A Smarter 802.11 Draft-N

I remember when I got my first 802.11b Wi-Fi network at home. Back then 11Mbps easily handled the demands of my small digital world. But the digital contents of my life grew in size. 802.11g Wi-Fi came along with 54Mbps. When I got it, my digital camera took 3 megapixel pictures, my camcorder used standard definition, and my hard drive was a few GB. Now my camcorder is high-def, my digital camera takes 10 megapixel photos, my media player can stuff a 100+ GBs of music, videos, and pictures. Once again, a new Wi-Fi has arrived to handle it.

802.11 Draft-N packs a punch with up to 300Mbps of Wi-Fi power (5x the speed of 802.11a/g networks) and up to 2x the range. But did you know not all 802.11 Draft-N products are the same? Now there’s a 450Mbps version of 802.11 Draft-N–that’s up to 50% better performance!

The secret sauce in 450Mbps 802.11 Draft-N is the use of 3 “smart” antennas that transmit/receive 3 separate data streams (commonly referred to as 3×3) instead of 2 for 300Mbps adapters. This advanced antenna technology translates to faster speeds, less dead zones, fewer dropped connection, and simply better coverage. 450Mbps 802.11 Draft-N technology is like a 3-lane highway instead of 2-lane road–more lanes mean more vehicles can ride on it (i.e. data) at any given time. Be aware there are 802.11 Draft-N products on the market today with 3 antennas but they are not 450Mbps (3×3) 802.11 Draft-N technology.

To reach the 450Mbps speed, the Wi-Fi AP must also use 3 smart antennas. These next-generation APs are currently expected to be available by the first half of 2009. In the meantime, I can relax because even with today’s 300Mbps 801.11 Draft-N APs, I’ll still get better wireless performance on my notebook. And of course, 802.11 Draft-N is backward compatible with existing 802.11a/b/g networks.

The stars are lined up this time. Not only do I want the latest in Wi-Fi, I also need a notebook with the kind of processing power to handle my multi-tasking, multimedia, digital life. I’m going to get both in one swoop. The Intel® Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300 is the world’s 1st 450Mbps adapter, and it’s only available on the new Intel® Centrino® 2 notebooks. Price wise, the difference between an Intel® Centrino® 2 system with 450Mbps 802.11 Draft-N and the same system with 300Mbps is not that significant. In my mind, it’s a small price to pay for being able to future proof my new notebook.