At what point does Gigabit ethernet and Wireless N become necessary?

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
27,052
357
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I'm helping a friend of mine setup a network in his new home. I know all the ins and outs about setup and cabling, but what I'm stuck on is whether or not moving to Gigabit and/or wireless N is going to be worth it. Let me list the devices he is using and what usage they will get.

2 Gaming PCs (wired)
4 Macs (Wired all except for perhaps one new iMac depending on where he installs that system)
Xbox 360 (wired)
PS3 (wired)
Wii (wireless)
Blu-Ray player (wired)
HTPC (sorta...he has an older PC that he streams movies from)
3 laptops on wireless
NAS Storage


Now I know the weakest link in the network is going to be the HDD speeds for large file transfers and the internet connection itself which is not close to saturating 100base-T. He works with large photoshop and video files that he may have to transfer between the NAS and one of his systems. He is going to be doing Netflix a lot, probably off one of the consoles which are his Son's. Probably lots of video and Music streaming over the network too. Lots of gaming online (this is obviously non-issue for my question though). I do know that his daughter has a laptop which she uses pretty much all the time, lots of video through that probably HD quality.

I have a hard time figuring out the point at which 100base-T and 802.11g is too slow and the move to Gigabit wired networking and/or 802.11N is necessary. When would it be a good idea to think about moving up to the faster equipment? I know the Xbox is only 10/100 but the PS3 does support Gigabit connections and that will probably be doing most of the streaming off the PC that hosts the music and video files. It was my assumption that for the basic video streaming (even HD) that a standard 100Mbit network will handle it fine. Is there a need for Wireless N and Gigabit ethernet?
 

Mark R

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
8,513
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HD video streaming is marginal over 100 Mbit/s. You'll have no problems with low bit-rate files, but if you are ripping BD discs - the bit rate may exceed 60 Mbit/s for short periods, and average 40 Mbit/s. Couple that with small streaming buffers, as are common in media streaming boxes, and you have very little headroom for server stalls, network congestion, etc.

I've tried with a WD Live box (which only supports 100 Mbit/s ethernet), and it is so demanding on the LAN that it needs to be connected direct to its own gigabit port on my main switch (it can't hang off my lounge 100 Mbit switch, which also feeds Wifi access points, and another PC - as if the other PC is transferring files + there is a lot of wifi activity, then the video might start skipping). The other problem is latency (because the 100 Mbit LAN can't refill the streaming buffers very quickly, streaming is very sensitive to latency - I've had to hack my NAS box to get it streaming reliably to the WD live. Even an 'out of the box' C2D Ubuntu server can't stream reliably to the WD live without tweaking).

Streaming BD rips over 802.11g is a lost cause. Even streaming bit-rate reduced encodings is unacceptable (unless very low bit-rate, or reduced resolution).
 

nenforcer

Golden Member
Aug 26, 2008
1,767
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Well I am not an expert on this but I am still running a D-Link 10/100 Mbps wired router that just wont die on me. I had debated on purchasing / running a gigabit ethernet router but really most devices are still limited to 100Mbit speeds so I have held off even though most of my computers have the option for Gigabit ethernet.

For instance, most DOCSIS 1.0 cable modems and early DSL modems had only a 10Mbps uplink.

Again, this was back when broadband was first introduced and Cable / DSL was limited to like 512Kbs up to 1.5 MB. (a single T1)

Now 8 Megabits (Mbps) = 1 MegaByte

10Mbit / Mbps (10 Megabits) = 1.25MB (Megabytes)

so

100Mbit / Mbps (100 Megabits) = 100 / 8 = 12.5 MB (Megabytes)

DOCSIS 1.0 and DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems had a max speed of

38.8 Mbits = 38 / 8 = 4.75 MB (Megabytes) theoretical, well above 10baseT ethernet but way below 100baseT theoretical top speed.

