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Review of Draft-N Hardware

We took today's draft-n hardware out for a spin. See how it performed.

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This story appears in the September 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Wi-Fi being so popular, wireless network vendors are constantly pushing the envelope. Last year, their pre-n wave of network adapters delivered the multi-pathing MIMO element of the upcoming 802.11n specification. Since the spec's first draft was approved, they've launched another wave of so-called draft-n hardware using another 802.11n innovation--bonding transmission channels together to get throughput as high as 300Mbps. Draft-n hardware is supposed to make your network 12 times faster than 802.11g adapters and quadruple its range. (For more on Draft-n, see "Not-So-Rough Draft")

Sites vary widely, so don't count on getting those numbers. Still, we got consistently good performances from the draft-n adapters we tested. We started by checking compatibility, and contrary to press reports, draft-n worked just fine with older 802.11g and MIMO hardware. We got better range than normal when mixing 802.11g and draft-n gear, and 54Mbps speeds with only occasional dips to 48Mbps or lower. That means you can upgrade your hardware piecemeal with little chance of complications.

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