The black and white worlds of 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi are giving way to shades of gray with 802.11n. The days of simply knowing that the laptop you were going to buy included the latest Wi-Fi adapter are gone. 802.11n is dramatically different than its 802.11 Wi-Fi predecessors. It’s the first multidimensional Wi-Fi specification that makes product comparisons challenging. You need to dig deeper before you buy 802.11n Wi-Fi products.
What makes 802.11n different is the specification’s support of multiple radios and antennas that can transmit/receive multiple data streams – called spatial streams. In 802.11n vernacular, these send and receive antenna configurations are noted as 1×1, 1×2, 2×2, or 3×3. These numbers indicate how many transmit and receive antennas and radios are in an 802.11n access point (AP) or client. They determine how many different spatial streams of data can be sent at one time to improve signal reception.
More antennas and streams mean faster speeds, less dead zones, fewer dropped connections, and better coverage. 802.11n 1×1 Wi-Fi adapters don’t take advantage of 802.11n’s multi-stream capabilities so they can only reach a maximum data rate of 72 Mbps. A 1×2 802.11n adapter with two receive streams can double the maximum data rate to 150 Mbps. Take it up to 3×3, the maximum data link can reach 450 Mbps.
Choosing the right 802.11n solution is not only about speed, it’s also about more reliability and range in your
Wi-Fi connections. Check out this new animation that shows the power of 802.11n multiple data streams vs. single stream 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi.