NETGEAR WAG511 Dual Band Wireless PC Card Reviewed

How many AP's does it take to test a tri-mode card?

I expected the WAG511 to have the same superior 802.11b performance as Atheros' dual-mode (a/b) design, but had a hard time proving it with the Access Points that I initially used for my testing. I found the WAB102's 11b radio to be, frankly, awful, as you can see in Figure 10.

NETGEAR WAG511 - 11b throughput with WAB102

Figure 10: 11b throughput with WAB102 AP
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

You see only three traces in the plot because I couldn't get a signal at my Condition 4 worst-case location. Given the excellent performance of the Atheros 11b radio in previous testing, I can only say that the WAB102's 11b radio must be particularly bad to cause the WAG511 to not be able to get a signal. I shared my findings with NETGEAR, who sent me a soon-to-be-released WAB102 firmware update that they said should improve performance, but didn't.

My next attempt at 11b mode testing was with the WG602. Since it has no mode controls, I tried forcing its transmit rate to 11Mbps in hopes that it would get the hint. But since the WAG511 client (and my throughput test results) showed that it was transmitting at 11g rates, I had to abandon that approach.

I finally grabbed an SMC2655W 11b AP and did a quick set of Chariot runs, which as Figure 11 shows, proved my expectations of the WAG511's excellent 11b radio.

NETGEAR WAG511 - 11b throughput w/ SMC2655W

Figure 11: 11b throughput with SMC2655W AP
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

One more mode left, and then the wrap up.

802.11g Wireless Performance Test Results

Test Conditions

- WEP encryption: DISABLED
- Tx Rate: Automatic
- Power Save: Disabled
- Test Partner: NETGEAR WG602 54Mbps Wireless Access Point

Firmware/Driver Versions

AP f/w:
Wireless client driver: WinXP
Wireless client f/w:
No Info

Test DescriptionSignal Quality (%)Transfer Rate (Mbps)Response Time (msec)UDP stream
Throughput (kbps)Lost data (%)
Client to AP - Condition 110019.3
[No WEP]
[w/ WEP]
1 (avg)
2 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 29519.21 (avg)
3 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 37319.31 (avg)
5 (max)
Client to AP - Condition 46817.52 (avg)
5 (max)
See details of how we test.