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4025 posts

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#154731 5-Nov-2014 23:46
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This is a rather big write up on some observations of 5 Wireless APs using WiFi heatmaps. Your TL;DR is to look at the pretty pictures.

I received a Fritzbox 7490 (Thanks Snap!) to replace my 7390. This is great when you have a 200Mbps UFB connection.
After discussing with a member of Snaps team, there was some theory that the 7490 has better wifi coverage. So i decided to put this to the test.

Now disclaimer - The software i'm working with here is Netspot for OSX. Its a great piece of software, but a few notes:
-This isn't scientific at all
-Using RSSI which is a somewhat arbitrary metric per wireless device. -30 is very strong and -80 is basically dropping off.
-It's not a spectrum analyser, its just whatever data it can get from the wireless driver
-I'm ignoring noise maps in this because there isn't actually that much noise, so the heat maps don't look too dissimilar to the signal maps, just with slightly skewed results based on neighbouring wifi
-However your signal to noise ratio is the biggest influence on how good of an experience you get in the real world. Signal strength is by far not the main factor.
-Should really be scanning for what the wireless rates the device would connect at, as this matters, but that requires an active scan which takes much longer per point and it was getting cold outside
-This is in a house, meaning theres all sorts of obstacles to get in the way of signal. Readings were taken inside and outside

With that aside, lets do some non scientific comparisons!

Update: Direct link to Netspot for OSX here. The free version allows up to 50 data points with non active scanning and basic analysis. This should be enough to survey your own house. Pro version is a couple of hundred.

The Candidates:


  • AVM Fritzbox 7490 (Dual Band | Wireless AC)
  • AVM Fritzbox 7390 (Dual Band | Wireless N)
  • Asus RT-AC66U (Dual Band | Wireless AC)
  • Asus RT-N16 (2.4ghz Only | Wireless N)
  • Linksys e2000 (5Ghz Only Mode | Wireless N)
This is tested with a 2013 Macbook Air (2x2 867Mbps Wireless AC, Broadcom chip)

The full imgur album with all images:
The animated images:
(descriptions below images)

Fritzbox 7390 Frequency Map -70dBm Cutoff

Fritzbox 7490 Frequency Map -70dBm Cutoff

This is what inspired the test, so starting with this. What this is doing is showing the 5ghz coverage areas which have -70dBm or better signal. This is not the total coverage of these APs. 
This was the chosen figure mostly because it was the default, and it demonstrates the coverage difference clearly. You get good negotiated speeds with the AP at this sort of signal strength. Theres also a -72dBm cutoff in the album to show in what directions the coverage grows.  However as you can see, the 7490 is clearly stronger!

Asus RT-AC66U Frequency Map -70dBm Cutoff

Overall the Asus RT-AC66U appears to have a similar or perhaps slightly better RSSI than the 7490. Its very close.

With those aside, here are the some animated overlaid heatmaps without the cut off:

7390 vs 7490 2.4ghz Animated

(click for big)

The 7490 is the one with more coverage overall.


7390 vs 7490 5ghz Animated

(click for big)

The 7490 is the one with more coverage overall. Also noteworthy is it's wireless AC, meaning at a given signal strength you are likely to have a higher connected rate than the N on the 7390. So while it doesn't look as improved as the 2.4ghz, its noticeably better in a real world comparison.


7490 vs AC66U 5ghz Animated

(click for big)

The AC66U is the one with more coverage to the right


Asus RT-N16 vs RT-AC66U 2.4ghz

(click for big)

The AC66U has higher coverage (the one with more yellow). Interestingly the 5ghz coverage of the AC66U is similar to the 2.4 of the N16



Linksys e2000 vs Fritzbox 7390 5ghz

(click for big)


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4025 posts

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  #1169630 6-Nov-2014 00:07
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Bonus Round!

This visually demonstrates why your transmit power at max is not friendly to your neighbours, and why high density wifi networks (eg apartment block) has poor wifi performance.

Fortunately for me these are all 2.4ghz and they don't seem to send too much data over them, so there isn't too much congestion.

Neighbour 1's Ubiquiti AP appears to be max transmit power

Neighbour 2's weak signal can still be picked up in some places

Neighbour 3 has Multiple APs 

An finally an extra. Your roku3 not only broadcasts its own 2.4ghz network, but it does it surprisingly loudly:

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  #1169708 6-Nov-2014 08:27
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I found that an interesting read, thank you.

"4 wheels move the body.  2 wheels move the soul."

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” Douglas Adams


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  #1169712 6-Nov-2014 08:33
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What software did you use?

Edit: Dumb question, I saw that after re-reading it.

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  #1169731 6-Nov-2014 08:38
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Be nice to see an Apple Airport Extreme/Express in the test

Good read, thanks.

'That VDSL Cat'
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  #1169858 6-Nov-2014 11:00
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Great read!

the 7490 2.4ghz was rather surprising, i expected it to be much equal!

Your bonus round, is probably the one that speaks the biggest volumes! 

as for the roku, can you not nerf it at all?!

#include <std_disclaimer>


Any comments made are personal opinion and do not reflect directly on the position my current or past employers may have.



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  #1169859 6-Nov-2014 11:01
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tdgeek: Be nice to see an Apple Airport Extreme/Express in the test

Good read, thanks.

Send me one and i'll add it in!

I'd like to do an active scan sometime however this will take more than hour even with a smaller number of points and i'll have to get iperf3 going - at the moment netspot seems a bit unhappy using it on OSX 10.10.

edit: Added link to netspot in case anyone wants to try it.
Update: Direct link to Netspot for OSX here. The free version allows up to 50 data points with non active scanning. This should be enough to survey your own house. Pro version is a couple of hundred.

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