18 January 2022 - In this blog post, we present the results obtained in measuring the performance of low-cost WiFi6 routers, Huawei WiFi AX3 (model WS7100 dual core) and Xiaomi Mi AIoT Router AX3600. These devices represent quite well the alternatives we currently have to migrate to WiFi6 in our residential networks, either under 50€ for the Huawei or under 100€ for the Xiaomi.
These tests have been carried out in the Aplicaziones laboratory in Madrid and using our Candela Technologies instrumentation.
Aplicaziones has extensive experience in this type of work, with projects developed for all types of national and international clients. Now, and given the current situation (post-pandemic and teleworking), we develop a large part of our activities in homes and who more or less has "suffered" with WiFi at home. This report attempts to give a brief summary of what we can achieve by migrating to WiFi6. Here we will compare two low-cost WiFi6 routers and hopefully help you understand how this new technology works, even with low-cost equipment.
The instrumentation mock-up consists of two Candela Technologies CT523 devices and the LANForge SW.
One equipped mainly with WiFi stations6 and the other equipped with WiFi stations5. An attenuator was also used to characterise traffic behaviour as a function of distance.
Details of this configuration can be seen in the photos below.
On the left we can see the equipment equipped with WiFi6 stations and on the right the equipment equipped with WiFi5 stations.
A detail of the attenuator follows
Attached are pictures of the devices, the Huawei on the left and the Xiaomi on the right.
The technical details of each of these devices can be found at:
Below is a diagram showing the layout of the model:
For the correct characterisation of WiFi APs, our company has developed its own methodology based on our experience and the objectives to be analysed in each test process (e.g. traffic, services and/or interference). On the other hand, and for a general characterisation of WiFi APs, we also use those indicated by the TR-398 of the Broadband Forum. As a summary, a table of the tests specified by this recommendation is attached:
Given the different types of terminals and scenarios in which WiFis are used, in general, we recommend performing all these test benches in order to be able to be clear if a device (WiFi AP) behaves correctly in all possible use cases.
However, performing this whole set of tests can take several weeks and since, in this case, we only want to have a basic comparison, we have selected the 6.3.1 Range Versus Rate Test and the 6.4.1 Multiple STAs Performance Tests. The channel widths will be 80Mhz for the 5Ghz band and 20Mhz for the 2.4Ghz band.
In this way we can quickly get some results to compare the equipment under consideration.
As a general rule, the performance data shown are the best from multiple iterations (consecutive tests) and it should also be taken into account that the results of the measurements in our laboratory are based on an ideal scenario, with professional electronic equipment (Candela Technologies) and without interference from other WiFi equipment.
The performance with real traffic in the field is normally significantly lower, as user terminals are often not of the same quality as our instrumentation and there is usually interference from other WiFi networks in the vicinity.
In any case, these measurements are useful for comparing the performance of different APs.
Range versus Rate tests
The purpose of this test is to verify the traffic that an AP can carry depending on the distance at which the WiFi client is connected. In this way we can evaluate the quality of the Radio Frequency part of the APs. To simulate the behaviour of a user terminal, an AX 2*2 client (WiFi6) is used.
RvR at 5GHz
Results in 5Ghz Huawei
Results in 5Ghz Xiaomi
The Huawei device performs reasonably well, although performance drops somewhat above 60dBm. Overall it has a steeper curve than the Xiaomi.
It can be seen that Xiami's equipment is capable of carrying twice as much traffic as Huawei's for intermediate/far distances (-65dBm/-70dBm). It seems that costing twice as much serves a purpose! With the latter equipment, it is reasonable to think that coverage and good traffic levels can be provided in the 5Ghz band, even for remote locations in homes.
Results in 2.4Ghz Huawei
Results in 2.4Ghz Xiaomi
Thanks to the new modulations and improvements that are supported in WiFi6, better bandwidths are now achieved in this band (double that of ac equipment), which is good news for being able to cover those remote areas in homes where the 5Ghz band signal does not reach and have reasonable connectivity. In any case, we can see that the Xiaomi also performs more regularly and with more features.
Multiple STA Performance Tests
These tests consist of generating traffic with multiple stations (the TR398 specifies 32 2*2 clients), which leads to "stressing" the entire AP, both the radio part and the processing capacity. Since we want to generate maximum throughput, these tests are only performed in the 5Ghz band with ac clients (more realistic test based on the terminals that users have on their premises).
Multiple STAs Comments
You can see that the Huawei device suffers a bit when more than 5 devices are connected at the same time, but then it holds up very well and is hardly affected by 32 stations. The Xiaomi copes better with 32 stations and ends up with almost 100Mbps over the Huawei with 32 stations.
The aim of these tests was to study how a residential WiFi network can be improved by switching to WiFi6.
In this analysis we have opted for two devices that are readily available in our market, the Huawei AX3, which is very low cost, and the Xiaomi AX3600, which is also very affordable.
- Huawei AX3. Priced at around €40, it's a very good buy for upgrading your home WiFi. It has a dual processor and is a 2*2 WiFi and it shows, but for what it costs, it is a very good alternative. In addition, they have just released a new quad-core version which we assume will improve its performance with multiple users.
- Xiaomi AX3600. It's phenomenal, has tremendous performance and you can tell that the 84€ it costs are well invested. It has a good set of processors (4+2) and gives very solid traffic throughput results. But above all it is outstanding in coverage, it is possible to have good traffic at distances with signal levels of -70dBm! It is a 2*2 WiFi for 2.4Ghz and 4*4 on 5Ghz, but we have found that although it is a 4*4 on 5Ghz it does not support 160Mhz channels, however, this is of little use in most residential installations.
The results obtained by these WiFi6 routers have been very good. We can say that they are in line with the "enterprise" WiFi equipment of a couple of years ago, but for a price that is 5 or 6 times lower. In addition, the WiFi6 provides more speed and better coverage. However, to get the most out of it, user equipment will also have to be migrated to WiFi6.
There is other equipment and repeaters that may also be interesting to study, in order to provide better coverage in the home. We will be testing some of them in the future, but what is clear is that, with at least these two low-cost devices from WiFi6, it is not necessary to spend a lot to improve WiFi at home.
More information about our solutions for WiFis quality measurement can be found here: https://www.aplicazion.es/lineas-de-negocio/calidad-wifi