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  #1  
Old 12-16-2011, 03:34 PM
RickOlson RickOlson is offline
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Default Should I buy a new router to use with Roku, or adapt current one

Current equipment:
Time Warner internet service
Netgear wgr614 v6
Desktop PC
5 year old Dell Laptop wireless g

Layout:
Desktop connect to LAN port upstairs. Laptop used almost exclusively 40 feet away and downstairs in same room as TV. 20 feet from microwave.

For the most part this all works fine for me. Router needs to be reset occasionally, but it's not a real problem.

I intend to add a Roku XS to the TV in the same room that the laptop is usually used. To improve the streaming performance, I'm intending to move the internet modem and router to the TV and use the lan port on the Roku. That means I'll need a way for the desktop to access the network. What's the best strategy to get everything working:

1) Move the Netgear to the TV and buy a wireless adapter for the PC.
2) Buy a new wireless n router for the TV and buy a wireless adapter for the PC. Presumably, the new router should be dual band since the laptop is g, right?
3) Buy a new wireless g router for the TV and set up the Netgear as an access point at the PC.

As you can tell from my current setup, I'm not worried about having a cutting edge system. I more interested in reliability/compatibility. I also don't have a particular budget; "appropriate technology" will dictate what I pay.

So which alternative makes the most sense, and which hardware would you buy?

Thanks for the help--
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  #2  
Old 12-16-2011, 07:48 PM
stevech stevech is online now
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I don't use Roku, but a relative of mine does. He has modest DSL service (Verizon), and a generic 11g WiFi. He says standard def RoKu is fine.
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Old 12-17-2011, 05:22 AM
rhombus rhombus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickOlson View Post
To improve the streaming performance, I'm intending to move the internet modem and router to the TV and use the lan port on the Roku.
Like Stevech says, your current setup might work just fine with the Roku's built-in wireless. 802.11g is more than capable of streaming dedicated online HD video services. Why not try it first and see if there is anything to improve?

Quote:
Presumably, the new router should be dual band since the laptop is g, right?
No, dual-band means 802.11n 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. You don't need this, because pretty much any router also supports 802.11g, for "backward" compatibility.

Quote:
set up the Netgear as an access point at the PC.
The role you require is not that of access point, but "wireless ethernet bridge" or "wireless client bridge". I doubt this can be easily configured with your Netgear router.

Quote:
So which alternative makes the most sense, and which hardware would you buy?
If the Roku's wireless doesn't work out, then just move the router downstairs. For the desktop, add a new WLAN client (USB or PCI). Alternatively, connect to the desktop LAN via a pair of Homeplugs, or a dedicated wireless client bridge (these can also be used with the Roku instead, keeping the router upstairs). Netgear, Trendnet, Linksys and Buffalo make wireless client bridges, marketed under various confusing names such as gaming adapters - just punch "wireless ethernet bridge" into amazon.
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  #4  
Old 12-17-2011, 07:52 PM
StratmanX StratmanX is offline
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Everything you currently own may work fine with the Roku, which I take you meant the Roku 2 XS - the latest and greatest model. This model is able to send/receive on either b, g, or n protocol on the 2.4 GHz bandwidth only. Your laptop uses g, which uses the 2.4 GHz bandwidth, and as such, will force your router, even if capable of N protocol, and the Roku by convention, to use only g speeds (up to 54 Mbps link rate, but usually maxes out at about one half that in real best usage) which is sufficient headroom for the Roku. Since you router is also a g WiFi device, then the Roku will never use the n WiFi protocol, meaning even higher speeds are not possible than g. To reiterate, any G device on your LAN (local area network) will throttle the throughput/link rate of ALL devices on the LAN to G regardless of the other devices capable of N. Once again, not necessarily a big deal for Roku or your laptop if you are happy with their performances.

Your current router is capable of WPA security. While much more secure than WEP or none, WPA has been supplanted by WPA2 which is very secure. A router that is capable of N will be WPA2 capable nowadays. Once again, this may be no big deal for you and your location, but it is something to consider if you want the best security as well as to maximize throughput.

Concerning your notebook - it is G wireless. In order to utilize N you will need a new adapter or dongle. I updated my Vostro 1400 with a new NIC easily. What is important is to match the Adapter Card with the number of wireless antennas in the notebook. Determine if your notebook has 2 or 3 antennas available to hook up to a NIC adapter card. A 3 antenna NIC card expands your selection of wireless routers to include the latest ones such as the Netgear 4500, Linksys 4200 v2, and a few others - though 2 antenna NIC cards may be paired with excellent routers for your needs (and have lower prices).

See what others with the same notebook have upgraded to using Google or looking on Dell's forum. Your Dell User Manual should give you all the directions needed to swap a NIC adapter card. You will also need to install the software drivers for the new adapter card from the manufacturer. Nothing should be difficult as long as you can use a screwdriver and install downloaded software. All of this process can be avoided if you prefer purchasing an N capable dongle. Personally speaking, an internal NIC card is a better, more elegant solution, but whatever you like is good.