Now the fastest DOCSIS 3.0 with 8 upstream / downstream channels (from Wikipedia) has a max of

304 Mbits = 304 / 8 = 38MB

which is now well above 100baseT speeds hence requiring 1000baseT

1000 MBit / 8 MBit = 125 MB Gigabit Ethernet

of which it is well below.

Wireless B = 11 Mbit = 11 / 8 = 1.375MB (just above 10BaseT)

Wireless G = 54MBit = 54 / 8 = 6.75MB (about half of 100BaseT)

Wireless N = 600MBit = 600 / 8 = 75MB (3 / 5 or 60% of 1000BaseT)

USB 1.1 = 12MBps max speed

USB 2.0 = 400MBps = 400 / 8 = 50MB

USB 3.0 = 3.2Gbps = 3200Mbps = 400MB

The answer is for most probably (80 - 90%) of broadband users do not need anything more than 100BaseT since only the most costly broadband speeds (Verizon FiOS) and high speed VDSL / DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems are actually faster than what 100BaseT could provide.

Also keep in mind the theoretical maxes are almost never reached due to things like cable length / quality (CAT 5 vs CAT 6) and software / firmware overhead / poor design.

Now if you are buying new it doesn't really make sense to buy 10/100 speeds or Wireless B/G since the newer devices typically have better security features (WEP vs. WAP2) even if your speeds will not approach the limits.

Nintendo Wii still only has Wireless-G and XBOX 360 is 10/100 like you said. The PS3 is really futureproof since you could put in an SSD and use 1000Gig ethernet. Also the new XBOX 360 Slim 250Gb does have Wireless-N built in now.

Really if you are transferring large (gigabyte file size) downloaded HD movies (DVD/Bluray) across hard drives or you can afford SSD hard drives or own an XBOX 360 Slim then 1000BaseT and Wireless-N is the way to go.

For probably 80-90% of people out there still don't saturate 100BaseT.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
27,052
357
126
Hrm...good info. I will recommend that we go with Gigabit and 802.11n.

Now I have to find a good 802.11n router that doesn't drop connections and have weird issues. Any recommendations there?
 

spidey07

No Lifer
Aug 4, 2000
65,469
5
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In this day and age, in the year 2010, there is very little reason NOT to do gigabit or real standard 802.11n.

And if you're doing video, run the cable. Cat6a only.
 

Tbirdkid

Diamond Member
Apr 16, 2002
3,758
4
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I agree with spidey. Its not worth it to go with the older standard if you are going to invest in the network. Go ahead and get all of the bandwidth you can. If you ask any network admin /engineer what their biggest problems are, most of them will answer bandwidth...
 

spidey07

No Lifer
Aug 4, 2000
65,469
5
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I agree with spidey. Its not worth it to go with the older standard if you are going to invest in the network. Go ahead and get all of the bandwidth you can. If you ask any network admin /engineer what their biggest problems are, most of them will answer bandwidth...

Actually the biggest problem is not doing it right the first time and trying to skimp and cut corners/pennies. Only to have to redo everything a year or two later at much more cost.

Do it once, do it right.
 

Binky

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
4,046
4
81
For the gigabit question, you'd be crazy to not run proper cable and put in a (few) gigabit switch(es). Install gigabit NICs as needed for the primary machines. For each non-primary machine that has only a 100M card, just let the user decide when and if to install a new card to fully access the network.
 

JackMDS

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 25, 1999
29,471
387
126
In this day and age, in the year 2010, there is very little reason NOT to do gigabit or real standard 802.11n.

And if you're doing video, run the cable. Cat6a only.

+1 (beside the N )

As for Wireless. Some of the N are just as expensive as G, so if you are Not expecting much get it.

The over $100 N devices are still a waste of money.


