 a/c, or will I experience little real-world improvement over the current 802.11 n card?

    Here's what I'm working with...

    - Internet connection is rated at 25mbps/5mbps (cable)
    - Apple Airport Extreme (dual band n/ac)
    - Late 2013 rMBP with 802.11 a/c
    - Windows 10 Desktop with 802.11 n

    Although the internet connection is rated at 25mbps, the fastest download speeds I get when torrenting is about 2.8mbps over wifi. Curiously, this is the same whether I'm using the rMBP (with a/c wireless) or the desktop (with n wireless) -- if anything, the desktop is actually faster.

    This doesn't make sense to me since the desktop should be running on the slower n protocol. Can someone please explain what's going on here? The torrent isn't the bottleneck because I can get download speeds of 10mbps+ on the same torrent when I'm connected at work.

    The real question -- if I replace the wireless adapter in the desktop with something like the Asus PCE-AC68, will I experience any improvement in torrent download speeds or media streaming? Wifi coverage is a non-issue.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Richdmoore macrumors 68000

    Richdmoore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #2
    Ac wifi only works on the 5ghz band.

    You can hold the option key on your Mac while clicking the wifi icon to see which band you are using. If the laptop hooked up the the 2.4 band instead of the 5ghz band, you will only get wifi n speeds even on the ac wifi mac.

    I separated the wifi bands for my time capsule using airport utility, ensuring I was hooked up to the 5ghz band only for my ac devices.

    I don't think it will make a difference for torrents (as the limiting factor would be your Comcast plan) but it will help with internetwork communication.
     
  3. nope7308 thread starter macrumors 65816

    nope7308

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    #3
    But wouldn't the laptop default to 5ghz by virtue of the 802.11 a/c wireless card? I thought that was one of the selling points of the Airport Extreme -- automatically assigning devices to the appropriate 2.4 or 5.0 Ghz band to maximize speed.

    So with torrent download speeds, it doesn't make a difference what kind of wireless adapter I have? Whether it is n or a/c, the download speeds will not increase above 2.8mbps? Does that sound normal for connections rated at 25mbps (in Canada)?

    I just want to know if it's worth the time/money to upgrade the wireless card in my desktop computer. It's only worth it if I can download torrents faster and if I can stream HD movies to my television without any hiccups.
     
  4. Richdmoore macrumors 68000

    Richdmoore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #4
    Remember 2.4 ghz has better range than 5 ghz, so if the signal gets marginal it may decide to switch to the stronger but slower signal. Anyway, easy to check.

    I found that I preferred to separate the networks as I never wanted it to go to the 2.4 band, it is far to congested in my current apartment complex to be reliable in the cases where it switched without my knowledge.

    Congestion is the reason apple now recommends businesses not use 2.4ghz internet.

    http://thenextweb.com/apple/2016/02...t-2-4ghz-wi-fi-is-too-unreliable-and-crowded/

    I doubt the torrents would get much (or any) faster. Your internet connection sounds like the limiting factor.

    HD movie streaming (from file on your computer to Apple TV for example) uses your internal network only, and would help in my opinion, especially if you are getting pauses, buffering, etc.

    I found switching to 5gz wireless ac even made my iTunes wifi sync more reliable, I think because of less interference and higher bandwidth available. It was much better than 5ghz wifi n I was on previously.

    In addition, using Windows 10 Xbox one game streaming made a world of difference on 5ghz ac wifi vs 5ghz n wifi.
     
  5. nope7308 thread starter macrumors 65816

    nope7308

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    #5
    Super helpful replies, thank you!

    Another important factor -- file transfer over wifi via SMB. I inadvertently saw a demo on a YouTube video, and transfer speeds were about 40mbps faster with a/c compared to n. Definitely going to upgrade now. Just need to decide what specific wireless adapter to get -- so many choices it's confusing. I think the Asus AC68 might be overkill, so I might grab something a step down. Thanks again for the help.
     
  6. Richdmoore macrumors 68000

    Richdmoore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #6
    No problem. I am using an Apple AC time capsule myself, and have a Netgear R6250 router being used in ethernet bridge mode with my 2011 iMac (wifi N only). I wanted the greater speeds of AC wifi, but I could not run an ethernet cable from the time capsule directly to my iMac (rental apartment). Apple won't let an Airport extreme act as a bridge, they only offer that function on the airport express (which is wifi N only, defeating the purpose for me) so I had to use non-apple equipment as a bridge.

    I have since connected an xbox 360 and and apple tv 3 in my bedroom with a Dlink DAP-1650 ethernet to AC wifi in bridge mode as well, both devices have wifi N and I wanted the reliability of 5ghz AC wifi.

    I did have some setup issues with the R6250 & DAP-1650 bridge, until I manually set the 5ghz channel on the Apple Time Capsule and separated the wifi networks into 2.4 and 5ghz SSID's. I think it is due to the extreme amount of wifi networks in the apartment complex. (27 networks showing full strength when I scan!)

