TP-Link TL-WR2843ND router

If you thought that 300Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi was the limit for wireless networks, you'd be wrong.

If you thought that 300Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi was the limit for wireless networks, you'd be wrong. The 802.11n standard actually specifies data link rates of up to 600Mbps, using a 4x4 MIMO antenna configuration (that is, 4 transmitters and 4 receivers) with four spatial data streams of 150Mbps each. Most existing 802.11n products use two data streams with either two or three antennas.

TP-Link's new TL-WR2843ND uses a 3x3 MIMO configuration with three spatial streams to give a maximum link rate of 450Mbps. It has dual radios for concurrent 2.4/5GHz operation, yet it's also impressively cheap; when it launches in May 2010 it should cost around £70. Considering that the computing power required to process three spatial streams was regarded as a serious barrier to implementation only a few years ago, this is little short of remarkable.

Of course, you'll only get the benefit of the three streams when connecting to clients with a 3x3 802.11n adapter, but these are actually more widespread than you might think. For example, Intel's Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300 and Centrino Ultimate N 6300 chips both support three-stream 450Mbps connections and are found in many notebooks manufactured in the past two or three years, so some companies could gain an immediate benefit from routers like this.

The TL-WR2843ND is aimed mainly at the consumer/SOHO market, so for example it only has VPN pass-through capabilities rather than full hardware-accelerated VPN tunnels. It features four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports plus a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet WAN port — there's no built-in ADSL modem. It also has basic NAS capabilities, with single USB 2.0 port for attaching storage devices.

With increasing pressure for more wireless bandwidth both in businesses and in the home, we can expect to see more such high-speed wireless products appearing in the consumer market before they gradually work their way into businesses.

Kelvyn Taylor