Wi-Fi Testing and Results
Testing wireless network appliances can be complex, using many benchmark tools to measure statistics, or simplified to represent real-world application. It’s difficult to benchmark a device and discuss performance when results depend on a controlled environment using hardware, and the test methods tend to match lab usage more than anywhere else. If it requires impossable scenarios to produce a number, then it’s not worth publishing.
For the Diamond WR300NSI, practical application and real-world usage was utilized to measure performance and make a determination on the results. The primary purpose of this device is to repeat (and thereby extend range for) wireless networks. Using a wireless N900 (450+450 MB/s) 802.11n router (see Amazon), it was easy to supply the router with 300 MB/s connectivity from within ‘recommended’ range inside my home. I detail my results below:
Preparing to Test
There was once a time when wireless range was an issue for home users and businesses, but with the latest generation of 5 GHz routers capable of transmitting at up to 450 MB/s with ranges beyond 100 yards (300 feet), it’s more likely that large warehouses or business structures will require a network repeater. In my home, it required more than 140 feet of separation and plenty of walls before signal would degrade enough for a repeater to be feasible. Most homes won’t have that much space between a centrally located router, and the peripheral devices that connect to it. So the first test was actually a lesson: a home that uses a modern wireless-N900 802.11n router won’t need extending, as it’s too powerful for the environment.
Unfortunately, my schedule did not permit the time to secure an extremely large environment to test with, representative of industrial installations. This could be considered a moot point, since as a system administrator myself, I would upgrade the network with modern wireless appliances before extending a weak signal with repeaters. This forced me to realize that the Diamond WR300NSI isn’t meant for cutting-edge Wi-Fi enthusiasts, it’s meant for users with older hardware, such as the wireless-b/g routers that are still in use everywhere, or the draft-n devices that replaced them in many homes.
So I decided to work backwards, and downgrade my network to use the D-Link DIR-655 N300 Router ($64 at Amazon), which was the one of the first items we ever tested for this website. This router transfer data at up to 300 MB/s over the 2.4 GHz frequency, so it matches the Diamond WR300NSI perfectly. Additionally, its range suffers after approximately 80 feet, allowing me to position the repeater near the other edge of the home with ‘Recommended’ reception signal level.
Diamond Multimedia’s WR300NSI is small enough to occupy one of the plugs in a wall outlet without blocking the other port (as illustrated in the image above). Configuring the Diamond WR300NSI was absurdly easy, and while I might be a trained professional the setup could be as simple as pressing the WPS button on top of the device and calling it done. If you’re planning to manually configure the repeater, the menu is ergonomic and easy to navigate. The bottom line is that you don’t have to know anything about networking to configure the repeater, and novices can be up and running in under a few minutes.
Data transfer speeds will be dependent on the router you choose as the source, but I found that speed was most heavily impacted by distance more than range was. This is something you’ll need to test for yourself, but in my experience with the Diamond WR300NSI it was more important to maintain transfer speeds to my devices than it was to extend signal range. The signal would already reach beyond my walls, but it slowed to 11 MB/s around the perimeter of the home. My recommendation is the find the where the device changes from “Excellent” to “Recommended” signal range, and place it there. If you’re looking to extend the overall range of your wireless network, position the device just before it begins to lose “Recommended” signal strength and drops to “Weak”.
One of the few issues I discovered was that when moving a connected device, such as smartphone or tablet, from an area supported by the router to an area supported by the WR300NSI repeater, you would have to reconnect to the strongest network instead of remaining connected with a seamless transition. Most devices that connect to the repeater won’t move, such as HDTVs, game consoles, and wireless thermostats, so this may not be an inconvenience for everyone.
My testing demonstrated that the Diamond WR300NSI would be most ideal as a wireless range extender for very large buildings and expansive environments. I can see this device being helpful in the outdoors, as well, where it can relay the signal to outlying locations (such as a RV or trailer) and their connected devices. The home environment tends to have plenty of Internet-connected devices, and these items require fast data speeds more so than simply ‘being connected’, so you’ll be giving up some range in order to keep the speed at its highest throughout the network.