    After changing the settings on the Time Capsule above, the whole setup has been rock solid.
     
  7. kiwipeso1 Suspended

    kiwipeso1

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2001
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    #7
    I have the Asus AC68U, it is better for firmware than the Apple AC router.
    I have 100/25 unlimited and it works better in the direction of the bulk of the antennas, so I aim one at my bed, one at the office, one at the lounge.

    As I have a 2011 iMac in the office, it has N wifi & ethernet connected due to infrequent issues with the microwave in the kitchen about 1.5 metres away.
    The MBA is a 2013 model with AC wifi, and typically gets as good a speed as the iMac on ethernet.

    As the AC86U is a 1900 mb (total) connection over both 2.4 & 5.0, it is good for when we upgrade to gigabit cable later this year.

    The only other device connected to ethernet is my TV, as I find that Plex doesn't stream fast enough from my iMac in 3D FHD.
    The other thing which I find that the AC-68U (Probably the same unit as in your part of the world) is that it has an excellent firewall and VPN manager, I can set it to blacklist spammy URLs from loading and prevent annoying ads from appearing on certain sites.

    The VPN is useful to run for when I need to use public wifi out and about.
     
  8. satcomer macrumors 603

    satcomer

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Finger Lakes Region
    #8
    I'm of schooling that when you have a dual pane router is to use a slightly different name for 5Ghz from your 2.4 network and you wouldn't into cases like this!
     
  9. kiwipeso1 Suspended

    kiwipeso1

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2001
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    #9
    That doesn't matter, as your devices will use the 5GHz if they support it. Having the 5 & 2.4 use the same name allows for full speed use of the entire bandwidth of your router.
     
  10. aces99, Aug 13, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016

    aces99 macrumors 6502

    aces99

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Canada
    #10
    I have the ASUS AC68U router and PCE-AC68 network card. I highly recommend it as it is super fast, reliable, gets excellent signal due to the multi antennas and has other notable options. I find it is best to separate the 2.4ghz and 5G bands because then you can set your device or devices to only hook up to the 5G band or the 2.4 if you wish. Otherwise if they are the same and you only have the one network name the device will hook up to the one with the strongest signal which might be the 2.4 band and you might only want it to hook to the 5G. You will defiantly notice better performance and reliability upgrading to the 802.11 A/C.
     
  11. Undecided macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #11
    Definitely have separate SSIDs for 2.4 and 5 ghz channels. Otherwise devices may glob onto the 2.4 channel and not let go. They don't roam - devices will not constantly search for a better connection.

    The other gotcha is if you use iCloud Keychain. If you have some devices use 2.4 and others use 5, but they share the same keychain, then the devices you want to limit to 5 may still connect to 2.4 - because they pickup the SSID and password from the shared keychain.
     
  12. aces99 macrumors 6502

    aces99

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Canada
    #12
    Yes exactly. That was the reason for my original post where I recommended to have separate SSID. That's what happened to me. As soon as I had both SSID's the same some of my devices I only wanted hooked to the 5G band would automatically switch the the 2.4 band if one of my other devices switched to it. So now I always have keep the SSID's separate. Works way better.
     
  13. Richdmoore macrumors 68000

    Richdmoore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #13
    I found that in very congested network areas (I can scan over 25 wifi networks from my apartment alone) that my devices had issues with finding the "best" channel and signal. In my case, manually setting the channel and separating the 2.4 & 5 ghz bands greatly improved both the reliability and speed to my devices.

    I previously used the time capsule in automatic mode with no issues at another location, so I am pretty sure the high density wifi networks here is playing issues, but worth a try if automatic modes won't work.
     
  14. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #14
    This probably originated from reading a router ad wrong since now they advertise routers that can do "1750 Mbps" when in reality it is 450 Mbps on Wireless N (2.4 or 5 GHz) and 1300 Mbps on Wireless AC (5 GHz).
     
  15. Undecided macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #15
    Imagine if other things were like that! (Sorry, car analogy in 3, 2, 1...) My car can go 368 miles per hour!

    speed copy.jpg
     
  16. aces99 macrumors 6502

    aces99

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Canada
    #16
    lol. Imagine the speeding tickets you would get.
     
  17. Undecided macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #17
    It's a good thing they didn't take this approach with CPUs. Otherwise, I'd have an 11.2 Ghz i7! Well, 4 cores @ 2.8 Ghz...
     
  18. aces99 macrumors 6502

    aces99

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Canada
    #18
    Now that would be awesome. If you play flying games it would really fly.
     
  19. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    #19
    Yep, had issues for a year in the house, especially with Airport Express audio streaming. All my issues were gone once I separated the bands into separate SSIDs and put the Airport Expresses on the appropriate networks for their location. iPhone data dead zones disappeared too, by pushing them to 2.4ghz.
     

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