:cool:
 

Tbirdkid

Diamond Member
Apr 16, 2002
3,758
4
81
spidey, very true. problem is, sometimes, when you join a new org, you find that the people before you didnt do it right, and didnt think it through, and left you with a mess that cant be cheaply fixed in a terrible economy like ours right now. also, most times, when you talk about people not doing it right the first time, usually that revolves around things like not enough bandwidth, or resources.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
27,052
357
126
I got what you're saying, we already have the cat 6 wiring done and all the wall jacks mounted up. I have all the switches and the router set (no repeater needed as it's not a super large home and single story). The one last thing we need to know is whether the laptops which do not have wireless N should have a card purchased for them. Or is it worth it to wait until the laptop is upgraded and has it built in? If we should go ahead and get an adapter (these laptops will stream video as they are the primary work systems for his kids) would it be better to get a USB dongle type device or a PC card?

Like I said I know how to set it up as I did mine, but I don't want to tell him to go buy all the switches for large frames and dual band routers etc if it won't do much for him. His usage is not the same as mine and I get lots of use out of my gigabit network and my Wireless N stuff. So while it's easy to say "go buy this it's the best" I don't want him to buy unnecessary things that they aren't going to get the usage from you know what I mean?

The router we went with is a Netgear WNR3500L with DD-WRT on it. It was relatively inexpensive at around $80 and works well from every room even the garage and a good bit out into the back yard. Seems to be fine for his use. the Dual Band routers were just too expensive IMO at the moment and while it would be nice to have 5Ghz support, it didn't seem necessary in this case. I don't use it at my house and it was never an issue yet.
 
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spidey07

No Lifer
Aug 4, 2000
65,469
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If you get REAL 802.11N STANDARD gear there will be benefits to non-N clients because of better radios and multiple tx/rx antennas.

But beware, a lot of the SOHO gear is not truly 802.11n standard.

And like I said, for the minimal price difference it make no sense to stick with 802.11g. The addition of the 5Ghz band is well worth it for that alone. 2.4Ghz is noisy as crap.
 

cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
27,052
357
126
If you get REAL 802.11N STANDARD gear there will be benefits to non-N clients because of better radios and multiple tx/rx antennas.

But beware, a lot of the SOHO gear is not truly 802.11n standard.

And like I said, for the minimal price difference it make no sense to stick with 802.11g. The addition of the 5Ghz band is well worth it for that alone. 2.4Ghz is noisy as crap.

You can say it's noisy, but 5Ghz has crap range. I don't get half the coverage I do when connecting to 2.4Ghz so I don't really use the 5Ghz at all at home because of the range issues I have. Other than that my router is pretty solid, but I'm more concerned with uptime than bandwidth over wireless for my use. It's all relative to the situation and requirements I guess.

And what the hell is "real" 802.11n? None of the devices say "draft" anything.
 
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Emulex

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2001
9,759
1
71
10Gbase-T will be out in a few years - stick to cat6/cat6a.

What is nice is the current direct connect (SFP+,CX4) 10gbe dual port nic's. iscsi at 10gbe is hella easier to deal with than 2-4 mpio gigabit links.
 

spidey07

No Lifer
Aug 4, 2000
65,469
5
76
You can say it's noisy, but 5Ghz has crap range. I don't get half the coverage I do when connecting to 2.4Ghz so I don't really use the 5Ghz at all at home because of the range issues I have. Other than that my router is pretty solid, but I'm more concerned with uptime than bandwidth over wireless for my use. It's all relative to the situation and requirements I guess.

And what the hell is "real" 802.11n? None of the devices say "draft" anything.

Well then that is YOUR ENVIRONMENT. The rest of us are moving away from 2.4r Ghz.
 

boomhower

Diamond Member
Sep 13, 2007
7,228
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Well then that is YOUR ENVIRONMENT. The rest of us are moving away from 2.4r Ghz.

Same here, but 5Ghz does typically have a shorter range and more difficulty going through walls. It's just a side effect of the frequency. Personally, it's so much better I would put up an extender if I need too but that's me. I find the additional speed is worth but I can't run cable so I'm pretty limited in that area and rely on wireless a lot more.