Do Wi-Fi Clients Really Matter?

by | Sep 11, 2020 | Blog

Are there differences between Wi-Fi devices? Really?

Many think a Wi-Fi device is just like any other Wi-Fi device. But the truth is, there are HUGE differences between devices’ capabilities. IF you can figure out how to give a device what it wants, it WILL perform better.

Concepts Covered:

  •  802.11 a, b, g, n,ac, ax – or Wi-Fi 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Spatial Streams, Data Rates, MCS Index
  • Wi-Fi Throughput vs Internet Throughput

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Today's question

Do Wi-Fi clients really matter?

The question we're going to answer today is

Do Wi-Fi clients really matter?

Are there differences between Wi-Fi devices?

Really? Now, you kind of know there are

and you think, well, my iPhone's kind of small,

probably has a small antenna

but it has a pretty good chipset

iPhone 11 got a really good new chipset

True, my MacBook has 3 streams

So maybe the streams matter

maybe the protocol is a Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 5

We tend to think of Wi-Fi clients as being fairly generic

A lot of our customers when we're designing Wi-Fi

expect that Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi no matter what

And in reality, we can only design

for one set of requirements

Now if we picked the right set of requirements

that's inclusive enough it'll make

the least capable, most important device work,

and it'll make the other devices

that are even more capable to work as well

But if we picked the wrong set of requirements

maybe some things work and other things don't work

The truth is there is a huge difference

between client devices on many, many, many levels

If you give a device what it wants

it stays happy and does exactly what

you expect it to do, performing way better

Now, some of the terms we can throw out are

Is that 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac, ax

And now after ax came out, they kind of

reverse engineered and call it Wi-Fi 6

And then they called the previous one Wi-Fi 5

I try to be ambidextrous and use them both

I think more in the .11 terms

rather than the Wi-Fi terms

but either way should be able to do that

We can also talk about Spatial Streams

both from the AP standpoint and for the client

Just because I have a spatial stream

does not mean I get it

If I have a 3 stream

Wow, look at that

How about a 3 stream with my fingers?

If I have a 4 stream AP and I have a 4 stream client

I don't know of any 4 stream clients but if I did

that doesn't guarantee that I'm gonna get 4 streams

It has to do with a multipath environment where we are

I could be someplace and have no multipath

and even though I have a 4 stream

I'm only pulling down 1

So again, spatial streams on the devices

do not guarantee that you get those spatial streams

It gives you opportunity that you could

So, we also can talk about Data Rates

Where are they supported?

We can talk about MSC Index,

my favorite, I love MCS Index

And what we're going to be doing to

kind of prove the point

The experiment we're going to try

is we're going to use a Throughput Test

And we can do throughput local so that

goes client AP, tester, or we could go

client AP, switch, router, cloud then tester

Well depending on where we put our test utility

our test server will determine what we're measuring

In this case, what we wanted was just to measure

the wireless LAN so we put our test server

directly behind the access points we were testing

Well, what did we test?

We try to be scientific here

So we want to hold all things constant

And then only change one variable

Yeah, but we kind of wanted to save time

so we changed two variables,

but we did it in steps

So we went to 10 meters away from the access points

And then held all things constant,

tested across the board,

moved to 25 meters, tested again

So we tested it 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100 meters

across this set of clients

iPhone 11 which is Wi-Fi 6, 2 spatial streams

and iPad Pro 11 inch was like 10.6

It's the brand new 2021

It also had a 2 spatial streams

Based on the data, though, I'm pretty sure it has

a lot better antenna than my iPhone

We also tested a MacBook Pro, little older one, a 13 inch

It had Wi-Fi 5 or an AC chipset and

the 3 spatial stream capability, which I found in

the past to be really, really helpful and going really fast

And then the last one was a Lenovo

that had an ax chipset from Intel in it

that supported 2 spatial streams but it was Wi-Fi 6

So those are the clients we used

We then also had 4 different APs

that we were testing at the same time

So to take that AP out of the equation

We just aggregated all of these together

to get an idea of which client did good

at different distances

Now I'm going to show you two different ways

of looking at this data

In the first,

we set 10, 25, 50, 75, 100 meters

And we were comparing the devices

You can tell right here pretty easily

That ThinkPad, that ThinkPad

older ThinkPad at that,

But with a brand new

Intel ax chipset, even though it's 2 spacial streams

beat the pants off everything else

The iPad is the gray one

It did remarkably well as it went

further and further away,

sometimes even beating the MacBook

So even though the MacBook had

a 3 stream capability

it had older Wi-Fi 5 technology

So the Wi-Fi 6 technology could beat it

even with less spatial streams

Yeah, makes you think a little bit

What we've seen here is our

choice of Wi-Fi level, ax or ac

Yes, makes a difference

And then as we went down to the iPhone,

Yeah, iPhone obviously did less as little

small kind of thing

So this was one way to compare it

I want to just compare it a different way, same data,

I'm just going to swap around the variables

And in this one, you can see the ThinkPad

was on the left and as you went

further and further away, it slowly degraded down

kind of a nice, pretty even curve

Same with the MacBook Pro

As the MacBook Pro got outside of 10 meters though

it took a big jump at that 10 to 25 meter

and then fairly consistent, iPad was next

Again, pretty big jump off of from 10 meters down

but fairly consistent after the fact

same with the iPhone

And the amazing part is even with the iPhone

At 100 meters,

we're still nearly 60 meg data rate

So people ask question how far has Wi-Fi gone,

by the way, we can have another question

about how far Wi-Fi goes

But you can see from this data,

Clients make a difference

Distance makes a difference

Spatial streams

I don't know

Wi-Fi 6 versus Wi-Fi 5

Three of the devices were Wi-Fi 6

I would have expected that

that MacBook when I've tested in the past

has been the best thing I've tested with

In this test, an older laptop with a new Wi-Fi 6 chipset

beat them all

Conclusions, do Wi-Fi clients matter?

Of course they matter

What we need to do is design them

to meet those needs

The data we collected show

Wi-Fi 6 better than Wi-Fi 5

Two stream

All our data shows us better than 3 stream

but we won't know until we can test

Like like as in a Wi-Fi 5, 2 stream

against a Wi-Fi 5, 3 stream

Sounds like we have some more tests to do

If you have other questions,

feel free to get in contact with us and

we'll put them into this queue so we can answer

some questions with experimental evidence

Thanks for watching.

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