If you do upgrade your N capable notebook NIC card then you will want an N capable router. The Roku 2 XS operates on the 2.4 GHz bandwidth only, so a 5 GHz bandwidth capable router would be of no direct benefit. However, if the dongle or internal NIC adapter card for your notebook is 5 GHz capable, then you can use the Roku on the 2.4 GHz band while using the 5 GHz band for your notebook (if there isn't too much distance and/or obstacles to signal). this would be the dual-band router - simultaneous 2.4 and 5 GHz bands - you commented on before. While both are using the same internet bandwidth from your cable modem, at least they won't be competing for the same wireless router bandwidth, which may translate into smoother operation.

You didn't say how much Mbps throughput you buy from Time Warner. Roku may use anywhere from several hundred Kbps to several Mbps, and the picture quality for Netflix and Amazon Prime depends on the signal (Mbps throughput) it receives. The Roku 2 XS will give you a rough idea of signal quality in the set up section and you may see a better or lesser image quality of the program you watch based on what happens to the signal it receives over time. If you want a more explicit testing of throughput then use something like Iperf or Jperf, and inSSIDER to show signal strengths and neighborhood wireless signals, each of which are free to use and explained on SmallNetBuilder.

Even though you say your notebook works OK in the TV room, if you think you could and want to improve signal to that room, and don't want a new router and notebook NIC adapter card, then consider a HomePlug product such as Netgears XAV5001 kit, or, try MoCa (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) if you have coaxial plugs in both the TV room and the room where the modem resides. Both of these products are explained and reviewed on SmallNetBuilder as well.

Whatever you buy, try to purchase from a store that allows returns without a fee. My wireless notebook NIC adapter card came from China - so return was pretty much useless - but my router could be easily returned for no charge. Same for HomePlugs I bought.

Like I said in the beginning, you may be pleased without making any changes or upgrades to your system. Try the Roku first with your current setup and then decide if you need to upgrade. What changes you do make are up to your finances and desire to maximize technology to reap its benefits. But beware, depending on distance, obstacles and wireless traffic in your neighborhood, a change may not necessitate an improvement. Only by trying equipment out in your location with your gear will you know if it's worth it. No one can predict how things will work out with certainty because everyone's environment and gear create specific situations.
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  #5  
Old 12-18-2011, 09:07 AM
rhombus rhombus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
To reiterate, any G device on your LAN (local area network) will throttle the throughput/link rate of ALL devices on the LAN to G regardless of the other devices capable of N.
No, pretty much all routers operate a mixed mode.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
What is important is to match the Adapter Card with the number of wireless antennas in the notebook.
Absolutely, 3 into 2, or 2 into 3, is a headache and potential performance disaster. I see no need to meddle with the laptop though, performance is good enough even downstairs - if it ain't broke don't fix it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
A 3 antenna NIC card expands your selection of wireless routers to include the latest ones such as the Netgear 4500, Linksys 4200 v2, and a few others - though 2 antenna NIC cards may be paired with excellent routers for your needs (and have lower prices).
Number of antennas can exceed number of spatial streams, eg 3 antennas does not necessarily or even usually = 3 stream. And a 2 antenna client can still be used fine with a 3 stream router, it does not limit the router selection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
If you want a more explicit testing of throughput then use something like Iperf or Jperf, and inSSIDER to show signal strengths and neighborhood wireless signals, each of which are free to use and explained on SmallNetBuilder.
These won't run on a Roku though
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  #6  
Old 12-18-2011, 12:38 PM
StratmanX StratmanX is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
To reiterate, any G device on your LAN (local area network) will throttle the throughput/link rate of ALL devices on the LAN to G regardless of the other devices capable of N.

rhombus: No, pretty much all routers operate a mixed mode.
We are both correct but incomplete in our statements. While mixed mode routers are capable of handling both g and n devices operating at the same time on the same bandwidth, the performance will be degraded due to the router working to negotiate both modes. From my reading, when a g client is operating at the same time as the n client, the n client will be throttled down to g mode.

The purpose of my mentioning this in my original post was to highlight maximizing performance via upgrades if the OP wanted to take advantage of the n wireless mode of the Roku.

Whether or not the OP would notice significant benefit to justify the expense is unknown and why I reinforced the notion he try what he already has before making changes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhombus View Post
if it ain't broke don't fix it!
No truer words have ever been spoken.

Quote:
Number of antennas can exceed number of spatial streams, eg 3 antennas does not necessarily or even usually = 3 stream. And a 2 antenna client can still be used fine with a 3 stream router, it does not limit the router selection.
Selection of the notebook NIC adapter card and router must be synchronized to gain maximum potential from the hardware. However, 2 antenna with a 3 antenna NIC did cause performance issues in a SmallNetBuilders review of a router, so there may be a limitation with respect to router selection, at least in that specific situation. The other issue of cost versus benefit is another issue as three radio devices are typically more expensive than two radio devices and may not provide improved performance significant enough to justify their increased price when using a 2 antenna NIC (or even a 3 antenna NIC depending on the circumstances).

Quote:
These won't run on a Roku though
You also tried to figure that one out?

