Head to Head: ASUS WL-530g vs. Linksys WRT54GC Mini Wireless Routers

Wireless Performance

OK, so how do these things perform? First of all, I need to point out an issue that I had with the ASUS product. One day while I was gone for a few hours, we had a power failure. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but when I got home I had no Internet access. I knew it had been working fine before I left because I had just downloaded a 600+MB CD image. I tried lots of things to get the connection back up, including resetting to defaults and even flashing the firmware, but nothing worked. All I got was this error page:

ASUS Disconnected

Figure 21: ASUS Disconnected
(click image to enlarge)

I connected my own firewall system and it worked fine. I connected the WRT54GC and it connected fine too. I finally figured out that the WL-530g was having a problem with DNS. The router was actually connecting OK, and getting an IP address from my provider, but it couldn't figure out the correct nameserver address. Thankfully, that address has been seared into my brain over the years, so I unchecked the "Get DNS Server Automatically" option and entered the correct IP addresses. Once that was done it connected OK, so I set everything back to auto and it reconnected like it should. Strange.

Now how about some wireless speed and range results? For two products that are so much alike, I expected performance to be close too, but that was not entirely the case. I performed all the throughput testing using 3 computers:

Mercury: Compaq Presario S5400NX with a P4 2.6Ghz processor and 504MB of memoryZombie: Dell XPS D333 with a PII 333Mhz processor and 256MB of memoryNomad: Dell Inspiron 1000 laptop with Celeron 2.2Ghz processor, 224MB of memory and a Dell Truemobile 1300 wireless card.

Tests were performed with all computers running Mandrake Linux version 10.1 and using the iperf utility set at the default 16.0 kByte TCP window size. All results are an average of at least 3 tests. I placed each product in my computer "dungeon", which is a spare bedroom upstairs in my two-story wood-frame construction home with all sorts of things like monitors, TV sets and fluorescent lights that should be bad news for wireless connectivity. 

LocationDistanceLinksys WRT54GC ThroughputASUS WL-530g Throughput
DungeonSitting right beside the product23.71 Mbits/sec23.52 Mbits/sec
HallwayAbout 10 feet away with a clear line of sight23.45 Mbits/sec23.29 Mbits/sec
BedroomAbout 10 feet away, through 1 interior wall16.27 Mbits/sec23.42 Mbits/sec
Dining RoomAbout 15 feet away, through 1 interior wall and a wood frame floor12.08 Mbits/sec20.01 Mbits/sec
Living RoomAbout 15 feet away, through 2 interior walls and a wood frame floor6.57 Mbits/sec13.92 Mbits/sec
Bottom of StairsAbout 20 feet away through 1 interior wall and down a flight of steps20.64 Mbits/sec16.76 Mbits/sec
DenAbout 20 feet away, through 4 interior walls and a wood frame floor23.66 Mbits/sec6.26 Mbits/sec
GarageAbout 35 feet away, through 2 interior walls, 1 exterior wall, and a floor4.17 Mbits/sec2.63 Mbits/sec

Table 1: Wireless Test Results

Note: All wireless tests are from Nomad to Mercury, i.e. uplink.

Table 1 shows that both products provided respectable connection speeds from almost anywhere in the house, and even some from the garage. But the products behaved differently, probably due to their different antenna configurations. Test results from the Garage had the widest variation, probably because it's on the fringe of the coverage area.

In their default configuations, I'd call the products different, but about equal in their speed vs. range performance. I suspect that adding even a simple 2dBi external antenna to the GC, however, might improve its performance beyond the 530g's since using two (diversity) antennas generally yields performance better than using only a single antenna.