Dell has really jumped the gun this time by announcing the incusion of Broadcom 802.11n cards in its XPS and Inspiron line of laptops. 802.11 is WiFi, right? And WiFi should be standard on all laptops, you say? Well, this particular WiFi flavor has an extension, which is the letter “n”. And it’s not really good to consider this standard for now, since the governing body that standardizes WiFi technologies, the IEEE, has not yet approved the “N” standard.
Like many consumers, Dell is getting a little sick of waiting around for the IEEE’s Task Group N to pull it together and roll out a final version of the next-gen WiFi standard, so the company has decided to start offering its own draft-802.11n card in all XPS and select Inspiron laptops. As you’re probably already aware, 802.11n will be a wireless networking protocol that uses MIMO technology to offer greater range and speed than traditional 802.11a/b/g networks, but has been famously bogged down by delays and questions of interoperability.
What’s with WiFi N anyway? Why are people getting so excited and skeptical at the same time?
Remember the difference between WiFi B and G? Aside from the marginal range increase of WiFi G over B, there’s the speed increase. G can run on 54 Mbps, while B maxes out at 11 Mbps. Guess how fast WiFi N is supposed to go–it maxes out at 270 Mbps (or even supposedly 300 Mbps), and has a range twice the distance of WiFi B ranges.
That’s surely a big increase and people with networks that have nodes spaced far apart or in between thick walls are sure to benefit from the range increase. However, the issue is that the IEEE has not yet approved the spec, so device manufacturers have to do with the “draft” spec for now. And when the time comes that the spec is already approved, the “draft” devices might not work perfectly in conjunction with those that use the final spec, unless firmware updates are installed.
So is it all right to buy those Dell computers? Probably so, because the company promises backward-compatibility with B and G WiFi networks. However, remember that increased speeds and range would only work in conjunction with N-draft-spec routers that support the Intensi-Fi implementation of WiFi N (notably the Netgear WNR834B). Also, remember that your Internet connection would still be limited by the actual speed of your broadband connection (DSL, cable, etc.). This would definitely be below 270 Mbps, or even below the usual 11 Mbps offered by WiFi B. So any speed increase would only be noticeable when transferring files within the network.
[tags]dell 802.11n,dell draft n,dell laptop mimo,mimo wifi,dell xps mimo[/tags]