One can do crude testing via the setup function as well a channel for a speed test. The OP has a desktop and a notebook which are appropriate for LAN throughput testing.
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Old 12-18-2011, 01:11 PM
rhombus rhombus is offline
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Ok. With a router in mixed mode, the N client will still operate in N and get an N link rate, and the G client will operate in G and get a G link rate. Throughput for the N client may be slightly less, say 50 vs 60Mbps, but is not limited to the 22Mbps or so of G throughput.

If a wireless card is expecting 2 antennas, you must give it 2 antennas. If it is expecting 3 antennas, you must give it 3 antennas. As far as I can tell, Smallnetbuilder had mistakenly been giving a card expecting 3 antennas just 2 antennas, so of course performance was problematic.

A device with 3 antennas is not necessarily 3 stream. A device with 2 antennas is not necessarily 2 stream (I can sure see 2 antennas attached to my SISO 802.11g wireless router!). The extra antennas in these cases are used for spatial diversity (basically switch from one to the other) or advanced MIMO functions such as STBC, not for additional spatial streams.

To know how many spatial streams a device has, you need to find out, or work it out from the maximum link rates. It is one radio which provides several streams. Some use the helpful notation of describing a radio configuration as TxR:S, eg 4x4:2 means 4 transmit antennas, 4 receive antennas and 2 spatial streams (which would describe some 300Mbps devices by Quantenna, by the way).

A 2 stream client can work fine with a 3 stream router, and a 3 stream client can work fine with a 2 stream router, but performance will of course be limited to 2 stream.

Last edited by rhombus; 12-18-2011 at 07:12 PM. Reason: TxR:S explanation added!
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Old 12-18-2011, 03:53 PM
StratmanX StratmanX is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhombus View Post
Ok. With a router in mixed mode, the N client will still operate in N and get an N link rate, and the G client will operate in G and get a G link rate. Throughput for the N client may be slightly less, say 50 vs 60Mbps, but is not limited to the 22Mbps or so of G throughput.
I'm not contesting the rest of your post, just want to put a finer point on the above quoted portion.

SmallNetBuilder's Mr. Higgins' article "Add, Don't Replace When Upgrading to 802.11n" states up to an 80% hit in performance occurs in mixed mode simultaneous operation, the amount of performance degradation depending on multiple factors.


For the OP:

Mr. Higgins has a nice article "5 Ways To Fix Slow 802.11n Speed" which discusses the points I've made, but in a more easily formatted way.
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Old 12-18-2011, 03:57 PM
RickOlson RickOlson is offline
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I have to say that these responses are awesome. In my original post I used the wrong terms for some things, eg. access point instead of bridge and dual band when I meant mixed mode. I was thinking that dual band would let me talk to one machine using n while talking to another at g. But you guys say through what I wrote and actually gave answers that were so much more complete than I expected that I'm rethinking things a little.

Only the top-of-the-line Roku box has an ethernet port. I don't like the idea of buying the entry level model, then returning it if it doesn't work out when I could have bought the right thing to begin with. I'll spend more time confirming the general consensus on wifi streaming from Roku forums, then pull the trigger

As for my network, I'm thinking that the enhanced security and "future-proofing" justifies a new main router. I'll do my research here and pick one up from Newegg, or the local Frys. I like the idea of upgrading the laptop and appreciate the comments about the number of antennas. By upgrading the laptop I could just get an n router and be done with it. I wouldn't have thought about that and might have missed it. The HomePlug idea is a great one if I ultimately decide to move the router. Time for some more research

Again, thanks for the thoughtful answers. I think I need to return the favor by going to a forum I know something about to help someone else out.
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Old 12-18-2011, 05:36 PM
rhombus rhombus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StratmanX View Post
SmallNetBuilder's Mr. Higgins' article "Add, Don't Replace When Upgrading to 802.11n" states up to an 80% hit in performance occurs in mixed mode simultaneous operation
That's OK Stratman - it reads like you were saying that in mixed mode, the N client would have a max link rate of 54Mbps, and max throughput of around 22Mbps. It won't - that's what I wanted to clarify.

I tried a few 802.11n routers, all models released in 2011, earlier this year. Most of them are at the top end of the SNB charts. I also have a couple of freebie ones from ISPs. Mixed mode performance was paramount to assess, because we have 3 laptops with 802.11g clients at home - one Intel, one Atheros and one Realtek (all by chance, I'm not setting up a home lab here!). I think myself pretty thorough and precise with my tests: I didn't record charts, but using each of the G clients with an Intel laptop N client, the worst case was no more than a 20% performance hit due to mixed mode operation.

With regards to the 2007 Smallnetbuilder article you link to, I'll say look at the actual routers and clients used - are you going to use any of them? And look at figure 1 closely. The G client records 11Mbps. What would you get with a G router streaming to two clients simultaneously? And look at the N client. It averages about 60Mbps, and then about 40Mbps when the G client starts streaming. 11Mbps has gone to the G client, so what % hit would you call 40 out of 49Mbps? 18%? Or 50% as the article says? It's a thoroughly decent article with good data, don't get me wrong. But information is only as good as how you interpret it
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